Hathershaw Technical High School and Hathershaw School 1964 - 68
A New Teacher’s view from John Evans
With Keith’s agreement I am submitting this account in two parts. This first installment will recount my memories of the staff during my time at Hathershaw and in part two I will recount some tales of the unforgettable students with whom I started my teaching career.
I joined the teaching staff at Hathershaw in September 1964 along with Marjory Leece (Music), Ken Boden (Woodwork) and George Barlow (Biology). Marge, Ken and I were newly qualified teachers. George, the son of the Funeral Director and coach operator, had a few years experience and came to Hathershaw to start the teaching of Biology in a newly constructed lab at the end of the Science Block. I had the advantage over the other newcomers in that I was familiar with the school having done eight weeks final teaching practice there in the spring of 1964. (as mentioned in Mick Russell’s staff notes).
Mr. Bell had offered me a post then. I was known to him from my good academic record at Greenhill where I had been Head Boy and through my twin sister who had attended Hathershaw from 1955 to 1958, one of the 13+ age intake that used to be admitted in those days. Mr. Bell was anxious to strengthen the academic science teaching in Physics and Chemistry particularly in light of Dennis Townley’s absence through serious illness. I was very pleased to accept not only because I thought it a terrific school but also it meant I could live at the family terraced home in Oldham (at Lower Moor not far from Nigel Marland on Stoneleigh Street) and contribute finance to the much needed family coffers. I turned down two other offers of employment to accept the job and never regretted it for an instant. In 43 years of teaching from Cumberland to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly including 26 years as a headteacher I still consider my time at Hathershaw to be amongst the very best of my teaching career.
The pupils, particularly the intake of 1959, and the staff were all characters and still stand out in my memory.
I was barely 22 when I started, as Keith Royales states, not much older than the sixth formers I was mainly to teach. I was surprised to learn when I arrived on the first morning I was to be form master to the new Lower Sixth boys, drawn largely from the 1959 intake. There were also some lads joining from secondary modern and other schools, including Bernard Bertola (from Hollins I think), David Cheetham (I think from Clarksfield) and David Walkden (possibly Hollinwood) together with I think David Buckley, Clive Hughes and Eric Ormerod. Only a few girls from the 1959 intake came back into the sixth form. I remember Jean Cornwall and Linda Shoebridge who joined a girls’ sixth form tutor group.
In the group were 24 boys from Les Andrew to Roger Yearn. Having called the register twice a day for two years I can still recite from memory all the names in alphabetical order. I remember showing off doing this once or twice in the Physics Lab, the Form Room, only to be rewarded as you might expect by some sardonic cheers and applause. I was to teach 17 of them A-level Physics and 8 of these also did A-level Chemistry with me. The non-scientists (amongst them Nigel, Mick, Eric Bowen, Brian Heywood and Alan Wardle) were nearly all taking A levels in English Lit and History (along with Jean and Linda). Nigel, Mick, Brian and Alan took the new subject of British Government with the redoubtable Ron Jackson. The extremely talented future soccer star Colin Waldron was part of the group until he signed as a professional for Bury.
Without exception, the staff made me most welcome. Keith Lamb and Peter Halliwell were particularly kind and helpful as was the warmth of the welcome from George Gartside. I also enjoyed the company and camaraderie of Harold Wareing and Ron Jackson. Ron Armitage always used to greet me very cordially but I was never sure he knew who I was or what I did. I was initially in awe of Miss Moorhouse (partly derived from my sister’s tales) and in fear of Mrs. Hobson. Because of pressure on accommodation I used to teach science in her cookery room after morning break on Friday when she went off premises to purchase materials. You may remember in the winter her room had a real coal fire. On one never to be forgotten occasion I let it go out. I realized the extent of the calamity and the fury that lay in store when I reported this to Jimmy Mills at lunch time who, perhaps even more perturbed than I, frantically tried to relight it again before Mrs. Hobson’s return.
I knew Ken Wright as he had taught me for O-level English Language and Literature at Greenhill. I thought him a very good teacher and liked him a lot. His classroom discipline was far from robust but he was very well read with an obvious love of literature and a thorough and committed teacher almost always with a twinkle in his eye. He was one of the fastest markers of work I have known. We used to reckon that after leaving classroom or exam hall with collected books and scripts he had most of them marked by the time he reached the staff room. I was awarded the James Middleton English prize for the best O-level English results in Oldham in 1958. Not bad for a lad from the specialist science class and all due to Ken’s teaching. Immodestly can I also record that I won the Marcroft Langfield Prize for the best O-level results overall an honour shared with Vinny Waldron and Roger Yearn who were awarded it six years later in 1964.
