John West (SH 61-64) continues his reminiscences:

“Colin Entwistle and I had cycled to Gretna Green one three-quarter day (not sure if you have them now (No. Ed.). It was basically a day off, but you had to do something, you couldn’t just sit around in the dayroom). We had got there and back so easily that we decided to do it again one Sunday.

Time was tight, and we had forgotten that nothing would be open (in the sixties, even the garages closed on Sunday!). We ran out of drinks and I can remember being desperately thirsty on the long drag back over Moota. There was a pub somewhere along there called ‘Oily Johnny’s’ (much schoolboy sniggering), but I can’t remember whether it was closed, or we simply didn’t have the nerve to go into a pub. I’m sure today’s students are just as shy!

By the time we got back to Cockermouth, there was only an hour to go until shed. Then one of us got a puncture. We were reduced to wheeling our bikes.

Between Cockermouth and Whitehaven, a car passed with another boy, who had permission to be late back. His parents loaded the bikes on to the roof-rack, which they luckily had on the car.

‘Lem’ Parkinson, the School House housemaster, gave Colin and me three strokes each with a cane. Wow, that really hurt! It seemed so unjust as well, which added to the pain.

When you had been off school with illness, you were supposed to report to the head after chapel. I forgot on my first morning back and after evening prayers Mr. Wykes called me to his study. I expected a telling off for not going to see him. Instead, he asked, ‘If I came into a room, would you stand up?’ I realised instantly that I hadn’t stood up when Mrs. Wykes had walked into the sick room. I hesitated, and then replied, ‘If you came into a classroom, sir, I would certainly stand immediately, as we all would. But in a sitting room, I might not.’

I guess he was expecting me to say ‘Of course’ immediately, at which point I would have received both barrels. But my admission softened him and he merely said, ‘Well in future, always stand when an adult enters the room.’

I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t admit my faux pas to the others when they asked what Mr. Wykes had wanted, and said that he’d told me off for not reporting to him that morning. I’ve always stood ever since when an elder or a lady enters a room!
Once, when we were playing cricket on the Rec., I think it was against another school, although I’m certain I was never good enough to get into a team, Mr. Dearle was umpiring. T. M. Gascoigne was captain and I think Robert Astin was wicket keeper. Astin was naturally corrupted to ‘Tin Arse’ by us boys. Genuinely naïve, Gascoigne issued his orders around the field.

Mr. Dearle cleared his throat, ‘Ahem, Gascoigne, we’d appreciate it if you could refrain from calling Astin by his nickname, thank you.’

There was an ancient toaster in baby dayroom, which was seriously work- intensive. It didn’t pop up, but had two doors that folded down, with handles on. You placed a slice of toast on each door, folded the doors up and waited until the golden moment. You then opened the doors and turned the bread around to toast the other side. Healthy and safe it wasn’t. The fag whose duty it was, then cut off the crusts and buttered the toast. This was considered a good duty because the fag could butter and eat the crusts.

Fresh toast was taken by another fag into the Pres’ study where they were enjoying their tea. This one’s duty was to ensure that they had a constant supply of tea and toast, and also to serve them their cooked meal.

Eggs, sausages and anything else that the prefects wanted were cooked on ancient gas rings on a grease-laden ledge at the bottom of the stone steps inside the changing room corridor. Everyone sat on the bottom step and cleaned the mud off their boots, then tramped past the cook of the day on the way to get showered. Hygiene was none existent here. Chas Gibson would come rushing down the steps and say ‘Stobart's screaming for his eggs - are they ready yet?’ This induced further panic as you hurried to cook five meals at once.

On waiter duty, I remember carrying two platefuls of fried eggs, beans and sausages and stumbling on the muddy steps. Sausages and eggs slid on to the slimy steps. Without hesitation I brushed off the mud and put them back on the plates, then went upstairs and served them without comment. I’m sure I wasn’t the first to do that.

Whose tea was spilt on the steps I can’t remember. Dacre Watson had left by then. I think Fisher was head of house, with Crowther, Acons, Stobart and Peel among those in Senior Studies. I think there may have been about twice that number, but can’t remember any more names.

If anyone had kept a selection of cars owned by parents and staff, they would make a magnificent collection now. Most parents favoured the new Rover and Triumph 2000s, with a sprinkling of Zephyrs and Zodiacs. Second cars were sometimes Triumph Heralds, or the new Ford Anglia with the cut-off back window, which would be used by parents when brand new to show off to their offspring.

Mr Lever had a magnificent two-tone blue Mark V111 Jaguar. ‘Butch’ Broadhurst had a black slab fronted Rover 75. That series of Rover was very popular. I think T.A. Brown had one. Bill Fox, the Bursar, had a green one and certainly ‘Don’, the choirmaster. His may have been a Rover 90. It started off black, I think, but the rumour was that Don couldn’t be bothered washing it, so it went into Brownrigg’s garage for a respray and came out pearly grey.

