The Prescotian Webzine

Alan Jones and Pat Bailie spent on afternoon with LES LYON, a senior Old Prescotian who attended the school 1920 -1926 a period which bridged the move trom High Street to the St. Helens Road premises.

In 1920 when Les entered the school, life in Prescot was vastly different from today's pattern. Although there was a flush toilet in Knowsley Hall, a fact which Les discovered in the course of his work, such luxuries were very rare in the town. Neither were many premises equipped with running water, the larger houses, pubs and commercial premises having their own wells. One such well, Les remembered was in a passage-way opposite the Wesleyan Chapel in Atherton Street. There was no main sewerage system but surface water was drained into a maze of brooks, one of the larger ones being in Market Street.

"I had been asked to do some work for my namesake, another Lyon, and a chap named Royle and in their photographic premises at the top of Market Street I found a brook running under the floor. Along Market Street it ran to Sewell Street, through the Carrs and then down Whiston Lane on its way to the Mersey."

In the middle of the Carrs, an area overgrown by a mass of blackberry bushes and used as a playgroup by the children of me town, was Jingler's Cottage. Through the undergrowth ran the brooks over which Les and his pals used to play jumping over them, 'dantering'. Old Jingler liked to have youngsters around, provided they did not interfere with his goats. A delightful old character, he also kept ducks and chickens nearby. Jingler was able to observe the goings on from one or other of the many windows of his hexagonal house. The Grammar School itself was located in the building in High Street which many years afterwards became the School Clinic. In addition, classes were held in many buildings scattered through the town.

"When I first went to PGS, my first class was IIIb and as well as IIIa, it was in the Assembly Rooms in Derby Street. They were near the Royat Hotel in a duck cobbled courtyard. The licensee of the Royal was Mr Taylor, a member of a grammar school family. The rooms were very comfortable and had high ceilings and good hardwood floors. Heating was poor, though, and we had iron stoves with 'crabs' on top. Classes IIa and IIb were in the old post office at the top of Church Street but unlike my old pal Alec Weston, I never was in either of those. Near the school in High street was another building where Miss Huckte took art classes. This later became a picture-framing shop. My favourite teacher of all time was the Head Master, Mr. Richardson - Old Man River, what a man he was - absolutely magic -1 shall never forget him - never.

School assemblies were sometimes held in he Westeyan Hall but this bunding was mostly used for singing lessons with Mr Stevenson. Incidentally, I was taught to play the piano in this building by two clear old ladies, Miss Quick and Miss Winstantey. Other teachers of the time were Miss Forshaw, Miss Milburn, Miss Huckle and another lady. Mr. Whitworth taught French- a lovely little fellow who went to France every year for his holiday. Joe Hammond was a member of staff as was Eddie Wood who became our neighbour when we lived in Sinclair Avenue.

My father was a local tenor singer and a member of the St Helens Amateur Operatic Soctety and the Good Comrades choir which was well known throughout Lancashire. About the time I joined PCS, along with another boy from the school I became a member of the Parish Church choir. Apart from other lads who attended the Higher Grade School in St Helens, everyone went to the Council School We used to hear the tales of Old Ogle who reputedly haunted the church. The church boasted the largest bible-class in the area. The vicar was Canon Lovat who was also Chairman of the Governors of the School

So that! could serve a full apprenticeship. Richie allowed me to leave school at the age of 15. Then I served my time as a Joiner with Halsalls, an 'all-hand firm where no machines were used. The brother of Mr Halsall, my employer was a governor of the school. It was usual for apprentices to be sacked immediately they finished their seven years 'time'. I was fortunate enough to remain with the firm for an extra twelve months until I was 22. Later on I completed my technical training at the Gamble Institute in St Helens. Mr Halsall had once catted me to the office where a pile of drawings was on the desk. One was of a door with a circular Hght or window in the upper part. I had to take the drawings home and study them well enough to be able to start making the door the next morning The next day I was called to the office again about 8 25am.I told Mr Halsall that the drawings seemed to be of a cycle shed with an upstairs stores. The door in the drawings was the one I was to make.

Making the door was to be a test of my craftsmanship and, of course, it had to be done without the assistance of any machinery. Mr Halsal had a collection of beautiful tools which he kept in a large chest. I had peeped into it once or twice. He said that I was to make use of any of his fine tools for making the door. The design was complicated and it had gun-stock shoulders on the stiles. The first job was to halve an 8"x2" piank - with a hand-saw -without 'going over the line'! With a variety of planes and other tools the various timbers were trued, mortised and shaped and I finished the task in about four days.The door was satisfactory and so Mr. Halsall made me responsible for the complete job of building the cycle shed. I was allowed to choose two apprentices and one labourer to assist me. The labourer, an old man, used to cook his whole dinner in a tea can. When this was discovered by the school, a meal was provided for him each day.

On our first day, a Monday, we arrived on the site at about 8.40am with our hand-cart all ready to mark out the building. From the school came Mr Richardson himself. His great roar silenced the playground, "Quiet ! Quiet, boys. Attention!" I was delighted when he introduced me to the boys as 'Mr Lyon' and not 'Lyon II. ''This is one of our Old Boys and he is going to build us a cycle shed and sports store. We will now give him a warm welcome."

It was the only time in my life that I had three cheers Every day he came to note progress and make comments. When the shed was finished I went to work on Richie's home, Yew Tree House, at the corner of the sports field. Much later in my career, after war service andwhen I had been appointed Divisional Supervisor of Works in the Department of the County Architect, I was responsible for the building of the new chemistry laboratory and later still I was involved in the building of the present school in Knowsley Park Lane. I think I had about twenty-three Clerks of Works at that time.

At school with me, I remember Harry Harding, Reg Bean, Lionel Pode, Jack Foster, Jimmy Jackson. Tommy and Ralph Topping, Alan Wainwright and Dennis Wainwnghl (eventually an orthopaedic surgeon). I did my military training with the Black Watch with two PGS boys, Arthur Edge and Jack Foster. Among my memories are the seven a side soccer tournaments and I played in the final one year. I was usually a full back but I was put in goal. Richie was behind the goal and every time I was attacked the Old Man would bellow."Cool it. Lyon Cool it " When he had said this a few times I told him that I was already frozen stiff and he laughed his head off. My sergeant-major in the Black Watch had a voice which was just like Richie's and he also made the same clackety sound on the ground with his amminition boots like Richie had done years before. Richie would have made a smashing sergeant-major. "

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