A Tribute To John Carrington RIP
John Carrington (Joes 1945/1953) and later French teacher at Joe's died on 6th March 2012. These are the tributes paid by those who knew him.
I first became aware of John Carrington, I think, at a school sports day. It was the usual miserable affair. Brother O'Brien had adopted his oleaginous mask. Everybody was on their best behaviour. It was a Potemkin village. And this lanky blond haired creature said: "Why are we going home when there's all this ale left." Somehow he had crossed a line between them and us. And he was a striking figure. He radiated energy and nervous defiance. And this was an impression that lasted.
He spoke to us. He did little to hide his feelings about the brothers. He didn't hold back on funny. I have never looked forward to a French lesson before or since.
Later on I remember he invited us to his house in North Shore. I couldn't make it but I kept in touch and, over time, I more admired his style. He wasn't putting it on. That was how he lived. He and Pat lived in a brilliant dialectical world where politics and art and debate were central.
What did I learn? Well I think we learned that you can function in a system without taking it seriously. And the weapons you have are humour, mockery. Pat and John showed us young adolescents a model for living and it worked. It was more fun than the alternatives.
I don't think I have captured how funny he was and part of the funniness was his spontaneity. And he fizzled with energy and impatience. Despite his guilelessness he worked with frantic energy for the Labour Party. In spite of his playfulness he worked in a disciplined way for the ideas he believed in.
I feel great sympathy with Pat who was the other half of this intrepid double act and if ever a couple were made for each other...
In spite of our loss it is impossible to remember Carrots without anarchic joy. He was an angry young man, he was a punk. His delicious expressions were a critique of the absurdities of Big Brother. It might not have been to my benefit but from 1963 to 1968 I had a model of how to live with wit and style in a system you find hovers between ludicrous and distasteful.
I first remember John Carrington teaching me geography in Prep A in 1959 or ’60 – doubtless parachuted in, Christian Brothers-style, because he was a modern languages graduate so must know about Abroad. He taught me French in my first year in the upper school, but nothing after that until the sixth form. Yet he always seemed to know who I was, which marked him out as one of the teachers who was interested in the students - something separate from being a good subject teacher, though I owe him my grade B in A-Level French.
My own world view now probably differs from his at many points, but he was one of the people in my late teens who encouraged me to see life through alternative filters. I started to notice in the sixth that he challenged our broader assumptions, and was curious about the sort of people we wanted to be. Was he an angry young man? Up to a point, but he was too courteous for the part, and anyway his distinctive sense of humour - not a Jimmy Porter characteristic - would have got in the way. Some parents thought he undermined what passed for our religious belief, or spread (undefined) left-wing propaganda. I don't think he undermined belief at all, just pressed the case for our understanding why we believed what we believed. And it says as much about Blackpool in the 1960s as it does about him that he acquired a leftish reputation by supporting Labour.
In the summer of 1967, he invited the lower sixth French class round to hear 'Sergeant Pepper'. This was a minor culture shock: I’d never seen Cezanne or Gaugin or Picasso reproduced in a private house – or met
anybody quite like John’s wife, Pat. Even then, I was impressed by the way they functioned sparkily as a couple, despite differences of temperament. After that, ‘Carrington’ became ‘the Carringtons’. Pat remains for me one of those wonderfully gregarious people with whom you quickly get into an interesting conversation.
In the sixth form and beyond, I met them periodically at their house or in Blackpool pubs, or had the occasional brief letter in John’s elegant handwriting. While I was at university, he and I drove up to visit Dick Turner in remotest Cumbria. When my wife and I were living in Durham in the 1980s, we saw the Carringtons occasionally when they came up for the Miners’ Gala. Otherwise, we kept in touch by Christmas card, and the odd second-hand book dispatched for his appreciation e.g. a 1920s Christian Brothers manual of social etiquette.
I shall miss John, not just for his humour and hospitality, or as someone I’d known for over fifty years and counted as a friend for over forty, but because he helped to shape the person I am.
Dennis Clarke (Joe's 1961-1968)
I remember 'Carrots' for his humour and the influence of his outlook that other writers here have noted. I am most grateful for the latter as I have rarely used French since school but could not do without thinking and acting along the lines he taught by friendly example – just by being himself. To be sure there were others who had a similar impact but John Carrington figures strongest in memory.
Although 'Carrots' never pushed his views systematically, he was the first adult I knew who had 'thought out' left-leaning ones – I had plenty of relatives who were 'cradle socialists' but about as articulate about it as babes. I suppose therefore that he contributed much to my interest and my later degree studies into socialist history. He also displayed a balance in his approach that helped me be wary of going overboard with any point of view and helped form my idea of how reasonable people ought to deal with things.
As with many of the laymen on the teaching staff, his gently ironic relations with the Brothers taught me a healthy critical attitude to representatives of 'official' religion – especially the sort who think their position tops all arguments. I hope he never got into too much trouble over it – but I suspect that would not have bothered him.
