One of the funniest
events in my seven years at PGS occurred during
our final year, 72-73. A number of Upper VI
formers had congregated in Room 19 for a free
period. I can't remember everybody who was
present but certainly Bob Connolly was there.
Others included were probably Tony Lucas &
Ste Ryding; altogether there were at least ten of
It just so happened that next door
Mike Harvey was taking his Upper VI History
Class. It all started so innocently. A bored and
restless Bob Connolly began a quiet, solo,
repetitive chant of that most favourite
expression of Beak's, "Now,er,hey-yeh".
Dreamily, one by one, the rest us
joined in so that before long there was a steady
rhythm of this simple refrain.
Against this monotonous and hypnotic
backbeat some of us began to experiment and
improvise, again taking the lead mainly from
Connolly. Before long, bizarre, crescendo-style
phrases of "Now, Er, HEY!" rising
through about two octaves were punctuating the
growing frenzied mantra from a room full of
half-crazed would-be Beaks.
Sporadically Connolly would throw in
an abbreviated staccato "Hey!" ,
"Hoy!" or "Hi!" . These
effects were delivered fortissimo, imitating a
rather angry and protesting chimpanzee, or more
reflectively like a curious but suspicious
Within a few minutes our quiet study
period had become a celebration of the very
essence of Beak-speak. We were totally carried
away by the emotional spontaneity of the event;
we were oblivious to the possible effect our
music making was having in the next room.
Fortunately, and appropriately, we
had our own history correspondent on the inside.
Mike Roberts was in the group being taught. He
picked up the very early audible clues that a
memorable event was in the making. Over the last
28 years he has been able to recount, on many
occasions and in many pubs, what was happening in
room 18 as the general volume of our chanting and
Beak was doing his usual pacing up
and down, keeping up his own inimitable
historical drone. A steady monotonous list of
possibly related or unrelated events,
Parliamentary Acts, Laws, Treaties, Wars,
Battles; all of this accompanied by slow nodding
of the head, hand in front of chest with index
finger pointing, and the furrowed brow of
"Catherine of Braganza, yeh....
Line of successionah.... Bastard Dukes of
Guimares.. Charles, eh.. Alliance with
Portugaleh... Arranged marriage, yeh."
Against this was the gradually
increasing chorus of mimicry coming from the rest
of us next door. At first Beak was deaf to it all
but Mike and the rest of the group were not. Mike
could recognise all the individual voices
creating the different effects and fought to
suppress laughter. He told us that the rest of
his group was in general not amused. In
particular the ever serious and prematurely
mature John Mercer repeatedly, and irritatedly,
muttered comments like "children!" and
"...ruining our education!" .
After a while Beak became aware that
something was going on. His furrows deepened and
his face became set with displeasure. Then the
gradual dawning, the expression relaxing to that
classic nodding mix of frown and half-knowing,
half-suppressed grin. Finally as the volume of
the chanting increased the smile faded, replaced
by an expression of imminent rage. Suddenly he
charged at the door to room 19 and burst through
it to be met by:-
And a room full of innocent and
studious 6 th. formers, so oblivious that we
didn't even seem to notice him standing there. He
glared about the room taking in all the faces.
Gradually the expression softened. The slow
nodding realisation returned. Without saying a
word he backed out of the room, eyeballing us all
in turn with our wide-eyed expressions of
innocence and incredulity.
The door shut and we all struggled
in vain to suppress our bladders and the
inevitable giggling that followed.
Simple pleasures for simple minds!