Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News > Interviews with staff members (former and present) > Ian Lightbody. This is your life.

Ian Lightbody. This is your life.

Ian Nye Lightbody, man & boy, a product of Liverpool College. If you were to cut him in half, then like a stick of Blackpool Rock, he'd probably have Liverpool College running all the way through him.

Reading time: approx 30 minutes

I met Ian at the bungalow he and his wife Charlotte moved to once they did not need the house they originally bought when they moved to Nantwich in 2004.

What job or role hasn't he fulfilled at Liverpool College? Read on, discover that through 40 odd years of working at Liverpool College, he never once applied for a position or job.

 

Ian, tell me a little bit about growing up and your days before arriving at Liverpool College.

We lived in Upton, although I was born in Neston, as a family till I was 13. I've got two younger brothers. We were all at Kingsmead Prep School. And I think my father wanted to give us the same opportunities, and we were initially down for the College as day boys. He wanted us to have the same start in life, with the same schools. What we did with it subsequently was our problem. It was down to us. None of us could blame our parents for putting us in different schools, which is a very fair way of looking at things.

Then my father got moved back to Yorkshire by his company Gledhill Time Recorders. A big company in its time.

My grandfather was the chairman of all that. My father was a director when he went back to Huddersfield. They had three factories Gledhill Factory Time Clockin Halifax for manufacturing time recorders and also cash tills, Gledhill cash registers. The head office was in Huddersfield. So my grandfather was quite an important guy in industry and commerce generally; he was president of the Cost Accountants Association. It's now the Chartered Institute of Management Accountancy, and my grandfather was a founder and president of it.

That's the family background, which, of course, didn't interest me at all. When my father got moved back to Yorkshire, and we were down for the College (my brothers were still at Kingsmead), he said they've got a boarding house you might as well board. I remember him saying, “Fees are £30 per term for dayboys, £90 for boarders. You might as well board, it’s cheaper than having you live at home.” That's how I came to be in School House, aged 13, and my brothers went to prep school, in Huddersfield, and then came into School House later. The three of us span six years.

I was born in 1942. The memory of the war and immediately afterwards is pretty misty. We had a great childhood, and where we lived in Upton, there were no houses opposite as we just looked out across open fields, up to Bidston Hill, to the windmill, and the observatory. We were surrounded by woods and fields, and so we spent our time in the holidays, weekends etc., outside digging dams, lighting fires. My mother wouldn't have us in the house except to eat. A gang of us, various mates, lived up and down the road. Some of them went to Kingsmead, some didn't, but there were probably eight or ten of us in our gang as you are with youngsters. It was a pretty straightforward childhood.

Were you a sporty person?

My brothers are much better at sport than I was. I could always run, but anything with a ball I was hopeless with, whereas my brothers could kick balls in the right direction and lots of other sporty stuff.

I think I probably played for the third XV a few times. But indeed, nothing as far as hockey or cricket went, but then I joined the shooting option for two years. the golf option was very civilised, too.

But athletics suited me very well. And then later on, when I came back into the Upper School common room. I did cross country option. Alan Henderson started it, then when he left, I took over the cross-country option for ten years. Brian Hildick took it over from me when I took over School House.

Aged 13, what were your first impressions when you arrived at Liverpool College?

I think, probably, nervousness and apprehension. When I hadn't been to a big school before, I knew I would be joining people that had come up through the school, and I was likely to be the only new boy and the only new boy in the dormitory. I was in the most junior dormitory in School House. But you get to know one or two people, which takes time. So several guys were in the dormitory with me, all in the same form, which was a bit of help.

The first year in School House is pretty gloomy. For everybody really in the bottom end. You got a common room of three years’ worth of boys living in the cellar. Tough going where we got beaten up reasonably regularly. Not viciously, and it depends on what you call bullying. I'd say bullying is when a person is picked on alone and continually. It doesn't necessarily have to be physical bullying, although, for boys, that often is the case, I think. But all of us were just treated relatively equally, I mean, beaten up on regular occasions. Usually, by the year above, mainly wrestling and no punches involved, but it doesn't make life very pleasant, And then you move up to the next year, and it's your turn to beat the younger group. But it was dwindling out during my time boarding, and life got more normal.

What were your thoughts on career paths coming to the end of 6th form?

