Friday, March 23, 2012

All change - The School in the 70's - Michael Breslin

Michael Breslin outlines some of the changes at the City of Coventry Boarding School after 1972 -

A Summary of Changes in the 70's 

  • From the 40's to the 80's - we've tracked that the school had employed at least five female teachers - but none in the 60's. This will be a surprise to those who were there in the 60's.
  • Towards the latter years of the school there was a 'Girl's dorm' - read on to find out more.
  • The teaching staff changed again in the 70's with some from the 60's remaining until the school closed - eg Alan Thorn, DA Williams, George Parker, Graham Place, Mick Chopping.
  • The curriculum developed - the old Gym became the Metalwork shop and PE was held either in the Main Hall or outside. Chemistry was now being taught.
  • With the demise of  'Slasher Jack' - and with the changing mores of the 70's - hairstyles were much longer.
  • With the development of  the new block in the 60's leaving more space in the old buildings, staff accommodation and other facilities moved around a bit. Micheal refers to some of these changes.

Michael Breslin
"Things were different by 1972 -

All 1st years were assigned to The Annexe under a Mr Faulkner's guidance. He wore a size 12 gym shoe and kept a spare on top of the clothes lockers. From the swimming pool, the first Building was the "sallon" where we had a TV and tuck shop area with the woodwork room was. Then it was Mortimer house , the Annexe, Dudley, Blount and then Art room (Maths Room on the other end).

We got off the bus and carried our cases to the Annexe dormitory (Led by Bruce Naylor - the only 6th Former) which was theoretically divided into the three houses. Mortimer was down at Faulkner's end, then Dudley split either side of the doorway and then Blount. DA Williams was at the other end. We were asked to choose our bed in those three areas as appropriate.

We were allocated a 3'x2' wooden shelf by the central doorway and that was our clothes locker. We were shown how to fold our clothes with the round fold outside and stack them neatly by a house Matron whose name I cannot recall (it wasn't Polly) but she also showed us hospital bed making after we had emptied our suitcases and stored them in the locker room by the doorway.

Some kid stood on his bed and claimed to be the hardest kid in the dorm and no-one challenged regretably, I did! I was battered fair and square and true enough he was a very tough Nut! He was down the other end of the dorm from me because I was in Mortimer and he was in Blount. he later discover much tougher kids in his own house.....A pecking order was very soon established within the first few days.

Supper was rubbish, I thought, Currant biscuits with cold milk....Communal Showers was a first for me and I wasn't comfortable (I never brought any soap for my new soap was ridiculed by a few) but soon was forced to get used to it. Lights out at 8 was far too soon but we had a compulsory 15 minutes silence before for reading time. After Lights out, Bruce Naylor kept us in check as his bed was behind the partition At Rev Williams end. "Bruce, Bruce, Sayers is out of bed" because there were some antics on the first few nights. "Sixers" was rife where an older kid would grab and twist your arm at any time and bash you with the fist as hard as possible on your bicep. My arms seemed to be permanently bruised.

I was JM 38 so at some stage the prefix must have switched. 1 X and 1Y were the two classes in the first year and I think I must have done well academically because I moved into 2X which was considered the brighter class in the 2nd year. I also moved Dorms to Mortimer. Another Mr Williams (P.E.) was at one end and a Mr Burridge (Physics) at the other. We remained in Mortimer for 2nd and 3rd year. 3X Class was a riot. I have never had so much fun. We were a team by then. The 4th year we moved to Senior House and it was a luxury! No more creaking pipes (when the heating was on - a single 4" metal pipe that passed behind your headboard) during the night, no more walking to the Ablution Block in the dark cold wind rain sleet snow with just your dressing gown and slippers. (I hated having soggy slippers) No more howling wind in the dead of night passing through those ill-fitting windows. I remember Mr Williams (not the reverend - Sarah, are you related?) having a bad car accident and his poor dog was killed.

I forgot Dudley, "Manned" by Mr Chopping (Chemistry) and Mr Wood (not sure what subject but I did some photography with him) Blunt was TJ Walker and Mr Gladwell.Senior House we 4 or 5 to a room and we had the life of Riley although rarely did we get onto the Snooker Table until the 5th.

Sorry Burchers were next to the assembly hall. Blundells came later.

