|MEMORIES OF MY TIME AT BURNLEY TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL 1959 - 1966
|Ah, the sixties! The decade of free love. Somehow I must have been asleep and woken up when
it was all over!
I suspect I'm not the only one who missed it all.
For me it was the decade of Burnley Technical High School (also known incorrectly as Towneley School). Lucky us - the only mixed secondary school in Burnley - how many of us deliberately toned down our 11 plus efforts so we wouldn't have be dragged screaming to the single-sex Grammar or High Schools? It was the first time the 11 plus had included multiple choice examination papers and somehow I must have blindly put enough crosses in the right boxes to avoid Barden. (If in doubt always put C). My parents were thrilled and somewhat surprised - I was dumbfounded and got a new racing bike, so that was ok!
After surviving the "cuffing" of the first day, which seemed to last well into the 2nd year for those poor frostbitten individuals who were still wearing short trousers, life at Towneley settled into a pleasant routine. The "wonderful" school dinners, bettered only by the miniature Hovis loaves from the shop across Fulledge and the diversion into Fitzpatricks for a "Hop Bitter" at the end of the school day.
But the girls - ah the girls - Lesley Winter, Ann Hamer, Daphne Cowell, Susan Lacy - the list goes on. Enough to encourage even the most reticent scholars to rise from the relative security of a warm bed each morning and face the frantic school bus riots, neurotic bus conductors, and double French with "Fifi". At this point you just knew that Towneley was the right choice to prepare you for the world outside! Spare a thought for the poor sods at the Grammar School - "there but for the grace of God", and the good fortune to get just enough questions wrong on the 11 plus exam to ensure you didn't end up at the Grammar School or Barden.
Remember the school dances? I'm still trying to forget them! Spending untold hours in the bathroom, nearly passing out from the heady aroma of aftershave, and the smell of singeing hair from overenthusiastic use of the hair dryer. All that pain so we could stand about in small groups all evening trying to look "cool" and evaluating the local pop group to cover up the fact that we were too shy to ask any of the girls to dance. Somehow, after all that, we went home happy!
The annual prize giving, the endless hours practicing the school hymn - "To God Eternal" - I still know it and have been trying for years to forget it. And yes, once again, aftershave and singed hair!
Derwent Bank trips- dragged, soaking wet, up endless mountains and then holding illicit drinking and gambling sessions in our rooms, late into the night, after the compulsory country dancing. Sixth form "courts", shove ha' penny, brag, Bob Dylan mania, midnight hikes over Widdup Moor, table tennis in the assembly hall, smoking and bridge in the sixth form common room, formulating a list on the blackboard of every pub in Burnley, and a beer with the chemistry teacher in the Big Window - we had a proper education in those days.
The practical physics lessons with Alan Lawson, one involving Barry Robinson driving up and down Towneley Holmes at breakneck speed with his horn blaring in order to demonstrate the Doppler Effect. Or standing miles away on Towneley Holmes playing fields with a clapper board, whilst others stood outside the school with a stopwatch, to work out the speed of sound.
How technology has moved on!
Finally, there was the rocket design team - myself, Robert Bichard, Trevor Duxbury, Mike Worsdall and the final glorious day on Widdup Moor when our 3 foot monster took to the skies - and exploded. Using the chemistry lab for preparation could have resulted in expulsion but we felt untouchable in those days. I suppose nowadays we'd all be hauled in as terrorists. Somehow we all seemed to turn out as normal psychopaths (exactly what "normal" means I'm not sure). I once had a long debate with Lesley Winter on its meaning, she won the argument. She always won, it was my way of trying to endear myself to her - it didn't work.
Outside of school most of the time was taken up rock climbing with John Greenbank, Philip Anforth, Peter Clegg and Alan Lawson, with frequent hair raising trips to the Lake District in the back of a minivan. Any remaining spare time was spent with Burnley Young Liberals - I'm not sure whether I had a real political leaning or whether I was more interested in the secretary and the conferences at Blackpool. I do, however, remember pulling a horse around Burnley with David Anforth on its back whilst he was canvassing to be a town councillor - he didn't win and so emigrated to Canada. Such is the price of failure in politics!
1966 was the year most of us left to be let loose on an unsuspecting world (I believe that year is also noted for some minor football event). We all went our separate ways, but not before Mike Worsdall and I finally managed to get one of our songs recorded by The Pendlefolk (the recording session was in the elegant surroundings of the Stordy Swiss Roll factory at Nelson), and played on Radio Blackburn. 40 years later I found a copy of that album in the window of Electron Records in Burnley valued at £30- fame at last!
© Copyright: Colin Ormston 2012