I'd applied for engineering at Manchester University. Because in those days you applied directly to universities. There wasn't any clearing. I'd probably applied to two or three other universities. I only did that really because of my father. He had got a degree in engineering before going into the family company. So it was a sort of a family thing, and I thought, well, I may as well, without any real clear idea. And then the opportunity of joining the BBC came up because they were recruiting viciously, almost doubling the technical staff. After all, they were busy creating BBC Two, which opened in 1964.

My uncle, my father's youngest brother, was one of the bosses. He was head of Vision at BBC Television as it was in those days. He invented television lighting.

Back in the late 1940s, you could just point lights, and you got it right. But as productions took off, the lighting people had to be able to design lighting on paper and pass it to somebody else for rigging. The thing had to be a formula that worked, and this is what my uncle worked out on television lighting. He finished touring many European and Middle Eastern countries in the 1950s and 60s, teaching them all about the basics of lighting for television. If you look at American television, it's very different. It's just masses and masses of white light everywhere. It's considerably different from television lighting in Europe. That's how I had the tip-off, and sure enough, they signed me up on a fixed contract until August; I could make my mind up then what I was going to continue or do something else.

And I immediately got pushed into a camera crew.

We did all the big Saturday shows as they were in London. Alexandra Palace did just news; that was the beginning of BBC television. They'd already taken over Lime Grove, the old Gaumont British studios out in Shepherds Bush. There were three studios there. They were still building Television Centre when I joined, and we only had four working studios., which eventually finished up as nine or ten.

We moved between Television Centre, Lime Grove Studios and Television Theatre, which faced Shepherds Bush Green. And that's where the BBC produced the big shows because of the auditorium. So you're talking about the Black & White Minstrel Shows or the Billy Cotton Band Show and all sorts of other things. Characters like Harry Secombe would appear. Tommy Cooper and all those well-known names in the 1960s. It was pretty good fun having a mug of coffee with Cliff Richard up in the coffee bar and canteen at the top of Television Theatre; very relaxed and informal.

Camera 1 at BBC TV Theatre taken in March 1962 (I think I'm the guy on the back of the camera crane)

But during the first three or four months, you think, wow, this is fantastic. All these famous people, and of course TV was live; nothing was recorded. You're living on a knife-edge for transmission. One false move, and there's a significant problem. That was quite exciting. But after you got the hang of it, how cameras work, what happens in the studio, a lot of it gets pretty dull. There's a lot of standing around, especially with drama, rather than light entertainment,

But, by that time, you've got four or five cameras out and two or three needing tracking. For example, Camera One had four of us tracking it because you've got to swing the cameraman and put him up and down, left and right, and you've got to drive a dolly backwards and forwards and steer that round the studio or the theatre. Teamwork is important. But once you've got the hang of that, it gets routine. And I realised that I didn't warm to just being a cog in a big machine all the time and waiting for the next instruction from the production gallery. All-day, you're on earphones, cans as you call them, and it becomes boring.

It was then that I realised I needed to do something else. That I had to sink or swim on my own wits, and that it occurred to me that's what teaching is about, which is why I then managed to get a place at St John's College in York. It was one of the top six in the country, and it had a significant science school. Biology, physics, and chemistry were all key subjects that many training colleges didn't have. I was training for secondary education, but all the development in primary education was kicking off at that time. I was interested in mopping up primary and had to do secondary anyway. So they managed to fix the timetable for me for two years. It was good work but not a lot of free time, and that's how I came into teaching.

It was towards the end of my third year, probably the Lent term. when I started looking around for schools to apply to that Collison wrote to me and asked whether I would consider coming back to teach at the College. I thought it was a lovely offer, but I wrote saying, No, I don't think so. I'm looking for a main science job.

Shortly after, I got a telegram from him (following my letter) saying to the effect that Peter Diamond, who'd been the house tutor of Mossley Vale, was going to move at the end of the year. He could offer me the house tutorship of Mossley Vale, as well as a range of subjects in the Lower School. Might that interest me? And, of course, it did because it was full-time school mastering rather than just teaching. It was the offer of Mossley Vale and a variety of things in the Lower School that pulled me back in. Otherwise, I wouldn't have come back to teach at the College.

But oddly, thinking about it, I've never actually applied for any job at the school. Instead, headmasters have just asked, "Would you do this?" and I've said "yes". What a track record. No initiative, and wait to be asked!

You arrived back at Liverpool College in September 1965?

