The Prescotian Webzine

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All of us know that well-tried phrase, "Them was the days'. We all tend to romanticise about the past but the saying is very true of PGS just before tha second world war. I came to PGS in Septenber, 1938. I can clearly recall the first, day, a Tuesday; in those days each form had a written examination on the first day of term on a book which had been sat for holiday reading. 1 spent the first: three periods in tha staff room, while the staff invigilated their classes. I had been introduced to the Staff by Mr Briggs before Assembly; I got to know thm better during the day. 1 was taken by Mr Scott to the dining room and introduced to Mrs Shawcross. I have fond memories of her baked jam roll. During that day, I made my first contact in Room 12 with Form 3A2. I loved the view of Rainhill from the form room. I can still visualise some of the boys; Fonnstone, Woosey, Heaps, Dumbell, Pox, Cubbon, Preston, Jones, Goodwill, Lathom and Brownless. I noticed the real friendliness and good behaviour of the pupils. It was obvious that both Staff and pupils had a great affection for the School which enjoyed a very good local reputation. Very quickly, I was absorbed into the School and by the end of September was firmly esconced in its cocoon.

The strength of PGS lay in its Staff. Mr Briggs came with Mr Turner in 1937, Mr Scott came in 1932 and the rest had come in the twenties or even earlier. For years, before he moved to Bluebell lane, Mr Robinson travelled every day from Wallasey; catching the 7.40am tram at the Pier Head for Prescot and arriving in school just before 9 o'clock. That was typical of the Staff; they liked the School and dedicated their service to it. If the army had not given me itchy feet, I would have stayed at PGS, too. Like the rest of the staff, I was at home there. Life in the wooden buildings was not too pleasant in the depths of winter but the Staff spirit was good. A new school was to be built in 1939 on the land between Lizzy Adamson's shop and Yew Tree House to the east of the remains of the old building but the war came and the plans were shelved. The School had to cope with wartime problems and an increasing population. In 1938, there were 320 on strength and, when I reccommenced on Monday, llth February, 1946, the nunbers had risen to 532. Despite this increase, the standards of the pre-war School had survived.

I met Mr Richardson once, in the Autunn Item of 1938. It was obvious that the Staff liked him for, clearly, he was a character. Mr Scott told me of some of his remarks; "My Aunt Sally went to Prescot ", "In your tents, 0 Israel" and how Mr. Wood would groan when Mr Richardson announced that the Lower Sixth had once more failed in Maths. Mr Briggs had to bring the School up to date and improve the examination results. He introduced Games into the timetable; he did not possess Mr Richardson's engaging personality but he was a very good and conscientious administrator who reorganised the School and, wisely, left the hard work to the Staff. Mr Stevenson, 'Freddy' was the Second Master and the leading light in the Geography department, as Jem Taylor can testify. He kept a firm grip on Mr Briggs and saw to it that the Staff had its say on what went on in the School. He was a man of many parts; one of his abiding interests being horse-racing. He studied form carefully and many of us sought his advice before a race, especially the Grand National for which we had a half-day holiday in the years immediataly before and after the war. I met Freddy at Aintree in 1939 and in 1946 and got from him tha winner on both occasions. He played the piano for School Assenbly and took the seniors for music and singing in the school ball. Mr Robinson, "Robby", was the constant companion of Mr Stevenson; they lived near each other, cane to school together and arrived well before 8.30am for they were always sitting on each side of thew fireplace when I arrived just after the half-hour. Robby always wore an alpaca jacket - with chalk in the right hand pocket. His Junior Maths and Chemistry lessons were popular.

He was blind in one eye following an accident with a drawing pin; ran the school canteen; had been a very good athlete in his youth; went home at night with Freddy announcing that he was 'going to bath the twins' .

