1974 - 82 : From St. Joe's to St. Mary's.

I attended St. Joes during its transition from an all boys grammar school to a mixed comprehensive school, so I thought I'd give an account of my experiences during this period. Firstly, let's get the thrashings out of the way: the misery of pupils is well documented in this respect, and you'll be pleased/bemused to read that.... yes the thrashings continued right up to the end of my "O" Levels in fifth year at St. Mary's in 1979 although they were less frequent towards the end. I'll list here the main protagonists who I can remember clobbering me & my school friends. Excuse the spellings of names if incorrect. Many of these teachers were quite Strap-happy and continued to dish out the treatment for several years after the first year given: Brother "Bimbo" Hennessy (1974/5) - strap, Mr. "Pop/Ted" Schools (1974/5) - gym shoe, Mr. "Wodger" Cook (1974/5) - gym shoe, Brother "Bruce" King (1974/5) - strap, Brother "Big Frank" Francis (1974/5) - strap / history book / fists, Brother "Tessy" O'Shea (1974/5) - strap, Mr. "Plug / Bill" Hailey (1975/6) - strap, Mr. "Carrots" Carrington (1975/6) - hands, Mr. "Mucker" McKenna (1976/7) - strap, Mr. Ken "Wez" "Daaiish" Waring (1976/7) - strap, Mr. Dave "Bouncer" Cartmell (1976/7) - gym shoe / strap, Jim "Maggie" McGrahan (1976/7) - strap / large pencil on knuckles, hair-pulling, Kevin Downes (1976/7) - strap, Mr. "Butty" Butterworth (1977/8) - fists, Mr. "Dan" McCarthy (1978/9) - strap.

There are of course numerous others but the ones above are the ones I received, or witnessed. "So what?" you might ask. Well, apart from them being arrested if they'd behaved like that these days, I wanted to detail it "for the record" so perhaps younger people can appreciate what we went through. I had no problem with the "Strict but Fair" people (e.g. Ted, Dan, Wodger, Plug) and after all, they were only doing what was "the norm" at the time, but others were quite spiteful (e.g. Butterworth, Downes), and I like to think these culprits will "get theirs" come
Judgment Day! It should be pointed out that there were a good number of teachers who never hit anyone and had complete control (and respect) from their pupils. Fortunately there was no abuse of the other kind although I believe this had happened in previous years. People sometimes ask me, "You were taught by Christian Brothers. Did they fiddle about with you?". "No" I reply. "Fortunately I just got leathered!".

CLASS 1Z (1974-75)

Right, with that sorted, let's get onto some decent history. Cast your minds back to September 1974. Power Cuts, two general elections, Wilson's government, inflation at over 20%. Luckily I'd passed my 11+ at St. John Vianneys, so in the Summer Hols, it was off to Orry's to buy the St. Joe's uniform and sports kit. I was really proud and had already forgotten about some of my school mates who'd fluffed the exam and were cast off to the scrap-heap at St. Tom's or so it seemed. There had been much debate at the time about whether or not to scrap the 11+, and in fact the following year was, I believe, the last time the exam was taken.

So, early September '74, I was on the 26 bus down Whitegate Drive with my big brother to Devonshire Square, then up Bryan Road, through the alley and up the main drag to school. On Bryan Road I got used to the bigger lads baiting the
'plebs' from Tyldesley upper school who were on the other side of the road - their school was over the fence from ours. More about Tyldesley later! Talking about bigger lads, as a titchy eleven year-old, some of the fifth & sixth-formers seemed to be huge hulk-like characters. There was no bullying from these 'giants' as we weren't considered 'fair game', but we got some of that from the year above us. Having a big brother higher up the school was pretty handy on a couple of occasions, but I guess some of my schoolmates weren't as lucky.