No, June 1965. I'd finished my final exams in York, and I was due to start in September. Nora Deakin had been unwell for quite a while, but was now back on a half timetable. And after half term, what Collison wanted, agreeing with Harold Lickes, was for Nora Deakin to continue half timetable and would I come over and teach the other half of the timetable.

I finished my finals on Friday, probably had a few beers with my chums, and went back to my parents on Saturday in Huddersfield. Dumped a pile of stuff. I got my washing done, repacked, drove over to Liverpool on Sunday, camped out in a cheap hotel in Ullet Road, and turned up at half-past eight at the Lower School Common Room on Monday morning. And then started on half a timetable, teaching people like Mark Stirling, Richard Evans and Tim Askham who were in Lower 2 A, but Ken Roberts went down with appendicitis within three days. Lickes asked would I take over his timetable, and Nora Deakin would go back to a full timetable. So I took over English and Nature Study; that was when I first came across Simon Rattle and quite a few more people who feature in the Lerpoolians. It was quite a busy term, to say the least, suddenly taking over a full timetable from nowhere.

With your studies leaning towards science, was it all a bit in at the deep end teaching English?

It was a bit in at the deep end, but not so bad if you keep your wits about you. I mean, almost anybody can teach English. You've got to have a proper grip of grammar and know how to structure an essay, for example. So I was doing Maths, some English, and a certain amount of Latin. That was a bit of a change, which I did for two years, under Harold Lickes and then another year when Marley Spencer took over the Lower School. A vacancy arose in the Upper School in September 1968, and Collison asked if I'd move to the Upper School to teach Physics and Maths, which I did.

You did Canal Holidays for several years. How did that start? What sort of trips did you do?

I'd have another beak with me like Tony Magness. Occasionally, Mike Whitehead went on later trips. Well, I think one trip I had, we were coming back from London crewed by Pete Shepherd and John Vyse (sixth formers) and the youngsters. The trip was to London and back. We hired a boat for about a month from Nantwich and swapped the crews every week. Some parents brought down the lads to just north of Oxford, where we switched over. When we reached London, the lads came down on day returns from Lime Street, handed over the day returns to the other lot, who went back on the same day to Lime St. Meanwhile, the new lads joined the boat.

How many years did you do canal holidays? I think you had three boats at one point.

We didn't own the boats when we started; that was only in later years. I didn't do that many when I ran Cheshire Boats because that was another activity as if I had nothing else to do! Cheshire Boats was a company I set up (like you do when you’re already a full time school master) with the aim to eventually own the boats outright (once I’d paid off the loans). So we hired boats from various sources. I recall Keith Hamilton and I hired them from British Waterways in Nantwich, for example.

 And we did that a couple of times because what brought us into it was the change in the holiday structure brought in by Collison. We used to have four weeks holiday at Christmas, four weeks at Easter, and eight weeks in the summer. He changed it to have three weeks at Christmas, five weeks of Easter and eight weeks in the summer, but also extended what then became quite a long term, Michaelmas term, into having an entire week at half term. In contrast, originally we finished school, like Thursday lunchtime. And we're back on the following Tuesday. Thus when we got the whole week, it was possible to make a boat trip, and that's how we did the first canal holiday.

Dare I ask if you ran any other activities in the holidays?

No nothing really…… apart from running skiing holidays with Keith Hamilton for ten years and numerous theatre trips to the newly opened National Theatre!

In 1980 you moved from Butler's house tutor to housemaster of School House. Did you also move out of your bachelor pad in Beechlands Coach house?

Yes, at the same time., because I moved into it in 1969, when John Palmer, former housemaster of Brook's, left. A perfect bachelor pad, really. I built quite a sound recording studio in it.

Were you an officer in the CCF?

When I came back in 1965, one of the first things I did was join the CCF as an officer. I'd been in the TA in The Prince of Wales own regiment now amalgamated into the Yorkshire Regiment. As I was in the TA, I got seconded to run a cadet unit in York for a year or two, which was very interesting.  I assigned the names of the three double VCs, Chavasse, Leek and Upham, to the platoons, which the cadets thought was great - their own heroes! I returned, and Lickes sorted the timetable with me teaching in the Lower School and CCF on a Thursday afternoon in the Upper School. On a Thursday morning, I also started the printing and pottery options, periods four and five. I just did two lessons, I think on Thursday in Lower School, and the rest of the morning I spent in the Upper School. I had lunch, changed for CCF, and it was CCF all afternoon. I did CCF camps and things like that. And particularly Arduous Training, which is what it was called then. It's now called Adventurous Training. I did that with Jack Griffiths and Peter Pritchard, RAF and College chaplain. But by the time I'd moved to School House in 1980. I'd already packed in CCF as we were overloaded with officers. I got bored. There literally wasn't enough to do. I thought that there were more productive things I could be doing.

