Trusty Servant May 2019 No.127 - Page 11

No.127 The Trusty Servant Tolling: the Golden Age 20 years ago Winchester College enjoyed an unprecedented and unrepeated run of success in cross-country running. Tim Giddings spoke to John Brooks to find out more. T John, how did you first get involved with tolling at Win Coll? J Colin Upton (Co Ro, 86-09) had been MiC since taking over from Vernon Wilkins (Co Ro, 78-86). I’d been working at the school since 1973, but when I moved into school accommodation in ’87 or ’88 Colin asked me to get involved. I think he’d seen me out running! It was rare for non-teaching staff to be involved in extra-curricular activities, so I was keen. T Did the two of you have any great secret which brought such success? J Not really: it was mostly just down to Colin’s excellent schoolmastering. He saw that we had a sudden strength in depth who could be very good. I brought the practical skills, such as computerising the scoring – we still use the same system for Steeplechās today. T What do you mean by ‘excellent schoolmastering’? J He was a catalyst, persuading boys to get involved and keeping them motivated. He was in Flint Court between hours encouraging them to come to training. He produced a weekly newsletter, handed out each Monday, with news of who had done well, announcing pussies and ‘doggies’ (cross-country socks), and awarding points for winning races. It also included a ‘naughty corner’ with a risqué limerick [John shows me one rhyming ‘secret desire’ with ‘boy in the choir’]. He put on suppers at Wellington Cottage when boys did well. His front room was filled with running shoes – and also a strange collage of disintegrating biscuits which had been posted through his letter box by cheeky Cookites. T How did the team train? J The most successful innovation was the evening runs, five nights a week after Preces. They came about because Peter Metcalfe (Co Ro, 78-81 & 86-10) banned footballers from running during the day. The boys loved the slightly naughty, under-the-radar approach – ‘If you see Mr M, pretend you’re not running.’ Sometimes we’d have 80 boys training in the run up to a Steeplechā. Of course it wasn’t that under-the-radar: housemasters loved boys returning wiped out and ready to crash into bed! Route 1, our main circuit, went from Beloe’s Bar, up round Freddie’s and along Southgate St, down Canon St, along College St and round to Wharf Farm, past the Black Boy, along Chesil St to Winchester Mill, back through the weirs, and then back along College St and Kingsgate St to Beloe’s. The record was held by Mark Best (D, 93-98)); I think he did it in 9m 31s or something like that. T What were the results? J The golden era was 1995-2005. There were two big competitions, the Knole Run and the King Henry VIII relay in Coventry. We won both three years in succession. It was a brilliant achievement, prompting articles in The Times and Telegraph. T Our success provoked envy at other schools. For some years we’d won both junior and senior relays at Ardingly. Their headmaster responded by barring us from future races. James Sabben-Clare (HM, 85-00) was incandescent and made a representation. The outcome was that we could only enter juniors. The following year our junior boys duly won the senior competition! It was agreed that we should keep the shield, which, to the best of my knowledge is still in Chawker’s. We also took the team on three tours to South Africa during the summers of 1998, 2001 and 2003. We’d been invited by a teacher from Grey High School, Port John Brooks and tollers 11