Dear Melon,
I’m disgusted at your cruel and totally unfair criticism of Sanch’s fascinating reminiscence of sport at Hathershaw.  Of course I’m not surprised because he has dared to question your self- acclaimed infallibility and made the world aware that any similarity to Meadowlark Lemon was of your own creation, his explanation as to the source of the nickname is much closer to the truth.
He has also dared, as I did, to praise Denis Taylor, a mortal sin in your eyes and then of course there’s the foot ball team you weren’t on, the wicket keepers gloves you never wore, yawn, yawn!  Actually Sanch was right, we played little cricket because the square was always waterlogged and athletics took precedence.  I know because when I was rejected as wicket keeper in the trials I didn’t take my bat and ball home but became scorer.
Despite the rather revealing and embarrassing references to myself outlined below I won’t let it stop me praising Sanch for a fascinating insight into sport at Hathershaw and he didn’t spell athletics with a ‘k’, I read his proof and it was a ’ck’

“In terms of standard, the quality on display ranged from the superb (Trevor Taylor) to the shambolic (no names), which is in no way a criticism of those who were athletically challenged.” 
Why no names it didn’t stop you naming me in the following quotes?

“Although my memory is not entirely clear I am sure that at least two of our number on reaching the top playing field (where the rugby posts were), would, being at the back of the pack, secrete themselves inside one of the coverless manholes and wait until the second lap, before reappearing to join the front runners. This meant they could then amble along without any real effort and finish respectably, not too near the front to arouse suspicion and not last by a huge distance either. One of those person's names was that paragon of virtue, Marland!”
Can’t name names but he was 6’3, bespectacled and quite outstanding over shorter distances until others reached his height.

“I smiled at Nigel's response to Keith's rant about Dennis because I remember Nigel's performance in those trials very well. When facing a high ball coming towards his goal, Nigel would reach up for it with both arms raised (good so far) but then inexplicably drop to his knees (not so good). Several goals later, after consistently displaying this amazing technique and not once showing that he could jump, it was inevitable that Dennis had doubts about his suitability as a goalkeeper. We have laughed about this many times since!”
I must protest, I didn’t drop to my knees, just inexplicably bent them to their full extent, before outstretching my arms.
Nige
FUN AND GAMES - SPORTING LIFE AT HATHERSHAW
By Graham Sager


This is not an attempt to write a definitive or detailed account of all the sporting activities that took place at Hathershaw over the 5 - 7 years we were there (yes, I know, Keith - in my case 8!) as it would be impossibly demanding and tedious and well beyond my memory's feeble capabilities. I am not sure what Keith had in my mind when he suggested I write something about the sporting side of our education but what follows are merely anecdotal reminiscences and observations around sporting occasions and contain little in the way of 'archive' material.

I was always mad on sport as a youngster and I am sure I speak for others when I say how exciting it was when the sporting opportunities available at Hathershaw were revealed to us. The well appointed gymnasium, extensive playing fields with numerous football (and hockey) pitches, tennis courts and an abundance of equipment was a stark contrast to the very limited and almost nonexistent facilities encountered in many of the tired and dated Victorian schools from which we came. Much of my football so far had been played on cinder pitches!

I am aware that not everyone was ' into ' sport and that the sporting ambitions of some pupils were frustrated by Dennis Taylor's apparent indifference towards them (see Discussion Forum). Whilst acknowledging (and sympathising) I can only express gratitude for the enrichment that sport brought to my time at Hathershaw.
In our era not only did the school ' punch above its weight ' in terms of exam passes but it also achieved great success in the sporting arena. In respect of competition we were usually up against schools which were substantially bigger than ours (particularly the Manchester schools) and it must be borne in mind that we only had a modest 420+ pupils on roll to pick from. As a consequence (whether we were aware of it or not) our 'underdog' status increased our competitive resolve and elevated our achievements. I suspect this success was a pleasing development for Charlie and would have given him additional satisfaction by establishing the school's reputation in areas other than academics.

