Nick Schulkins (CO72) ‘Memories of Truro School and a life in the RAF’

I really enjoyed my time at Truro and it provided me with a sound base from which I went on to win an RAF Scholarship in 1970 and to gain a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Dundee in 1976.

I recall that I was particularly influenced by the Headmaster, Derek Burrell, and masters such as Stephen Wicks at Pentreve where I was house prefect and Peter Lang who coached me at rugby and took us dinghy sailing on weekends. Peter was never very keen on me spin-passing the rugby ball, but despite not having a place in the 1st XV at school, I went on to play scrum half for Nottingham 1st XV and Madras FP 1st XV in Scotland – clearly a late developer! I remember I shared a room in the attic with Alan Brooks (CO72).

I was also particularly grateful to Henry Doughty the music master for helping me to develop my love of music and for arranging for me to be a member of the Truro Three Arts Society. I now enjoy my visits to the Royal Opera House and Gyndebourne all the more for the understanding that I gained at Truro and it has always acted as a great foil to my work as a chartered engineer.

The Head Boy list shows the “6th Form Group” against the 1971-72 period and I was one of those chosen to share the responsibilities of Head Boy in our last year; we concluded that we were obviously equally incompetent and it wasn’t possible to find an outstanding individual to be Head Boy in our year!

I went on from university to RAF College Cranwell and graduated from there in 1977 to join my first squadron: 111 Sqn, which operated Phantom air defence fighters from RAF Leuchars in Scotland.  Further tours followed at Leuchars Engineering Wing and RAF Swanton Morley in Norfolk before I became Head of Engineering at the RAF’s Institute of Aviation Medicine at Farnborough.  From there I moved to RAF Lyneham as Head of Engineering Operations for the RAF’s Hercules air transport fleet and then my final job in the Ministry of Defence in London before retiring in 1991.  Since then, I have been involved with two international offshore yacht racing campaigns with the UK Admiral’s Cup team in 1991 and the Australian team in 1993.

By coincidence, at the request of the RYA, we took a young Optimist sailor called Ben Ainslie out for a day’s sailing in 1991.  Little did we know how successful he would become, and at the time I had no idea that he was a fellow Truronian.

My wife, Sandra, and I live in Winchester and we have two daughters and one grand-daughter. Until recently, I was Chair of the Wessex Region of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). In the commercial world I’ve been a consultant with British Maritime Technology (BMT), managing director of the UK subsidiary of a South African software company and more recently I’ve been a consultant and interim manager working in the rail industry. I was part of the team that won the Intercity Express

Competition for Hitachi Rail Europe, and these will be the new trains that will serve the Great Western network. We are now in the process of moving down to Taunton to be nearer family, and so I may be able to visit Cornwall more often than before.

I forgot to mention the influence of our School Chaplain, Brian Coleman.  He and his wife and family used to invite some of the boarders, including me, around to his house for supper and to listen to him playing jazz on the piano.

I believe that he was an RAF Chaplain in WW2 and was stationed with the US 8th Air Force at one stage where he learned to play jazz; Dave Brubeck was a favourite at the time, with “Take Two” in the charts. I saw a picture of Ken James in the Truronian with John Kendall-Carpenter; Ken taught us English and RE with a mischievous Welsh sense of humour!

I recall that there were several pupils in my year with parental connections to the mining industry and overseas. For example, Lloyd Pengelly (CO72)’s father was manager of the South Crofty tin mine at the time and some pupils had parents living in Africa. I think that Andrew Treadwell (CO72) possibly lived in Kenya and his father worked for Cable & Wireless. Billy Wright lived in Kuwait where his father was a tug boat captain in the port; Mark Rajajuri was from Ceylon and his mother was German and had survived living in Berlin as a child in 1945. Apart from John Curtice (CO72), some of the day boys come to mind. “Noddy” Shipwright also CO72 was a talented sportsman and one of our “6th Form Group”. Ollie Rundell was a regular sea bass fisherman; I’ve only come to really appreciate in recent years why Ollie was always banging on about the merits of wild sea bass!

I keep in touch with Bruce Mummery (CO72) and we are planning to meet up at the Classic Car weekend at Silverstone in July to watch the old Can-Am cars. When we were at school we camped at Brands Hatch and saw the 1968 and 1970 British Grand Prix.  A fellow motor racing fan was Andrew Gribble (CO72), and I kept in touch with him over the years and saw him in Scotland where he was an air traffic controller at Aberdeen and Prestwick; we’ve lost touch, but I assume that he’s still there. Other fellow pupils that come to mind are all the Scillonians: Mark Cottle (CO72), Mark Groves, Vincent O’Grady, David May, Richard Craddock and Steve Mudge (all CO72) (with apologies to anyone that I’ve missed). Vincent is now in Australia and featured in your recent Newsletter with Mike Williams and we have exchanged e-mails over the past couple of years. As a boarder with parents living some distance from Truro I often benefited from hospitality on exeat weekends. I recall William Trelawney, (CO72-Deceased) and Mike Way (CO72)’s relatives looking after me, as well as Frank and Barbara Mummery who were most generous to me over the years.