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The Road to Southend Pier

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of good memories of school must be in want of counsellng."
(With apologies to Jane Austen).

My time at Lymm Grammar School was limited to the three years 1951-54, and the memories are all good ones. However, if the words "enchantment", "distance" and "lending" are forming a sentence in your mind, bear with me, because the corresponding recollections of my primary school are far less pleasant. The latter was an establishment that pushed us hard academically; with good results in the 11-plus exam, but which left little time for any fun that I can recall.

Oughtrington Hall was the base for the 1951 intake of pupils, with frequent treks over the Field Path for laboratory work, games and gym classes. The school dinners were a revelation - we were even known to ask for seconds! At the aforementioned primary, they were appalling; delivered in chums from kitchens in Warrington. It was decades before I could face any meal involving mincemeat or mashed swedes again, and we had an official Slug Box into which we put the extra, unwelcome, protein frequently found in our salads. I know meat was rationed, but there are limits.

From a distance of 48 years, the staff member who looms largest in the memory is Mr Hunnam (the Teacher formally known as Gus). This is due to a combination of his personality, and the fact that he was our first form teacher. A humorous man, despite the occasional day when his mood was black, and it was safer to keep your head down. My mother had a theory that these days were a function of sleepless nights with his young family - the voice of experience there. As an example of his character, one day when in Grumpy mode he took exception to one of us (are you there Alan McAlpine?) speaking to a girl who came in to deliver a message from another teacher. There was a big eruption of Mount Gus, followed by the imposition of 100 lines. No big deal there you might think, but the line itself was:

"Whenever someone comes into the classroom in order to speak to the teacher, I must not be so impertinent as to think J may speak to him or her".

One hundred times! - we all thought the whack would have been better than that. The poor lad had done them by the following morning, by which time Gus's mood was much sunnier. He was big enough to admit an over-reaction on his part and said that Alan was 100 lines in credit for the next time he transgressed.

In 1954 the Kelly family moved to Essex and I to Southend High School for Boys. Lymm pupils were reckoned to speak reasonably posh (in front of adults anyway), but the Southendians found me comically broad - in the Ecky-thump category by their standards. Not that their Estuary English is anything to brag about. Although academically similar to Lymm, the all-male aspect at the new school meant life had a significantly rougher edge to it. Two events which occurred during my time there serve to illustrate this and to compare and contrast life in the two schools.

The first concerns school photographs, which at Lymm in 1953 went off without any fuss that I can recall. The Southend one was chaotic, with some likely lads thinking it a spiffing wheeze to display a furtive V-sign (not the Churchillian variety). This was at a time when the gesture was absolutely taboo - much more so than now. How they hoped to escape retribution escapes me, with the evidence preserved for posterity. The offending fingers disappeared by retouching in the darkroom, while the pants of the offenders disappeared in clouds of dust raised by the Head and his Persuader. Later generations must have wondered about the apparent manual deformities of some boys on that photograph. Could it be a result of the A-bomb tests then common? No! Just an early example of digital remastering.

The second instance revolved around our relationship with the school caretaker. At Oughtrington, Cyril Woods was regarded with genuine affection and respect, but the incumbent at Southend was out of Billy Connolly's Janitor sketch. He loathed us, and things came to the boil in the Sixth Form when we smuggled a TV into school (rebellious stuff in 1958) to watch a Test Match in the lunch hour. He shopped us to the Head, and strangely enough, later that week, his garden, adjacent to the school, was laid waste by a nocturnal application of a powerful weedkiller. Conspiracy theories were rife. Were the fatal pellets fired from the book depository or from the grassy knoll by his picket fence? Nothing was ever proved.

I could also go on to relate the story of the disgrace of the Head of Maths at Southend in tragi-comic circumstances, but the details are too risque for this
forum. They are however rather amusing, so if we ever meet, dear reader, and you wish to know more…. Suffice to say that I find it impossible to imagine Dicky Lame in the same scenario!

By leaving Lymm in 1954, I was not around to observe the impact of the teenage/rock'n'roll culture which emerged a year or so later. In Southend, the effects were dramatic; sartorially, tonsorially, and musically. Trousers narrowed to the point of causing emasculation. Haircuts boosted the sales of Brylcreem to hold quiffs and DA's in place. And the music!, oh the music! After years of anodyne confection about doggies for sale in shop windows, Bill Haley and Co. went straight to the adrenaline button. The passing years have broadened my tastes, but the old favourites remain and I am consequently now just as likely to listen to "Das Lied van der Erde" as to "A wop bop a loobop a wop bam boom". Phonetically similar don't you think? The Southend school had no riots as in "Blackboard Jungle", but we did see some damage to desks during high spirits after the 0-levels were finished. Perhaps someone from that era at Lymm has a tale to tell of those days? Were there battles with authority over skirt lengths and drainpipe trousers? Anyway, if you ever wondered what happened to all the old Teddy Boys, yours truly is what happened to one of them.

The thought does occur from time to time as to whether my academic direction was altered by the change of school. What did happen was a specialisation in science, leading to a physics degree and 40 years working for the UKAEA and Shell Research. However, at Lymm, my best subject by far was English, particularly under the influence of the delectable Miss Smith. Any teacher who made Pride and Prejudice and The Merchant of Venice acceptable to a 13-year-old whose head was full of cricket, jet planes and the Goon Show deserves an accolade. So if I'd carried on at Lymm, who knows - 40 years among the luvvies, rather than the boffins? By such quirks of fate are our destinies decided.

Frank Kelly

PS. If by any chance one of my old English teachers happens to see this example of my humble best, I hope to have observed all your rules. May your infinitives survive unsplit, may your prepositions always find sanctuary before the end of the sentence, and may you be spared exposure to the Greengrocer's apostrophe, now sadly rampant across the land.

Can't find it? Enter keyword:
Newsletter 2002
· Newsletter Reminder

· President's Letter

· Memories of Henry

· Golf 2002

· Memorial Walk

· Old Students Fifty Club

· Rambling Programme 02/03

· Future of the OSA

· Certificate Evening

· Road to Southend Pier

· Reflections

· Births/Marriages/Deaths

· AGM 2002

· 1967 School Intake celebrate reunion


Page last updated: Thursday, 2 May, 2002
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