In 1965, Tony Kerr joined the English department. He was the year below me at Greenhill and succeeded me as Head Boy. Tony was an academically bright and sensitive lad with considerable acting skills and a fine singing voice but he struggled with discipline in the classroom and finally gave up teaching. I understand his health is not good.
As you might expect, it took a little time for George Barlow and I to be fully incorporated into the very long established science team of Jimmy Mills, Cyril Kerrigan, Ben Vaughan and technician George Jones not least because of the age and experience difference. I like to think they respected my scholarship, commitment and humour. I valued the reassurance they gave but none tried to influence what I did or how I did it. I grew very fond of Jimmy and particularly Cyril and their very idiosyncratic ways. Both were quite shy behind their protective façade. Keith and Vinnie recall Ben’s and Jimmy’s mannerisms exactly. In my first week at Hathershaw I took a fourth form chemistry class in Cyril’s lab. One boy came in carrying a door which he propped up at the end of the bench saying nothing. Intrigued I asked about it. It seems he had graffitied a toilet door. Jimmy had him clean it, unscrew it and by way of punishment carry it about the school for a week. Good One, Jimmy. I don’t think we could get away with that kind of originality today. I was always uncertain of the relationship between Mr. Bell and Jimmy. At best it seemed distant. In my deputy head ship and subsequent head teacher appointments I was always very close to my senior colleagues. In fact, I became so close to one that I married her. She is now the longest serving secondary headteacher in Cornwall in a brand new £24 million school I helped design and build as a county consultant. I am now doing a similar job on the Isles of Scilly where I was for a time the headteacher of their only school with pupils aged 3 to 16 housed in five bases on four islands.
Like most of his former students, I could fill a book with tales about Cyril. His teaching technique outlined by both Mick and Keith was unvarying over many years and irrespective of age group; his examination results nothing less than awesome. I witnessed a similar visit from two of Her Majesty’s Inspectors as his students having not done sufficiently well in the usual start of lesson test had to recite from their dictated and copied up notes whilst he shouted “again” at intervals from behind his pipe in the prep room. The test was subsequently repeated whilst all the time the inspectors looked on.
His class discipline for no apparent reason was unbelievable. In my 43 years in schools and colleges he was the only teacher who could leave a class to carry on working in silence as if he had been there. You must have noticed that the bowl of his pipe was unevenly burned down at one side. This came from always lighting it in the same way from the glass blowing bunsen burner that was the perpetual flame of the prep room.
You may also have observed that during a lesson he only ever wrote on one side of the three double sided blackboards (really black glass- incorporated boards prevalent at that time). I found it a limitation when I taught in there. The other five sides including the three you couldn’t see were taken up by diagrams of gas preparations and industrial processes superbly pre-drawn at the start of each half term using board ruler and coloured chalks. Absolutely matchless!
Reluctantly I tend to agree with Keith’s comments about his classes not being allowed to think or act for themselves. I was amazed to see the way he introduced an Upper Sixth group (class of 58) to A-Level Practical Chemistry Analysis. He gave step by step instructions from the front whilst these 17 and 18 year old students in unison put some powdered mixture into a test tube, poured in a reagent, observed the result yet wrote down what he dictated They were not allowed to work at their own pace or derive their own investigative method.
Cyril was a creature of habit. For nearly twenty years he holidayed for the same fortnight every year at the same boarding house in Port Erin on the Isle of Man. So you will imagine how surprised I was when he told me as we walked to the bus stop at the bottom of Copster Hill Road (he caught the limited stop bus to North Manchester where he lived; I don’t think he could drive) that he was moving house next day. It turned out he was moving along the same road as he put it “to be nearer the club where he played snooker”.
He was a very dear man and I often still think about him.
George Barlow was a stalwart. A very straight-forward person yet a wickedly good-humoured excellent teacher with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of plants, he very quickly established biology as a popular subject. In his new laboratory he used to breed white rats subsequently destined for death and dissection by his A-level students but treated as pets by the younger children that used to spend lunch times in his lab. He also reared locusts to illustrate the typical life history of an insect and which are the source of an incident I can’t easily forget (or forgive!)
