CONTRIBUTION BY ALEX DUNN 1950/1960
The Fourth Form was a formative time for me. I was much in awe of the Fifth Form boys, and particularly Dave Royle (RIP). Dave had a most impressive hairstyle with a huge ‘quiff' (I think we called it). He could be seen at any time of the day combing this into place with an air of nonchalance that would now be called 'cool'. His endless grooming obviously paid off because he later married one of the prettiest girls in Blackpool, Stuart McKenna's sister, Margaret. Another of Dave's impressive skills was to extinguish a cigarette and put on his cap all in one swift movement, while walking up the driveway of the School while remaining undetected by the staff.
Stuart's cousin, Michael McKenna, was an influential figure also. I remember when the Russians put down the 'Prague Spring' uprising, Michael and others decided to go to Prague and fight the Russians, and were only found at the last moment by anxious parents, as they waited to board a train at Central Station.
A less pleasant memory is of Jimmy Love (ironic name or what?). Jimmy liked to bully the younger boys and me in particular. His favourite trick was to creep up behind you, give a savage push, and steal your cap and throw it away, thereby exposing you to accusations of 'not wearing a cap' from the staff. I recall vividly the day I resolved to do him some serious damage if he did it again. I did not have long to wait, and I remember the surprise on his face when he received a hard punch in the nose. He had thick spectacles and red rubbery lips and the sight of these covered in blood raised a ragged cheer from the crowd that had gathered to watch the fight. The fight could not have lasted more than a few minutes but my reputation was firmly established, and I never had any more problems with bullies and nor did I have to fight anyone again during my time at St Joes. The fight was stopped by the intervention of Alf Pope,, the sports master, who ordered Love and me to attend the gym for a boxing match to 'sort things out between us'. Before this could take place Ghandi, Bro B P Dolan, headmaster, intervened and announced that all boxing matches were to cease forthwith. Shortly afterwards Alf Pope was replaced by Peter Brierley as sports master, and Alf took a job at a sports shop in Whitegate Drive. Ghandi sent a letter of complaint to my father saying that I had carried out a vicious and unprovoked attack on a vulnerable boy who wore glasses. My father read it out to me, and it was one of the few occasions when I felt I had earned his approval. I think that he must have talked to Alf Pope about the incident because they were old boxing mates, and neither of them had much time for Ghandi and his boxing ban.
‘Love’ was a word often heard in the school but little in evidence. I remember one morning assembly where the words of a hymn, Jesus Christ loves me, had been bowdlerised by a junior boy who was caught singing his alternative version. The master conducting assembly grabbed the offender by the lapels and, striking him smartly about the face, intoned “Jesus (slap), Christ (slap), Loves (slap), Me (slap)", without any sense of irony. Was this what is known as 'Muscular Christianity'?
Looking back at St Joes, it seems to have been harsh and violent schooldays, but then society was much harsher and more violent, and I think the school just reflected this. Judicial hangings for murder were accepted as normal and birching was a common sentence from magistrates for what we would now call yob behaviour. Education was definitely not child-centred as it is now, and the whole aim seems to have been producing ‘inner directed' workers, with intellectual skills at the earliest age possible. The Brothers called it 'conscience', and much time and effort was spent implanting this in our minds. This 'inner flywheel' is a characteristic of the grammar school product of the times, and most of these men still 'do the right thing', or suffer strong feelings of guilt if they do not. Not a bad preparation for a career in the adult world: Intellectual skills and an ‘inner flywheel’ to keep you applying them!
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