Metalwork was brilliant, my favorite subject. It was in the Brick building between the Top field and the classrooms on the yard. We would make castings from aluminum. We would silver solder brightly polished copper. We would turn parts on the lathe. I remember it was a 4th and 5th only subject and the goal was to build yourself a real steam engine. Sadly,I dropped it in the 5th for Chemistry as I needed Chem to get into Cov Tech for A-Levels

The Gym - no such thing. Although we had a PE session a few times in the assembly hall when we were 1st years. Everything was outside, rain, hail or shine, hurricanes even and we would be attempting to pass the rugger ball - Rugby was big as I recall and failing that, cross country seemed to be endless all year round

I suppose it was the new Block, the last classroom near top pitch was Chemistry, the one prior was Physics, then the library above Mr Parker's office and then the geography room.

I loved all of the sport (and all of the lessons come to think of it) but hated getting my white plimsolls wet/dirty as we had to clean them for Sat Morning inspection. Monday morning was wash kit inspection, Tuesday was Athletics kit Wed was Linen locker (clothes) inspection (all rounded folds outside) and laundry day (you had to send two pairs of skids and socks at the very least to the laundry, no sports kit was allowed - you did that yourself in the ablution sink) Wed Shoe polish kit and spare shoes (although your shoes needed to be shiny every day) Thursday was letter writing kit I think (Stamps were a must) I cannot recall Fridays inspection theme but if you failed, 3 of the best off Faulkner and Eddie Williams in the 2nd and 3rd. Sunday was a day off inspection we would usually be cleaning our sports kit from Sat Morning games....

OK, Paul so your Gym became the metalwork Lab. Wow, that was a small room as I recall. The Air raid shelter behind it was a bain for me later.

 Rugby boots and endless dubbin! Soap and washboard in the utility sink

Sound like Mr "Jock" Parker's office became the Burcher's flat!

Anyway, the two air-raid shelters (The air raid siren was still the fire alarm - God it was loud and could be heard from the village) one was behind sick bay that Matron used for storage I think and the other behind the metalwork (old gym) Lab, I was fascinated with it until the 5th year. Eventually I was gated for 5 weekends and had to fill it in with soil from Mr Parker's Cottage garden as punishment for being busted going over to the girl's dorm in the middle of the night.....there's a can o worms for ya!

Sarah Williams GIRLS DORM! Do explain Michael. Your memories are fantastic. (Sarah) My father was Ken Williams - I think we left well before your time, in 1968ish.

Michael Breslin - 
Haha! in 76, There was a dorm between the music room and the swimming pool that was fixed up for field study trips. Between 15 and 20 girls would visit at a time for a week from Coventry Schools.

I was in Senior House by now and I was becoming very interested in girls by now

Every Wednesday Teatime, they would be paraded past us in the dining Hall, it was great. Sometimes they were very young, so I would continue to hog the beans or the crust (ends) of the bread and drink as much of the tea as possible.

We got to socialise with them in the Saloon by the swimming pool.

Of course, they were up to antics as well because probably their first time away from home so we would arrange midnight trysts....

Of course, it was well after midnight, usually 2 am when my fellow trysters, usually 4 of us (who shall remain anonymous) would "sleep walk"...

So....when Cardinal Wiseman girls school (5th form) arrived.....we had to use their main entrance and sneak past the Nun's room (she was snoring) to get in.

And when Barrs Hill or might have been Lyng Hall 6th Form paid a visit, we had mastered that alarm system over-ride.....

We would place a credit card sized piece of wood (thin roof wood-shingle comes to mind because they were always falling off during storms) between the crack in the door and place tape over the latch part. We messed up one night and set the alarm off but the girls took the responsibility saying one of them was disoriented and wandered out of the fire escape.....phew. They used to visit all of the great places in the surrounding area and I am sure it must have been a week of absolute fun! I think that having a field study group was an attempt to bust the funding of the place in its floundering years and we probably have the dubious responsibility for putting a Kibosh on that option.