Class 1Z which was located on the top floor of the older
'Junior' building i.e. the building closest to Newton Drive. Walking out of 1Z which was at the end of the corridor, you'd walk past 1Y on the left, then reach the top of the stairs. A rope hung from the old school bell which was through a hatch near the ceiling - Heaven help you if you pulled the rope! The top floor of the Brothers' House was to the right - quite an eerie experience going through the door there as the borders' washrooms etc. were still fully intact and you could easily imagine the lost souls of former pupils wandering hopelessly along the dark corridors. To either side of that door was the French room and Spanish room. Remember Longman's audio visual French on the Reel-to-Reel? Ignoring the right turn, the junior assembly hall (the old borders' dormitories?) was ahead and after strolling through that you'd reach Jim Rafferty's Music room (with the fire exit onto the suspended iron staircase). I liked 1Z because it had windows on two sides with good views to the North and East to the Pennines. 1X was down the stairs and to the right. Bill Naylor's Tech-Drawing room was adjacent to 1X (both above the library on the ground floor). So our teachers (I remember) were: Ted Schools (Form teacher, PE, and Maths), Brother "Bimbo" Hennessy then Brother "Bruce" King (English), Brother "Tessy" O'Shea (RE), Brother "Big Frank" Francis (History), "Wodger" Cook (Geography), Jim Rafferty (Music), Mrs. "Charley" Charles (Latin), Carrots (French), Roy "Charlie" Peaker (Science), Tony Fowler (Art). Pupils were arranged in the class according to the alphabet. So as a 'W', I was at the back of the end row with Dave Wands in front of me and Howard Thacker in front of him. Mark Qualter (who was later to join our school rock band!) was across from me. The first few weeks' homework at St. Joe's was almost primarily concerned with backing text books and this was an age-old tradition that was continue for the first few weeks of every Autumn term, right through the school. I used brown paper, but it was interesting to see all the different types of wallpaper that the other pupils used! I remember it was the Norman conquests in History and Wind In The Willows and Treasure Island in English - a good start.


Lunchtimes at first were barbaric - queuing up the stairs to the dining room was basically the law of the jungle - the biggest got lunch first. If you were first in the queue, you simply got pushed down the stairs violently by the bigger / older lads 'til you found your place in the pecking order. With the smell of over-boiled veg in the air, I decided that from week two, it'd be a packed lunch for me, in the junior assembly hall. Many of my new friends did the same. So the staple lunchtime diet was Plumrose chopped ham & pork, spam, cheese, more spam, maybe corned beef, spam spam spam spam spam spam spam spam......with some hot chocolate in a tartan thermos flask (replaced almost weekly!). The
'tuck shop' was anarchy - about twenty lads on a large wooden box brawling for chocolate bars handed out from the sixth form common room window. How someone didn't get a serious injury amazes me! I'm also surprised we didn't get lung cancer breathing the cigarette smoke wafting out of the common room windows, or deafened by Led Zep or Deep Purple blaring out of the record player!!


Apart from Jim Rafferty's weekly Music lesson, we were encouraged to take up a musical instrument. In the first few weeks, we were taken to the Brass room (which seemed to be an old garage right at the Northern tip of the school), the String room (basement of the Brothers' house) and Wind room (further on from the string room). The String teacher was a nut - he ended his string presentation by massaging his ego hurtling through "Flight of the Bumble-Bee" on violin. Anyway, we tried out the various instruments to see if we had a "natural" talent for one of them. My Dad was a brass band fan (and still is) and since I managed to get what sounded like a strangled fart out of a trumpet, it was suggested I take it up. But when I saw a trombone, it was (temporary) love at first sight. The only problem was, it was as big as me in its big blue case. My mates christened it "the coffin" as I used to sometimes carry it on my shoulder. Running for the 26 bus in the morning with it was no joke - except for Anton and Ged Morley who could be seen already on the bus
pissing themselves laughing at me and my brother as the bus took off, leaving us stranded. I did have some good memories with that bloody instrument. After school, when we were waiting for the bus at Devonshire Square, some Layton Hill Convent girls would usually join us after getting off the number 2, and around Christmas '74, Anne Dickinson, who was having guitar lessons, whipped out her acoustic axe and the pair of us amazed passers-by with our guitar-and-trombone rendition of some Christmas Carols. She would later join me in our school rock band! In the second year, me and Chris Brierley's brass practice switched to the old borders' washroom in the Brothers' house top floor - I remember parping out Home on the Range whilst looking at myself disappearing into infinity in the long washroom mirrors that faced each other! By third year, I was practicing guitar more and more and trombone less and less until one day in the Summer hols I put the trombone away and never picked it up again, apart from once or twice during the Ska music revival in the late seventies.