The Austin Cambridge / Morris Oxfords were popular too.
‘Lem’ Parkinson bought a new one of which he was inordinately proud. Then, as we all find when we buy a car, he saw them everywhere. ‘Candidly, ye hounds, everybody has one!’ Mr Croft had a smaller Riley, with a very posh interior, which was always kept gleaming.

Another car that I admired was Sir Frank Schon's Rolls Royce. Sir Frank owned what I think is now a hotel on Main street and could often be seen being chauffeured, presumably to his Marchon works in Whitehaven.

Senior Studies. How could I forget Willie Alp! Our own lookalike Gerry of ‘Gerry and the Pacemakers’, although he wasn’t a ‘sportsman’.

Games at St. Bees were perhaps more reverentially adored than academic brilliance - yet we admired brain power too. The Haywoods were good at games, but also clever. John and David Cade I had known since I was very young and they also went to St. Bees from Huyton Hill, Ambleside, like myself. John went on to be a teacher in South Africa; David, a surgeon.
There were probably many world-changing events while I was at the school.

Three in particular I remember. On Meadow, one summer’s evening, Mr. Lever had us all crowd into his living room to watch the first live TV transmission from America via Telstar. I was in Baby Dayroom when the Cuban missile crisis unfolded. We all thought nuclear war was inevitable. Finally, a winter’s evening in Big Dayroom, but noon in Dallas, in 1963.
At first there seemed to be hope that Kennedy would live, but that was soon dashed. Would the US have become so entangled in Vietnam if Oswald had missed?

The night Cassius Clay fought Sonny Liston, I was woken by prefects switching on the dormitory lights in the middle of the night. They then went round pulling everyone’s bedclothes back looking for transistor radios. I think they captured three in our dorm. I wasn’t really that interested in the fight and was more upset about having a night’s sleep disturbed; so much for history!

The Profumo scandal was all over the papers around this time, but I only read the headlines. The juicy details were only of interest to a fifteen year old for the pictures of Mandy Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler, the politics didn't bother me.
Apart from two special occasions, the already mentioned viewing of communication via Telstar and a televised service when the school choir sang in Carlisle Cathedral, which Mr. Parkinson invited us to watch on his snowy (of course, black and white, six years to go until colour) TV, we didn’t watch television at all. There was a film in the Mem. Hall once or twice a month. I remember ‘Some Like It Hot’ and ‘High Society’. ‘That Was The Week That Was’ was much discussed, but only from what we had seen in the holidays. In term time there was no TV. I saw the live programme where Bernard Levin was punched by a member of the audience, then calmly said, ‘That was not part of our Saturday night's entertainment!’

Radios were only allowed on at certain times and the programmes were what sixty year olds wanted to hear, almost nothing for teenagers apart from Alan Freeman’s ‘Pick of the Pops’ on Saturday evening and Radio Luxembourg, which faded in and out. Then came Radio Caroline, anchored off the Isle of Man.

Suddenly the radio was on at every break time. The rules about listening times went out of the window.

Paul Rew, Jamieson and a few others were allowed to sing and play guitar in Big School and were even allowed to perform a concert in the Mem. Hall. I think that was summer term 1964. Considering how much Mr. Lees and the other masters must have hated our ‘repetitive rubbish’, as my dad used to call it, it shows how times change. The idea wouldn’t have been entertained a couple of years earlier.

There was an upright piano in Big School. Jan and Dean brought out their plink plonk version of ‘Heart and Soul’. Whenever I hear it now, it immediately transports me back to Hostel and that piano. The acoustics were perfect for that tune. I don’t suppose Hoagy Carmichael liked it much, but I did. Listen to it on Youtube if you want to visit Big School, Hostel, in the sixties!
Watching the 1964 film of the school again reminded me that in the gym display previously mentioned (and in the film, just missing my bike ride over the backs of the rest of the team), we had ‘trampettes’, which allowed us to do complete somersaults fairly easily. I had completed many of these in the practice run-up, when suddenly on one approach, I had a moment of doubt. Fatal. I landed on my forehead and was knocked unconscious for a few moments. Andy Green said later in his cheerful manner ‘I thought you were dead’. Mr. Broadhurst realised that I had lost my confidence, and I couldn’t do it again - perhaps that’s why he put me on the bike. My neck hurt for days!

Chapel every morning and twice on Sundays. Three times for the Reverend Batey. An early Communion too. I couldn’t be bothered to get confirmed, so I couldn’t go to the Communion services, which were always handy as an early start for when parents were visiting. If your parents were coming to see you, provided you hadn’t transgressed too many of the rules, you could ask the Housemaster for a ‘Blue Ticket’, which gave you leave for the day.

Services in the Priory were special. I always enjoyed these, the pomp and circumstance were always worth the effort. The Priory was huge after normal chapel and there was always a sense of occasion, particularly as Christmas approached.”



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