BIRKENHEAD SCHOOL For All The School Community . Pupils . Staff . Parents . Old Birkonians . Friends . Visitors
Senior Prizegiving P34 - 37
Prep children in their distinctive sun hats enjoy the summer weather
NW Young Scientists of the Year Pages 10 and 16
See pages 6 and 18
CCF Pages 22 and 23 See page 28
BS had an outstanding Saturday against local cricketing rivals Kingâ€™s School, Chester. In seven fixtures played, Birkenhead won five, tied one and only lost the U13B game. There were victories for the 1st XI, Under 15s, U14s and U12 A&B teams, whilst the U13 A team drew. It was a particularly important result for the U12A team as it was their Cheshire Cup quarterfinal.
Art and D&T Exhibition Pages 15, 24 and 25
See page 26
OB Bulletin From page 38
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
On Monday 4 March, our U15 squad plus a number of U13 and U14 players travelled to London in preparation for the Lacrosse Nationals the following day. We left after school and had a long but comfortable trip to London, the excitement building with talk of the Nationals and, of course, the all-important ‘who am I sharing a room with’ question! On arrival at the hotel the girls changed into comfortable clothes from their team uniform and we had a mini team meeting before bed. The day finally arrived. LACROSSE NATIONALS!!! We arrived at the venue and the girls warmed up in preparation for their first game against Haberdashers’ School. The girls hit the ground running and sailed through their first game with some lovely scores from Annabel Saverimutto, Connie Sturgess and two from Lucy Rogers to result in a 4-0 win. With a rather long break between the first two matches, the girls seem to lack a little focus at the start of the next game against Benenden School but nevertheless won 3-2 with a fantastic effort from all the defence and goal scorers - Phoebe James (1) and Annabel Saverimutto (2). The turning point Having reflected on their performance against Benenden School, the girls realised that this was going to be a hard and very physical competition. For their third and fourth games the girls went out and improved and progressed massively in each game, beating both Bolton School and Cheltenham Ladies College 3-0, with scores from Phoebe James (1), Annabel Saverimutto (4) and India Wild (1). The fifth and final game of the tournament was for the top of our group. We played Walthamstow School and, through a tremendous performance from all the girls, especially Sophie Dolan-Jones in goal, we won 5-2 with four goals from Annabel Saverimutto and one goal from Phoebe James. However, it was not to be... We played Haberdashers ‘A’ team in the quarter finals and unfortunately lost this 2-3, though with some fantastic scores from Lucy Rogers and Annabel Saverimutto. The girls were heartbroken but never stopped fighting until the final whistle. In the end Walthamstow School, whom we had already beaten 5-2 in the group stages. Although it was frustrating, it proved to the girls that they had the talent and ability to win the National Championships. As a teacher, I have never been so proud of a team of girls with such team spirit and commitment. They have proven to all the Schools that attended the Nationals that Birkenhead School is a massive Lacrosse playing school and we will continue to represent the North West with our talents. I would like to thank Mr Paul Bibby for umpiring and for all his contributions to the team over the last year, to Miss Carina Walsh for coaching the girls and finally to the girls themselves for all the commitment and effort they contributed over the year. You are all winners in my eyes! N Gilbride
Inset: Oscar performing at the BS Jazz Night. Earlier this year Oscar Ratnaike (U6th) attended national auditions held by the National Youth Music Theatre in Liverpool. The audition took the form of workshops split into 3 areas of one-hour each of singing, dancing & acting. From thousands of applicants, Oscar was successful and has been chosen along with 35 others to be in the musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ at The Rose Theatre, Kingston-upon-Thames in London. (Approximately 3000/4000 young hopefuls audition across England, Scotland and Wales each year for only a couple of hundred places in the 6 to 8 projects put on each summer which vary from musicals to film and dance.) Oscar spent three days of the half-term break (in between revising for A levels!) in Fareham at a casting workshop where he was chosen to play the role of Herbert Pocket, the hero Philip Pirrip’s (Pip) wise and staunch friend. The cast of 36 will spend the majority of August living and rehearsing in London before they perform four nights and two matinees from 29 August to 1 September. Oscar will be living in Kingston University near the theatre and working with the cast in very intense 9am9pm rehearsals with two 20-minute breaks and an hour for lunch and dinner. As well as a wonderful experience and a ‘Great’ addition to his c.v., Oscar will also attain a national distinction award grade 8 in the Trinity Guild Hall Certificate in Musical Theatre. This is equivalent to an A* at A level and helps toward secure Oscar’s place at Huddersfield University to study Drama. Ed Sheeran is a Patron and previous performer in the YMT scheme. Other Patrons include James Bourne, Jean Diamond, Peter Duncan, Zoë Wanamaker and John Whittingdale MP.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
The Year 8 pupils visited Malham at the end of May to study the landforms of a Carboniferous Limestone landscape and to assess the impacts of tourism upon the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Despite very strong winds and some heavy showers, the pupils succeeded in completing all of their objectives and enjoyed a very productive day in an area of stunning countryside.
1 Photos: 1. 8REL study river processes at a meander 2. Gordale Beck 3. Limestone pavement above Malham Cove 4. Gordale Scar 5. Dry stone wall and strip lynchets 6. Mr Blain and pupils eat lunch and shelter from the winds.
Year 9 pupils visited Southport on 22 May to carry out questionnaire surveys and to assess the variations in environmental quality and patterns of land use within an urban area. SM Gill, Head of Geography Photos: 1. Environmental quality survey 2. Queen Victoria is not amused by Lewis Astbury! 3. Year 9 girls interview an elderly dog!
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
In May, Miss Yukiko Ayres gave a Japanese calligraphy workshop to a group of Year 6 pupils. Yukiko began to learn calligraphy when she was 6 years old and was taught by one of the most revered of Japanese calligraphers Koushou Yashiro (who is a great grand-pupil of Meikaku Kusakabe, the founder of modern Japanese calligraphy). Since coming to live in London, Yuki’s reputation has grown both here and abroad. That evening, she again demonstrated her art for the audience at a recital by renowned Japanese pianist Norika Ogawa, performing in one of this year’s Two Rivers Festival concerts In Prep, Yuki taught the children how to construct the brush strokes to create words, emphasising the importance of good posture in order to be able to hold the brush at the correct angle. Finally her pupils were able to take home their names which they had written in Japanese calligraphy.