There were a wide variety of sports available during the year, amongst them being football, cricket, hockey, athletics, netball, basketball, tennis, badminton, trampolining, gymnastics, cross country and swimming. (Did I miss any out?) . For those fortunate enough to be selected for school teams, competitive games were organised outside and sometimes within school hours. These were facilitated by a terrific staff who freely gave up their time, usually at weekends, to referee or accompany us to away matches. Along with Dennis, Keith Lamb and Peter Halliwell were regularly involved and even the unlikely figure of Jim Mills was occasionally seen refereeing football games. All results were announced in assembly on Monday morning thus involving the whole school in our successes (and occasional disappointments) and hopefully generated pride and feelings of inclusivity in the SCHOOL'S achievements.

School football teams were selected by holding trials for those interested. I smiled at Nigel's response to Keith's rant about Dennis because I remember Nigel's performance in those trials very well. When facing a high ball coming towards his goal, Nigel would reach up for it with both arms raised (good so far) but then inexplicably drop to his knees (not so good). Several goals later, after consistently displaying this amazing technique  and not once showing that he could jump, it was inevitable that Dennis had doubts about his suitability as a goalkeeper. We have laughed about this many times since! The school had an abundance of good footballers throughout all year groups. The likes of Jimmy Bancroft, Les Heald and Roger Meanock were outstanding. In the year above us Ray Daubney and Ian Greenhalgh both went on to grace the professional game and of course in our year we had Syd, Eddie and Colin (who as we know went on to a highly successful professional career) as the backbone of our team.

During the winter months we all had to endure the torture of cross country running. On bitterly cold days we were expected to run in pumps and a minimum of kit around the perimeter of the playing fields, up by the side of Werneth Golf Club and back to school - twice! Although my memory is not entirely clear I am sure that at least two of our number on reaching the top playing field (where the rugby posts were), would, being at the back of the pack, secrete themselves inside one of the coverless manholes and wait until the second lap, before reappearing to join the front runners. This meant they could then amble along without any real effort and finish respectably, not too near the front to arouse suspicion and not last by a huge distance either. One of those person's names was that paragon of virtue, Marland! I am not too sure of the others involved in this subterfuge - maybe Nigel will deny or enlighten us?

Indoor P.E. took place in the gymnasium where we wore just thin, white, cotton shorts and our plimsolls (bare feet if you had forgotten to bring them). With all the apparatus out and under the watchful eye of Dennis all shapes and sizes tried to revive their long extinct jungle skills by jumping, climbing, vaulting and swinging over beams, benches, wall bars and ropes etc. Most enjoyable was the occasional game of 'Pirates' but as this led to some displaying recklessness bordering on the suicidal in the excitement of being chased, it’s not surprising we didn't do it very often. To improve agility and develop ' tumbling ' skills we were encouraged to produce a sequence of forward rolls, hand springs and cartwheels etc. to take us from one side of the gym to the other. In terms of standard, the quality on display ranged from the superb (Trevor Taylor) to the shambolic (no names), which is in no way a criticism of those who were athletically challenged. It was after such a gym session that I have a painful memory of receiving the pump from Dennis after myself and Syd had failed to line up properly. We bent over and two strokes were given to each of us. It certainly hurt! Within 24 hours I had developed two enormous blisters, one at the top of each buttock (sorry if you're just having your tea).They required medical attention and I was off school for a few days. However it did not detract from my admiration of Dennis even though my father came into school for an explanation and was none too pleased.

As summer approached cricket and athletics came onto the agenda and Keith was correct in his assertion that because I was a goalkeeper I was given the role of wicketkeeper when I didn't want it. I had always been a bowler and this would now be impossible which was a disappointment. However now I am aware that Keith was totally 'miffed' over it maybe it wasn't so bad after all - proving that every cloud has a silver lining!
Despite being picked I played hardly any cricket at all and to this day I cannot remember what the reason for that would have been*. With hindsight I now very much regret it.

