Hathershaw Technical High School and Hathershaw School 1964 - 68

A New Teacher’s view from John Evans Part Two - The Class Of '59

Very belatedly following my first memoir of my time at Hathershaw, I continue this time with memories of the boys I taught and tutored in the Sixth Form from 1964 (when I first started teaching) to 1966 largely drawn from the 1959 entry supplemented by lads coming from some of the secondary modern schools in Oldham.

In my sixth form tutor group there were 24 boys in all, 17 of whom I taught A-level Physics and of these 8 also did A-level Chemistry with me. Three general attributes of the boys spring to mind. Firstly, they were collectively the brightest group I worked with in 42 years of teaching and this includes undergraduates I taught in York and Birmingham. The lads were extremely friendly and generally most courteous (very much an ethos of HTHS) and rarely (!!!) took advantage of a very young and inexperienced teacher. Thirdly they were extremely good fun to be with. I recall vividly one afternoon registration when they all filed into the Physics Lab in a single line hauling over their shoulders with apparently great effort a clothes line. I waited intrigued to find out what they were towing - a blown up marigold household glove! I still don’t know why or where the idea sprung from although I suspect Syd Jolley and Eddie Hardaker had something to do with it.

It was about this time that the photo of some of the form group in mock “academic” pose (shown and wrongly attributed on the web site) was taken. It was in the Physics Lab one lunchtime in summer 1966 and I believe snapped by David Walkden. A version passed around at the Reunion didn’t include David Taylor but mine certainly does at the extreme right hand side. (David, you add a definite air of distinction to the group!). I have another photo shot at the same time. It is taken vertically from above with the lads lying on the floor as in the spokes of a wheel with their heads at the central hub. Again, I don’t know what it was meant to convey but it is a treasured possession. Another valued item I still have is a coloured “decision pathway flowchart” wonderfully drawn by the very talented Les Andrew (how well he has done in his career at home and abroad) comprehensively showing in every detail the steps in filling, smoking and lighting a pipe of tobacco. Perhaps trying to emulate Cyril Kerrigan or Dennis Townley but more probably when I ran out of cigarettes and could not cadge one from Graham or Nigel, I occasionally smoked a pipe.

Even after more than 40 years, I remember many of the lads vividly; others I can recall little more than their names and faces. The cleverest of the clever bunch I taught but far from the most hardworking were Vinnie Waldron and Roger Yearn. As Keith acknowledges on the website, they were very quick to grasp and apply some very difficult concepts and principles and these for me are very good signs of a powerful intellect. Their class work, homework and tests always evidenced their knowledge and abilities. I seem to remember Vinnie’s was rather scruffily presented; Roger’s immaculate.

Vinnie was one of the three “banes of my life” in the Hathershaw student body. His approach to school sixth form life was generally quite cavalier but he questioned everything. I don’t think he was trying to test me or put me on the spot, he was just being Vinnie. I was so pleased to meet up with him at the Re-union (he hasn’t changed) and his submissions to the Web site are superb - evocative, entertaining and so excellently and articulately written. Miss Moorhouse would be so proud.

Roger was the opposite - just as Keith says so laid back he would never venture a question or volunteer an answer. But you couldn’t catch him out. He had an enviable and seemingly effortless capacity to take in the information very quickly and in fine detail and to recall it at will. With his abilities and good looks I expected great things from him as I did for Vinnie and I was surprised to read how their early careers did not quite pan out as I would have foreseen. Still they seem to have had very fulfilled lives and I wish them the best of good fortune in the hope that we might meet up again. I don’t know whether either of them remembers a particular Chemistry lesson when Vinnie saved all of us in the Chemistry group and particularly Roger’s handsome appearance. It was a demonstration experiment in Cyril’s Chemistry Lab fume cupboard at the top left hand corner of the lab immediately adjacent to the Prep Room door. We were preparing a gas called Phosphine. Keith and perhaps Graham but probably no-one else will recall this is a compound made up of the elements phosphorus and hydrogen, smells of garlic and rotting fish and is spontaneously inflammable. It is not collected but passed into a trough of water and as each bubble of gas emerges into the air it ignites and gives a wonderful- to-see vortex array of expanding smoke rings. The group of us, with unusually Roger at the front, were gathered closely round the fume cupboard watching the spectacle when, for no apparent reason, Vinnie shouted “DUCK”. Instinctively we all did as the entire apparatus blew up and scattered broken glass and pieces of dangerous inflammable phosphorus which could have caused us all some injury passed us harmlessly by. Thank you Vinnie!

Keith Royales was easily the most enthusiastic and good-natured student I taught. Extremely interested in matters scientific (which is ever apparent from his writings on the web site) he was and is much more able than he makes out. His academic ability, his large capacity for much hard work and the desire to do well would single him out anywhere as a fine student but he was also irrepressibly cheerful at all times and invariably courteous and friendly. Keith, it was a real delight to know you and to teach you. (Graham, make of this what you will)
In his Upper Sixth Year, Keith swore me to secrecy about a matter, which I only revealed more than 43 years later at the Reunion. He was taking ballroom dancing lessons which being the sportsman he was (or thought he was, Graham) he didn’t want his classmates to know. As you might expect a young lady was involved. I am awaiting the new series of BBC Strictly Come Dancing where we might find Bruce introducing Keith as one of the Celebrity contestants.

