The Prescotian Webzine

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Being a local “townie” in Prescot, one of the most striking impressions I had in my first year (1936) was the cosmopolitan structure of the school.

At that time, we scholarship boys were a small minority. Probably 90% of pupils were fee-paying and were sons of farmers, professionals, shopkeepers and managers in industry, both large and small.The full complement was about 280 boys. It puzzled me, at first, that there was such a large catchment area. I came to the conclusion that PGS must have had a commendable reputation as a Seat of Learning.

We had a sizeable contingent from Moss Bank – a smaller one from Rainford, a fair sized group from Rainhill, not forgetting the Gornall brothers from Cronton.  The smallish collection from Kirkby Moss and Knowsley were allowed to cycle through Lord Derby’s estate, emerging from the Park at about 8.45 a.m. via the now-disappeared St. Helens Road lodge to mingle with the cyclists from Eccleston, approaching from Burrows Lane.

Then the gaggle from the St. Helens direction such as the Parr brothers from Toll Barr; the Bone brothers from Eccleston Hill and the Connah twins from just off Eccleston Hill.

Finally, the Eccleston Park-ites with their slight display of superiority because their postal addresses were arguably the best round the town. On the other hand, a party came on the train from Roby and Huyton to Prescot Station and walked up Station Road, Aspinall Street and St. Helens Road.  I and one or two friends, would link up with this group.  As we crossed from Chapel Street to the kings Arms (whoops – I think it’s now called the Fusilier) a No.10 tram might be arriving from the Liverpool direction.  It would disgorge a large number of boys and the crocodile now formed would engulf us as we made our way down St. Helens Road.

The length of this procession was sprinkled with a leavening of masters like currants in a cake mix. School caps were hastily taken from school satchels and placed precariously on small heads. This was a time when Brylcreem was becoming an “In” thing for developing teenagers but school caps did not sit too well on thick wavy hair bolstered with the greasy dressing. The remaining 5/10 minutes to the School gates was spent in sly, shifty glances to see if the sprinkling of masters had noticed the subterfuge.

As I recall, the only master to report to the Head, the non-wearing of a school cap (it was a year or two later) was “Fanny” Stevenson.

In the early and mid Thirties, the huge overspill estates from Liverpool were built at Dovecot, Longview, Stockbridge and Hillside. Within a year or two, the School started to have a steady influx from these estates and the Liverpool accent made itself heard. Yes, cosmopolitan was an apt description of the school population.

In my first year, I remember with affection, the sight of “Old Richy” steaming round the corridors of the Quad like a China Tea Clipper under full sail, his gown billowing out behind him, his stiff starched Eton-type collar appearing to choke him which induced a deepening red neck and face. Padding along behind him was his dog, which looked huge to a young schoolboy probably because it was huge – a grey coloured Irish Wolfhound type, but I stand to be corrected.He would come striding round the corridors, dart into a form room and listen to the lesson for ten minutes or so. The dog subsided like a large beanbag cushion on to the floor at the front of the class. “Old Richy” would depart as abruptly as he had arrived, much to the apparent disgust of his dog that would have preferred a much longer “Time-Out” to rest his aching bones. Continuing his progress round his “manor” he would make a visitation to some other classroom.

A gifted man, he really understood the needs and problems of schoolboys. For example, a friend and I were kicking a tennis ball about on the grass when “Richy” passed on his way home.  He turned and asked if we liked apples.  He bade us follow him and as we passed through the gate into his orchard, he told us to stretch out our jerseys and fill them with as many apples as we could carry and get off home.  I got between 15 and 20 and the weight was considerable and such that it did the shape of my jersey no good at all.

Sadly “Old Richy” retired that summer to Driffield in Yorkshire. The arrival of his successor was like a wet fish across the month.

A pseudo public school bachelor with his mother in tow. “Old Richy” was everything “Piggy” Briggs was not and never would be. Looking back now, it occurs to me that the reason I/we took such a jaundiced view of “Piggy” was that we had known better and could make comparisons. Several years later, when one could talk on equal grown-up terms with members of Staff, I learned from one of them, that “Piggy” wasn’t exactly flavour of the month in the Staff Room either. Later generations who only experienced “Piggy” would probably take a more tolerant view.

Briggs quickly set about planning to change things. For instance, all four Houses eagerly anticipated the Founders Day football match in October. Sets of goal posts were erected on the fields through the hedge so that the game was played ACROSS two normal pitches. Alpha and Kappa Houses versus Lambda and Omega. Umpteen balls (eight I think) were tossed into the fray – remember well over 200 boys were taking part.  The sharpshooters on each side clustered round the Opposition goalposts and belted them in as fast as the appointed masters, acting as scorers, could count them.  Of course, the reverse was happening at the other end of the pitch. After a fast and furious hour or so letting off steam, we were told we could go home now and have the rest of the day off.

Of course, “Piggy” who had never before in his life kicked anything but an errant schoolboy or passing stray cat, soon planned to modify Founders Day and subsequently, I’m told, introduced a march from School to Prescot Church for a Founders Day Service then back to school.

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