Athletics played a big part in our summer activities and for such a small school we more than held our own. The one annual event that mattered above all else was the triangular meeting with Counthill and Greenhill. This was naturally on account of us already being rivals academically and vying for the coveted position of being regarded as the best selective school in Oldham. As I recall we invariably came out on top which must have given Charlie enormous pleasure. (Ironically the only press cutting I have is of one such occasion where we didn't win outright, but shared the spoils with Counthill). Despite our small number the school provided an above average number of athletes for the town team. I have an abiding memory of representing Oldham Schools in the Lancashire Championships at Stand Grammar School, Bury, not because I finished a modest fourth in the shot putt but because I sat next to the delightful Barbara Swanwick all the way home! She was so easy to talk to that for once I was able to overcome my crippling shyness and self consciousness around the opposite sex. What has this to do with sport? Absolutely nothing, but I just wanted to acknowledge how nice she was to me on that one occasion we crossed paths.

Now at the risk of lowering the tone (those of a nervous disposition can skip this paragraph) I recall an event that took place at an athletics match against a local school which I shall not name. (The reason for this is to ensure that there are no clues which could possibly lead to this particular individual being identified). The host school had presumably allowed non participating pupils to watch as there were plenty of spectators scattered around the field. Many of these had lined up along the finishing straight of the running track awaiting what was a certain victory by their school's representative who was an outstanding athlete. As the runners rounded the final bend this senior student swept past his opponents. In his very brief cut away shorts, the kind that are only worn by serious runners, he went into overdrive and majestically accelerated away from them. It was at this point it became apparent that he had suffered what today is euphemistically referred to as a ' wardrobe malfunction '. The cheering briefly dropped to almost a whisper and then it hysterically increased again as the crowd roared their approval of the spectacle before them. He must have become aware at some point what had happened but presumably it was more important to win the race than stop for adjustments so he continued, in metronomic style, to the finish line and received what can only be described as tumultuous applause. I can assure you this is a true story and I could name the unfortunate person involved but I wouldn't dream of doing so. However I would be intrigued to know if anyone else remembers the incident.

Moving swiftly on.............

Swimming to the best of my knowledge was taken in the first year and as far as I know the school did not swim competitively. However if I am wrong in this regard then perhaps someone will enlighten me. In later years (maybe the fourth year) some of us did our life saving awards (Bronze Medallion) where we learned CPR, how to retrieve a rubber brick from the bottom of the deep end at Hathershaw baths and tread water for 5 minutes whilst wearing pyjamas. Not very long ago I was required to perform CPR and although I have seen the procedure demonstrated since we were introduced to it at school I always felt confident that I would know what to do thanks to our training. This in fact proved to be the case though sadly there was no happy outcome. So far, the other two skills have lain dormant but as I seldom go swimming in my pyjamas and there is very little call for rescuing bricks it's not surprising!

Finally my last reference on sport at school relates to basketball which I only remember playing in the fifth year and the sixth form. Usually there was myself, Syd, Eddie and Keith (there were others but again my memory fails me). In this sport Keith's skills were too good for even Dennis to ignore. Occasionally we benefitted from the presence of Martin Shaw who was outstanding and was used to playing at a higher level. It was at this time that Keith adopted the nickname of Lemon, likening himself to the great Meadowlark Lemon of Harlem Globetrotters. However as I am always pointing out the reason we called him Lemon was because he WAS one! Our matches were always after school and for away games we travelled by bus until I acquired my car in Upper Six. We had so much fun before, during and after these games largely because of the banter and the Mickey taking although the game itself was taken very seriously. There were occasions on the way home when they would encourage me to drive alongside some poor unsuspecting cyclist pedalling his guts out, the window would be wound down and one of them would try to engage the poor sod in conversation by asking gormless questions and offering stupid advice. When humiliation was achieved we would speed away convulsed with laughter. I'm beginning to feel guilty just writing about it!

At some time or other I indulged in all the other sports to a limited extent but not enough to have anything interesting to say about them (no change there then!) To my eternal shame I never played netball (sexist pig!) so girls I will leave the ball in your court with that one if you will pardon the pun. It would be nice if some of my recollections and comments have stirred memories of your own and I am sure there must be plenty more sporting anecdotes and observations, funny or otherwise, waiting to be told. I know my rambling drivel** (as Keith will probably label it again) is rather frivolous and superficial but I cannot over emphasise how much I got out of sport at school and how much pleasure it gave me. I am sure plenty of others feel the same way and enjoyed it just as much but I doubt anyone enjoyed it more.