The selection process for the school cross-country teams was quite fair - there was a big race round Fylde Farm and the fastest boys got in the team. The selection process for the rugby teams was a joke. Basically we were put into groups then told to do a bit of running and passing the ball. Then one of the games teachers (in my case a Brother who knew nothing about rugby) came and looked at our group for about a minute. He may or may not have seen anyone in particular - he came nowhere near me. A few days later we were put into teams
'according to our ability'. The 'A' team was the first fifteen so to speak. I got put (arbitrarily I presume) into the 'D' team. I think there were six teams in all. I felt disillusioned and quickly lost interest in the game. The first and second XV then became a closed shop for the next seven years, a sort of club, a clique with no means of entry. I chose cross-country with the odd bit of rugby when there were house matches. So, for me and the majority of pupils in my year, games was a load of bollocks with little interest shown in us from the games masters, apart from Ted Schools who would always get a proper game going with us misfits if he had time.


The Achille Ratti Hut in Dunmail Raise, just North of Grasmere in the Lake District was one of the climbing huts owned by the club of the same name, named after Monsignor Achille Ratti, a parish priest from Northern Italy who was also an accomplished climber. He later became Pope Pius XI. St. Joe's had made use of the hut on several occasions and I was lucky enough to go with the school at the end of my first year in 1975 on a trip that would ignite a love of the Lakeland Fells that exists to the present day. We packed ourselves into the school minibus and went off for what would be for most of us, the first time we'd gone to stay away somewhere without our parents. Ted Schools, Roger Cook and Maggie were the adults on the trip. And what a great time we had. Our first walk was Steel Fell - looking down at the hut from the summit. The second walk was the big one - round to Stone Arthur, then up Great Rigg and onto the summit of the mighty Fairfield with Ted Schools and Roger Cook leading the pack in fine weather. Then it was back down to Grizedale Hause and then descending down by the waterfall to Dunmail Raise. Quite a walk for a bunch of 12 year-olds! There wasn't much shenanigans that night in the dormitories! The next day was a lot easier and we had time to send a postcard off to our mums and dads and buy a souvenir or two. Then is was home-time - many of us were gutted that the holiday had finished, but perhaps one or two were glad to get away from the fells, who knows! I've been returning to the Lakes ever since, doing the Wainwrights and often pass the hut from where I did my first trips into the hills.

CLASS 2Z (1975-76)

Class 2Z was on the first floor of the Junior building - the same floor as the chapel. My quality education continued at the hands of : Mr. "Bill / Plug" Haley (Form teacher and English), Ted Schools (Maths & PE), Jim "Maggie" McGrahan (History), "Wodger" Cook (Geography), Roy "Charlie" Peaker (Science), Jim Rafferty (Music), Mrs. Charles (Latin), Carrots (French), Tony Fowler (Art). I can't remember if the Brothers had already vacated St. Joe's or whether it was at the end of this year. One of the first big events of the year was the production of the musical Oliver on a refurbished stage in the dining hall. The second year classrooms became temporary dressing rooms. Maggie was directing, and you could have thought it was Hamlet at Stratford the way he bellowed and shrieked at the cast. I was in Fagin's gang. The first years were the Workhouse kids and did the Food Glorious Food routine with us backing them behind the scenery. Mick Szulc was the Artful Dodger - that must have been the easiest casting job ever! Andy Fleming (who was later to join our school rock band!) was Oliver. Margaret Bateson was Nancy. Yes, unlike a production a year later, they got girls from Layton Hill Convent to play the female roles. This was very exciting for us lads who were in the process of being sexually repressed by the school. You could smell the hormones flying around the stage - a fair bit of snogging went on, mostly encouraged by some of the older girls, but none of them went near me! Oliver ended up being a big success, apart from one night where Ted Schools' starter pistol failed to go off when the police were shooting Bill Sykes. One of the cast half-heartedly shouted "Bang!" noticing that the lad playing Mr. Sykes had already fallen to the floor!

