CONTRIBUTION BY PETER RALEIGH (RIP) 1953/1960
Peter Raleigh wrote this essay in February 2008. Sadly he died on 7th April 2009
I have just now (February 2, 2008) finished very carefully reading and re-reading all 25 of the "PERSONAL MEMORIES" on John Ward's great St. Joseph's College Old Boys' Association Website and have noted four remarkably consistent characteristics which leap out as distinct, indelible threads running throughout all of them:
Our colleagues' memories are so VIVID! Not only do they recall our Lay Teachers and the Irish Christian Brothers so clearly by given-name and nick-name, attire, demeanour, but also by their characteristic turns of phrase, their gestures, their strengths and weaknesses and by individual events/episodes which occurred. These often very strong personalities have certainly made a lasting impression on us all, mainly for the good, I believe.
Secondly, I detect a deep sense of appreciation for the high standard of education which we did receive at the College, despite the at-times excessive corporal punishment--common at schools in those days--which was meted out by some of the Staff, Lay Teachers as well as Brothers. For so many of our College contemporaries have gone on to great achievements in the personal, professional, academic, artistic, business, social and political realms, and most do credit the College for giving us all a great basis, a foundation, a platform for our subsequent successes.
Thirdly, almost all of our "Memoirists" refer to the same great Teachers who helped us all along the way: Messrs. McGrahan, Crosby, McPhee, Creamer, Carrington, LeBrun, Charles and dear old Brother O'Leary. Personally, I will single out two Teachers whose highly positive impact has remained with me throughout my life: Bernard Howe, German and French Teacher non-pareil, and Mr. Singleton, the Cambridge graduate whose brilliant History classes I took in the Upper Fifth and Lower Sixth Forms (1957-59). He was a great breath of fresh air, whose take on History was to focus not at all on the hitherto-experienced narrow, evermore-deadening preoccupation with dusty and disconnected facts, figures and dates, but rather on Social History, the fascinating Social and Everyday Experiences of Daily Living. Mr. Singleton took us on many field trips, especially to ancient castles and churches in and around the Fylde. The one to Whalley Abbey in 1957 I especially remember, as it sowed the seed for my life-long fascination with architecture. His dedication to his students is legendary: In my last "A" Level Exam year, 1959-60, he and Mr. Howe both took up new teaching appointments at a brand-new school in the Liverpool area, but Mr. Singleton was more than happy to continue helping seven of us with our History Exam. preparations on Saturday mornings, compensated only by our gratitude and by the great success we all achieved in the 1960 exams.
Bernard Howe is one of the most interesting people whom I have ever met: Just as sublimely witty as he was intelligent, he brought the best out of us all, encouraging us not simply to learn to love Foreign Languages, but Language itself and the Culture and Customs within which Language is inextricably embedded. Every single day, he would sweep into class, bubbling with multi-lingual puns--a melange of French, German, Latin and bits of other languages--and have us rolling in the aisles for the entire hour. It was only after I had myself become a teacher and later professor of Foreign Languages and English Literature that I came to realize how immensely he has affected my life, both professionally and personally. He was a man of great compassion, especially for the underdog, and his fiery celebration of the intrinsic value of all Languages and all Cultures remains vitally with me still. He arranged and led the annual College summer trips to Austria--I was lucky to participate in three (1957-59)--which were not only terrifically enjoyable but, quite literally, life-changing in the sense that we were exposed at the age of 14 or 15 to a totally new Culture, one filled with omni-present music, spectacular Alpine scenery, fascinating local arts and crafts, a completely different cuisine, and one of the world's culturally, artistically and architecturally most resplendent capital cities: Vienna.
My life has been enriched, immeasurably, by these two outstanding Teachers, without whom I would never have been prepared for my successful Bachelor's (University of Birmingham, 1963), Master's (1969) and Ph. D. (1976) degree courses (University of California, Santa Barbara). I am now semi-retired, very happily creating and teaching new Shakespeare courses for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, on the idyllic Central California Coast.
Finally--and this is THE clearest common characteristic running through ALL of our Memoirists' accounts--the indisputable fact is that they all write SO WELL! Limpid, persuasive writing is THE indicator of clear, critical and logical thinking, founded upon the developed ability to analyze, to synthesize and to present one's central points in a manifestly coherent, persuasive and elegant fashion. This is the ultimate proof that the education which we all received at St. Joseph's College was second to none. We are, indeed, very fortunate to have been educated there.
A CONCLUDING NOTE: All St. Joe's Old Boys remember so well our Outstanding Contemporaries. Mine are legion: Tom Kelly, Bernard Smith, Eddie Welch, Bill Moss, Les Downs, Desmond Maley, Pete Sinclair, Paul Aukland, the Hindle brothers, Chris Ledgerd, Frank Cornwell, the Ball brothers, Adrian and Alex Dunn, Philip Bowman, Charlie Harrison, Tom McNally, Dave Cunningham, the Naylor brothers, Simon and Dominic Brown, Michael Fenech, the Luscombe brothers, Kevin Hickey, the Brophy brothers, Eddie Stark, Jackie Ellwood, John Wilkie, Michael Foster, Ian Creamer, Maurice McCarthy, Christopher Parkinson, John Binns and, above all, Pete McCarthy and Brian Shirley, Head Boy, 1959-60.
LET'S ALL MEET UP AT THE REUNION IN FEBRUARY 2010: 50 YEARS SINCE WE LEFT OUR ALMA MATER!
Peter J. Raleigh (1953-1960)
|Back to memories page.|