I was put into St Joe’s in September 1954, after having come back from Iraq. My father was in the army, and they had billeted us in Blackpool, until they sorted out my father’s next posting. As a 15-year old I had for the past 2˝ years been ‘schooled’ at the Camp school in RAF Habbaniya, near Baghdad where the education was not up to much.

My father decided that I should follow in his footsteps and have a Catholic education, and Holy Joe’s was the nearest at that point in time. I therefore had to sit a test to determine which class I should join. They determined that, for my age and much to my disappointment, I was about 2 years behind in my education, so I was to join the Fourth form.

So on the day before the appointed start of term, I was one many boarders, with parents in tow, who arrived, complete with uniform, and a trunk of clothes and possessions, that we were allowed to have. We were then shown around the school and the dormitory I was allotted to. Every item of clothing had, of course, to have a nametag sewn in, which came in useful when hunting for one’s kit in changing rooms etc!

From there on it becomes a bit of a daze as to how the day-to-day routine went. Anyway I do remember that after completing the first term in Form IV, I was then told to join the Lower Fifth and remained with that stream of pupils until I left in 1958. There was no way I could have been upgraded to the Upper Fifth at that time, as they were preparing for their GCE exams in the coming June.

Somewhere along the line I struck up a friendship with Richard Turner (always known to me and referred to as Dick). This, I think, was because we had a common bond in that he had been previously educated somewhere in the Canal Zone (Egypt), as his father was serving in the RAF there. The bond was that we were servicemen’s ‘brats’!

Another ‘pain’ was having to pack one’s trunk at the end of each term and cart it on the train to wherever my parents were living at the time – and then carting it back weeks later when the next term started. For three years running I went back to a different place for the summer holidays – not much fun as I had to make a new set of friends each time.

I’ve just taken time out to read through the memoirs already on the website and have come to realise how little I do remember of those four years, especially the teaching personalities!

Let’s see what I do remember!

As regards being a boarder – regimentation was a chore most days – there were two main dormitories on the third floor, I seem to remember, one larger one over the first floor classrooms under O’Keefe’s control, and the across the landing under The Yank’s control. God knows how many of us there were in each ‘dorm’. One’s morning started with the lights being switched on and then O’Keefe coming round with a wet flannel waking you up if you did not get up immediately the dormitory lights came on – getting washed and dressed, having to go to the school chapel for Mass and then going down to breakfast in the Boarder’s dining room. Then it was the day’s classes, a lunch break in the school canteen (Yuk food), more classes and then rugby or cricket practice or just playing about and probably getting into mischief until it was tea time. Once that was over then a couple of hours were spent in a classroom doing our homework or whatever until the bell rang for us to prepare for bed. Sunday mornings were spent in a classroom, trying to write letters home (Dear Mum, No Fun, Love, Your Son – or words to that effect with a little more padding) and parcelling up one’s dirty laundry ready to be sent home in the post to Mother for washing. The excitement came when a letter or a ‘clean laundry’ parcel would arrive and I would quickly opening it to see whether she had slipped a ten-bob note to add to the measly pocket money we were given on a weekly basis! When we became VIth Formers, we were allocated to a small dormitory but I can’t, for the life of me, remember how many of us were crammed into it or whether it was when we graduated the Upper VIth or Lower VIth.

To me, it was a cloistered and repetitive life generally during the week and a little freedom on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to go and spend time in the Town or Stanley Park – that was if I was not in a rugby or cricket team playing either at home or away. The only way we got to know the ‘Day-Boys’ was during school hours or when playing in sports teams. Looking through the photos on the website I note that I must have been selected to play for the School 1st XI cricket team at some stage but cannot remember what other rugby or cricket teams I played for during those 4 years. Not surprising in some ways as whatever photos I did have somehow disappeared with my divorced wife, way back in the seventies! So if any of you guys have any photos in which I figure please let me have copies!