Other memorable events that year included me, Dave Wands, and Tommy Quigley getting a roasting for throwing a banger out of 2Z window onto the crowded junior playground - it was Tommy's firework, Dave lit it, and I threw it!! Georgey Brierley sprinted up the stairs and right into our classroom to find the three of us shrouded in smoke. Utterly terrified, we were marched to Mr. "Dan" McCarthy's office but managed to avoid the strap this time because I think we were nearly in tears already - I think Dan felt a bit embarrassed. Friday detention was the punishment.

I also remember reading The Gun in English lessons. This was a seriously tedious read as far as I was concerned. "Please take out your copies of The Gun", Plug would say with his Fred Dibnah accent.

CLASS 3Z (1976-77)

Class 3Z was on the ground floor of the Junior building with the sixth form common room at the bottom of the corridor. There had been a re-shuffle of class members since the clever ones had been streamed out and put into 3X. 3Y and 3Z were both the same academically. Father "WAP" / Alfie Parker was our Form master and Geography teacher and was one of the best human beings I ever met at St. Joe's. A real diamond. The Brothers had definitely left by now. The Jesuits had taken control and Father "Popeye" Doyle was Headmaster. I never really got to know him well - I think he was only there a year. As far as I can remember, my teachers were Father Parker, Father "Galen" Ainsworth - English (he looked like Galen - from TV's Planet of the Apes), Ted Schools (Maths), Dave "Bouncer" Cartmel (history), Mr. Parker (RE), Tony Evans (Music), Peter "Dan" McCarthy (Chemistry), Kev Downes (Physics), Tony Fowler (Art), Mr. "Mucker" McKenna (Latin), "Carrots" (French). In the Autumn of '76, I again took to the stage for a third-year-only production of The Minstrel's Tale with Andy Fleming again taking a lead role. I'm afraid I was given the part of a gypsy woman and had to dress up in a wig, with a Romany dress and waistcoat. I did get to sing a song though and this was quite funny as my voice had broken and even though I was supposed to be a lady, I was singing an octave below my
'husband' Simon Whitehead. A minor detail!

Physics became an ordeal during this year due to a certain teacher, Mr. Downes, who should not have been allowed near a classroom. He was an appalling nasty sadist, and a sense of dread would descend on the whole class as it got nearer to his lesson. He dished out corporal punishment with obvious pleasure, and particularly enjoyed picking on some of the quieter members of the class. One moment of revenge was when we were being taught about Van der Graaf Generators and Downes got someone (Mick Formby or Dolly?) to stand on an insulated platform and hold the dome of the generator. Of course his hair started to stand on end as the electrostatic charge built up. No sooner had Downes explained that anyone who came close to Mick would get a nasty shock when Mick lifted up a finger near to Downes's body - a blue spark shot across the air and hit Downes causing him to yelp in pain. I can't remember what happened after that but it must have been bad! Apparently, Downes strapped one boy because he had a speech impediment and Downes thought he was taking the piss. Some weeks later, we got told that Downes had been in a car accident and would be away for the rest of the year. Thirty boys cheered in unison!! For the rest of the year, Maggie's son (Andy?) taught us and he was a decent bloke.

We spent a lot of time around the bike sheds at lunch-times as it was a decent place for a smoke as an alternative to the squash courts. Our group (me, Ian Clarke, Greg Mitchell, Phil "Harold" Lund, Karl Wilkinson, Seamus Slowey, and others) were into customizing our bikes and doing wheelies all the time so we used to practice. I think skateboards might have made an appearance too, as did some Top Trumps cards. Karl Wilkinson used to stick an inside-out deflated football on his head and pretend he was "Urko" from the TV version of Planet of the Apes.

In March 1977, I suffered the worst personal loss in my life with the death of my mum through breast cancer at the age of 37 years. My form master, Father Parker did the funeral mass with my parish priest Father Keily at St. Joseph's RC Church in Levens Grove, Blackpool, now demolished. Father Doyle attended as did Peter McCarthy, as well as one or two of my schoolmates. Following the funeral, I eventually returned to school and decided to bury myself in my schoolwork. Alfie Parker really took me under his wing at the time, without any drama, and returned me to normality, which I appreciated and am thankful for to this day. I imagine these days a school would have got child counselors and psychologists involved etc., but thank God there wasn't any of that nonsense at St. Joe's. I don't recall much else that year apart from an enjoyable history field trip to Ironbridge which did lift my gloom a bit.