Do you get paid for being a CCF officer?

No, you didn't get paid for term-time work, but you did for whole days of activity, and if it was CCF camp, you were on standard army pay, arduous training was standard army pay as well. It's paid by rank; majors get more than lieutenants.

How did you achieve your ranks?

There has to be a structure. I mean, had I stayed on longer, and somebody else above me had left. I'd probably be next in line for Captain. It's automatic you become Second Lieutenant, to begin with for two years, then you're automatically a Lieutenant, but you can linger there for ages. When Wally Clarke joined, he was a SSI (school staff instructor), then he was WO2, CSM, in other words, and then with the local TA, he got a commission. He became a Second Lieutenant but then a Lieutenant and stayed with the local TA. That's how he moved up to be Captain, and then Major, nothing to do with the CCF. Those were promotions outside the CCF.

You became Housemaster of School House. Did you get paid extra?

Yes, not a vast amount extra. I think the salary increase for housemaster of School House was the same as for any other house, but it's free living. No rates to pay, no rent, free food in term time because you're looking after 50 Boys, you just had to fend for yourself in the holidays. I went in as a bachelor in 1980, and I took over from Peter Stott. My first head of House was Alan Blair because we did a changeover (and it was the same for Peter when he had taken over school house) in the Easter holidays. So you've got one summer term, with no influx of new kids, a head of House who's experienced and will leave. It was handy for the new housemaster to get feedback from senior house prefects, who then leave and move on. That was the Easter holidays I moved in and took over the summer term in 1980.

What was Peter Stott moving on to do?

He had done about 16 years, and he was becoming Second Master. That's why Haygarth asked me if I would take over School House. It was not something I applied for. Again!

How did you meet Charlotte?

Through Brian Clarke, an uncle of mine and a very long time governor of the school and good mate of John Robertson. Brian ran a ship Chandler's Business  and, I think, a tug company business. Alexander Screw Towing Company or something like that. The business moved from Liverpool to Southampton, and Brian didn't move with them. Then Brian and his wife Audrey moved house from Woolton to Gayton near Heswall, and they were having a housewarming party, just before New Year in 1983 to which I was invited. I stayed on and joined them for supper. And it was during supper that Charlotte arrived, apologising for being late. She was working for Radio Merseyside and had had to finish her shift. On her way over, it started to snow, and she had got lost trying to find Brian and Audrey's house.  I should mention that Audrey Clarke and Charlotte’s mother were both at Huyton together.

That's how we met and immediately, life took off. I remember she followed me back to the tunnel because I knew all the routes, of course being from Wirral. And, I gave her a wave at the tunnel toll booths. Meanwhile, I got a phone number. Because I was due to have dinner that evening, which would have been New Year's Eve, with a couple of friends of mine, including Peter Stott, and afterwards going on to Richard McCullagh's at about 10 o'clock. I rang Charlotte in the morning to ask if she would like to join us. She was doing another late shift at Radio Merseyside. "I'd love to, but I.'ll be late. I'll arrive in time for pudding if that's okay?" And duly did at Mike Hill's house in Fulwood Park. Then we strolled on to the McCullaghs to see in the new year and, and, well, the rest is history. She was then living in Waterloo, just down the road from Charles Hubbard.

In July 1984, we married, and she moved into School House. But our accommodation was split up. In School House, you got the two main rooms at the front. One was a study; one was used as a drawing room and also served as a dining room because we did have a few dinner parties. Our other accommodation was right on the top floor, in what had been the maids' accommodation.

(When I was a boy in School House, we had six maids living in. We also had a matron living in and a catering officer. The maids did all the food preparation, and then they did all the cleaning of the dormitories and the house. Most of them came from Ireland.)

Our accommodation was on the top floor, two bathrooms, one given over to the house tutor whose rooms were on the floor below. And the rest of it was ours, really—quite a good room which was our sitting room. And then, a bedroom next door to that. And a good bathroom, etc., and another couple of rooms. Then, when the children arrived, there was enough accommodation for them.

When did Mossley Vale, the Junior boarding house, close?