Mr Drewry, 'Drugs' , was a very engaging personality. He was head of Chemistry and a first rate teacher who was popular. He was a captain in the Territorial Army (RfAOC) and every Tuesday evening in 1938-9 he wait to the meeting in Townsfield lane, Liverpool and every Wednesday morning, with his back to the fire, he would regale us with the stories he had heard the previous evening - and he could tell a good story. In addition, if you were lucky you could be invited to join the Rifle Club which met on the school field on Friday afternoons. George lived at Lodore in Central Avenue and I have memories of many happy evening spent with him, his wife who had been Miss Rose Scott and his daughter, Marita. He had a good appetite, loved rice pudding and smoked only Gold Flake cigarettes. As two staff members had the same initials, Geoffrey Dixon and George Drewry, George used 'GD' and Geoff . 'DG'.

Mr. Hawthorne, 'Juddy' , was head of Physics and a strict disciplinarian . His new physics laboratory was his pride and joy. We often wished he would learn to spell. His nickname came about by accident. His initials were JEH: a certain madcap rider in the Old Testament was JEHU. Reckless drivers were to be found on the roads on large lorries and small motorcycles, collectively called juggernauts. Mr Hawthorne had a small motorcycle and so, by some metathesis known only to Prescotians, he became Juddy, Mr Chant was head of History and senior teacher after Freddy Stevenson. His Form Room was No 15. An inveterate pipe smoker, he always had turns for a quick puff in the staff room between periods. He was a keen House Master and had a most remarkable memory of all old scholars. He designed the cover of the School magazine, 'Ihe Prescotian* helped with the planning of the scenery and make-up for the School plays and loved to have a moan about something. He played billiards regularly at the Congregational Rooms but I never heard anyone address him by his first name. Mr Scott, 'Scotty* , was head of French and a remarkably good teacher at all levels. His use of the blackboard duster was his 'intensive' method of teaching French. His beetling brows were well known; a very popular master who never put a boy in detention and would use his own break to make some point to a 'dimwit' as he called the boys who could not absorb what he was teaching.

Mr Bailey, Frank, was the soul of old Prescot. A walk with him in the township was most revealing for he would quickly point out where buildings and other interesting features had been at the end of the 16th century. He explained the significance of the steps on the pavement facing the King's Arms, the origin of Moss street and why High Street was so named. He found a record of a playhouse, a private playhouse in Prescot, when there were no known playhouses outside London; it was on the site of Huckle's factory. He was a real scholar, a redoubtable bridge player, partner in men's tennis doubles and, like many shy men, he had a cutting edge to his tongue which he did his best to restrain. Mr Hamnond, 'Joe Egg' , was but a name to me until I met him on 1st October, 1938. His irregular attendance was a source of great irritation to the Staff. He was a cast iron disciplinarian who always strode into the classroom with the words, "Number one question ....". He was not a popular teacher but achieved good results, particularly with bright senior boys like Johnny Lowe. He was a very good chess player, played every lunch hour with Mr Turner; did the Sunday Times crossword regularly - often without filling in the words. He edited the School magazine for a time. He was a law unto himself whose only friend on the Staff was Mr. Wood.

Ihe highlight of the Autumn term was the School play. The first I can was "The Knight of the Burning Pestle" with Johnny Lowe and Arthur Jackson ('Tarty' Ed.) as the Merchant and his Wife, whilst John Webster and Clarke played other parts. Room 5 became the Green room.

All the Staff helped in some way, Mr Wood selling tickets in the hall, most of us helping with make-up, Mr Fennell with the flats. Mr Chant's responsibility was the painting of the scenery. Mr. Hawthorne's the lighting while Mr Briggs made a short speech in the interval.

It was a source of great pleasure to ourselves and many others that the plays were resumed immediately after the war and rapidly became a prominent part of the School ethos. The school owed much to Mr Dixon who was the moving force behind the dramatics.