Any discussion of sport at Hathershaw in this era would be incomplete without making special reference to the late Syd Jolley who during our time there enjoyed almost iconic status because of his sporting abilities. He was an outstanding athlete and sportsman and if it required physical prowess then you can be sure Syd excelled at it. He was a brilliant all rounder and very competitive. His influence was inspirational in that with him in the team expectations and belief increased significantly. Syd's qualities were not lost on Charlie either who on presenting Syd with the Decathlon trophy for the second year running announced to the school "This is a boy I would be proud to call my son." What a compliment. What an athlete!

Footnote 1.
Much has been written about Peter Halliwell's involvement with Drama so it may surprise you to find out that he still found the time to play a significant role in setting up Hathershaw Old Boys (or Old Technonians as they were first known) in the school library in 1963. He was the club's first President. I played for the Old Boys until the age of 38 along with many, many more ex Hathershaw pupils and much pleasure it gave us! So Peter has directly or indirectly had a positive influence on many more ex pupils than he realised. From this one a belated thank you.

Footnote 2.
 
I have included the press cutting (mentioned above) with the results of our tie with Counthill. It was likely to have been during our Lower or Upper Sixth year. I have also ignored my better judgement and included a photograph of Eddie (another brilliant all rounder), on another occasion, storming to victory in the hurdles with me very much caught in a 'nancy boy' pose, mincing along*** in third place.


Editor's note
*     Your memory fails you again. The reason you didn't play was because you were crap.
**    Spot on.
***  Ditto.



Editor - The guy in 2nd place is Stuart Heywood who was a year older, so the event must have been fifth form or lower sixth.
Sager comes third in the 110 yds Hurdles but gets first prize in the 'Strictly Come Hurdling' category.
I hope you don't mind, Graham, but I corrected a lot of your spelling. For example 'athletics' isn't spelt with a 'k'.
Dear Nigey,
At least I know enough about the game to know it is called 'football' and not 'foot ball'.  You would have been aware of this fact had you spent more time actually clutching the thing instead of grovelling about on your knees praying that those very big  boys wouldn't hurt you with those very rough things that they do.
But what am I saying?
Of course you would have known what a football was since you spent so much of your time picking it out of the back of the net.
I'm intrigued by your recollection that the cricket square was always waterlogged because I'm at a loss as to how you would have known where it was, being somewhere in the middle of the playing fields.
(Sorry Nige, a playing field is a place where people of even modest ability meet up and engage in diverse sporting activities ranging from athletiks to foot ball. It was the large area covered in grass just off the playground. But of course you wouldn't know that having spent most of the time cowering and cringing down a manhole, smoking Woodbines).
Regarding your denial of my body-swerving, bullet pinpoint passing, slam-dunking genius I can only say that my equally talented namesake must have suffered the same ridicule at the hands of inadequate misfits who were driven by envy at how an ordinary mortal could possess such talent. He warned me about this and he was obviously right - another thing we have in common.
Yours
ML
Everthing I would have expected in reply from a pedant like you but to criticise foot ball rather than football just shows you are clutching at straws - and then the one unforgiveable insult:  'WOODBINES'?   
'PLAYERS' please.
Yours
'The Cat'
In response to Nigel's need to know who the shambolic and athletically challenged were and the desire for me to name names, all I can reveal is that they were members of the cabbage patch community. So Royales is in the frame straight away as are those who hid down manholes. I should also point out that I am not in the least bit bothered by Keith's assertion that my contribution lacks literary merit, particularly as I know all my readers will spring to my defence (after they wake up - Ed).
My speling is impeckable and you and Nige no it!
Sanch Hemingway   
Hemingway? You just can't get anything right can you?
His area of expertise was in bullfighting.
Why don't you put your own name instead of hiding behind Ed's name ?
Keep up the the banter 'cos I haven't laughed so much since you told me I kept you out of the cricket team !