I think it was 1986; the boarders then came over to School House. The youngest would have been 11 years old, and they were the top two years in the Lower School. A house prefect used to see them across the road to get into the Lower School each day.

What do you think caused this move away from boarding? Was it in any way caused by the fall of the Empire?

Contemporaries of mine had parents with the colonial service. They often sent their boys to board. Quite a number of school leavers went to work abroad reasonably quickly after leaving school in 1960. That was not uncommon at all. Much less common now. People get into a career, University, then they might go abroad. Still, the idea of people actually leaving school and going abroad was fairly commonplace because most people did not go to University. In my time 6% of school leavers went to University, more from the College probably about 25% of College leavers went to University, 75% didn't.

You, married in 1984, and then School House closed in 1990.

Yes. And of course, I've mentioned Mossley Vale boys coming in. Then day boys joined as well in School House. People like Curtis Robb, for instance, were the first wave of day boys to join. They had the option of staying on after the end of school and having supper in the house and remaining for prep and prayers. It was compulsory if they stayed for any part of it; they had to stay for prayers as well. Then their parents would come and pick them up, or they could get on their bikes and go home. Prayers usually finished by nine o'clock.

Did you have to find your own personal home, then?

Yes, It was clear that School House as a boarding house would close at the end of the summer term in 1990.

Was that because school numbers, in general, were declining, or because there was just too few actual boarders?

There were very few existing boarders remaining. There would be about half a dozen left by then and I think they wanted to use the building to open up the pre-prep and nursery. So School House, as a name, then went. The building reverted to its original name, which you can see on Godwyn House's sandstone gate.

We found a house in Greenbank Drive which belonged to the de Larrinaga's. They were Spanish blue blood and quite an eminent family on Merseyside. They owned the de Larranaga Steamship Company, and they went into the war with more than 80 ships which tended to ply between Spain, South America, Liverpool, and they came out with 11.

Miguel de Larranaga was the Spanish Consul in Liverpool in the 1950s. But it was his daughter, who now lived in the house after her parents had died, and she was now pretty infirm and had gone into the Greenbank nursing home on the corner of Penny Lane next door to the hospital. So that's why the house had come on the market. We bought the house for, I think, £43,000 because there was much work which needed to be undertaken to get it up to a basic standard. There was a cellar, three floors. We completed all the building work in about a year.

The remaining four boarders came to live with us, taking over the top floor. Boarding at Liverpool College had come full circle.

Eventually, you lost your last Liverpool College boarder. What happened then?

We took in students from the School of Tropical Medicine who come from all around the world, just three of them, and they had their own sitting room with a small kitchenette etc., Each of them also had their own bed-sitting room, and there was a bathroom Yes, quite reasonable accommodation. They would come for usually six months at a time, and that continued till I retired.

Meanwhile, you'd become Bursar.

Almost. In 1995 the then Principal, Barry Martin, appointed me as Assistant Principal. Then in 2000, I became Bursar and Clerk to the Governors.

Yet again two jobs I never actually applied for. Beryl Greenberg, Chairman of Governors, chatted me up and said they were getting a Finance Manager but thought I'd be ideal for the rest of the job. I was 58, and I had to retire at 60. Thus I could do more than those two years, which was helpful with the kids still growing up,

You enjoyed that as well?

Yes, I did, more as time went on. In the beginning, it was a pretty rough introduction to it. John Siviter was still Head when I took over. Then at my first half-term, someone set fire to Beechlands. The first thing I got was a phone call. I was down there with the fire brigade at nine o'clock at night, with this blinking fire.

Meanwhile, the Siviters were at their property in The Midlands, unaware of the ensuing disaster. So it wasn't until the following morning before I could get in touch with them to come up—quite an introduction.

It was quite a busy first year, just settling into a new job.

From this I realised, as I've said to one or two people since, there isn't any proper training you can do as far as I can see to be a school Bursar. You need to have a range of experience in all sorts of areas, whether insurance, finance, property maintenance, grounds, or employment law. And especially Charity law. If you wanted to be a school Bursar, the only thing you could do was go to a big school and become an assistant Bursar and learn the ropes. Meanwhile, the governors were proved right, bringing in a finance manager to do all the finance bits. I basically did all the rest of it.

