I was a student at Chester College from 1927 to1929 and I calculate that is 73 years ago. In those days College was indeed a very spartan place – and "Men only" too! One of the first shocks, on arriving at College, was the dormitory. I had one of the four beds in a little side room known as "Rocks" – iron bedsteads with lumpy mattresses, few drawers and very little hanging space for our clothes (not exactly "en suite") but we did not have many possessions anyway. Even packed in as we were we managed to exist with very little discord.
Meals were not lavish and to have a homemade cake or pot of jam was a luxury – the days of tea bags, instant coffee and sliced bread had not yet arrived! I remember how, on occasion, the Vice-Principal would stand up during breakfast time and announce "One Man, one egg" – eyes roving the room in search of the culprit who had taken an extra egg.
Once in College there was little time for the outside world and there were no trips to the city. In fact, with the Principal declaiming at morning prayers that "The devil walketh amongst us like a raging lion, seeking whom he may devour" we were cautious – after all, we ourselves were often seeking something to devour and we knew how the lion felt. So apart from sports times we did not go far afield. Sport was the great outlet. I swam, gained my boxing colours and, best of all, literally threw myself into Rugby – enjoying every minute of it.
Most lectures and lecturers were good but to me nothing was as good and fulfilling as woodwork. I spent a lot of spare time in the woodwork room. I learned to love wood and to recognise the different qualities and textures, and I made several beautiful pieces of furniture, which I have to this day. The love of wood and the pleasure of good craftsmanship has stayed with me since my College days and over the years I have enjoyed making many pieces of furniture for many family friends.
After two years, having passed the necessary exams and earned the required qualifications, I left College and returned to my home town of Liverpool. I was a teacher!
Those were the lean hard years after the "Great War" of 1914-1918 and the country was in a state of unrest – strikes, unemployment and poverty – especially in the towns. I felt very fortunate to get a job even though in 1930 the government had imposed a 10% cut in teachers’ salaries.
I still played Rugby for Sefton and
Liverpool, and continued to teach in various schools until the outbreak
of the Second World War in 1939. Soon Liverpool became a blitzed city
– schools closed, children were evacuated and some parents
offered their homes for groups of children to gather together for "Home
Teaching", but when
the air raids became too devastating most of the children remaining in the city were evacuated to the country.
I was in charge of evacuating a section of school children, mothers and babies to safer rural areas but was surprised to find how many could not stand the quietness of the countryside and, within weeks, returned to the horrors of the blitz.
For a time I worked with children evacuated to Colomendy, a Residential School in North Wales.
The end of the Second World War was again a time of unrest – lack of discipline in the schools and homes soon became obvious and it took time to reopen schools and continue the normal pattern of education. Petty crime and juvenile delinquency flourished, leading to a necessary increase in the opening of Remand Homes for young delinquents, and I realised that "Delinquency" was for me! In 1944 I joined the staff of Capenhurst Grange, Cheshire, a Remand Home for Boys. I remained there until 1952 when I became Principal of Liverpool Remand Home for Boys and I stayed there until my retirement in 1972.
Our family of four daughters had, by then, achieved the qualifications necessary for their various professions, and married – only one to follow in my footsteps as a teacher. With family scattered, my wife and I retired to the Isle of Man where for almost thirty years we have enjoyed a relaxed and peaceful life – time for travelling, fishing, gardening and "just messing about in boats".
I have attended many College Reunions, generally with old colleagues – Bob Jordan, Bill Carman and John Tonks – wise old men proudly sitting at the top table. Now I am the last of our group, and I must admit I cannot face being the "lone one" at Reunions – and also the journey from the Island somehow seems to grow longer and become more difficult.
Now, at the age of 91, I look back on those distant student days and wonder what made them so dear to us, and I know those shared interests were forged into everlasting friendships and gave us the precious memories we have today.
Courtesy of University of Chester
Parkgate Road, Chester CH1 4BJ