CLASS 4Z (1977-78)

Class 4Z was in the senior building on the ground floor (same floor as the head's office), roughly above the geography room. September 1977 marked the end of St. Joseph's College and the beginning of St. Mary's RC High School. In Cruce Vita was replaced by Semper Fidelis. My new blazer was still a St. Joe's blazer, but confusingly I had a blue and green St. Mary's tie. Father "Popeye" Doyle had ended his brief tenure and Pete "Dan" McCarthy had taken the helm as far as I was concerned although Sister Maureen was the official Head of School. But as far as education was concerned, nothing had changed for me. There were changes elsewhere though. There was no new first year at Newton Drive. They had gone to the Layton Hill Convent site which was now also of course St. Mary's. They were now in mixed classes. This meant a lot of chopping and changing for teachers as they flitted between sites to give lessons. Indeed, for some lessons, pupils were shipped backwards and forwards - not ideal. But for the first time, we started to see girls on the Newton Drive site, mostly sixth formers who were being grouped with the sixth form lads for some lessons. Elsewhere, St. Tom
's and St. Cath's had merged to become All Saints RC High School, a school which was to have an extremely brief existence since it again merged with St. Mary's a few years later, losing its identity completely.

Classes 4Y and 4Z had not been further streamed into "Alpha" and "B" classes as had happened in the past. Perhaps this was in the spirit of the new "Comprehensive" education system. My teachers were : Father "Galen" Ainsworth (Form master and English Language / Lit), "Dan" McCarthy (Chemistry), Mr. "Blockhead / Pin-head" Cook (Physics), Georgey Brierley (Maths), Barry Jones (History), "Butty" Butterworth (Geography), Dave Bostock (PE), Tony Evans (Music), Tony Fowler (Art), Gerry McCurdy (French). Of course we were starting to rev up for our "O" Levels. Lord of the Flies and Julius Caesar were the choice for English. Chemistry was my favourite subject and I only realised how well stocked and equipped both the junior and senior laboratories were in later years. I was well into Geography too, especially OS maps, but I think Butterworth tried everything he could to put me off the subject including dishing out the biggest beating I ever endured at the school. No strap - just fists. By the time Roger Cook picked our class up in fifth year, we were way behind. Dave Bostock was another keen sadist and if we refused to "Stand behind the white line", we'd find ourselves hanging from the wall-bars in the gym, or getting a whack. During the year, 4Z was acquiring notoriety for its bad
behaviour and we'd started to give some of the weaker teachers a seriously hard time, and this was to escalate during the following year.

CLASS 5Z (1978-79) - "O" Levels

Class 5Z was directly above 4Z on the same floor as the junior physics lab & chemistry lab. The year two years below us had now moved to Layton Hill (I think) leaving just the year below us as the youngest in the school. Roger Cook was our Form master - maybe he was deliberately assigned to 5Z because of his hard-line approach. He also took us for Geography and got us back on the straight and narrow for "O" level by giving us a homework EVERY day for weeks on end. Other subject teachers were roughly the same as in 4Z except for Mr. "We agree" Wilson (maths), "Rat" Parker (history), Mrs. "Betty / Turkey " Davies (English Lang. and Lit.). Mrs. Davies didn't know what had hit her. She was used to teaching polite young madams up at Layton Hill and suddenly she had a class of flatulent infantile yobs on her hands. "I've heard all about you" were the first words she said to me when I introduced myself after making some animal noises. There were lots of jolly japes and pranks at her expense courtesy of me, Ged Morley, Jimmy Hawkes, Dolly, Daz Clarke,
Kev Schools, Mark "Bogis" Pearson, Bernard "Barnyard" Kelly, Chris "Whiff" Mahood, Sean Smith, Bazzer McCann and others. She began bringing air-freshener into class because she was fed up with the smell. Spraying this about my bottom after I let a big trump go was a bad move - it caused uproar. We then resorted to throwing stuff around the class and at her. We liked a sing-song too. Worse still was the treatment a young female temporary RE teacher Miss Boyle got. It was all hilarious to us, but in reality we were morons, making our teachers' working lives a misery. Then we didn't get taken on a Geography field trip to the limestone scenery of Malham Cove, because Roger Cook thought someone might fall or get pushed down a large hole. Leading up to Bonfire night, we decided to have an impromptu firework display in the squash courts. As one of the main protagonists, I had the pleasure of getting four of the best off Dan, along with Kev Schools. Detention was a weekly inevitability - the school minibus never looked so clean!

