|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!|