It was pretty busy stuff, including revising the whole of the College constitution, which Beryl wanted to do. Changes in Charity Commission laws should prompt a review every 15 years or so, and it was overdue. I used Lawrence Holden, a contemporary mine and a leading solicitor in the family firm of Holden's. His father was a Lerpoolian. It was pretty detailed work, but it was the first time we had revised the Constitution in about 25 years.

One of the first things I did was change the catering. I brought in a consultant. We brought in a load of catering companies to deliver their info to us. They took me to visit various schools where they operated. In the end, we settled on a local firm that did two or three primary schools in the Wirral. They came in and were brilliant, and it's still the same firm now.

The other thing was to change our insurance brokers, who we've still got now. They saved us a lot of money. They brought in all sorts of cover that nobody had ever thought of before, which proved to be wise. And the other thing I jumped on was the decoration side of maintenance. I brought in a company on a ten-year contract for the Lower School building. In the summer holidays, they initially redecorated the entire Lower School, every single room, every single corridor, the whole lot, top to bottom. Subsequently, they would come in, in the summer or Easter holidays every year for the next five years, picking up all the public areas that had shown lots of wear and tear. They'd bring everything up to good condition again. And again, after another five years, a complete re-do of the whole school.

We paid a fixed amount every year to them, which took the load off Phil Lyons, who by now was in charge of all the other maintenance and subsequently Ric Thompson, when he was Bursar, took them on for the entire school.

What happened to McCormick & Lunt? And who were they?

They were the school's odd job people. Lunt himself had been at the College No idea who McCormick was. But they did all the school's maintenance because we didn't have a maintenance team then. When Ray Grist took over as Bursar he said he was going to change all this and he did, pulling Phil Lyons out of being their chief decorator and making him head of the College maintenance team.

With retirement, you moved with Charlotte from Greenbank Drive.

We knew we had to downsize, and we couldn't find the right sort of property around Liverpool that was on the market at a sensible price. And the reason we think was that Liverpool had just been announced as Capital of Culture 2008. Property prices were just going up and up and up, so we said we don't need to stay in Liverpool, let's look around a bit, and I'd known Nantwich from the canal days, since the late 50s when my family first hired a boat from there. Charlotte and I went to look around and thought, this is sensible. The town's a reasonable size. They've got their amateur theatre, and we went and stayed in the local hotel for two or three nights at the weekend. We wanted to see what it was like on a Friday night and a Saturday night. Compared to Liverpool, it was docile. We also went to a performance at the amateur theatre, which was very good. So we'd found stuff we could join in a sensibly sized town. We then couldn't find anywhere to buy within walking distance of the town centre, except new build. And we'd sworn we'd never go for a new build, but in the end, there wasn't an alternative.

You thought you escaped the College in 2004 by retiring.

Yes.

What went wrong?

What went wrong was Beryl Greenberg stepping down as Chairman of Governors, and then I spoke to John Robertson. John said, "It's a bit of a crisis time as far as the governors go. Can you come on board as a governor? We need someone that's got a lot of inside knowledge and information."

When I'd left, I wasn't replaced directly as Bursar for about a year or 18 months, and then Brian Christian thought we should have a Bursar after all. So he brought somebody, but that person didn't last very long.

And I was still there when Hans arrived.

It was a Founders' Day. Hans had already signed the "dotted line", but he hadn't arrived as Principal. Brian Christian must have been on the verge of leaving. There was an interregnum.

Anyway, on that Founders' Day, I finished up looking after Hans' parents. The Broekmans and I were going back to the College for lunch, and I said, "I'll take your parents for a tour around the grounds". So I took Mr and Mrs Broekman all around thE entire estate. And I can remember saying to them, "It's interesting that Hans has already been head of three schools in the States, one of which he started from scratch. Apart from the idea of coming back to Europe rather than the states, [because I think his father was World Bank], why does he fancy this job?" His father replied, "He likes change, he likes challenges, and the last school he was at, now that he's got all set up and running, it's on automatic, so I think he's probably bored. He needs something fresh, and that's probably why he's applied for here."

Then, during the first time Hans and I properly chatted, I said something about pupil numbers declining and had he considered converting to Academy status?

"It's crossed my mind," he said, "but I don't think we're ready for that sort of thing." So anyway, within two years, that was the course we were set upon taking.

By now, Ric was at the helm as Bursar. It must have been fairly soon after that, that I stepped down as a governor and stayed on then as a foundation member.

Wasn't it around 2007-2008 when the School made plans to consolidate the whole school onto the south side of North Mossley Hill Road?