George persuaded a very non-sporty me to play for the staff team in the annual staff-students mixed hockey match. Part way through the second half either Peter Hodgson (same side) or Roger Yearn (opposing team) hit me so hard over the left knee I had to be helped off. Not all bad - I was “nursed” by the charming fifth formers Marilyn Hardaker and Ann Harrison (class of 61) who later did A-level Chemistry with me. After the match George helped a limping me back to the science block only to find his breeding locusts had hatched and the “hoppers” were all over the lab. Bad knee notwithstanding I had to chase around the room helping him catch them with upturned beakers. More than forty years on I cannot see hockey or locusts without my left knee aching.
George had a very fair complexion and suffered badly in bright sunshine. All the more worthy of him therefore to accompany Tom Hill, Ken Boden and me taking a Hathershaw group camping in Cornwall at Oldham Wakes. Whilst the rest of us sprawled around a cliff top in the sunshine he was largely confined to a nearby shelter. Passers by were dumbfounded to hear an apparently disembodied voice identifying the plants we were asking about.
George and I once had to attend a meeting after school at the Education Office which you may recall was on Union Street West near the then Royal Infirmary and also adjacent to his Dad’s funeral parlour and coach garage. We went to catch the bus at the bottom of Copster Hill Road to Star Inn rather than Ashton Road for he said we could probably get a lift from one of his Dad’s cars returning to base from Hollinwood Crematorium. We did only it was a hearse! George and I had to lie prone in the back. Imagine the surprise of pedestrians on Union Street West when two bodies climbed out of a hearse. A good job the Infirmary was close by to treat them for shock.
Tom Hill was one of my closest colleagues at Hathershaw. I had known him at Clarksfield and was pleased when he came to replace Dennis Taylor in 1965.
He was a huge asset to any school and he made Hathershaw to its great benefit his home for the rest of his teaching career. A very hard working, hugely respected and very competent teacher, invariably enthusiastic and cheerful, he considerably widened the range of activities and the participation rates in sport and games but he contributed so much more to the school. I helped him set up and run a “tuck shop” whose profits paid travel costs to away matches; he stage managed school productions for both Peter Halliwell and Pete Hodgson; with our other close friend Ken Boden he organized annual camping holidays for school groups and he ensured school dances and parties went ahead. I honestly believe his presence and his actions lifted the school. When the excellent Pauline Day joined him a year later after the comprehensive reorganization they formed a hugely formidable duo. Sadly I lost contact with him over the years and so it was a very real pleasure to see them both at the re-union.
I have stayed in contact with Ken Boden and his lovely wife Lyn. They often come to Cornwall. Ken was another stalwart of the school. A first-rate craftsman himself and a born teacher he loved to impart his skills and he added considerably to the strengths of the Craft Department. Quietly spoken, reflective,
inventive, firm and very even tempered Ken was totally dependable. His was the expertise and equipment (borrowed from his beloved scouts for which he was so long a distinguished leader) that underlay the camping holidays he and Tom led from Hathershaw. When we did the Cornwall camp in three hired minibuses for which if damaged we had to pay a large excess we successfully nurtured them throughout the trip even in the narrow twisting stone walled lanes. On our arrival back we were washing them outside the Craft Block before returning them to the garage when Ken reversed his into the wall. Happy days. Ken like me has undergone major cardiac surgery so it was really good to see him and Lyn looking so well at the reunion.
Marjory Leece is unforgettable. An attractive and personable lady and a very talented musician, she was an encouraging and supportive nurturer of musical talent and came into her own school wide when Peter Hodgson produced his school musicals for which she so very successfully directed the music and singing.
We shared the bond of being heavy smokers. It was this that helped sustain our friendship even after my sixth formers and I lowered the school grand piano when moving it from the stage to the floor of the hall on to her foot. That and my giving her my glass of cognac (medicinal of course) after last orders in one of our Friday night social get togethers at the Halfway House.
Marjory married Tony Trohear who joined the staff of the now comprehensive school from Liverpool University in September 1966 to teach Geography along side Harold Waring. Tony, who with Tom and Ken became a good friend, was a bluff gregarious West Cumbrian big in every sense of the word - big in stature and presence, big in his strength as a really good teacher, bighearted, a huge sense of fun and a huge commitment to his students and to Hathershaw School.
At weekends and during the holidays, he led some fantastic walking days and field trips in the Lake District where he had been brought up. Ken and I with sometimes Lyn and eventually Marjory (although she struggled a bit) went along. Tony always underestimated the distance and the time taken. I remember coming back to Hathershaw with a coach load of children after a half term walking weekend some three hours later than Tony had said. I had to face and make profuse apologies to the waiting parents, Tony having stayed up with his family for the remainder of the half term.
