Hitchhiker’s guide to Brentwood

Lost poetry penned by famous Old Brentwoods Griff Rhys Jones & Douglas Adams have been discovered in Brentwood School’s archives

The long-forgotten poetry was penned over 40 years ago by TV presenter, actor and writer Griff Rhys Jones and ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ author Douglas Adams while they were Brentwood School boys.

The poems appear in volume three of the four Candlesticks Society tomes uncovered by school archivist Dr Stacey Harmer in a dusty store cupboard. Membership of the Candlesticks Society, a literary group for the then Seventh Formers, was by invitation only. As part of their initiation, students had to write a poem on the theme of candles, the poems were then handwritten into the bound collection.

Griff was delighted to learn the poem he had written as a pupil in 1971 had been unearthed. On a visit to the school last week, he was reunited with one of his earliest pieces of creative writing and happily read aloud his verse.

As he flicked through pages of the Candlesticks’ volume, Griff reminisced about life at Brentwood and recalled friends and tutors who had helped shape his formative years.

A few pages before Griff’s poem was one signed and dated by OB Douglas Adams who would later go on to write ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. The first volume of Candlesticks’ poems was started in 1950 and the fourth ended in 1983.

Griff was back in Brentwood to attend the Sir Antony Browne Society’s annual dinner and to give a talk to the debating society about the ‘Crisis on the High Street’. He met archivist Dr Harmer who was very excited to find the long lost volumes. She has been cataloguing the school archives in preparation for the opening of the new Learning Resource Centre in the summer of 2015.

The 17-year-old Griff’s writing skills came as a pleasant surprise to the now seasoned writer and veteran of countless television programmes and documentaries, and he used his famous dulcet tones to bring the 1971 candle poem to life.

As well as remembering Douglas Adams, Griff recalled another old school friend, Charlie Bean, who later became Executive Director of the Bank of England. Griff was part of a group whose antics led to them being referred to as ‘The Clique’ by the then school’s headmaster.

After leaving Brentwood School, Griff followed Douglas Adams and Charlie Bean to Cambridge where he read History and English at Emmanuel College, graduating with a 2:1. While at university, he joined the Cambridge Footlights Club and became its Vice-President in 1976.

Griff praised the ‘inspirational teaching’ he had received at Brentwood which set such high standards that he had been rather disappointed by the teaching he received at university.

Headmaster Ian Davies thanked Griff for taking time out of his hectic work schedule to once again visit the school, share his reminiscences and motivate and encourage current pupils.

He said the school had continued to nurture its reputation for inspirational teaching and credited the school’s Creative & Critical Thinking programme for teaching pupils ways to attack problems, think logically and develop an enquiring mindset.

 

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