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Stories from the 1960s

Before the days of mobile phones, email and social media! - D.J.Shapland (1963-1970F)
13 Aug 2020
Written by Don Shapland
Letter writing from West Buckland in the 1960s
Letter writing from West Buckland in the 1960s

It now half a century since I packed my trunk for the final time and returned home in the summer of 1970. So it was with both surprise and incredulity that I found that my Father (J.E.Shapland 1939-43F) had secretly kept every letter that I had written home from WBS spanning a period of 7 years. Much to my amazement he had meticulously kept all these letters in chronological order (still within their envelopes)- a total of almost 200. These letters covered the period from September 1963 until July 1970.

One unusual benefit during the recent UK wide COVID19 'lockdown' was that it gave me the opportunity to reread all these letters from my school teenage years. It was clear that I had taken full advantage of every Sunday evening letter writing time to tell my parents all my personal and school news. The letters provide a schoolboy's snapshot of life both in West Buckland and also the wider world, long before the days of social media. Whilst I was unable to follow in the footsteps of my Father to become Head Boy I was appointed as the first prefect in charge of Langholme in 1969.

My first letter commences with an apology for running away from school only 2 days after arriving and managing somehow to get to South Molton which I now feel was no mean achievement for an 11 year old Gloucestershire boy! Throughout many early letters my words were often tinged with strong feelings of homesickness but this early sadness was shared with many of my contemporaries (including the now late Neil Swinney 1963 -1971F) so in essence we were 'all in it together'! There were however many happy and amusing stories over the intervening years culminating with my final letter in June 1970 after taking my 'A' levels and awaiting the results.

Whilst most of my 'news' related to schoolwork (attainment and disappointment!) there was also a wide range of news of both School and House sporting achievements including junior and then senior cross country runs, rugger (or rugby as it is now called!) and of course my particular enjoyment - tennis, a game that I still play regularly with my local club.

Life at an all boys WBS 50 years ago was clearly very different to the co-ed school of today so perhaps I have adequate information to write my personal memoir of life at West Buckland in the 1960s?! Clearly this will not be a best seller such as 'To Serve Them All My Days' by R.F. Delderfield but it may ......just may be of interest to ex WBS students.


Don Shapland

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