On a freezing October morning, the first leg of the Annual County Lacrosse tournament was held at Harrogate Ladies’ College, Yorkshire. The Cheshire A squad was ready to go, albeit slightly anxious as this tournament would be the first time Shropshire were playing against us, as well as the regular counties Yorkshire and Lancashire. After a nail-biting start Cheshire A drew 5-5 with Shropshire, which, being the first time we'd played them, was a good result. After this match we woke up and narrowly beat Lancashire in our next game 8-7, then winning comfortably against Yorkshire, 10-6, which was a great accomplishment as Yorkshire had always been Cheshire's main rivals in these tournaments. Nonetheless Cheshire U15 A squad had come away champions! All matches were hard fought, and there were some great goals from Phoebe James, Lucy Rogers, and India Wild, assisted by Connie Sturgess, Alice Gollins and myself. The second leg of the tournament has been cancelled due to weather; therefore, I not only had the privilege of captaining the Cheshire A squad, but captaining the team that won the County tournament, as the results from the first leg of the tournament decide the winners! Congratulations to everybody who played in the tournament and thanks for making my last year of Cheshire U15s so memorable! I am also honoured to say I was selected to play for Cheshire U18 A squad and North of England A squad! We are all hoping for better weather and more success next season! Captain Millie James,10SG
What an exciting day! Pre-Prep, Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 excitedly got changed and ready for Sports Day 2013. Walking in groups and taking their places on the field, the children got increasingly giddy about what lay ahead. Waiting patiently for their races, Year 1 and 2 watched intently as PrePrep and Reception completed their first races. With Pre-Prep having 11 groups in each race, all the children were fully involved and participated fantastically, supporting all the children who took part. The running, obstacle and novelty races in Reception and Year 1, were enjoyed immensely as were the sprint league races in Year 2. The relay race in Year 2 provided the ultimate competition as all the children took part in a closely run event. Well done to all the children in Pre-Prep and Little School who all should be very proud of how they did. A Hendry
We arrived at King’s School, Chester, on a bright afternoon in April. We were raring to go. The team from Chester appeared confident and self-assured before the match, clearly not aware of what they were letting themselves in for! By half time, the confidence had turned to bewilderment, and they looked as shocked as if they had faced Lionel Messi for 45 minutes! King’s were first into bat and the combination of accurate bowling from Abi with Molly at backstop linking with Rebecca and then Jess at first base, restricted them to only three rounders in the first innings. There was excellent support in the field from Mairead and Jaime at 2nd and 3rd base and from Emily and Maddie in the outfield. Then it was time for us to bat and this was when Birkenhead really got going, with a succession of full rounders. The highlight came from an enormous strike by Jess that would have graced an American baseball stadium! Also completing full rounders were Jaime and Molly. With the score standing at 11-3 at the end of the first innings, the only question was the size of the winning margin. The second innings was a little closer, but Birkenhead edged it to extend their lead to 16 1/2 - 7, with overall an excellent team performance. We would all like to thank Mrs Sewell for making this event possible and for all of her encouragement and coaching. Rebecca Nicolson, Year 6
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Jack Breheny (6MS) and Toby Brown (6HS) played in the Lymm U11 side that succeeded in winning the Cheshire Cup this year in the tournament held at Winnington Park RFC on 21 April. After beating Wirral, Northwich, Parkonians, Chester A and Bowden, Lymm beat Sandbach in the final by 2 tries to 0. Jack and Toby also enjoyed success as winners at this year’s York Festival and joint winners at the festival held at Vale of Lune. The boys and Lymm have now won the Cheshire Cup for three successive years, without conceding a try in any of the competitions. Jack and Toby also won the Cheshire Cup at U7 level, making it four wins in the last five years. Toby Brown and Jack Breheny, Year 6.
Congratulations to Max Shah and James O'Neill who have been selected to take part in the Salters’ Chemistry camps this summer at the University of Nottingham and the University of St. Andrews respectively. These 3-day residential events at universities up and down the United Kingdom provide hands-on practical chemistry and demonstrations and give participating students the chance to experience life on campus. The Salters’ Company was licensed in 1394 and had its origins in the salt trade in Medieval London. The Company is ranked 9th in the order of precedence of the Great Twelve Livery Companies or Guilds. These Twelve have been part of the social and commercial fabric of Europe for over 600 years and were originally founded to protect the interests of various trades and its practitioners. Livery Companies flourish in London today as charitable patrons and guardians of history, as well as performing an important role in the governance of the City of London. M Hayward, Head of Science
The dark is the shadow of mythical beasts, The dark is spirits consuming innocent lives, The dark is spirits with the intention of asphyxiating me to a painful, cruel death, The dark is where creatures lure their prey, The dark is where death grabs your heart and drains your soul from your mortal body, The dark is angry immortal beings raising your adrenalin The dark is Satan jeering at you, The dark is an eternal vortex of pain, The dark is chains jerking your mortal body to the underworld, The dark is where the end of the street begins, The dark is fear itself, The dark is an endless nightmare trying to maul my sanity into shreds The dark is… Lewis Ng 7SES
Sara Mason joined us three years ago from Plessington School. We will m i s s h e r enormously when she moves to London to teach full time in the English department at Godolphin and Latymer School. She is so good at her job: efficient, calm, hard-working and kind she has made a real impression here with pupils and staff. In the department we rely on her accuracy and precision with regards to marking coursework and exams - she is spot on. She also updated our webpage, organised an epic trip to see Phantom of the Opera, helped with a residential trip to London and helped with Rotary Youth Speaks. There are too many reasons to mention here exactly why we will miss her but mention must be made of how generous she has been with her time and care of all pupils here at Birkenhead. We wish her well and hope she is happy in London. A McGoldrick, Head of English
Senior Choristers, leaving this summer, prepare to light Chinese lanterns in the grounds of Old School House after their last service of Choral Evensong in School Chapel. Photo left to right: Chris Morris (Medicine), Jamie Russell (Architecture, Liverpool University), Marco Galvani (Music Queen’s College, Oxford. He has also been offered a Choral Scholarship at the same college) and Matthew Rogers (Law, St John’s College Cambridge, and a Choral Scholarship at Jesus College, Cambridge).
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
On Thursday 23rd May, Year 2 travelled around the Wirral and Liverpool on different types of transport. Firstly an old fashioned bus picked us up at school and took us to the tram stop at Woodside. Here a tram took us on to the Wirral Transport Museum where we learnt all about buses, trains and cars. Then it was onto the Mersey Ferry, Snowdrop, for the journey to Pier Head. Luckily the sea wasn’t too rough on the way over. After looking at different types of transport at the Liverpool Museum, including Chris Boardman’s bike and Gold Medal, the winds had picked up and the 40 minute return journey was choppy! The waves splashing against the windows on the lower deck caused much amusement! After such an exhausting day, the old bus chugged along to take us back to School. Mrs Hendry, Mrs Mills and Miss Harris.
Photo top right: Aggie Boardman, Year 2, points out her father’s name. Photo above: Chris Boardman’s bike
Members of the first ever 1st VII BS Netball team with their coaches, Mrs Alford-Swift and Mrs Salter, at the recent Leavers’ Ball. The team also went on the first ever Girls’ tour to Barbados in 2011. Photo L to R: Alice Hancock, Louise Alford-Swift, Sara Salter, Georgia Lamb, Charlotte Lytollis, Emily Subhedar and Georgina Sudderick.
The Blackpool Zookeeper Academy is a 10-week course that allows potential vets, zoologists and zookeepers to gain valuable hands-on experience and education with the animals in the zoo. Each week 11 of us spent the morning learning about the animals of the day, before going out into the zoo to work with them. Over the 10 weeks in Blackpool we worked with over 20 species of animals, from handling and feeding Ring Tailed Lemurs to researching Western Gorillas to cleaning out Asian Elephants. The course was an amazing opportunity and definitely one that should be taken by anyone interested in a career with animals. Ed Stott (U6th)
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Standing L to R: Martin Roden, Annabel Saverimutto, Phil Armstrong, Tom Brand, Mark Turner, Nick Corran, Niamh Gilbride, Mike Hayward, Duncan Hendry, Louise Alford-Swift, Dave Edmunds, Lucy Rogers. Kneeling L to R: Richard Halpin, Yasmin French, Sara Williams, Natalie Crawford, Miles Pillow. Photo: Olivia Wimpenny
And so the gauntlet was thrown down, a challenge from the Prep staff to the Senior School staff to a game of netball. Who would win? Miss Crawford organised her colleagues and began weekly training sessions; Mr Hendry chose his team carefully. Unfortunately, many potentially outstanding players would be unavailable owing to a Year 8 trip. Nevertheless, he began a structured fitness programme for his ‘willing’ volunteers. As we broke up for half term and children headed home, a small band of elite athletes were warming up in the Sports Hall. Mr Roden put on a sweater, Mr Edmunds stood by the radiator. On the day, the Prep team were supported by two young
Hendrys complete with pompoms but, despite their enthusiastic encouragement from the side-lines, the first quarter ended all square at 4 – 4. As the game progressed, however, the fact that the combined age of the Prep staff was half that of those representing the Senior School began to take its toll, with the Prep eventually winning 12-7. Many thanks to all the staff who stepped up and a special mention to Olivia Wimpenny, Annabel Saverimutto and Lucy Rogers who umpired and kept control of an ever-soslightly unruly bunch. D Hendry * Stop Press: The honour of the staff in Seniors was salvaged on the last day of term with a victory at Rounders.
