CONTRIBUTION BY TERRY McGREEVEY 1952/1956
I attended dear old Saint Josephs from 1952 through 1956 at the time when the use of the 'strap' was in full throttle. My earliest memories of the house of terror was my form master (for the first two years), Brother Dagnon (sic) who wore some bottle-bottom glasses and seemed to have a permanent sneer on his face. I look back at an old school photograph and even today shudder at his image. I always remember the old two-seater desks with the inkwell and the blotters we used to write our notes in - using an ink pen in those things produced a huge blot on the page. Woe betide the young man that tore a page out of his exercise book, that was akin to setting fire to the cloakroom.
I was mildly surprised to see some favourable comments about Brother 'Josh' O'Leary. My memories of him as my Latin teacher were not so pleasant. He used a system of numbered cards, as each student in his class had been assigned a number, whereupon he whipped out one as a signal to the poor fool assigned that number to begin translation of a passage from our assigned reading. Call it Murphy’s Law, but I would inevitably draw a passage for translation that made no more sense to me than a theory in nuclear fission. I have some not-so-good memories of Mister Howe who loved to draw you out of your seat on your tiptoes by grabbing your sideburns. He was also deadly accurate in launching the blackboard eraser at a slumbering student to gain his attention.
One incident that still causes me to chuckle was a particular music class I attended as a member of the string instrument section (the viola - not by choice I might add) which was held in the basement of the school where some athletic equipment was stowed. I cannot remember the teachers name but he was associated with the Blackpool symphonic orchestra I believe, a mild mannered man who obviously never relished the impossible task of drumming some love of musical instruments into a group who delighted in playing the wrong string for every note. The violin section faced across from the viola section behind the back of the upright piano where the teacher sat. Almost immediately, someone discovered a shot-put and when the teacher began to play, the rumble of the shot-put across the cement floor was loudly heard much to the amusement of the students. By the time the teacher leaped up from his seat, the shot-put had disappeared into the opposite section. Of course, as soon as the music began, here come the shot-put back across the floor. After several unsuccessful attempts to discover the culprits, he reported us all to our fourth form master, Brother Burns. Brother Burns was a strict disciplinarian but a fair minded teacher, one of the rare breed, but he took exception to our torturing of the poor man and after a lecture, he lined the whole class up for two of the best.
Sports became an integral part of my school life, and to my surprise I found that I was fairly competent in both rugby and track. I had originally scorned the idea of participating in varsity rugby, convinced it was a vastly inferior sport to football, a sport I continue to support with the zeal of a fanatic. However, after having a very good outing for Newton in a house match, I was 'invited' to join the Bantams by coach, Brother Burns. It was a fun time, we had a very competitive side, losing only once I believe after an exhausting trip to Liverpool to play St Edwards. Practices seem to bring as many bruises to my body as regular match play. Once trying to round fiery Wally Marshall, he nearly beheaded me in a neck tackle. I still grunt at the memory of Mike Connelly drop kicking the ball, point first, into my groin from four feet away.
Football though was still important to many of us. I am sure every St Joes alumnus remembers the numerous games in progress in the schoolyard, with tennis balls whizzing back and forth. My particular group, led by Ken Statham and Ged Carr, discovered we could sneak down on the playing field just past the cricket green and play undisturbed, and continued to use this forbidden area until one day we were discovered by Brother Dolan. Surprisingly, no punishment was handed out but our days of playing at 'Wembley Stadium' were over.
Not all of my experiences at St Joes were unpleasant. I did learn a great deal, although I failed to realize this until a few years after I had left, but this gloomy mansion of a school took in a very nervous eleven year old and moulded him into a confident young man, who was able to call upon an inner discipline to face various challenges in later life. Academically, I was sadly lacking, shining only in such subjects as English Lit, where I was introduced to the delights of Charles Dickens, (By the way, was it Joe Tubb that had that expression 'a thing of beauty is a joy for ever'? - in regards to our handwriting) and in history, where Dr Coombs made the subject come to life and made me a life long reader. I left after my 'O' levels, passing only four subjects, but with an assurance that life was there to be lived - and lived it I did to the fullest.
In conclusion, my life was to take a dramatic upheaval the year after I left St Josephs, when I decided to emigrate to the United States, sailing across the Atlantic in an 'old bucket' of a Greek liner, and choosing a career with the US military shortly after my arrival. My twenty years of service took me to North Africa, Asia, the European continent and across America and also to experience the hazards of war during the Vietnam conflict. Later, I obtained a bachelors degree in business from an American university after my military service was over. Throughout, the lessons and the discipline I had experienced during my time at St Josephs had an enormous influence on my life and, upon reflection, my time at the 'house of terror' was well worth the perceived hardships I felt I had endured.
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