My School Chum, Gustav Holst

Well, not quite. The number of years between his attendance and mine separates us from the chance that we could ever have interacted, but I was pleasantly surprised this morning to discover that Gustav Holst, the composer of the famous symphony, The Planets, and I attended the same school in Cheltenham, England. The school is Cheltenham Grammar School (known today as Pate’s Grammar School).

Holst was there from 1886 and 1891, while I was there from 1969 to 1971. Holst’s attendance seems a long, long time ago, but considering that the school was founded by Sir Richard Pate in 1574, it was not really all that long ago.

Anyway, I get a very unreasonable sense of pride when I consider that I attended the same school as Gustav Holst! Although not in the same building, as the school has occupied many quarters in its 440 year history. As the Beach Boys ably expressed it, “Be True to Your School.”

I should also like to point out that in addition to Gustav Holst, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones was also a Cheltenham Grammar School alumnus.  My history with Jones runs a bit closer than it does with Holst, of course.  For one thing, we attended in the same building, and shared the same Headmaster, Dr. A. E. Bell.  I remember that Dr. Bell wrote a brief memorandum on the occasion of Jones’s death that appeared in the school yearbook.  Jones had apparently been quite the school cut-up, getting in some trouble from time to time, but from the tone of the article as I remember it Dr. Bell appeared to have had a positive view of Jones, and was clearly disappointed at his life’s course.  Jones was, in fact, a poor study but a brilliant performer in exams, as his high intelligence made it easy for him to get good results from minimal study.

Another slight similarity was that I, like Jones, was interested in music, and helped form what I guess I would call a “basement band” (in which I played lead guitar).  We ended up practicing on two or three occasions in a basement that we were told Jones had occasionally practiced in!  Small world.

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