Tuesday, May 10, 2011

They can because they think they can


My class photo in my 1st Year. I am sitting on the ground front right. The pained look is because Joe Turner, now a script writer on Coronation Street, is digging his feet into me.
I mostly enjoyed school. I have lots of good memories, which I won’t bore you with right now (maybe another time!), but I can at least give you an idea of what it was like.

I went to the Priory Grammar School for Boys, so in effect my future path through life was directed by managing to pass the eleven plus entrance exam at the ripe old age of 10.  Had I failed, I would have gone to the Secondary Modern down the road, whose lower academic expectations would quite frankly have allowed me to indulge my natural laziness. That wasn’t really an option at the Priory. Nothing overt, no pressure; it was more subtle than that. There was almost a culture of learning which was passed down over the years, if I can be a bit pompous for a moment.

The grammar school was slowly being modernised when I arrived, thanks mainly to the advent of a new head teacher, who happened to be my friend’s Dad. Even so there was still a hangover from the previous regime, which for years had attempted to model the Priory on the rather more illustrious public school across the River Severn.  So when I turned up in my brand new uniform (minus the cap which had been snatched from my head and thrown in the river by my brother’s mates) I was entering an establishment which still put Latin and Greek before modern languages, had a Latin motto on the school crest (“Possunt quia posse videntur” – “they can because they think they can”), where football was only ever of the rugby union variety, where teachers were referred to as masters, and you stood up if one entered the room.  In class we sat in rows according to alphabetical order and were called by our surnames only. This may all have contributed to its excellence as a school I suppose, but as we stopped imitating the ‘Nellies’ (our remarkably tame nickname for the public school boys), there was no diminution in academic achievement.

Teachers were given nicknames of course, but with the exception of one who alternated between “Rubberneck” and “Bastard Jack”, they were for the most part affectionate. I certainly had the feeling that the majority of the teaching staff were well meaning and dedicated to their work.  So even the Chemistry teacher known as “Hitler” was a thoroughly decent man and only so called because of an unfortunate combination of dark hair and moustache (come to think of it, he actually looked more like Charlie Chaplin in ‘The Great Dictator’).
There were some memorable characters; an RE teacher who told patently untrue stories about his exploits in the war, and a German teacher who would tell us in a Scouse accent to “learrn yer verrbs ”. He also once told me that the German adjective ‘o-beinig’ means ‘bow legged’ “or as we say in Liverpool, ‘couldn’t catch a pig in an alley’”.

There is no denying it was a good school, and within a year or so of arriving the new regime made a few changes to relax things a little, while still maintaining an emphasis on academic achievement. The majority of us passed most, if not all, of our O-Levels, stayed on in the VI Form for A-Levels and then went off to university.  The VI Form brought privileges; we were no longer required to wear uniform (although the arguments just switched to how faded your jeans were allowed to be), we could leave the premises in school time if we had a free period, or else make use of our own ‘common room’.
Rose tinted spectacles? Probably. I certainly had a few school mates who hated it and couldn’t wait to leave but I suppose that’s the beauty of looking back. You can choose to remember the good stuff. 
Six years later outside the VI Form Common Room. We had been to the pub. I'm sitting behind the guy with the white scarf with what might well be a fag in my hand!

23 comments:

  1. I think we must have had similar schooling, I remember the Latin:) One question - do you think every school had one teacher who was nicknamed Hitler, our school had one of those too!

    Great post...

    Lesley xx

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  2. ‘couldn’t catch a pig in an alley’ we called that "couldn’t catch a pig in a poke". I don't think our teachers could wait to get us out, unless you were in the top 10% of the top set of the top course they weren't interested. I think it was one of the biggest comprehensives in the country.

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  3. I recognise one of two of the people in that bottom pic - hell, I think I fancied one of them...

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  4. I went to Priory, 4 years under the old and 2 in the new regime. I know which I preferred. Some fond memories but didn't take as much notice as I should so very dimmed ones now. 'Hitler' was known to us as 'Little Hitler' and taught Physics. Awesome chap - ended up singing with him in a local mixed voice choir later in life.

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    1. I know the name but not my year. What year did you start?