Unlike some of the other writers here, I had nothing to do with him outside school. However, I did see him once at a cinema showing of Zabriskie Point – this did not surprise me at all as he seemed the most clued up of all the teachers at St Joseph’s with ways of looking at things that were well outside the curriculum. He must have been a very interesting man to know as the others have written. I missed a lot there.
Dear 'Carrots': Thanks for helping make my schooldays memorable and a true foundation for life.
Rest in Peace.
My first and most profound memory of John 'Carrots' Carrington originated one rainy, September morning in 1970. I was in class 3x and he was standing in for a teacher (I forget which subject it was now ). I remember thinking this man was about as far removed from the other teachers as you could possibly get. By that he had traces of being human and was actually quite funny!
I clearly recall he sauntered into the classroom looking as if he resented having to be here more than we did. He meandered over to the desk and chair, sat with his bum situated at the top of the chair's back rest and his feet on the chair's seat. He looked around the class with a slightly bemused/amused expression and stated that during his lessons only one rule applied, and that is "You don't ever try to take the piss out of the Teacher!" This was so unexpected and unorthodox that it transpired to have the effect he so obviously desired! We were practically agog with curious attentiveness!
He then proceeded to ask what the lesson was supposed to be and promptly ignored the subject matter in favour of discussing sport!
Jevon O'Neill (Joe's 1973-78)
I was at Joe's from 1973 to 1980, when 'Carrots' was already established as an institution. His name was on the sports boards, he'd left for a couple of years to go to uni and had returned as a teacher. Now his slightly shambling and shambolic figure could be seen patrolling the corridors and taking French classes throughout both junior and senior schools.
I remember several things. I remember he wore a badge on his lapel. It said 'Be Alert. We need Lerts'. I remember he used to throw blackboard dusters at the heads of miscreant boys. Invariably they would hit their targets and lessons would be learned. I remember he once - as I was one of the more serious rugby players in school (but not one of the serious scholars) - he had me repeat after him the mantra, "I may be thick but I can lift heavy weights." It made me smile. It made him smile too. Then he explained to me where I'd gone wrong and I never forgot that particular point of grammar again.
Once - as a lower sixth former who had a keen interest in films and film making - he and his great mucker Graham Mills (Spanish Teacher, now also sadly deceased) invited me to a screening of Kurosawa's Dodes'ka Den at a film society in St Annes. Pat (John's wife) accompanied us and we had a great night watching then discussing the movie over a couple of pints. I've never forgotten that warmth and friendship out of school and the exposure to some really stimulating cinema. He was a good man who will be sadly missed.
Andrew Grealey (Joe's 1957-1965)
I was a pupil at school when 'Jim Carrots', as we knew him, came back from University to teach at the College and regret only that, probably because it was in the early years of his teaching career, we [well I, anyway!] did not meet him socially in the way that others of more recent years have recounted.
However, I remember two stories which he told us in either Upper V or, more likely, Lower VI Mods in about 1962 or '63 which demonstrated the sort of bloke he was and why he is justifiably remembered so fondly. One occasion was when his wife went to a Labour Party Ward meeting one evening while he was marking homework for one of the 1st year classes. When she got home, she asked if he fancied some fish & chips. He said, "Yes", so she went to get them. He carried on marking while eating them. Unfortunately, he dropped a chip which left a greasy mark on the exercise book he was marking so he drew a red ring round the mark and wrote in the margin 'Do not eat chips while doing your homework.'!
The other story I remember him telling us was about how Joe Bung, in an attempt to raise the school's academic profile, had sent a questionnaire to all the teachers asking them to list their degrees and other qualifications. Jim had, somehow, got hold of 2 copies of this questionnaire and completed the second one jokily [If memory serves, he wrote on it that he'd graduated from the University of Marrakech!]. Only that was the one [he said] that he'd handed in by mistake!
Plus he was openly an aficionado of The Goons, which made him unique as far as we knew among the teachers at the school.
Sandy Lloyd (Joe's 1959-1964)
Gosh Jim Carrington! I only have fond memories of him. The picture of him outside the hospital entrance made me laugh.
In the early Sixties [when I was known as Joey Fishwick] and was struggling along in 4C, he was the French teacher and very much different to the many scary Brothers, he was a friendly face. He tried so hard to teach us French but more often than not we discussed many other things such as the latest popular music. I intended to leave college early to take up a military career and the Brothers placed a lot of pressure against me from leaving and it was Jim who took the time to discuss things in a logical manner and we had regular chats over the course of a few months and eventually I did join the Army and we kept in touch for many years. My initial appointment was to the NATO headquarters in Fontainbleu for a short sojourn and so my basic French came in handy. I spent the next couple of years in Aden/Yemen, where my own bright red hair changed forever into a sandy colour [hence the name]. Jim continued to keep in touch and encouraged me to continue studying which I did and after a military career of 35 years I am now with a college in London where I have been for the past 15 years! Students and teachers come and go but you only remember the very bad or the very good, Jim Carrington was very good, one of the very best.
This is the last known photograph of Carrots, taken shortly before he died. (image by John Mullen)
If you would like to add your tribute, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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