For the fifth year as a whole, with a background of football violence as a regular occurrence nationally, some fights had started with Tyldesley and St. Tom's (aka All Saints). After games one day, a gang went to Garstang Road West for a scuffle with St. Tom's which ended up in a running battle across Crossleys Bridge roundabout. The incident was reported to the police and we all got a lecture the next day. A few weeks later, there was more trouble with St. Tom's, this time in Revoe Park, Blackpool. This time everyone who was there had to write a police statement on the incident. After Tyldesley had broken the dividing fence between us and them during a snowball fight, a battle was being organised at Devonshire Square after school. After a previous fight there where we'd been seriously outnumbered, some common sense kicked in and I decided to warn Dan about it. He set about organising some of the more handy teachers and drove them down to Devonshire Square in the school minibus. This proved a wise move as it seemed like the whole of Tyldesley had turned out. Dan, Dave Bostock, Mr. McKendric and co. leapt out of the minibus and, although chronically outnumbered, formed a human chain between us and the Tyldesley mob. Were they going to mess with Lancashire's hammer throwing champion and several other big lads? No they didn't.

The "O" Level exams came along and we already knew who was leaving and who was going on to sixth form - the mocks had sorted that out. The exams themselves were mostly in the old Junior assembly hall in the old building and there was a strange feeling about this part of the school as it had become pretty much uninhabited. There was some burning of books on the final day, but only by those not returning in September! Despite the chaos of 5Z, many of us got good results and looked forward to sixth form. And girls!!


Well, things really changed this year with the introduction of mixed education for us. The school was definitely starting to feel more like St. Mary's than St. Joe's. Our blazers and pullovers had changed to the traditional black although some of the girls continued to wear the green of Layton Hill Convent. The St. Joe's badge had disappeared from some blazers but there was no St. Mary's badge in its place, so there was generally a sense of identity loss. Also there was no St. Mary's Sixth Form tie. The old third year classrooms had become reading rooms and the second and first year classes were hardly used at all. We still had the fifth year boys, but no-one below them at the school - they were all at Layton Hill. On the first day back, we had an assembly in the main dining room, and there were girls everywhere! After five years of single sex education, to say they were a distraction was an understatement! I'd chosen sciences for "A" Levels with the intention of doing a Chemistry degree at Uni. So it was Pete McCarthy for Chemistry, Phil Stainton for Physics, Gerry Armitage for applied maths and my mate (not) Ron Steele for pure maths. These teachers stayed with me for lower and upper sixths. The Junior Chemistry lab was now the "Physical" Chemistry lab and upstairs the Senior lab was now used for "Organic". We had General Studies too but I quickly realised that no-one bothered to attend these lessons! We didn't have "Forms" that we belonged to anymore. They were renamed "Tutor Groups", where you went to first thing in the morning for registration etc. So in Lower Sixth, I was in T16. I think Mucker was our Tutor Group Leader. I was in T8 in Upper Sixth with Gerry McCurdy, and I think T4 when I resat my "A" Levels with Bill McGarry in '81-'82. Two years later he would die tragically in the Abbeystead disaster.

The teaching style had changed in Sixth Form and the onus was very much on the pupil to get the schoolwork and homework done. There was no punishment for missing work, or lessons. This did not suit me at all. For five years I had been used to working under the threat of physical violence for incomplete work or poor results. So the choice of sitting in the common room with a cup of tea, amusing Janice and Louise rather than attending a maths lesson was a no-brainer. My school-work quickly sunk, and discovering booze, my homework became a rare event too compared to sixth months earlier when I had been firing on all cylinders, going for ten "O" Levels. One typical boozy experience was the coach trip to Pendle Hill for Halloween 1979. This became a cider-induced vomit-fest for most Lower Sixth pupils. On the way back, I recall a Tsunami of sick making its way down the aisle to the front of the coach when the miserable vehicle braked sharply!! The coach driver opened the door and let it out.