Sadly I have not seen Tony or Marge for nearly 20 years. It was a real regret that Tony’s hospitalization prevented them from attending the re-union. It was perhaps the only disappointment for me in a hugely successful get together
Peter Halliwell and Mick have contributed admirable pieces to the site about the very successful drama productions at Hathershaw. Peter was an extremely talented producer and his superb staging of a varied range of plays was a huge credit to him and his team of actors (even you Keith - Nigel and Mick were born actors or do I mean they were always playing the fool?) and his team of helpers. I still recall vividly his Ursa Major production, his staging of The Crucible with the Crompton Players and most of all his swan song production The Miracle Worker
with the absolutely outstanding Ann Miller (a former Clarksfield pupil) very ably supported by Sue Robinson. I enjoyed chatting to Ann at the reunion.
It was a privilege to be part of the team of Miss Moorhouse, George Barlow, Ron Jackson and me who helped Peter with his direction of the two one-act plays “Midwinter” when Peter could not spend all the time needed because of family requirements. I only confessed to him at the reunion that it was me also helping with the lighting that forgot to turn on the essential light that was so crucial to the station scene.
It was Peter who gave me my first responsibility at Hathershaw passing over the task of ordering and collecting payment for the men staff dinners. Eating in the men’s staff room left quite a bit to be desired in terms of elegance and etiquette although there was some great camaraderie. It could be dangerous too. The admirable Mrs. Parkey, one of the very best school cooks I have known, used to always send one or two extra portions of meat. These were always left on the serving plate and studiously ignored until meals were nearly completed. Then a number of forks would rush in the direction of the extra meat. I was always too polite or too slow. All I got was fork marks in the back of the hand usually from Peter Hodgson or Brian Foster. My second similar unpaid responsibility I inherited from Bert Fielding was managing the school fund. It was much safer and certainly less painful.
I got to know, like and respect Peter Hodgson much more closely after Peter Halliwell left and Peter Hodgson was persuaded to replace the tradition of plays with musical productions. Peter was well known on the local amateur musical stage not only for his acting and voice but also for his singing and dancing. I had seen him in “Oklahoma”, “Kiss Me Kate” and “My Fair Lady”. He made the part of Professor Higgins very much his own and played it in several society shows in Lancashire and Cheshire.
Having been a Gilbert and Sullivan aficionado for many years and with some experiences of their production, I influenced him to stage “The Pirates of Penzance”. Marjory Leece (with Keith Lamb and her A-level music student Barry Jordan) worked wonders in the many hours of rehearsal and the final performances, Tony Trohear (also having acted and sung in G&S) and I helped out with rehearsals, Ken Boden with his craft department colleagues built and decorated the set, I did the Business Management and Front of House and the indefagtible as ever Tom Hill stage managed and did countless other tasks but it really was Peter’s show. Taking very inexperienced young people not only uncertain about appearing on stage but certainly very timorous of singing in front of an audience was an absolutely enormous task. But Peter was more than up to it. With consummate skill and endless patience and encouragement he made it a really memorable and enjoyable experience not only for their audience but for the actors themselves. At least one of the cast says on The Friends United website that it was appearing in Peter’s production that set him on his musical career. Peter followed the following year after I left with a production of “Iolanthe” which I was delighted to travel from York to see. Many congratulations and thanks to you Peter for adding so very considerably to the Hathershaw experience for so many people.
Peter and family accompanied Ken, Tony and I on Tom Hill’s first camping expedition to Bassenthwaite in the Lake District when it poured down with rain throughout the week. Peter helped keep spirits and morale high. My only grudge was that on the final night after all the pupils had retired to their tents he insisted on the staff playing a cut throat game of monopoly. I wasn’t keen but went along with the majority. Imagine my chagrin when Peter was one of the first eliminated and went to bed leaving me to play on until 2.00 am in the morning.
It was a real pleasure to meet up again with Pete and his wife, Kathleen, at the reunion and many congratulations to them on their golden wedding anniversary.
In 1966 Oldham re-organised its secondary school system to a reduced number of comprehensive schools. Hathershaw Technical High School was to link with Clarksfield Secondary Modern School (one of the larger and successful of the non-selective secondary schools) to become a split site school based on the old Greenhill Grammar School building and the Hathershaw site. (Greenhill was linking with Hollinwood to be Kaskenmoor in a new school building). The first two years (11-13 year olds) were housed at an unchanged Greenhill building with Ben Vaughan as teacher in charge; the rest of the school at the also unchanged Hathershaw site.