Congratulations to Ashley Watkins in Year 9, who has been chosen for the Cheshire U14s squad and to Year 7 student Dan Cooke, who will play for Cheshire U12s. Ashley is an allrounder and Dan a batsman and wicketkeeper. Ashley said: "I was very happy when I received the letter telling me I had been selected and it was a proud moment. I don't really have a cricket idol but I would definitely like to play for a living, for Lancashire ideally.”
Dan added: "I'm excited to have been chosen to play for Cheshire County. We will be training each Thursday and then have games every two weeks, playing against teams from across the country. It's my dream to play for England and Yorkshire but for now I will enjoy playing with my School teams and for Cheshire County." They are both very good cricketers, training and playing regularly at the school. Ashley, although only 13, is already in the first team, playing with and against boys much older than him. They had to go through Advanced and then Excellence courses with Cheshire through the winter and spring before being selected to play during the summer term. They will now play a range of fixtures against other county cricket teams which will be a great experience for them. Birkenhead School has an excellent pedigree of talented young cricketers but it still takes an extra something to go on to play at county level. Birkenhead School has built up a good relationship with Cheshire County Cricket Club, with the club running a range of courses and training sessions throughout the year at BS The Cheshire squad trains at Birkenhead School every week during the winter, using the School’s indoor nets.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
I entered a competition with Etihad Airlines. I had to design the livery for one of their airbuses. My design was the winning entry for my age group and I won a free holiday for my family to visit India. During February half term we visited my relatives and had a wonderful time! Harrie Jacob 4R
On Thursday 21 March the High-5 netball team went to Wirral Grammar School for Girls where we competed in a tournament. Our team included Abi Saverimutto, Jess Hindle, Molly Rogerson-Bevan, Ellie Simpson, Lucy Mayers, Jamie Stanton and our three boys Toby Brown, Adam Durband and Noah Lawrenson. First Game We warmed up with a quick jog and a half-court practice match. Then Mrs Sewell called us to get ready to play St Werburgh’s School and we were off! The first centre pass was a success with Abi passing to Lucy, then another good pass over to Jaime, and on to Jess, who scored, making it 10. After that, we intercepted their poor centre pass and we got the ball over to our D. Abi passed to Jess and we took a few shots, but Jess finally scored making it 2-0. The whistle blew and it was half time, when we all rotated our bibs around. We carried on in the next half when Abi and Molly shared a fantastic 4 goals. By the time the full-time whistle went, it was 6-0 to us. A very successful first game. Second Game After the first game, our confidence levels were high and, of course, we were determined to win the second match. We found out we were playing Poulton Lancelyn. We ran on court and were slightly intimidated by how tall the team were, but that didn’t stop us getting the ball into our goal third with a nice pass from Adam to Lucy, who took a few tries but finally got it in the net for a clean goal. When the whistle blew, we were slightly disappointed that we had only scored one goal. Straight in to the second half, we scored another goal making the final score 2-0. Another easy win! Third Game After winning our first two matches, we were on a roll. Before
the third game, Mrs Sewell gave us a confidence-boosting pep talk and the next thing we knew, we were on court for a match against Higher Bebington. Unfortunately, it was their centre pass and their ball... but not for long as Toby cleverly intercepted a loopy pass and the ball was soon in Jaime’s hands. On the first attempt, she got it in the net making the score 1-0 . We managed to score another amazing goal in the first half. Then the half time whistle blew. Straight into the second half, Molly and Abi worked together to get two more goals, making the final score 4-0. After our 3 wins, we went inside to await the electrifying results. We had just found out that the Pool A winners were Stanton th Road. Then our Pool B results were in. Would we be 4 or 3rd or 2nd?! No! We had come first in our Pool! But it was not over yet because we had still to play Stanton Road in the final and by the look of it, we were in for a tough game! The Final Mrs Sewell decided on our positions for the final rotation before she umpired the game. It was our centre pass and straight away Adam got under the net and, after a few attempts, scored, making it 1-0. Then Lucy intercepted the ball superbly just before Stanton Road got it in their goal third. From this, Jess got another goal, making it 2-0. After half-time, it was our centre pass and Molly and Abi got straight into the D and Abi scored, making it 3-0. Molly went on to score a further 3 goals, making the final score 6-0 and we won the tournament! Some days later, we found out that we were through to the county finals representing Wirral at the Merseyside School Games in July. We would like to thank the team for trying so hard and Mrs Sewell and Miss Crawford for making it possible to take part in this event.
Molly Rogerson-Bevan and Ellie Simpson 6HS
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
After the success of previous years’ Jazz Nights, earlier this year Birkenhead School Jazz Band dusted off their instruments, picked up their sheet music and played their socks off to an audience of nearly two hundred. Amongst the highlights were performances from numerous talented Sixth Form soloists, a couple of songs from BarLine and even a return from a former student, Gwilym Jones, on the drums. Organised by Chris Morris, Luca Galvani and Sarah Bibby, the night was undoubtedly a success, with the Sixth Formers making the event as suitable for a range of audiences as possible; people of all ages filed through the doors on that Saturday in their finest black tie attire, readying themselves for a night of entertainment. They were not to be disappointed. Entertainment was what they came for, and that was exactly what they got! The night, which was subject to Nick Gill of the Upper Sixth’s hilarious ‘compèreship’, kicked off with a first half that was mainly filled with the work of the Jazz Band itself, along with the excellence that was the saxophone quartet. Throughout this half of the evening, it became very obvious that the work of Mr Alan Davies, computer boffin and Systems Manager, is very prominent within the musical goings-on at School. The end of the first half came almost too quickly, and guests were invited to help themselves to chicken korma and chocolate cake, helped along by members of the Sixth Form who had volunteered themselves as ‘waiting staff’ from nothing less than the goodness of their hearts and a strong community spirit. The second half of the evening kicked off with a bang, with Jamie Russell belting out Adele’s ‘Skyfall’, followed by the first of two brilliant performances from Rebecca Davies. Amidst more performances from the Jazz Band and the Saxophone Quartet, Tom Gibbs, Luca Galvani, Tom Jarvis, Oscar Ratnaike, Chris Morris and Amy Naylor all took the opportunity to display their talent in spectacular fashion. Particular credit has to be given to Jamie Russell and Oscar Ratnaike, having both given encores for their performances; Oscar’s actually being on the spur of the moment! The entire evening was in aid of a children’s orphanage in Mongolia, triggered by the response of those who had been on the World Challenge expedition, as well as the Kanti Children’s Hospital in Nepal which has a special place in the hearts of the Birkenhead School community. Having visited the Mongolian children, many of those who had been on the expedition were horrified by the conditions that they had grown up in, as well as making strong bonds with these children. Our students therefore felt compelled to help them in any way that they possibly could. Jack Walker was particularly affected by this issue, and gave a speech to conclude the evening, really pulling at the audience’s heartstrings and making them feel that the entire evening had been doubly worth it. Despite being regarded as a biennial occurrence, the decision to have a Jazz Evening two years in a row is certainly not one that was regretted; the entire night was thoroughly enjoyed by all. In a school like ours, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how much talent there is in one small group of people, and the Sixth Form successfully managed to prove this point to the entire audience! Amy Naylor (L6th)