In fifth year, having played the guitar for three years, I'd joined a (unfashionable) folk-rock band Broken Consort made up of pupils from the school, apart from the drummer and lead guitarist (Gareth Collier & John Bentham). So there was Mark Preston from two years above us (band leader, guitar, keyboards, oboe), Mark Qualter (Bass), Andy Fleming (keyboards and viola) and me (guitars). However, when Mark P. went off to university, in September '79 we decided to continue and recruited Anne Dickinson (vocals and guitar) whilst losing John. I came up with a lousy name for our band - Fidus Grove and we began practicing, writing all our own (even more unfashionable prog-rock) material! We rehearsed at St. Alban's RC Church in St. Annes and shared the place with Chris Anderton's band - The Pose, which became Tunnel Vision. They went on to get a single released by Factory Records, playing the sort of post-punk rain-coat music people wanted to hear at the time. After five months of rehearsals, Fidus Grove did one very successful gig to a home audience in the dining room at St. Joe's on the evening of 7th February 1980, borrowing some PA kit from our miserablist bedfellows. We then broke up. Tunnel Vision have since recently reformed for some reunion gigs and you can still buy their material. I tried to get Broken Consort / Fidus Grove back together through Friends Reunited and all that, but alas couldn't find our drummer - he's probably hidden away somewhere trying to learn a musical instrument!

UPPER SIXTH FORM (1980-81) - "A" Levels"

So, this was the final year at St. Joe's / St. Mary's. The end of the journey. Sort of (see below). There were no more blue blazers at the school. Newton Drive was more or less a Sixth Form centre. I already knew I was "heading for disaster" as Pete McCarthy wrote on my school report. I'd filled in my UCCA form and visited my (err planned) degree destination - UMIST. But, in reality I'd decided to really start enjoying myself. I remember the year chiefly for the fantastic eighteenth Birthday discos we had at various places in Blackpool including the top floor at Jenks, Man Fridays, the Adam & Eve, and Calypso (aka Collapso). My time at school seemed to be one long hangover. Most weekday nights were spent in the Boars Head, Blackpool rather than studying integration by parts, carboxylic acids, and bipolar transistors.

As a reaction to the rugby first fifteen clique, Dave Kerr and Mark Campbell set up The Sesh, a drinking group that anyone could join. We even had our own tie (any tie - with a sesh sticker on it). Ironically, two of the more sociable rugger players, Mike Dobson and Rob Parr also joined The Sesh, but as we said at the time - it was open to anyone. However unlike the rugby lads, we never (knowingly) drank each others'
urine. But we got some T-shirts printed with 'The Sesh Is On' written on them. Along with me, Dobby, and Rob, there was Dave Kerr, Mark Campbell, Seamus Slowey, Jocky McDevitt, Paul "PB" Burnell, Kev Ney, Jimmy Hawkes and Steve Parrott. Some of us are friends to this day.

Before I knew it, the "A" Level exams were upon us. Have you ever sat down to do a three-hour exam and be twiddling your thumbs after half-an-hour? It was an unpleasant experience but inevitable. The results were every bit as dire as I predicted and I was definitely not going to UMIST. But The Sesh did all turn up at St. Joe's on 14th August 1981 for the results wearing our T-shirts! Then it was straight in the No. 4 for a..... drinking sesh. It's funny looking back at that day now, twenty-eight years later. It really didn't matter at all, but at the time, it felt like my world had fallen apart. The school had programmed me to think that way.

Err... UPPER SIXTH FORM (1981-82) - "A" Levels again.

Having not achieved the grades I wanted to get into UMIST, I knew it was possible to resit at St. Mary’s so I made an appointment so see Pete McCarthy just after they’d started the Autumn term. Surprisingly, he agreed to take me back as long as I "pulled my socks up", so within a couple of days I’d dusted off the old black blazer, put the shirt and tie on and returned to Newton Drive for my eighth year – a strange feeling, having left the place a few months earlier. Most of my friends had gone off to University except for a few lads who’d dropped down a year, like Barry McCann, and Geoff Anandappa. There were some good lads (and lasses!) a year below anyway so I was pretty much made welcome. A lot of the teachers who I’d previously crossed swords with in the past tended to be much more laid back and had a good laugh with me this year. I think they now considered myself part of the furniture to coin a phrase from that Oliver production all those years ago! Our class was on the top floor of the new building – off the Sixth Form corridor. My teachers this time were (unfortunately) Ron Steele for Maths again, Dr. Bill “McGoo” McGarry (Physics) and for the first time a different teacher for Chemistry – a young Dave Slack. By now I noticed the school was starting to look a bit tatty round the edges. There were already a few rumours about St. Joe’s getting demolished and whilst some pupils laughed about it, I certainly felt sad at the thought although I didn’t admit it – after all I’d been there for nearly half my life.

