Michael Fletcher G57


I’ve forgotten a lot about my time at Charterhouse, but not some things (see later). A pity though: because the overall memory is of a wonderful five years to 1957.

I was taught by an enthusiastically eccentric French master;  there was the fearsome Colonel Rowe of the CCF;  and the quiet, unassuming Wilfrid Noyce - I realised only later that he was a distinguished member of the team that first conquered Everest. But I particularly remember him because he held a music appreciation group in his cottage down the hill near the river: I happened to turn up one evening and heard a record of Beethoven’s Emperor concerto being played, and was instantly taken with classical music.

There was a challenging Art & Art-history master, who inculcated interest in his subject by giving us a single word (say, ‘tempera’) to research each week and later report back on; no Google then.

Poor memory intervenes, but I think I edited The Carthusian, and was Head of Athletics; but the pleasures of being a runner did not extend to outdoor PE, which was compulsory in all weathers.

As for sleeping quarters, the two long dormitories in Gownboys, looking rather like Victorian hospital wards, had such ancient ill-fitting windows that in midwinter they ensured you sometimes awoke with a light dusting of snow on your bedclothes.

Excitingly, there was an occasional dance held with the nearby girls' school to help us learn to relate in a civilised way to ... well, them; a tense, closely policed event. 

Unfortunately, in my final term, while Head Boy, I was expelled. It was over an anonymous attack I instigated, supported by others, on Eton. We drove there having borrowed my parents’ Standard 10:  memory now hazy, but I believe that, among other actions, for some reason we painted the cannon in Eton’s courtyard blue. Ingenious detective work by our Headmaster, Brian Young, duly tracked us down, and I was told never to return. For the press, a Public School Scandal (I was interviewed by one journalist who, I’m told, coined the term ‘the Establishment’).

Meeting years later, Young and I cheerfully agreed that he was more than justified in his action.  (Genuine apologies to Charterhouse - but it seems to have survived.)

Later I went on an Open Scholarship to Oxford to read PPE. In the ’60s I married a fellow undergraduate, who later become a distinguished foreign correspondent (and Dame). I then worked for many years in radio and television at the BBC.