CONTRIBUTION BY JOHN GREGSON 1963/1970
The big decision in 1963 for us lads from St Anne's that had got through the ubiquitous 11 plus was whether to go to Holy Joe's or to the other Catholic Grammar in Preston. (Can't remember its name now). For some reason I remember being influenced heavily by my Aunt - probably because she had gone to Layton Hill. Part of the decision was Jesuits v Christian Brothers and their relative violence. What a laugh. Anyhow, I did go to Holy Joe's and I'm afraid to say, I can recall few moments of real happiness there. Not only did one suffer physically at the hands of the teaching staff but there was a vicious culture of bullying by gangs at the school. I was overweight then, so I got it from both sides, so to speak. They nicknamed me 'barrel' and my good friend Glynn Roberts (who was as thin as a) 'rake' It was a nightmare.
Journeys to Blackpool were by steam train in the early 60's, destination the long-gone Blackpool Central. From there we nipped over the road and caught one of those buses that looked like a tram on wheels. Centre doors. Was it the number16? And then the long trek up the seemingly endless Drive, one's happiness fading by the step. I recall going to the right of the House, past the tuck shop on the right before bearing left to the 'new school'.
I started off in the 'B' stream. How on earth did they decide which 'stream' to put you in so early? What happened of course was that those in the 'C' stream became the school louts and bullies, those in the 'A' stream the would-be high flyers and those of us in 'B' in some sort of nether world in between. 1B then 2B and then 3A!! Must have done something right! But that was the point in my education I recall having to make a choice in subjects to study. Was it going to be Latin or Geography? Biology or Physics (I think?). No assistance of course at what I now realise was a life-defining moment. OK, Latin helped enormously when I came to study languages in later life but give me a map even today and I'm hopeless. Even turning it around in the direction of travel doesn't help much. And don't bother to ask me to point to anything other than a continent on a World map! Biology was apparently a 'girlie' subject so Physics it was. I got lucky on that one as I swotted up on Ammeters the night before the 'O' level and got a Grade 1. If I had my time again I would chose the Humanities as I would have enjoyed those. As it was tho' the Sciences set me up well and I have nothing to complain about.
The journey to the sixth form where I went on to take Maths/Chem/Physics, is a blur except for several moments, most of which were bad. I recall:
The history teacher Hickey (orange hair) who was a sadist and also took PT. He used to wallop you with a gym shoe for no good reason. He had a particular hatred for a guy called Michael Bell. I saw Hickey being interviewed on TV some years ago when he turned up as the coach of the England Olympic boxing team. I wanted to throw something at the TV screen.
O'Leary and his shit-inducing cards in Latin class. I could never get the hang of the Aeneid. But I found him amusing and non-threatening, although something of an anachronism with his three-cornered hat and bobble (Biretta - I think).
The monster O' Brien. I had something of a good singing voice (although even as a treble, I couldn't reach above a top A). So I was picked for a role in the school's performance of Pirates of Penzance (Edith - 'Poor Wandering One'). I remember I was very young and during a rehearsal in the school hall, I bent over to pick up a whole pile of pencils I had dropped. Out of nowhere I saw out of the corner of my eye, O'Brien running towards me with real anger in his eyes. Like a mad bull. He literally kicked me across the hall. I mentioned my top A. It has always caused me grief that I couldn't get a top B as that meant I couldn't be Mable. That role went to Andrew Doherty (where are you now?) Athough I was his understudy, I never got to do it as irritatingly, Andrew never got ill!
A bit part in Henry V. Gerald Wilkie (RIP) played the king and I played Fluellen ('fluck you' (in a Welsh accent)). The green tights were murder.
Cross country was the bane of my life. One fortuitous day I slipped whilst trying to climb a barbed wire fence and badly cut my finger. That was it. No more Cross country for me - I did 'library'. I also recall those unbelievably tiresome 'round the park' runs which I hated with a vengeance and took every opportunity to short-cut.
Great swimming sessions at Derby Road baths.
I have good memories of Les Charles (History). Never got beaten by him and I honestly can't recall him using an offensive weapon except his tongue.
What was the name of what I now recognise as the camp queen who taught us English? Surname began with a 'G'. Was his nickname Gurney? He couldn't have been violent to save his life but looked good in his swishing gown. Nor the rather cute Spaniard lay teacher who gave Spanish lessons to those of us who wanted to try it out? Smoked like a chimney.
The school trip to Santander when we were 14 (c 1966). First time I got into smoking (Rothman's). Ended up having to give the thank you speech to the couple who put us all up....'En nombre del los profesores y alumnos del collegio de San Jose de Blackpool, tengo el honor de dar las gracias a la familia Velasco por todo el mundo, preparar las comidas por nosotros......'. Christ, what one remembers after 40 years!
Panker. I liked him although he had his own sadistic sense of humour. Poor David Leigh. He had the worst case of acne I think the world had ever seen. Clearly too much w*nking. Panker used to single him out with the line 'get your sweet little face out here Leigh'. We got our own back one day by putting the end of a matchstick in a piece of chalk which went off as soon as he used it on the board, to much glee! Never did work out what the English translation of 'cul de sac' was. Panker claimed not to know.
Hated rugby although the showers were fun afterwards. Anyone remember 'Sydney'?!!
One of my dearest friends, Richard Macklin, got dealt a short hand. I was totally devastated when he died at the age of 21 with cancer. I fought to get to his funeral from Liverpool Uni through appalling snow in the 70s one Easter. Arrived just after he had been laid to rest. Still think about you Richard.
White-haired Brother Joe who didn't really have a clue about anything but was a gentle giant.
Brother Ryan who got lumbered with teaching us A level Chemistry and 4 weeks before the exam realised he'd been teaching the wrong syllabus. I got a C but Ainsworth (Bobby) got an A despite the set back. Ryan became Headmaster. Was that before or after Mulligan the head ran off to get married?
Sixth form saw me voted in as a Prefect!! Crikey. Who was Head Boy in 1968? Was it Keith Foley? I think so. (Couldn't do anything wrong and incredibly bright. Not a match for Ainsworth though (a good friend) who got A’s in everything. A battle of giants.) Catching guys going over the wall at lunchtime (must have something to do with the nickname Joe's Jailhouse) or smoking on the rugby fields was a pleasurable introduction to having the boot on the other foot. I got to ride pillion with a cute guy who had a big bike and lived in St Anne's, much to my mother's chagrin. Using motorbikes to round up the lunchtime escapees was another pastime.
These are some of my memories. Where are my classmates now? I've met up with David Leigh and have had brief correspondence with Mike Lowes, Aldo Pelosi, Dennis Watson. But there are others. Brian Sullivan. Prentice. Bern. Stanislav Kowalski. John Rooney. Crudd (Melvyn Preston) - and his friend, a short curly-haired guy whose name I can't remember now but with whom I got pissed several times in Santander. Hope you are all well and doing well.
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