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
John, Mr Fox to the thousands of pupils he has taught since he joined Birkenhead School in 1990, is a man of many more talents than just his mastery of Mathematics. The first time I attended one of his Year 11 assemblies, I listened spellbound to his graphic description of a battle from the sixteenth century and the background politics to it. At least, I think it was the sixteenth century. I was never that good at history and struggled to get a grade. I think, however, that if I had had a teacher like John for History, I would have got an A*. Anyway, the story of that battle was gruesome, bloody and had us all on the edge of our seats. Just what you need to get the school day off to a great start! Up to that point, I had no idea that John was so knowledgeable about English History, besides his expertise in mathematics. But it doesn’t stop there. Since then, I’ve learned about his
80 minutes of the busy 6th Form schedule is dedicated each week to a Beyond the Curriculum slot, where students can take part in extracurricular activities, such as politics, Bursar’s Apprentices and cooking. I chose Science in the Community, which involves a 40-50-hour research project, giving talks and creating displays for the general public and for schools. Our research project this year, on how illness affected the action potential of neurons in nerves, was selected to be presented and judged at the Big Bang Fair at St George’s Hall in
Page 10 interest in British castles, his involvement in the film industry and his script and novel writing skills. But it is as a Maths teacher that he is best known and he just happens to be one of the best Maths teachers I have had the pleasure to teach with in my career. I wonder who I will go to next year when I need to find out if it’s better to use the normal or the Poisson distribution as an approximation to a binomial distribution or to find the coordinates of the point where the graph of a parametric equation intersects itself? We, in the Maths Department, will miss John Fox very much. We will miss him for his Mathematical knowledge, for the help he gives the rest of us but, above all, for the kindness and sensibility he shows toward his colleagues. I am sure his students will miss him for the same reasons. John, your friends in the Maths Department and indeed in the whole School hope you enjoy a very long, happy and, I am sure, very busy retirement. S Hope, Head of Maths Poisson Distribution
Liverpool. Every member of the research team had already received the coveted Gold Crest award. So, being the keen scientists we were, on Wednesday 26 June, Josh Bramwell, Phyllida Frostick, Oliver Sait and I set off with Mr Hayward to present our project. We were joined by Aarush Sajjid on the way there, from this year’s leaving Upper Sixth. We set up posters and a functioning copper/zinc Daniell Cell in the packed hall (over 80 stands and displays in total) and set about presenting it to both judges and other schools. We also had a look around the other displays, seeing some interesting projects such as ‘the effect of different ingredients in shampoo on the strength of hair’ and ‘growing your own clothes’. When our judging period was over, we had a quick lunch, and the awards were presented. We were awarded the ‘North West Young Scientists of the Year’ prize, which was amazing, as this was the second year in a row that Birkenhead School has received this achievement. Ed Sherrard won last year for his Comenius Research (see page 16). We are now through to the National Final in Birmingham next year, where, we will be presenting this project in our bid to become the ‘UK Young Scientists of the Year’. Special thanks go to Matt Dixon and Conor O’Sullivan from the Lower Sixth, and Harry Smethurst, Alex Watkins, and Sameer Alam from the Upper Sixth, all of whom participated in the project but were not able to join us on the day. Thanks also go to Professor Simon Frostick of the University of Liverpool for giving us an interesting lecture which provided some of the key points for our research. And now we come to the challenge of making our project bigger and better for the final... Kevin Wong, L6
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
U14 North Schools Lacrosse Championship On Thursday 7th February, a mixed U13 and U14 team travelled to Queen Margaret’s School in York for the Lacrosse North Schools Championship. It was an early departure from School and this showed it effect in the U14s’ first game against Bolton School where we lost 6-3. After a good team talk from Captain Rosie Durband and with team spirits back up, the girls went out to play Queen Margaret’s School and won 3-9. As the games, followed, we won against Harrogate Ladies College and Queen’s. This put us in second position and in the semi-final against Moreton Hall. We played the semi finals and lost narrowly by 2 goals. Moreton Hall went on to win the tournament. N. Gilbride Photo above Back Row: Phoebe James, Sophie Hatherly, Millie James, Alice Sherrard, India Wild, Gabriella Kehoe, Lucy Rogers Front row: Annie Mills, Victoria Wilkinson, Sophie Dolan-Jones, Ellie Durband (Captain), Maeve Black.
U15 Lacrosse North Schools Championship York On Thursday the 7th February 2013 the under 15s lacrosse squad travelled to Queen Margaret’s School in York. We set off from school at 6am all quiet and sleepy headed. The journey passed by and we soon approached Queen Margaret’s School. We were all excited but at the same time nervous and fired up, knowing we had been undefeated the previous two years. Our first game was against Bolton School with a winning score 3-0. I think we were relieved to have put the first game in our bag. A short break and onto our next match against Harrogate Ladies’ College with a score 4-0. We continued to play ourselves into the lead, playing schools such as Queen’s, Casterton School, and Withington School, Moreton Hall and Queen Margaret’s 1st and 2nd team, only conceding one goal against Moreton Hall. Wining all our games yet again, we retained our title!! Champions three years running! We all played our hearts out. After a short presentation it was back to the coach for a celebratory McDonalds! A huge thank you to our coach Carina, Miss Gilbride and referee Paul Bibby and not forgetting the support of the travelling parents. Captain Ellie Durband
Photo above Back Row: Georgia Varey, India Collister, Bronwen Morris, Chloe Hardisty, Bella Wild, Connie Sturgess, Nina Parkington, Annie Williams, Emily Pulford and Miss Gilbride Front row: Jessica Basnett, Alice Gollins, Rosie Durband (Captain) and Ellie Corlett.
