A Tribute To Max Armstong RIP


Max Armstong (Joes 1943/1948) and later stalwart of the Old Boys Association died on 10th April 2013. Much of the success of the Association has been down to Max who served the Association in various capacities for over 50 years. These are the tributes paid by those who knew him.

Gerard Slavin (Joe's 1944/1951)
I first met Max Armstrong in about 1938 when we were pupils together at the Sacred Heart (Talbot Road ) school. In those days that was the only Catholic primary school for North Shore, Blackpool, and we travelled there usually by tramcar, myself from Anchorsholme and Max from Cavendish Road so that we became travelling companions and friends. Blackpool was an exciting place in those days for small boys-- soldiers back from Dunkirk with foreign coins to disburse - fund raising events at the Town Hall, opposite the school, such as a model of HMS Penelope (sometimes known as HMS Pepper Pot for the battle damage she sustained) or a spitfire for Blackpool savers to purchase--the advent of American soldiers and our begging cries of "Any gum chum"-- but the most exciting thing in our lives was the Catholic Boys Association run by Father Pearson with it's anarchic but very Catholic Wednesday evenings, which had the added bonus of a summer camp in the old dilapidated Catholic Church in Ambleside. Max took advantage of all the opportunities for fun and innocent mischief.

At eleven we transferred to St Joseph's and our lives changed. There was homework and there Max and I had a symbiotic relationship. He was hopeless at geometry and I was worse at Latin. I used to draw the solutions to his problems on the steamed up windows of tramcars from North Station and he made suggestions that would keep Brother Beatty off my back. By the time we got to Cavendish Road we both were less anxious for the trials of the following day. Time passed -- Brother Ring weaned us from the Wizard and Rover and introduced us to the Manchester Guardian. Each day as we passed Warley Road, we would look up the street and sing out "That is where Alistair Cooke used to live", a pointer that Blackpool was a town of opportunity for growing boys with growing ambitions. Then came the school certificate examination. Max did well but did not return to the sixth form and went off to work in a solicitor's office; we parted company and rapidly lost touch as our paths diverged.

We did not meet again for perhaps forty or fifty years and what a surprise. I had known him before his pubertal growth spurt and was surprised at his adult stature and bulk. I was surprised that he had become a policeman but not at his success in that demanding career. When we met, shared memories poured out but especially doing homework on steamed up tram cars and events at CBA camps with Bishop Pearson.

I have not been an active member of the Old Boys--- I have always lived too far away and travelling to Blackpool from Scotland or London for  'Men Only' events have been trips too far. However keeping in touch with the Association through Circulars and now the Internet has shown that its success has been due to the efforts of many but preeminent in those efforts has been the work of Max. I am not surprised --- as the boy, so the man, and Max as a boy was full of endeavour, sociability and fun, just the person for the Secretary job. If he's listening I would like to shout "Thanks Max and CBA, Ad Altiora!"

David Lee (Joe's 1943/1950)
Max and I were both B-stream boys at school. Probably because numbers were small we were combined with the A Stream intellectuals in Form UV and I found myself sharing a two-seater desk with Max. What I remember most about Max is that he seemed to have what l call a Teflon quality. Whereas we would both share in the usual terrorist activities of healthy sixteen year olds Max never suffered to the same extent as me when the usual discipline was meted out.

Something that is now forgotten about Max at this time was his musical ability. He was a talented pianist. He was always the pianist of choice to play at our school concerts. l can still see him playing duets with Stan Butterworth on his trumpet - an unusual pairing but, - it was a small school. Sadly, he let this talent slip.

He was not an enthusiast in the sporting scene. On the contrary he seemed to successfully avoid overly strenuous activities.

When Max left school, our association went into abeyance as our careers diverged. We did not reconnect until I retired and returned to Blackpool in 1991. To be able to relate anything from his working life and from the happy years he spent with Pat at his side, I have to rely on straight forward plagiarism based on the obituary given at his funeral.

Prior to entering the RAF at the age 18 to complete his National Service, he spent time as a junior probate clerk in a local solicitors' office. I make no apologies for lifting the following verbatim from the obituary.

In the RAF 

'After having completed the normal six week training he very skillfully managed to secure himself a position in the Legal Section of the RAF based in London. His duties involved travelling up and down the country taking evidence for RAF divorces. From that day forward Max never saw a camp but was billeted in private accommodation with a loving family and with the added bonus of their daughter becoming his girlfriend. Max it seems has always had a guardian angel making sure his life was good. As we have always said if he fell into the Thames he would come out dry'.

No freezing on Catterick parade grounds for Max! I could not provide better evidence of his Teflon qualities.

When l renewed my acquaintance with Max, he was working on the staff of the Pleasure Beach which he had joined after a full career in the police force. At that time he was already a long time secretary of 'The St. Joseph's College Old Boys Association'. I naturally joined the Association and in due time became Treasurer. The association with Max rapidly developed into a warm family friendship. We have holidayed together, cruised together, but in particular spent innumerable Sundays enjoying long and luxurious lunches together.
In this time I developed a real sense of the genuine and friendly interest he had in other people. He could not be waited on at table without knowing the waiter or waitresses' name, where they came from, and learning to say hello in their native tongue. He had studied German, but in addition, he had to know snippets of every tongue from every immigrant who has waited on at table over the last twenty years.
It has to have been this friendly interest in people and his interpersonal skills that produced Max the 'Secretary'.

l know and believe, and I also know that many share the belief, that Max's contribution to our Association is the reason that so many of us continue to commune and dine together on a regular basis. We owe it to his memory that this should continue.

If you would like to add your tribute, please email me at jvward2003@yahoo.com


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