 Ralph, I ran away in 1977 to see my girlfriend in Cov. When I returned, I was strapped with 6 o the best. So the auld Jock Strap was still in force. He also caned me for something that I cannot recall. I didn't see it as "running away" i just walked down the road in the middle of the night, walked to very near Bewdley when it was getting light and hitched a lift, first to Kidderminster, then to Birmingham where I caught the bus. I was home before 10

 Trev, the Nun was with the Girls' School. They always brought a "chaperone" with them. We had a game of Rugby with Alderman Callow and their female teacher also played. Sadly, when I tackled her coming out of the maul , I broke her leg......No it was not deliberate so as to make sneaking around in the night easier. Fancy thinking that! tut tut... (I was accused of that by a fellow pupil)

 I usually wrote to Nan or Mum cos Dad had passed before I even attended the school. It was usually a plea for money that rarely arrived (I was 1 of 9 siblings so cash was short) or a reminder that visiting day was coming up and to bring some cake!) Now there was some letters not to Mum and the replies were often highly scented which everyone soon got to hear about...but those should be kept secret eh? It was compulsory to have one letter to send on a Sunday Night.... Sadly Mum has been gone 20 plus years now so her trinkets have long been displaced. Now ex's on the other hand, attentionl Lyng Hall, Alderman Callow, Stoke Park, Cardinal Wiseman, Barrs Hill letter hoarders...hehehe

 I found a photo of Alan Thorne when we visited him just before he died. I will dig it out this evening. There is also one of the Scout troup (1st City of Coventry School) Summer camp in Jersey at Mr Germain's family property.


  1. Brez,

    I know I am breaking my anonymity, but do you remember when we wanted to go meet the girls and we woke up at 02:00hrs as usual, to find a foot of crisp white snow had fallen, so we wore other Boys boots to avoid detection, and when we went to liberate some food from the Staff Room, Duff (Mr Place) was asleep across the chairs in an futile effort to catch us. And how about Tony Powell "borrowing the Toaster" from the staff room to make toast in his (your) room because it was warmer, and falling asleep, burning the toast and setting the Fire alarms off, this was the only time I saw all of the teachers in their pajamas. Happy Days Indeed !!! Gaz Marks

    1. I'm sorry to say that I broke the staff room toaster. I shorted it out with the end of a knife one night, while making cheese on toast.

  2. Er Mr Anonymous, sh!!!! "Coming down the Slu" ..............I think I wore Fish's boots, cos he wouldn't wake up. Sorry Fish. Gaz, it was such a blast! "I haven't had so much fun since Mafeking night".....lines from a particularly entertaining play that we performed. Was it "one for the Pot"? - Ray Cooney. Demo was a scream...."hey can't a guy even pretend to get some sleep round here..." there was no stopping us, hardly surprising, defiant teenage boys, hormones raging! I thought Duff was clumsy or careless many times....still, he was a very nice bloke. "has anyone seen maa Jeremy's underpantz"? - wasn't there a laundry mix up or something?
    Mr Plaice, your bicycle came in useful many nights when I had to peddle to Stottesdon to meet Dawn.
    There were more than a few nights that it ended up on the water tower.
    Poor Tony Powell. I had made toast with him for 3 nights before that fateful night. It was the first night in a while I decided to get some kip.....Mr Plaice screamed at me "If you're bags aren't packed and you aren't down the road by the morra, I want to 'naw' why!".....Sorry sir, it wasn't me! Sorry Tony. He got expelled...
    Not many people did get expelled but Mr Bensley you recall that Gaz?
    The tuck-shop raid was clandestine - Simon or Johnny McKay should respond with detail really.

  3. Nanda, one of the girls who encouraged, nay promoted, sleep-walking, tells me the name of the teacher from Alderman Callow, who broke her leg (thus rendering her chaperone duties compromised) was called Miss Drewry.

    1. That was the best tackle you ever did mate, and I still remember Nanda, I saw Claire the other day as well spooky, how time rolls on. The girls from the village, Sally, Wendy, Jackie, Jayne, Oh the hormones. I went to neen savage church yard with harry my son last year, to see where we buried Mr Thornes Ashes, but there is nothing marking the plot at all, what a sad end to a great man. Remember Wrekin College when we tried to hide the minibus after a Rugby match, and it ended up dangerously in the middle of the road due to the steering lock!I scored the first try against Ludlow school and we where overjoyed but it was the last time we touched the ball, and lost 80 -4. The pinball machine in the Cafe and the end of school party at the waterfall all happy memories, what did they miss at comprhensive lol

  4. And I dont remember a Mr Bensley ????

    1. i remember that fire alarm going off gaz marks...loli was a first year at the time and although the fire alarm was
      a ww11 siren right at the end of my dorm ....
      i slept through it untill a teacher came and woke me up...
      i had 100 lines for that....
      i must not sleep through the fire

      oh and mr woods taught french untill he and mr burrage got sacked for tuching up one of the kids in 1977.