U 14 Team talk led by Bella Wild and Captain Rosie Durband India Wild
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Whilst an extremely young and inexperienced 1st XI have had an average season by their standards, the other Birkenhead School sides have, in general, had an outstanding season. Of the five teams which play regularly each week, four have lost only one game or fewer and all, except the U15s, have not lost since the opening games of the season against Manchester Grammar School, a school which has a pool of well over 200 boys to choose from in every year group and in terms of cricket is regularly one of the top schools in the country. At the time of writing, Birkenhead have ‘whitewashed’ both AKS (the merged Arnold and King Edward VII and Queen Mary School), Blackpool, and Cheadle Hulme School, winning all six fixtures on both occasions. The Under 12s, Under 13s and Under 14s are all still in the Cheshire Cup, with only the finals to go, and the U13s are yet to lose a match, having won five and tied one of their six fixtures. At an individual level, Dan Cooke in Year 7, Annabel Mills in Year 10 and Ashley Watkins in Year 9 have all been selected to play for Cheshire, whilst Armand Rabot, Jack Corran (Year 7), Xian Filer and George Wild have played for West Cheshire U13s and Will Brewster, Luke Filer, James O’Neill, Dominic Smith and Max Shah have been selected for West Cheshire Under 15s. The success of the School’s cricketers is the result of several factors: the time and effort put in by the team coaches, the links the School has forged with the Cheshire County Cricket Board and the work of the local clubs, but perhaps more than anything the hard work and enthusiasm of the players themselves who are to be congratulated on their efforts this term. RE Lytollis, Head of Sports
Orienteering was reinstated this year with 7-strong team drawn from Years 6 to 9. Lucy Mayers, Jemima Collister, Cahan O’Driscoll and Anushri Sanjeevikumar, all from 6H joined our three senior runners - Tom Wimpenny, Tom Parkes and Armand Rabot. Juniors and Seniors have been training hard on the School campus every Thursday lunchtime over the year in order to develop their map reading and orienteering skills. They have displayed great enthusiasm and individual endeavour, as well as excellent team work. Students have participated in a series of events in the Merseyside Schools Orienteering League held across country parks in Merseyside, each event testing a series of skills, ranging from navigation in dune territory at Hightown dunes to slow technical o r i e n t e e r i n g i n w o o d l a n d a t Cahan O’Driscoll can be proud of his bronze Calderstones Park. We are proud to announce that medal and certificate. Cahan O’Driscoll in Year 6 won a bronze medal in the Primary Schools Championships held at Erdigg Estate in March. All members of the squad are very grateful to Mrs O’Driscoll and Mrs Atherton for all the support they has given both the team and Mrs Washington this year. We all look forward to the next season and to new students joining the team! MT Washington
I have been doing orienteering for three years and this year I have taken part in five events. Orienteering involves finding a series of checkpoints on the landscape using a map and a compass. There is a starting point and a finishing point and everyone is timed. If you fail to find a checkpoint, or reach them in the wrong order, you are disqualified. There are several different courses to complete, depending on your level of skill. The first level is white and the highest level of skill is dark green. You have to complete two events successfully at one colour level before you can move to the next colour level. I enjoy orienteering because it is a fun thing to do. It also teaches you new skills, such as map reading and how to use a compass. You do not have to be a great runner to enjoy orienteering because the main objective is finding all the checkpoints, which depends on your ability to use a map and compass well. Orienteering is also not as time consuming as some sports because there is just a half hour lunch meeting once a week and an event approximately once a month. Orienteering is a good, fun sport and there is a great sense of achievement when you find all the checkpoints in good time! Tom Parkes, Year 8 Above right: Tom Parkes, Armand Rabot, Cahan O’Driscoll, Mrs Washington, Lucy Mayers and Jemima Collister. Right; Running to the finish - Cahan, Jemima, Lucy.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
With the season drawing to a close, the U13 cricket team can be delighted with their performances so far. They remain undefeated to date with five victories and one draw from their six matches. Captain and opening batsman, Armand Rabot has led the way, amassing over 250 runs and averaging 84 during the season. The highlight was 92 scored against Ellesmere College, an innings which included seven 6s and eight 4s. Armand has been ably supported on the batting front by his opening partner Paul Keenan, who has averaged 59 with the bat. One of the main strengths of the side has been the wide range of bowling available to the captain and it would not be unusual for eight or nine players to ‘turn their arm’ during a game. George Wild has perhaps been the most consistent bowler and his figures of 2 for 17 off 5 overs were key to the victory against AKS (the merged Arnold and King Edward VII and Queen Mary School, Blackpool) at the start of the season. Edward Azurdia’s 2 for 22 in the same match was nearly as impressive. Both bowled exceptionally well against Cheadle Hulme in the Cheshire Cup, returning figures of 2 for 14 (George) and 2 for 11 (Edward). Other notable bowling performances include George Fraser’s 2 for 2 in 2 overs against Bluecoat School and Nikolai Baron’s 2 for 6 in 3 overs in the same game. With the Cheshire Cup quarter final in the near future and tough fixtures against King’s School Macclesfield and Merchant Taylors’ School, Liverpool, still to be played, the team must focus for the grand finale in July. RE Lytollis, Head of Games 19 June 2013
Discussing strategy before the match.
Back row L to R: George Wild, Matthew O’Hare, Chris Lansdown, Adrian Dyu, George Fraser, Paul Keenan. Front row L to R: Edward Azurdia, Daniel Evans, Armand Rabot (Captain), Nikolai Baron, Xan Filer
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Mr Rule marshals his troops In preparation for this summer’s rugby tour to Namibia and South Africa, we organised a Touch Rugby tournament to keep the boys in shape. However, having split the tourists into 5 teams, they were then told that they had to have at least 3 girls and 2 members of staff in their squad. The teams met on a sunny Friday after school and quickly got into their stride and the boys were impressed with Amy Durband’s enthusiasm for a game of ‘catch’. The rules were explained before the games commenced. In each team of 8 at least 3 of the players on the pitch had to be non-tourists (girls or staff) which made for some interesting matches. All the games were free flowing and it was good to see an early try from Charlotte Lytollis, demonstrating that the girls were not just there to ‘make up the numbers’. In fact, many of the boys were relieved it was only Touch Rugby when they saw Olivia Wimpenny’s enthusiastic approach to ‘tackling’. There were many amusing and extraordinary moments but the last ditch tap tackle from Jack Walker on Olivia, which sent her sprawling, was perhaps the highlight. Although it was all about having fun and including everyone, results were recorded and the winning team was led by Joe Doyle and included Mr Brand and Mr Corran from the Prep, as well as Sally Boffey and Grace Keenan. Other staff who played included Miss Crawford, Mrs Williams, Mr Pillow and Mr Halpin from the Prep as well as Miss Gilbride, Mr Lytollis, Mr Hendry, Mr Hayward and Mr Rule from Seniors. Mr Roden refereed. Many thanks to all involved, especially those who stepped in to referee, for an enjoyable afternoon. The event will be repeated at the beginning of October and could also include parents, if there are enough who would like to play. So, mums and dads, please dig out your trainers and I’ll see you next term! DA Hendry
The Grandmaster, Mr Lytollis, shows the youngsters how it’s done.
The rules are explained to an attentive audience
Patrick Doyle tries to find a way round Grace Keenan
Olivia Wimpenny throws Dan Walker a dummy
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Photo l to r: Annie Mills, Sophie Hatherly, Lucy Rogers, India Wild and Alice Sherrard Athletics Club on a Tuesday after school has been well attended and many athletes achieved personal bests on Sports Day.
As the big names from the 2012 Olympics, such as Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah, begin to fade from the memory, they are replaced by names such as Alice Sherrard, India Wild, Sophie Hatherly, Annie Mills, Lucy Rogers, Daniel Evans and Sam Cross. (At least in Birkenhead School they are!) These ‘Super Seven’ athletes represented the Wirral in the Merseyside Games on 8 June. Alice was 1st in the shot putt and runner up in the discus. India won the triple jump. Lucy and Sophie both reached the finals of their events, 200 and 100 metres respectively. Sam and Annie ran in the 1500 metres and Daniel in the 800 metres. As well as these superstars our athletics teams have had a successful season; both the Year 9 and 10 boys and girls teams finished a respectable 4th in the Track and Field School Cup; and in the first meet of the season, run by Wirral Athletics Club: - the Y9/10 boys were 4th, - the Y7/8 boys were 3rd, - the Y7/8 girls were runners up - and the Y9/10 girls were placed 1st. DA Hendry
Christopher Chan (Year 10) and Ethan Pang (PrePrep) both took part in the Wirral Bikeathon 2013 at the beginning of June to raise money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. Christopher cycled alongside his parents and Ethan was in his bike trailer throughout the roundtrip which covered over 13 miles across Arrowe Park Country Park, Caldy, Wirral Way, West Kirby, Hoylake Promenade, Meols Parade and Saughall Massey before returning to Arrowe Park. The family trained together for several weeks before the big day. On the day it was a very eventful, fun family day out in aid of a very worthy charity. We raised over £450 and are still expecting more sponsorship. Further sponsorship is still accepted through the family’s Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/JenNormanChrisEthan Christopher and his family would also like to say a big thank you to those who have sponsored their hard work and effort.
