Ron Abbott

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Ronald John Abbott
Ron Abbott; photograph by Simon Meeds
Ron Abbott
Nicknames Ron, Frankie, Piggy
Born 1945 (age 76–77)
Education St Bartholomew's Grammar School, Newbury, Berkshire (1957-1964); University of Exeter (BA 1967); Trinity College, Oxford (1967-1968)
Roles Head of Classics
Years at BGS 1973-1999
Departments Classics, Information Technology
Subjects Latin, Classical Foundations, Information Technology
Known for Boston FC Supporters' Club, CCF (RAF section - Flt Lt), Photographic Society, official photographer on many school trips, involved with Boston FC;

Ronald John Abbott was a teacher of Classics (Latin and Classical Foundations) and Information Technology at Boston Grammar School.

Before BGS

Ron Abbott was educated at St Bartholomew's Grammar School, Newbury, Berks. (1957-1964) and University of Exeter where he was awarded a BA in 1967. His first teaching was done at Northern Grammar School, Portsmouth where he was Head of Classics.

According to Dr Geoffrey Thomas who first knew him at Trinity College, Oxford, Ron was taught classics at St Bartholomew's Grammar School by E R A Sewter, a Penguin translator and editor of the prestigious journal, Greece and Rome[1]. He recognised Sewter as a crucial early influence. Throughout his long teaching career he used knowledge he had gained from Sewter. Sewter left a personal imprint deeper than that of Ron's Exeter University lecturers.

After BGS

After the teaching of Latin was phased out at Boston Grammar School, the last Latin scholars left in 1999. At that point Ron Abbott took partial retirement, continuing to teach Latin at Boston High School until his eventual full retirement.

Mr. Abbott tells of... A Week with Miss Trabbot

(The following article, written by Ron Abbott and published in the Bostonian of 1981 relates a short exchange with a teacher of Latin at Boston High School.)

I'll never forget my week's exchange at the High School. I'd just had an accident in my new Ford Escort: the mirror was a wreck and the side of the car dented and scarred. It was my one and only lesson with the A-level Ancient History set and I was about to show some slides of Ancient Rome. As I was surrounded by a group of expectant Sixth Form girls one of the school secretaries came in. "There's a policeman outside," she told me, in anything but a whisper. "He says you forgot to sign your statement."

How calmly the week had started. At registration no argumentative 5L at the Grammar but sweet little 1H at the High. All quiet and well behaved. And the difference as assembly got under way! Absolute silence from the minute they leave the form-room until they return. Prefects on duty all along the stairs and corridors to maintain the silence. No clanging of bells: no bellowing of a duty master. Assembly itself was a revelation too. Sweet voices rising to a crescendo as the hymn was loudly sung: variety as the week went by with different speakers, the school orchestra and pupils presenting an assembly with taped music - such a change from the Grammar's routine assemblies.

Like Treacle

I have already been pilloried for my opinion of the Fifth Form Latin set. I have likened teaching them to stirring treacle: a great deal of effort for precious little reaction. Such a quiet bunch they were, little or no humour (they sat stony-faced as I came out with my very best jokes), and no interest in anything outside the translation of Vergil. So on we went through the week, plodding our way through line upon line of hexameters. Lessons at the High are 45 minutes long (it is a seven-period day), and so I was having to adjust to a longer lesson. Not only are the lessons 45 minutes on the timetable; they are 45 minutes in fact. None of the ten-minute breaks we are accustomed to at BGS (or up to 20 minutes if your lesson follows PE); no staffroom still full of staff refusing to budge at 11.30. My first real shock came at the first change-over between periods. I finished promptly (thanks to my digital watch) packed up my books and walked to the next class. The girls were already there, lined up and waiting. And so it was all through the week. So, in effect, every lesson was 20 minutes longer. Imagine the double periods! By the end of the week I was exhausted.

Free periods in the staffroom were naturally different. Of course there were people I know. Boston FC's balding player-manager Bob Duncan (31); Mrs Thomas's husband who looked at a list of officials in the FC programme and quipped "Isn't that nice. Every supporter's got a job!"; Mr Leggott and Mr Peters who deal with the BHS end of the school discos at Tattershall Road; and Mr Coxon, famous for his hard work on Classics Department tours. Otherwise, amid the knitting, the oranges and the cup-a-soup, the atmosphere was alien. It didn't help to have all eyes and ears on me as I called Hereward Radio with the Boston FC news (reversing the charges) and then to be told snappily, as I hadn't signed the telephone list, "We pay for our 'phone-calls here, you know."

Even exercise books are nicer at the High School. Not scrawled with "Ipswich Town Rule" or "Disaster Area: best band since Motorhead," but neat, tidy, and covered in paper with bunny-rabbits on. The buildings too are different. I missed the peeling ceilings, the faded paintwork, the rainbow-coloured form rooms, the broken-down oddments of desks, the floors slippy with water and mud every time it rains. The High School is bright, fresh, the desks uniform and new, and the wooden floors polished.

Mind you, it wasn't all improvement. I could have well avoided a library supervision period of some 86 girls, knowing none of the names and trying to mark a register. There was a dusky-skinned girl wearing a scarf and playing a musical calculator: the nearest thing to indiscipline I saw in my short week. The second form seemed easy to get on with; too easy, in fact, for one girl, whose brother I teach, when I asked if there were any questions, inquired, "Is your name Frankie?" I could have done without that.

There were classes I really enjoyed teaching. The fourth set, for example, were in the main, very co-operative. It always helps to have a Heavy Rocker in the class. As a reward for my efforts in explaining the intricacies of the Unit IV Pliny pamphlet, they presented me with a parting gift. It may only have been a Mars bar, wrapped up in countless newspapers and taped inside a large cardboard box, and addressed to "Miss Trabbott", but it was the thought that counts. The Lower Sixth too, in complete contrast to their elders, were a group where I at once felt at home. The fit of giggles which followed the word 'silices' in a passage of Ovid (as images of Fred and Wilma Flintstone danced before their eyes) is a moment I shall treasure.

But the longest lasting memory of all will be the sponsored non-uniform day. For an agreed fee the girls arrived dressed however they wished. Most did so in a rather dull fashion - a tweed skirt and twin-set, or equivalent - but as we all trooped silently into assembly that morning what a sight it was to behold most of the Upper Sixth in their nighties! Such a vision of nubile pulchritude, yet they were removed from the stage before the service began and were subsequently in disgrace: but it was a brave show.


See Also