In the late Autumn of '81, I took the role of Strephon in Gilbert & Sullivan's Iolanthe, which was staged at Layton Hill. This was a highly enjoyable time, and the rehearsals gave me the excuse to miss all the maths lessons I could, as well as mix with two dozen or so of Iolanthe's
'fairies' - fifth year girls from Layton Hill!

Back in the Spring of '81 I'd watched the first London Marathon and it definitely sowed a seed - this was the start of mass participation running and anyone could join in. In the Summer hols, I'd begun jogging round Stanley Park with a mate and quickly improved. In the first couple of weeks back at St. Mary's, I told Ted Schools I'd been doing some running and wished to run a marathon. Knowing me well, he was astonished but told me to have a go with the cross-country team next time they were training. On the first run I did well, and wow, for the first time in eight years I was picked for a school team! After winning some medals on the athletics track in the Spring, in the Summer of 1982, although I had no idea about long distance training, I fulfilled my wish and ran the tough Bolton Marathon in under four hours, wearing St. Joe's colours. I've since run another eleven.

In December 1981, and Blackpool saw its heaviest snow in decades. The school closed for a week since the buses weren't running. I recall many sixth formers slipping and sliding to the Calypso disco at the Pleasure Beach before the Christmas break, having a great time and singing Don't You Want Me Baby along to the Human League!! Many of my old mates had returned from Uni so a great night was had by all! Unfortunately a few weeks previously I'd fallen and dislocated my shoulder (drunk!) and looked pretty silly trying to emulate Phil Oakey, with my right-arm strapped up! Going into 1982, my mocks were delayed by me being unable to write, although Dan McCarthy thought I'd done it deliberately to dodge the exams. One big school event at the time was The Superstars. Geoff Anandappa and I organised a sports tournament based on the successful TV programme to raise money for the Bishop's fund for Lent. We did our version of an awards ceremony at Sixth Form assembly and Geoff introduced me as a man whose "kidneys are already in a museum".

So, a few months later and it was "A" Level exams for real. I'm afraid it was a repeat routine in the maths exam - bored after half-an-hour - this was no surprise because after three years of being taught maths by Mr. Steele, I'm surprised I hadn't topped myself. He put me off the subject for years until I studied it past "A" Level standard studying Electronics at college, being taught by an inspirational maths lecturer. Anyway I fared a bit better in the other subjects this time!

And so it really REALLY came to my final days at St. Joe's / St. Mary's and it was something I was building up to. After my last exam, I went for a walk around the older parts of the school with my mate Barry McCann, ending up right back in an empty 1Z and had a look out of the same window I looked out of eight years previously as an eleven year old. I surveyed all the familiar sights: the junior playground, the squash courts, the No. 4, the playing field, then further on, the Vic, and in the distance, the Pennines. Who would have thought three years later the school would be flattened? We then strolled down the main drive in front of the Brothers house. And that was it.

I returned to the school to get my results in August 1982, but by now I definitely felt that my ties with the school had loosened. I got good enough grades to get myself off to Liverpool Poly to do a degree in Applied Chemistry. All this became irrelevant a few years later when, like a lot of other former pupils, I discovered a computer! I now develop aircraft embedded software applications at BAE Systems.


Describing my time at St. Joe's / St. Mary's has taken me on a roller-coaster of emotions. Good times and bad times, but mostly good. It may surprise some people but I've missed a lot out (Garden Parties, the squash courts, Castlerigg, Loyola Hall etc.).! I've tried to include mostly events that former pupils can relate to, rather than simply record my own experiences. I may have wandered into the self-indulgent, but hopefully not too often!

All the best!

Back to memories page.