Ethan and Christopher with their parents.
BS’s first formal exhibition (as opposed to displays) of students’ GCSE, AS and A Level Art and Design & Technology work was held in Bushell Hall in June. The pieces chosen showed a remarkable diversity of talent and the students can be justly proud of their work. Over 90 people came to view the exhibition at its opening and, judging from the comments, were impressed with not only the work itself but the professional way in which the exhibition had been mounted. Since its recent refurbishment and the installation of the versatile event space, Bushell Hall is proving more attractive for all manner of events - concerts, displays, workshops, conferences, lectures, assemblies, drama productions, celebratory dinners, fairs and festivals. Bushell Hall is available to outside organisations for hire in School holidays and some weekends. Please contact the School Office for further information.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
In March, the U13 netball team travelled to Wirral Grammar School on what was a wet, miserable Saturday morning. However, the Wirral Schools tournament still went ahead and we warmed up for our first match against our nemesis Wirral Grammar ‘A’ team. As captain, I was very pleased to see every single member of the team having a positive attitude towards the game as Wirral are a very skilled and competitive side to overcome. There were five schools in our group, consisting of Wirral ‘A’, Hilbre, Wirral ‘D’, Plessington and Upton ‘A’. At half past nine the match against Wirral began and our team played extremely well, taking every opportunity and using it wisely. Unfortunately, Wirral were the stronger team and, with a score of 7-3, we lost our first match. After a very inspirational talk from our coach, Mrs Salter, we went into our second match, against Upton ‘A’, with our heads held high and determination spread across our faces. With the team playing at an exceptional level, we came away with an 8-0 win. This is exactly what we needed to boost our spirits for our next game against St John Plessington. To continue with our ‘winning streak’ the team made sure that we were highly consistent in our standards of play. We fulfilled our objective and won 7-3. Our form was constant throughout the tournament. We really exceeded many expectations, since, if you put it in perspective, we only have 12 girls in our year, so really we have to make the most of all the talent we have got. So to compete with schools that have 100+ girls in the year I can confidently say that we ‘punch above our weight’. Going into our 4th and 5th matches, the team were very excited and ‘up’ for the challenge that we were about to undergo. The team really pulled it together and came away with two wins against Wirral ‘D’ team and Hilbre with scores of 11-2 and 9-0. As you can guess, we made it through to the semi-finals where we played against Wirral ‘B’ team who were the winners of the other group of schools. This game was probably the most important game of the tournament as it could lead us on to the final. The first centre was ours and we used it, skilfully scoring the first goal. Wirral played very well and soon after scored an equalising goal. The match was a very close with the score 3-2 to Wirral. During the last few minutes of the game the team really gave it everything we had. The ball was carried skilfully down the court to me in the shooting ‘D’. I was in the perfect position to even the score, when the referee pulled me up for footwork (rather controversially!). The final whistle was then blown and the team were heartbroken. The team they had truly put their heart and soul into this match. We didn’t let this put us down as we had a final match against West Kirby for 3rd place. As it turned out, the team were undefeated and ended up with a well-deserved result of 8-5. The U13 netball team were truly outstanding during this tournament and I can’t express how proud I am to be its captain and witness the dramatic improvement from every single player. After the rollercoaster of emotion and sadness during the Wirral match, which we should have won, the team came away with an amazing result from a memorable day. I look forward to next season and then Wirral had better watch out!!!!!! Charlotte Cullen, Captain
Edward presenting his project at the National Finals of the Science and Engineering Gold CREST Competition. In October 2011, I was lucky enough to participate in an international research project, part of the School’s groundbreaking Comenius Project. The aim of the project was for four Sixth-Form students from BS and our partner schools in Germany and Spain to spend two weeks in Unilever’s laboratories, Port Sunlight. We were looking at organic waste and ways of extracting useful compounds from them. Chris Blencowe, Chris Fidge, Craig Fairgrieve and Dave Mealing from Unilever Research guided us through some very interesting chemistry, which we would never have the time or facilities to investigate at School. They also helped us to obtain some tangible results (tangy as well in the case of the orange peel we used!). Professor David Thornthwaite was the mastermind behind the project. He set up the experiments, making them interesting, and although complicated, they were also manageable for A Level students. Professor Thornthwaite also escorted us all over the Port Sunlight site, introducing us to members of staff in many different departments. This also helped to make the project a fantastic opportunity to see science applied for use in everyday life and it was brilliant to be given the chance to have a go ourselves. When the project ended, two of us wrote up our experiments and findings at School which I submitted to the Gold Crest North-West final of Young Scientist of the Year, which is awarded by the British Association. I was delighted to win. Following on from this, I was invited to present the project at the Excel Centre in London for the national finals in March 2013. The event attracted thousands of people, including VIPs such as David Cameron and Boris Johnson. I was honoured to present the project there. Although I wasn’t a prize winner, there was a great deal of interest in the project. Highlights for me were the talks given by Nobel Prize winners Sir Tim Hunt and Ada Yonath. I am extremely grateful to Professor David Thornthwaite and everyone else at Unilever for the opportunity to carry out research for the project at Port Sunlight, which also enabled me to contend for the Young Scientist of the Year Award. I wish future groups similar success with this unique opportunity. Edward Sherrard, U6th
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
We set off at break-time one Wednesday morning, just eleven of us, for a Classics trip we had been looking forward to for several weeks. Gathering in the car park, we were handed our packed lunches as we climbed onto the minibus, talking about where we were going and what was planned for us. We were one of seven schools attending an ‘Ancient Market Day’ at Liverpool University. We saw very few people when we eventually arrived at ‘The Civic Studio’ which had been difficult to locate and access with a minibus. Our first activity was named ‘Pompeii’ and consisted of some Latin students performing in a rather short production which raised a lot of questions. It taught us about the layout of a typical Roman house