Memories that are a bit more vivid than most are:-

My father, being in Royal Signals and an amateur radio buff, gave me a ‘cats-whisker’ crystal set, which I wired up to a set of headphones and earthed to the radiator pipe behind my bed and then ran a parallel connection to Dick Turner’s bed, a few beds away from me. We spent many an hour after ‘lights out’ listening to AFN and Radio Luxemburg. Our interest was mainly jazz and the hit parade of the day. Roll over Beethoven was top hit for many a week on AFN but don’t ask me now who the artist was!

Back to regimentation – I seem to remember it was the norm to have a study period after supper, where we were expected to complete our homework. Don’t remember now how it came about but Dick and I struck up a friendship with Shirley Jefferson (a daughter of Jo Jefferson – Jefferson’s Garage) and her friend Margaret. We would position ourselves by the windows that overlooked the rugby pitch to keep an eye on the road that ran parallel to the rugby pitch and when we saw two females in bright orange raincoats (fashion of the day, I seem to remember) we knew it was time to collect the letters from somewhere near Ghandi’s office and go down to Devonshire Square to post them, and, of course, meet up with the girls!! (I guess we were in the VIth Form by then, and possibly Prefects).

This brings to mind another incident where Dick and I were walking down one of the school corridors after school lessons had finished one day when, suddenly, Ghandi pops out of a classroom and fingers Dick to step inside the classroom with him. I stood outside trying to get the gist of what was going on inside but all I could hear was mumblings. However after a little while Dick comes out of the classroom with a smirk on his face and we carry on down the corridor until Ghandi departed the area. It transpires that someone had shopped him about his friendship with his Margaret, and Ghandi had said “I hear that you are going out with a girl. Is she a Catholic?” virtually all in one breath.  “Yes” said Dick to which Ghandi replied “Cut it out!!” Dick eventually married Margaret but sadly my relationship with Shirley came to nothing.

Our interest in music led us sometimes to while away our free time out of the college confines, to go to the cinema on a Saturday afternoon if there was a jazz or rock-related film on the circuit. Jazz on Summer’s Day is one that comes to mind and that was about the Newport Jazz Festival that happened a year or two previously. It was also the time when, amongst others, Rock Around The Clock was released and banished to the cinema in Cleveleys, with a heavy police presence, by the town’s Watch Committee, due to some disturbances elsewhere in the country, ripping up seats and dancing in the isles, I vaguely recall.

Then Dick and I got very brave and occasionally got dressed after ‘lights out’ and, making sure all the Bro’s had retired to their little cells, then slip out from the top floor dormitory, creep down the many flights of stairs, hopefully avoiding the creaky steps, into a classroom on the ground floor, climb out of a window and over the school wall on to Newton Drive and leg it to the Winter Gardens to chat up the girls and dance!! Johnny Dankworth and his Orchestra was one of the Bands we enjoyed there. Ripped my trousers climbing back over the wall one night though!!

One incident I fairly clearly remember was David Brown (RIP) chasing down the corridor and someone exiting through one of the swing doors with glass in the top half and David putting his hand out to stop the door swinging back in his face, whereupon his hand broke the glass and cut his wrist very badly. I got given the task of accompanying him to the Hospital at the top of Newton Drive with his wrist wrapped in a towel and blood gushing out still. He was very lucky not to lose the use of his hand but, sadly, some months later he was diagnosed with cancer. He then went back to Sunderland, I think, and died not long after.

I seem to remember that we, as VIth Formers, petitioned to wear black blazers instead of the blue and red piping ones, and the hierarchy surprisingly agreed. I was very happy at that because I reckoned, as a boarder, we stood out like dog’s balls when in town out of school hours! Or was that for Prefects?

At another point in time we became more vocal in the RI lessons and start to question religious various matters but never got any straight answers – the answer was always put off until the next RI lesson and the reply often came as ‘It’s in the Book’ (The Bible).