Yes, it was a big idea that Brian Christian had along with Beryl Greenberg of selling up all the buildings but keeping the playing fields and rebuilding everything on the south side corner of Mossley Hill Road and Queens Drive. Great ideas and I kept saying, "Has anybody got a costing on this?" Then, of course, with the crash of 2008, we realised we couldn't do anything like this. And it was then that I think Brian Christian decided to move on.

I want to return to what school buildings you remember going up in the 1950s.

The first things to go up were the dining hall and the science block; they didn't exist in 1955.

And the dining hall, I believe, was only designed to last about 25 years.

Correct.

Again, a pre-fab building. It had done 50 years without too much interference before Ric had a substantial refurbishment job done on it rather well, I think. It improved the building quite a lot, but yes, it was put up as a "Pre-fab". I remember the end walls going up, which took quite a time, and the rest of the building went up over a week, including the roof.

But School House always had its own dining room and kitchens. When I was a pupil, that was where our food was prepared, hence the maids that we had. But the day houses had their kitchens in Conybeare, which was then called Lynton, one of the dining rooms where the receptionists are now. So two day-houses came in to eat. As there would have been then, the other day-houses ate in Mossley Vale, the junior boarding house because that also had kitchens.

The dining hall was pretty important. That opened in September 1957, and the science block was being built simultaneously and opened a little bit after the term had begun. Before that, science was taught in the tin huts on the playground that had been the old shooting range at Lodge Lane. It was dismantled and brought up and reassembled and became the physics labs. There was the lecture room at one end nearest Gladstone. That was called Besford Grange in those days. The lab at the other end, and a preparation room in the middle.

Chemistry was taught in the stables behind Gladstone. The ground floor had a lecture room in it, the chemistry prep room, and the top floor was the lab. And, of course, the Sefton room hadn't been built. So there was no link between Gladstone and the stable block. Biology was in the stables behind Conybeare. Again a lecture room on the ground floor and the biology lab above.

Once the science labs were built, they immediately released those coach houses and the tin huts as house rooms. The Biology block followed shortly afterwards. Two biology labs, because either could double up as a lecture room.

Then followed the Holland block in the early 1970s. Again, not a great building, but it was reasonably economical to put up. Pre-fab!

And then the CCF huts gradually got replaced. The present CCF HQ, now brick-built, was wooden with a metal-lined area for the 200 plus rifles.

At one time, there were quite a few Bren machine guns and Sten machine guns in there. Then, just before I came to the College in summer 1955, there had been a raid when the IRA broke in, and all the rifles were nicked. Hence the metal-lined building, It was quite a time before we were re-equipped with rifles.

That's something else I can remember from CCF days. I was the duty officer one afternoon. We undertook it on a rota basis, and I was with the duty Sergeant. We checked all the rifles were back, but we were missing one. We had a recount. But it was still missing, 'A' Company had taken out about 50 or 60 rifles to Sefton Park for training and fieldcraft and all this other stuff like crawling around in bushes. I said, "Right, get Sergeant So-and-So". School had ended, but luckily, we got this Sergeant who had been with the group in the park and had just changed from CCF uniform back into school uniform before he left for home. "Whereabouts in Sefton Park were you? Get your bike, get down there and rescue it.". And lo and behold, we found the missing rifle propped up against a tree—many good memories of the CCF.

Meanwhile, I remember the Glazebrook pavilion got burnt down.

That's right! It was during the fireman's strike. What, about 1977/ 78? Yes. And the Green Goddess Fire Engines attended. I'd forgotten that.

They built a new Glazebrook on the playground, a brick building, replacing the tin huts. Yes, and it was used for changing rooms, showers and very good it was too. Then eventually, that got converted to three classrooms for modern languages and is still called the Glazebrook.

Mind you, the whole games thing had changed to a certain extent. I mean, the idea of three games afternoons a week had gone. Saturday school had come to an end about 1987/88

Then came the Haygarth Technical Centre. But I must tell you the background to that being built. It was sometime after the first computer had arrived at the school.

In the mid-seventies, it became clear that computers of some sort would become available for schools. Already mini-computers were at work in larger offices and industries. So I decided to find out more, and I enrolled on a weekly course at Liverpool University.

It was instruction in coding (programming) with a small choice of available languages for the University's main-frame computer system. I chose ALGOL. Along with others, we handled some elementary routines, typing out our instructions, which were assembled on punch-tape to be run on the main computer. The following week, the results were ready for us on fan-fold printer paper, occasionally with the simple statement "program does not compile". Back to the drawing board, so to speak.