and about the daily life of a wealthy Roman citizen in Pompeii. This linked to a topic we studied in our Year 7 Latin classes when we had analysed the home and how things differed during Roman times from today. It helped us appreciate that performing what are simple tasks today would have been much harder then because they lacked the advantage of technology, with a typical house lacking even running water and bathing facilities. The time flew by and it was soon time to move on. Our activity leader took us across the campus to our next task in the Garstang building. The Garstang building, named after the University’s major donor of ancient Egyptian artifacts, holds all of the University’s main Egyptology resources, some of which we got the chance to handle. In a room was a large round table on which some of the artifacts had been laid out. A very enthusiastic Egyptologist gave us gloves so that we could handle the objects. The one that I found the most intriguing was the canopic jar lid. This lid was in the shape of a Baboon’s head, paying tribute to the Ancient Egyptian God ‘Babi’ who was given the job of eating the wicked dead in the underworld. The lid was very well carved but was now grey. It had changed from its original white colour because of the charcoal in which it had been stored during the Victorian era. It was then time to break for a well-deserved lunch after which we were introduced to the subject of Archaelogy. We examined replica of a skeleton, later carrying out a
post-mortem looking for clues to anything that could have caused the person’s death. It was a very good introduction and showed any future archaeologists what their job would entail. The next station was named ‘Egypt’ and taught us what the preservation of a body entailed, although, I have to admit, it was a little hard to concentrate because of the noise of clunking armour and scraping swords going on behind us. This would be our next topic. But we managed to carry on wrapping up Zander, preparing him for mummification. It turns out that your treatment after death in ancient
Egypt all depended on the money that you paid people to carry out the task. You could even hire people to cry at your funeral, if you paid them enough! A short walk across to the room took us to the ‘Roman Army’ activity, which later involved one of the organizers prodding Nick with a sword, which fortunately wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds. Nick was dressed in very heavy armour. Given the average amount of kit that a Roman soldier had to carry for a day, you could understand the Nick’s painful expression as he stood holding all his gear for several minutes and the a sigh of relief when he was relieved of it. But, unfortunately for Nick, it was then time for the long walk back across the campus to our original location for the final two tasks. Here we became part of a slave market which involved Callum, James and Zander and me ‘haggling’ with a slave trader. We had to buy our friends, who were acting as slaves and had to show they could perform different useful tasks. Finally, we were given the task of writing our name in the ancient script of Cuneiform, which was much harder then it looked. We had to engrave our names into a clay tablet. There were some very good attempts (some better than others!). This was a rather relaxing end before we walked to Abercromby Square in beautiful sunshine, which was making its appearance for the first time that day, to thank all of the organisers. It was a very nice end to a very interesting and busy day. Paul Gogerty (Year 9)
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Once again this year, the Grange Country Club, Thornton Hough, was the venue for our U6th Leavers’ Ball, one of the most keenly anticipated events in our students’ social calendar. This year was certainly not to be an anti-climax, and, most agreed, surpassed all expectations, but this was hardly surprising, given that the event was organised by a hand-picked elite comprising Will Gollins, Ellie Bates, Georgia Lamb, Alex Watkins and Callum Hepton. It is difficult to imagine a collection of more devoted party animals, and they certainly knew how to throw a memorable ‘bash’. They’re modest, retiring folk, but they should be very proud of themselves for the way the evening was organised, with its impressive attention to detail from the bucks fizz in the entrance foyer to the colour coordinated balloons and tasteful table decorations. With a live and up-and-coming band, ‘Fraser’ (courtesy of the Doneo clan) and a popular DJ from ‘Faculty’ in Liverpool, the entertainment was as good as it gets. Some years it takes some doing to coax self-conscious 6th formers to get up to dance, but that was never going to be the case with this Year group; more or less everybody was up and strutting their stuff even before the starters had been properly digested. Fortunately the food was excellent, with choices of chicken or beef, toffee meringue or chocolate mousse, otherwise no-one would have dared to leave the dance floor to return to their tables. The boys were stylish and classy in their dinner jackets, and the girls looked as though they had all stepped out of a glossy fashion magazine; certainly a lot of time, planning and probably expense had gone in to the evening’s outfits. Think of ‘The Great Gatsby’ meets ‘Casino Royale’! The members of staff and their partners had scrubbed up surprisingly well too, and young and not quite so young all enjoyed the friendly, relaxed atmosphere of the Grange. The gods were kind and the weather improved by early evening, so occasionally we spilled out of the function suite to enjoy some fresh air and the odd Cuban…..(what are you like, ladies?!) There had been a ‘pre-lash do’ to get everyone in the mood (mission accomplished) and, as the Ball itself drew comfortably to its close, the students geared themselves up for the post-Ball get-together; details remain sketchy, but the word has it that it was a fun finale to a memorable night. This was one of the most successful Leavers’ Balls in recent years, and anyone who knows this Year group would not be remotely surprised to hear that. A fitting send-off to a pretty special Year.
G Hopkins, Head of Sixth Form
Photos: 1. Jack Watson, Sarah Bibby, Tash O’Neill and Ben Winskill 2. Ed Potter and Ed Sherrard 3. Jamie Russell, Georgia Lamb, Emily Subhedar and Jack Walker 4. Pippa Davies with her granddad (aka Mr Hopkins) 5. Sara Salter, Duncan Hendry, Niamh Gilbride 6. Long-serving and long-suffering Jeanette McLoughlin and Gail Hughes (of Sixth Form canteen fame) with their Uncle Dave (aka Mr Edmunds) 7. Chris Morris and Niji Daryanani 8. Becca Currall and Georgina Martin 9. Ollie Hearn and Georgia Lamb 10. Freddie Billington and Nathan Demetrios.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
The great escape!
Counting the rings. Building blocks.
Here at the Nursery we recognise the need for flexibility with the sessions that we offer. While we want to play our part in preparing our children for attending Birkenhead School full time, in our experience when children are very young, some shorter play sessions can suit the lifestyle of families more than a full day. With this in mind and in response to parental requests, we are pleased to announce that the Nursery has reintroduced part-time sessions alongside full days. We shall be offering morning sessions 8am to 12.30pm and afternoon sessions 1.30pm to 6pm. The morning session includes lunch and the afternoon session includes a light tea. For those of you considering a visit to Nursery here are a few photographs to demonstrate the fun play opportunities we provide. For details about availability please contact Mrs Helen Askew on 0151 652 4114 Photo left: Best mess yet!
Daniel Shillinglaw celebrated his magnificent score of 103 against Ellesmere College toward the end of the Summer Term. He is a member of the highly successful U14 cricket team which has recently reached the Cheshire Cup final.
Congratulations to Henry Dowd who was picked to play for the 2013 U12 North East Wales Cricket squad. After trials last December he was judged to have shown his â€˜ability and potentialâ€™ to the selectors.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
A seagull’s caw, The Rev of a chainsaw, The Oomph of a settee , The ting when you’re stirring your tea. I love noise
Alex Alman Will Brewster Ethan Clawson Ben Corlett Chris Ewart Matthew Gibbons Thomas Granby Tom Hayes Kyle Ho Sam Johnson Owen Morris David Nevin Harry Peter Charlie Robertson Callum Rooney (Captain) Henry Taylor Callum Williams Owen Willson
Photos. Above: AC Pumas and near right: Callum Rooney (Captain) & Thomas Granby (Vice-Captain) picking up the U15 League Championship Trophy.