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  5. Thrown out of Shrewsbury School and sent to priory as punishment. Have never met so many plebs who refer to lunch as 'diner'. How common is that??

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  6. Those guys were in my year. I can name about half of them. Who are you nick?

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  7. Those guys were in my year. I can name about half of them. Who are you nick?

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  8. Oh yes, and Whitiker the P.E. Teacher nicked my watch!

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  9. The Git, Froggy Hall, CWEP, Vince Priestly, What memories!

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  10. The Git, Froggy Hall, CWEP, Vince Priestly, What memories!

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  11. Hi...I was searching for the latin school motto and came about your blog. I remember those nicknames and we must have been there at the same time as I remember the lad and his dad 'the head' ...and that muppet of a deputy head 'Stevens' was it...who affectionately called me a little shite..fond memories indeed ;0) And was it 'old joe' the RE teacher who ramble on for the whole lesson if the appropriate questions were asked (on purpose of course!).
    All the best
    Gary Perkins

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  12. Spoke with Roger Jervis today for the first time in nearly 39 years. I am the tall kid in the middle of the back row with the big mop of hair. Having said that we all had a mop of hair back then... unlike now! Eamon Rogers.

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  13. Does anyone know what happened to Graham 'Freaky' Smith? Taught English. Still see some ex-teachers about town including Bugsy Bannerman, Granville Stacey {both English teachers - GS taught Latin too}and Keith Underhill {Art}

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    1. Ok I'm 'unknown' {see above}. I'm also Steve 'Merc' Merchant. Was 'dungeoned' in Sept 1967, ended up in class 1B {form master Granville Stacey} and happily ejected in June 1974. My schooldays? Good first 2 years, pretty shit middle 2 but great final 2

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  14. Ahh....dear old Peter 'Bert' Proctor, taught RE and a bit of Geography. Ran the CCF...LtCol.
    Don't forget Chris Woodhead, taught English, went on to be head of OFSTED. Sadly died young a few years ago.
    NELLIES......haven't heard that for ages.
    Remember Dr. Learhy little Austrian? Chap, taught Latin, scared me to death!

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  15. Ah Steve Merchant.....I remember......bit of a legend!

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  16. Good to read memories of Priory. I joined in '59 and left in "67. Member of Priory House. Great choir with Vince Priestly, reasonable Rugby, good school and house plays. Did Senior Training instead of CCF, Spent many Friday afternoons in the Dark Room pretending to do photography but really playing Bridge. Managed to do some school work but it took a bit of a back seat.

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  17. How could you all forget Batty Bland flying in on his bicycle with gown flowing behind him. Oh and those wonderful Morris the Bakers Ice Buns from the tuck shop, 1penny each I seem to remember
    Martyn Hopkinson 1960 to 1963 ( Moved to London)

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    1. Batty Bland (square the front,square the back, hey diddle-diddle,twice in the middle) always late and often conducted whole
      Maths lesson with his bicycle clips on. Another favourite line usually in mid-winter - "Alright, who's made a smell? WINDOWS!"
      Doc Loehry,a vicious ear twister who on day one gave us all a Latin name. Ego sum Mannius. Halcyon days!
      Mike James 1957-1963

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  18. Yes remember the Tuck Shop and the above named teachers, Dog end Jones hasn't been mentioned and also Billington and his Binary Maths system. Only now can I see the relevance of it. Found an old report from the 2nd year where another teacher Chamberlain had written 'Barely Satisfactory'.
    I left after dismal O level results but have had a highly successful career in the Police where some of the Maths Gregson had drilled into me came in useful in my Serious Fraud experience.

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  19. That would be "Marty" Chamberlain, maths teacher who ahd an interesting history as a technician helping develop the modern tv CR tube. "Scruff" Cosser? "Spindle" Richards, (latin), Anyone remember "Diddy" Steve the geordie pacifist, (my form tutor in about 1975). "SLAJ" Jones, (tiny welshman, taught geography?). "Oggie" the hippy french teacher who got me into Prog rock. Roger Calvert, the foppish english teacher. Mr Scott, head of 6th form, maths teacher? John Nicolls, History? "Throwup", timid french teacher who ran the chess class? Mr Quoreshi, Physics? Mrs Heywood, head dinner lady?

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