A few more snippets of memory come to mind as I am writing this:-

Tony Callander playing, or trying to play, his trombone

Swigging mouthfuls of alter wine from bottles near to the telephone at the side of Ghandi’s office.

Tasting the alter wine in the little room opposite the entrance door to the chapel where the priest would ready himself for Mass.

Slipping naughty little publications under the door of The Yank’s room whilst he was out elsewhere in the College.

Oscar Slater liking his polo mints and would hook one over one of his few bottom teeth and then, in another instance, would call you a “Miserable Worm” for getting wrong answers!

Brian London the boxer pounding the pavement past the school gates in his army boots.

Le Brun, besides reeking of pipe tobacco smoke, always showing his underpants tops above his trouser waistband.

The first Gert and Daisy tram came off the rails at Manchester Square, the front car going to the Talbot Road Depot whilst the rear wanted to go to the Pleasure Beach!

Enough of those memories – as I have said, they are all quite vague in my mind.

What did Holy Joe’s do for me – not a lot is my first retort. Or perhaps my four years there did in many ways? Anyway it:-

Put me off Catholicism for the rest of my life, for one.

Did not give me any clear idea of what going to University was all about, and what subjects to aim for. To me at the time it meant another two years of schooling at least. I was under the threat of Nation Service anyway, and really wanted to join the RAF and be a pilot. I did join the RAF but they, in their wisdom, thought it was wiser for me to be on the ground! I retired in the rank of Flight Lieutenant, in the engineering branch at the beginning of the eighties.

Taught me the game of rugby which I had never played until I got to St Joe’s which put me in good stead in later years in the RAF. I became the Doncaster 1st XV hooker for half a season until I went on leave and lost my place!

Having experienced a dormitory–based life it was no great shock to be put in a 36-man barrack room at the start of my RAF service! 

One thing I can say honestly is that I never experienced any hankie-panky from any of the Bros at St Joes but, at the same time, I am quite prepared to believe things that I have heard and read about, with them there Brothers living such a close and monastic life with children about them, did happen.

What did I leave with – 7 ‘O’ levels (including two re-sits, one of which was Eng. Lang., and 2 ‘A’s – Chemistry and Pure and Applied Maths. The latter was thanks to dear old Oscar. Was also intending to take Physics ‘A’, but Jo Snow and I did not see eye to eye, because I would not copy word-for-word out of the Physics book in my homework, and so he would not enter me for the exam that year. My father even came to the school to intercede on my behalf but, being faced with having to spend another year there to just take the Physics exam the next year, it was too much for me, and especially as I would have been 20 years old the following year too! As I hinted before, University was just not in my line of thought and there were but a few to choose from in those days. I think I did do some half-hearted research, but came to the conclusion that Bangor College was about the only place I could get into. 

I left Holy Joe’s in the June of 1958 and did not wish to see the place ever again!!!

Had it not been for the Friend Reunited website, I doubt that I would be writing this. However with a push from Stu McKenna, who I now occasionally correspond with, and Alex Dunn, I have made the effort. Thanks guys!


As a postscript, I was in Gibraltar one weekend in the sixties having flown down there in an RAF Hastings transport plane as part of the ground crew, when on the Saturday I am walking down Main Street and bump into a little man in a black cassock – Bro. Clay, who I had known as one of the Prep teachers!! “Come up to the school tomorrow”, he says, “and I will get one of my Old Boys to show you around the Rock”. That I duly did, and we met in the school parlour where we had coffee waiting for his OB to arrive. “Would you like a little something in your coffee?” he said. “To be sure”, I said, and out came a flask of whisky from inside his cassock!! The OB turned up, gave me a wonderful conducted tour including the Port area where he was a ship’s victualler. At the end of the tour he gave me a handful of Cuban cigars and expensive caviar, he had been given from a Russian research ship that was in port. How that got smuggled on board the aircraft together with all the other contraband spirits and cigarettes is another story!

So they were not all bad.

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