Throughout my 42-year teaching career including 26 years as Headmaster of three schools in different parts of the country I think I have been considered to be quite tough but zany. I have always endeavoured, sometimes with difficulty to show the children respect. There have been a very small number who have commanded my instinctive respect and great regard. Foremost amongst these is Graham Sager. Very able, and very hardworking, quite forthright but slightly shy (especially with the girls) yet with an obvious sense of fun, Graham was also sportsman (no further comment Keith) smoker and gambler and totally reliable, The fact that he was often the butt of friendly teasing from his camaraderie of friends showed how much Graham had the regard of all his fellow pupils and we teachers. We appreciated and valued his rich vein of common sense, his sense of humour often giving rise to a pithy and apt comment and his quiet courteous nature. When I had to take my driving test in Rochdale at 4.00pm in early summer 1966 after only four weeks of learning I asked Graham (a fully qualified driver) to take me to the test centre. I did so knowing that if I were unsuccessful Graham would tactfully not remark upon it back in school. Incidentally I somehow acquired Graham’s very neatly written and drawn A-level Physical Chemistry notes which I have continued partly to use throughout all my A-level teaching. Thank you Graham. It was you who I most wanted to meet up with at the reunion and I’m so glad we did and that we have continued to communicate.
It was only at the re-union that I learned why Graham had very surprisingly and unjustly failed his A-level Physics.

David Taylor was another for whom I had the greatest regard. Clever and conscientious, he was a good humoured, quiet, modest and self-effacing student keen to do well and always immaculate in appearance. We didn’t recognize each other at first at the reunion but I am glad we were able to chat.

I always associate Syd Jolley and Eddie Hardaker together in my memory of Hathershaw. Both (along with Colin Waldron) were talented footballers and sportsmen and highly regarded by their peers. Both were destined to become PE teachers but were rightly A-level science students particularly Syd and generally worked hard. It is Eddie rather than Graham that I recall always had the 2-ounce conical paper bag of midget gems. To this day, my two sons and my grandchildren call these sweets “hardakers”. After Eddie moved on to teacher training college, I had the pleasure of teaching A-level chemistry to his personable and athletic sister Marilyn.

I also met up again with Syd when I left Hathershaw to work at St. John’s College York where Syd was in his final year of teacher training. The Science and PE department were on the same campus so Syd and I saw each other frequently. Occasionally, I used to give him a lift to and from Oldham at weekends until he acquired a beat-up mini. Even then Syd called me out when he had a flat tyre on the Tadcaster road late one Sunday night. You could not refuse Syd. A tragedy he died so prematurely.

The other “banes of my life” but pleasantly so in addition to Vinnie were Nigel Marland and Mick Russell. I didn’t teach them but saw them at least twice a day in registration and at other times. Both, particularly Nigel, could “talk for England”.
Both were amusingly opinionated, political, good humoured and good company. I used to wonder how Ron Jackson coped with them in his class but knowing Ron he was probably more than a match for them.

With Nigel, what you see is was what you get. Big hearted, helpful, generous and funny you could see why he was so popular. He lived (as he still does) on Stoneleigh Street past where I lived with my mum and dad, twin sister (who went to Hathershaw) and younger brother on Hesse Street so we occasionally walked up together from Mumps Bridge happily smoking and chatting. Years later, Nigel, now on the staff of the Hathershaw Comprehensive School, organised a retirement party for Bob Birse, the former senior master of Clarksfield and then Hathershaw, to which he kindly invited me. True to form as soon as he saw me at the do Nigel shouted, “You still owe me five Benson and Hedges”.

I was slightly less comfortable with Mick. Mature, clever, articulate and friendly I felt he was always testing me and comparing me perhaps unfavourably with Cyril Kerrigan and the other much more experienced teachers. He seems to relish the tale he tells of how Cyril made the fifth year class tear up the chemistry notes I had given when I taught the class on teaching practice. Still it was really good to chat with him about his career at the reunion and even better to see how well he had recovered (as did Nigel) from a very serious life-threatening health problem. Truth to tell I do miss them both.

Brian Navin and David Walkden are the remaining members of my A-level Chemistry group. I remember them both well. Brian’s long silky red hair made him a prime candidate for having to touch the terminals of a high charge electrostatic generator like the Wimshurst machine or the Van der Graff generator. As Keith recalls on the web site, Dennis Townley had him do it so that the charge caused his long fine hair to stand on end and then made Keith approach to generate a high voltage spark between Brian and him. The joys of Physics and a mischievous teacher.

David joined the Hathershaw sixth form from Hollinwood. Exceptionally hard working, eager to please and determined to do well, it was great to see how the well established Hathershaw group made him most welcome and he greatly benefitted from his time at the school gaining three good and well deserved A- level grades.

From the A-level Physics group, I can still picture the bespectacled and good natured Harry Sandford, the dapper Alan Cooper, the very clever mathematician and physicist, Clive Hughes, the strapping David Booth who I might be confusing with David Buckley, the new -to -Hathershaw Bernard Bertola (Hollins I think) and David Cheetham (Clarksfield) who both did well at A-level.

Finally, can I apologise again for the long delay between Part One and this second part of my memoir of the Hathershaw of 1964 -1966. Continuing work on the Scillies and elsewhere, several bouts of illness and the languor of increasing age have all contributed. I must say I enjoyed writing it for it brought back so many memories of a very satisfying part of my long career in education. I could have had no better start and I am most grateful to all the above named. Just thinking about you all and Hathershaw Technical High School and its staff considerably raised my spirits as I perhaps approach my dotage. Thanks all of you. The reunion was so very special. I would be delighted to meet up with you again.

John Evans (john.evans.cornwall@googlemail.com)