Textbooks for schools were beginning to emerge and, by the late seventies, the first micro-computers hit the UK market. A Commodore PET desktop computer with an in-built cassette drive was the first to feature in the Upper School in 1979.

I remember that. It took about 15 minutes to load the most basic, simple programme, leaving no time to work with it. Not a good idea since we'd loaded a game rather than anything educational. Anyway, you were saying.

With 4k memory and the BASIC computer language on ROM, it cost around £650, I seem to remember. A Sixth Form computer option was started on after, with lessons in the attic of Gladstone, and the first group to pass O-level Computer Studies was 1980-81.

In 1981 the School opened the first computer facility in what had previously been a Chemistry Lab in the Science Building. It was equipped with 15 Sinclair Spectrum computers with monitors from Radio Rentals. These were replaced in 1982 with BBC Micros, which were networked. Computer Studies was introduced as an O-level course for Fifth Form pupils, and by the mid-eighties, all pupils below that level had a term of practical computer education.

Meanwhile, it had become apparent that a College database would be of considerable use, particularly for the Bursar's Office and anyone else involved in administration. So I wrote the initial version of this on my canal boat in August 1983 moored opposite Worcester College cricket ground in Oxford. It took around three weeks of work and then various sessions the following term to key in the program on a Research Machines 380Z computer and produce the required printouts. Interesting.

In the later '80s, we moved the Computer Department into what had once been the long dormitory in School House, where boarding numbers were dwindling. The room was split into a lecture room and a lab. Computer access was available for lessons in various subjects from a growing number of computer-literate teachers whilst computer studies classes took place in the lecture room.

Finally, it arrived in the Haygarth Centre.

I remember there were other building plans which never came to fruition. There had been proposals in the early 1970s to cover the pool and build a gym alongside

Yes, inflation scuppered that one.

But why did the swimming pool close?

It needed substantial maintenance, almost to a rebuild level. Crazy really.

When the new sports' Hall went up on the playing fields, there had been plans to build a swimming pool on the end, nearer the railway. Then they had to scale back and couldn't afford to build a swimming pool simultaneously. So they split the main sports hall intending to add a swimming pool later. That part became too expensive with funds needed for other things. It never got built. I don't know precisely when the swimming pool itself closed down.

We've concentrated on building in the Upper School. Tell me about what happened in the Lower School.

The original "new build" was the Sutton Timmis Hall. A music block was added beyond that at some point. But that's since been demolished and replaced with another building of about eight classrooms.

After that came the large "double-decker" classroom block and theatre just behind the original Mossley Vale.

Built in the area that I would have called "The Masters' Garden"?

That's right, the building that is now the middle school,

And finally, we come to the latest new building. I'm sure all those who detested swimming will be pleased to hear about this. It's been filled in, and four new classrooms opened last year.

Yes, but don't forget, the name of the area lives on in the name of the new building, the Noel Chavasse VC Poolhouse.

Thus coming entirely up to date on all the new building work, it seemed an appropriate moment to draw the interview to a close.

Liquid refreshment was the order of the day and for Ian to fill me in on the history, alternative or otherwise, which can't be repeated in the interview.

 

Similar stories

Dan preparing for another Radio 3 Broadcast

Dan "Two Hats" Bishop reveals how he balances his dual careers as Head of Music at the College and Deputy Head Organist at Liverpool Cathedral. More...

Brian with his sister, Maria and his sons Lawrence & Oliver

Here we try and paint a portrait of the man himself. Read on to discover Brian Donnelly's thoughts on his career and lif… More...

Pete Purland

As Pete Purland was known for saying at the beginning of a lesson. We'll do just that as Pete reminisces about some of… More...

Most read

194 Radio City. The Great 208 (Radio Lux). The man behind the voice.

"If you don't change your ways, you'll end up being a so-and-so disc jockey" - Peter Stott. More...

Guy Edwards (1960) formula 1 driver and hero. Guy pulled Niki Lauda from his burning car in 1976 saving his life and receiving the Queen's Gallantry M… More...

Penny Lane or Smithdown Road?

Peter Stott & Ian McCormick were well-known sticklers for schoolboys to have regulation hair cuts. Here Roger Thomason recalls having his cut by a som… More...

Have your say

 
This website is powered by
ToucanTech