We were lucky in two respects: Charlie Bell was named as the Head of the comprehensive school (the first to be appointed) and most of the Clarksfield staff with whom I had begun my teacher training were excellent colleagues. We at Hathershaw had to amend our teaching to encompass a wider range of abilities and motivation and with even more difficulty get used to travel between sites often with no travel time allowed. It was an unworkable arrangement and didn’t last long before the Greenhill site reverted to a separate 11-14 school renamed Greenhill feeding Hathershaw as a separate 14-18 school. Nigel and others including former Clarksfield personnel Bill Dyson (Maths and Science) and Wilson Hargreaves joined the staff.
The staff at the new comprehensive also brought in some people familiar to me. The senior Deputy Head was Fred Horrocks the former long serving headmaster of Clarksfield and a first rate chap. (His son Shaun attended Hathershaw Tech (class of 57 studying Chemistry, Physics and Maths in the Sixth Form). Fred left after only a year and at the relatively grand age of 55 to become Head of a school in Southport. Former Greenhill teachers Harry Martin (who had taught me German) came as Head of Middle School and the young effervescent and well traveled Derek Bickerstaff (a real live wire who sadly never taught me) came to teach History. Domestic Science teacher Sandra Lord who started with me in the same class at Greenhill in 1953 and who I always secretly admired also joined us.
For me the comprehensive reorganization brought my first promotion in fact a double promotion. Mr. Bell and the governors made me a Head of Department (Grade B). It also put me back in the very familiar Greenhill Chemistry Laboratory on Tuesday afternoons teaching science to a second year class. On one occasion the class was doing a new modern experiment making a plastic from the protein casein in milk and the not-so- pleasant formalin solution. Over- heating the mixture filled the lab with acrid, noxious smelling and tear-inducing fumes so we had to hurriedly evacuate leaving all possessions behind. Checking the group outside in the adjacent school yard I found two young girls had gone back in. Chasing in after them I found them coming down the stairs coughing and spluttering. They had gone back for their cookery they had made in the morning. Their mums and dads were expecting the quiche Lorraine for their tea. I hope they enjoyed it vestiges of formalin not withstanding.
Most of my teaching which I preferred was with the fourth year upwards. Continuing with my A-level Chemistry. I also taught a single sex class of over 40 former Clarksfield girls (which I often faced with some trepidation) and another class of 43 former Clarksfield boys for the new CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) exam. One of my periods with the latter had to be in the cloakroom area of the science bock. Every one of the lads got a grade 1 (equivalent to an O-level pass grade C or better) and for many of them it was their only subject passed. There was some suspicion that I overly helped them although French teacher Dave Prenton, another ex Greenhill staff member, said I beat them repeatedly until they learned the work. Neither was true I was simply following at last in the tradition of my dear mentor, Cyril
For a very short while, Dennis Townley returned even though he knew he was terminally ill. Helped by his faith (like Charlie Bell and Cyril he was a Roman Catholic) yet confined to a wheelchair with seriously slurred speech and in considerable pain, the man’s bravery and determination were wonderful to behold. Truth to tell I often had to leave him in the prep room after helping him drink his tea for I was very close to tears at his predicament and his fighting spirit. A very sad loss as a person and a teacher. Keith’s account of his work at Hathershaw is a fitting tribute.
Charlie Bell retired at the end of the school year in 1967. He was succeeded by John Hemmings who came from Halesowen Grammar School near Birmingham.
Although he was a very kind and considerate man, he relied on a lot of paper communication rather than personal contact; was slow to come to decision and lacked the considerable presence and judgment of Charlie Bell. With the class of 59 long gone, the split site travel sapping our time and energy and with what I perceived to be the new flawed leadership and my own personal domestic difficulties Hathershaw somehow wasn’t the same. I determined to leave at the end of the 1968 school year as did several other stalwart long-serving Hathershaw staff including Keith Lamb. Refusing the offer of the general manager post of a large coach station and travel and ticket agency in central Manchester (at twice my teaching salary and a free car - my dad thought I was mad) where I had moonlighted every holiday and weekend from 1961, I accepted a lecturer post at St. John’s Teacher Training College in York where I met up again with Sid Jolley. More about this and other reminisces about the students in my second article which follows very soon.