Mr. Turner, Rowland or "T", was a source of great strength in the Maths department as well as en the football field. He regularly played at back with Sixth former Bill Asbridge on Senior days and was a very good tennis player with a devastating backhand return which just whistled over the net. He had arrived in 1937 mainly to help with the Maths but also to raise the standard of soccer and, as a result, the 1st XI was very successful In the Inter-Schools Competition in Liverpool and District. As Rowland was to soccer, so I was to cricket. In 1939, the Captain of the 1st Cricket XI was Arthur Jackson. Our first match was versus Old Swan Technical College whom we beat to the great joy of Arthur - "Our first victory after two years!". After the war, under Neville Halt, we were able to beat cowley, home and away, and I still have the score sheet when Brereton and Nicholson swept Cowley out for 62 runs!

Miss Huckle, 'Nanny', was the main teacher in the Prep Department which disappeared in 1948. I have fond memories of some of the pupils; Capper, Preist, Vick, Michael and Noel Hawthorne. In 1938, I took the Second Form for two periods of French to mate up my timetable and the only way I could get Capper to speak in French was to bribe him with a sweet. When I told Kiss Huckle, she was horrified. It was good fun to take the juniors for Football and Cricket. I can still see Alan A'Court on the left, Rees Oakes in the centre and G. Smith on the right, running up the field with the ball at their feet. Alan's feet were permanently turned in with dribbling! With the juniors at cricket, I bowled most of the time and made sure that the rabbits made a run to relieve their boredom and fear of being hurt.

In 1938, there were two visiting members of staff, Mr Norman Bell and Mr Cedrlc Fennell, (Charlie). Mr. Fennell taught Woodwork for three days a week and Mr Bell taught Art for two days. In the staff room, Norman used to organise displays of art done by the seniors, having the knack of getting the best out of the interested older boys. Mr. Fennell managed to get some good work out of unwilling performers of average ability. I used to play billiards with him at the Liberal Club and once suggested that he should let the better work be displayed in the Form Rooms under the care of the form teacher. Huyton and Harold Heaps displayed their work in Room 12 and I made sure that the class gathered round to admire the handicraft. It was a source of some regret to me that, in the expansion of the School, the Woodwork room was converted into two classrooms. I also rememberr 'Snudge' Crompton, the School secretary in 1938. He lived almost opposite the school. I have a personal interest in his successor. ('Snudge' or 'Pudge' sadly lost his life in the RAF during the war. Ed.)

I have left to the end my great friend on the Staff, Mr. E.C.Wood, 'Woody', 'Eddie' or 'Eccy'. He lived at Wolverley, No 6 Old lane, and walked to school every morning with Mr Chant and I often joined them. Woody had an engaging habit; as he went through the gate every morning and evening, be would touch the School Crest. I once asked why. he reminded me of tbe motto and said that he was always looking to the future. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone and, like Mr Scott, never put a boy in detention.

He was always supportive of any boy and showed a real interest in every pupil. It was good fun to be in Room 1 when Woody was teaching Algebra to the beginners for there were constant bangs on the wall blackboard and remarks about apples. His abiding love was bridge; I played many a time with him, his wife and his father-in-law. Bolton, to him, was the only place in the world.

He loved games, billiards, tennis and, in his later days, golf. Whene his pipe was burbling, he made good company. If I needed information, I was assured of a straight answer from him. To me, Woody was 'Mr Prescot Grammar". Such are a few random thoughts about the year 1938-39. The war profoundly changed the School. Geoff Dixon had come in 1927 and gave fifty years of service to the School as Head of English, Deputy Head, Headmaster and, finally, School Governor. Such devotion is unique in the history of PGS.

There is a line of Charles Lamb which is very relevant at the present time:-

'Gone, all are gone, the old familiar faces! '

Geoff. and I are the sole surviving renters of the pre-war Staff, of which we both have happy memories. The success of these annual reunions is ample proof that many of the old scholars , too, really believe that the phrase, "them was the days' , applies to the PGS of old.


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