Birkenhead School Choral Society, started 33 years ago by Graham Ellis, has been a hugely rewarding musical experience for parents, staff, pupils and friends of the School, both past and present, particularly if one has been a participant. How many amateur choirs can boast that they have performed regularly for so many years on the stage of the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall? However, costs are rising and audience numbers have fallen, and the new Director of Music Philip Robinson’s first priority is to continue to develop the range of and participation in music throughout the whole School. It has been decided, therefore, that the Choral Society will take a year off. The balance of the Birkenhead School Choral Society account (£4,200) from last December’s concert, as promised by Patricia Routledge, will be presented to Claire House. D Rushworth, Chairman BSCS
I love noise The rustle of trees, The atishoooo of a sneeze, The click of a remote, The bob of a sailing boat. I love noise Ethan Carley 7SES
The Reception playground is taking shape. Following the success of the alphabet letters last year, Sixth Form student, Tom Weller, created a piece of bespoke playground furniture, a project which was part of his A Level Design & Technology course, for the Reception children to enjoy. The design incorporates seating and planting areas whilst also providing storage. The staff and children of Reception would like to thank Tom and Mr Guinness, Head of Design Technology, for this great addition to the playground. Mrs J Mayers and Mrs G Mudge
Answers from Page 1. Electrostatics 2. Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation 3. None 4. Black hole 5. Earth 6. Education 7. Religion 8. Mathematics 9. Universe
After four trophies and five runners-up spots in seven years, and with the boys about to enter the crucial Year 11, AC Pumas have decided to quit while they're on top! This year, after retaining their League title with ease, the boys were extremely grateful to Mr Clark for allowing them to play and win their last ever game 4-0 against Heswall FC in the Wirral Youth Cup Final at the fabulous McAllester field. The team was again captained by Callum Rooney, while Thomas Granby and Owen Morris shared the League's leading goal scorer award - both with remarkable totals of 18 goals, in only 20 matches!!. With 13 out of 18, Birkenhead School provided the overwhelming majority of the successful squad. In alphabetical order the squad comprised:
The D of a car shifting gear, The waaaaaaa of a babies tear, The ccccccccc of a scratch of a blackboard, The Derrrrrr of a C-major chord.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
It must be satisfying to have a career come full circle. After attending Birkenhead School as a boy (1962-69), climbing to the top of the academic tree with an MA from Cambridge and PhD from the University of Birmingham, managing research teams in industry and travelling internationally, Will found himself back here in 1997 with us, where it all began. It is a privilege for the School to benefit from his creativity, his teaching being the ideal avenue to channel it. In addition to his regular teaching, Will has been the visionary
On Thursday 23 May, Reception visited Chester Zoo. Although it was a rainy day, our spirits were high. We began our visit with a tour around the zoo looking at savannah and rainforest animals and then attended a session looking at the classification of vertebrates. A great day was had by all. Mrs J Mayers and Mrs G Mudge
Page 21 for a lot of what is done through the Science Department’s ‘Science in the Community’, involving school science clubs and fairs. In fact, the School website included ‘Visionary’ after his name, where most of us only have a regular job title. He even managed to put ‘Science in a Box’ for use in primary schools. It is inspiring to see his pupils not sit down when they enter his room for a lesson, but captivated by the experiments and displays he has going on around the lab. One of his greatest qualities is his ability to adapt and evolve quickly. Regardless of the complexity and teething struggles of a new technology or system, Will is the first to embrace it, keeping very much ahead of the game, to the embarrassment of some staff half his age. While most of the staff here have been planning lessons in a ring-bound ‘Teacher’s Planner’ for several years, Will had been planning his lessons online. Before some of us knew that 2D barcodes existed, Will had produced a bookmark with one, to advertise the Science Department. Being very much a strong manager of people in a business setting was fine for his role as Head of Biology (2004-11), but it was only his life experience in bringing up a family of girls that equipped him for his role as Head of Year 9 (2008-13). His gentle yet firm fatherly (and perhaps latterly ‘grandfatherly’) approach to the social dynamic of such a highspirited year group proved to be the most effective. We wish Will the very best for his retirement, with all of the joy that comes from spending more time with family and we look forward to him keeping in touch... even if it is to update us on the latest innovations! P Armstrong
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
James Neal setting up on the point at 500m.
Back row|: OB Craftsman Swift and Sgt Ben Pearson . Front row: LCpl Otto Dawes and Cdt Callum Andrews before the shoot.
Team members relax inbetween shooting. L to R: Sgt B Pearson, 2Lt S Macaulay, Cdt J Neal, Cdt B Appleby, Cdt G Gibb, Cdt J Budworth.
Ben Appleby adjusts his sights for the move back to 500m.
County of Lancaster Shooting Competition During the first weekend of June, a team of seven cadets from Birkenhead School CCF attended the County of Lancaster Rifle Association meeting where they competed with other teams from across the county. The team, led by Sgt Ben Pearson, assembled early on Saturday morning and headed out to Altcar ranges. There, they spent the day zeroing their rifles at 300m and 500m to prepare them for competition shoots the following day. For some cadets, it was their first chance to fire the Target Rifles, adding an even greater sense of enjoyment to the day. They also enjoyed relaxing between shoots in the glorious summer weather, though there were a few cases of sunburn the following day! After another early start and some more great shooting on Sunday, the results were in. Sgt Pearson and Cdt Neal secured 3rd place in the Reserve Pairs competition as a result of some great shooting. After a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, the team look to improve even further before heading down to the national competitions at Bisley in July.
Commanding Officer Lancashire CCF presents Pearson and Neal the award for 3rd in the reserve pairs.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
The band marches into position past the regular troops on parade.
Mercian Regiment’s New Colours Parade On Thursday 6 June, seven cadets from Birkenhead School CCF represented the contingent at a special parade to present the Mercian Regiment with its new colours. This took place at Worcester Rugby Club, Sixways, Worcester. This was the last time that all four battalions would be together because one of the battalions, the Staffordshire Regiment, was being disbanded and owing to the other three battalions’ operational commitments. Sgt Ben Pearson had been chosen to carry the Queen’s National CCF banner and Capt Alan Joseph had been chosen to lead the parade in recognition of him having just completed 48 years of service in the Army. The Mercian Regiment is the parent regiment for the Army Section of the CCF, formed from three smaller regiments in 2007. Five cadets had also been selected to take part in the parade from other schools. The date chosen was because representatives from all four battalions were available for the parade, along with the Regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief, HRH Prince Charles. Over 800 serving troops paraded to mark the occasion, followed by veterans and representatives from the ACF and CCF contingents which the Mercian Regiment sponsors. The cadets selected to represent the contingent were: Sgt Ben Pearson, Sgt John Warburton, Sgt Paul Wynne, LCpl Otto Dawes, LCpl Rachel Fitchett and Cdt Gina Gibb. After the parade, we shared a picnic on the rugby pitch in glorious sunshine and then travelled back to School early in the afternoon. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the cadets who attended, exchanging a royal salute with the Prince of Wales and marching in front of dignitaries, friends and family of the Regiment. This historic day was an unforgettable experience for all involved, and gave the cadets a real appreciation of the wider organization they belong to within the Armed Forces. Words and photos: A Joseph and S Macaulay
Captain Joseph leads the CCF parade across the ground, followed by Sgt Pearson carrying the national colours.
Representatives from BS CCF in front of a Warrior tank outside the Warriors Stadium.
Cadets with the mascot of the Staffordshire Regiment. Back row: LCpl R Fitchett, Sgt P Wynne, Cpt A Joseph Front row: Sgt J Warburton, LCpl Otto Dawes, Cdt G Gibb, Sgt B Pearson. Waiting for the parade to start.
Prince Charles en route to the inspection.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
For the first time this year, a formal exhibition of Art and Design & Technology work produced by GCSE, AS and A Level students was held in Bushell Hall.
Imogen Collins GCSE
Ece Mert GCSE
Harry Knowles GCSE
Liam Owen AS
Natalie Jones GCSE
Ben Hillyer GCSE
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Nomia Navaratnarjah GCSE
Maro Kyriacou GCSE Harrison Catherall GCSE
Matthew Williams GCSE Rebecca Goodall GCSE
Owain Lockwood GCSE
Above: Ben Pearson AS L: Ece Mert GCSE
Detail Jamie Russell A2
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Geneva Trip During the Easter holidays the Lower 6th Physics group spent two days in Geneva visiting the Large Hadron Collider, CERN, where we saw several experiments. The Hadron Collider is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator and considered one of the great engineering milestones of mankind. On arrival at the airport, we were quickly whisked to the centre of Geneva by a very fast IC train. We settled into our hotel in the rather colourful Pâquis district surrounding the station, minutes walk from the lakeside. After a meal at a pizzeria overlooking a charming square, it was back to the hotel for the evening physics quiz. This involved, among other things, building a physics related object out of tin foil, creating the funniest physics joke ever and questions involving everything from Schrödinger’s cat to Marie Curie’s dog. The next day, we took a boat trip to the other side of the lake and spent the morning in the old town. In the afternoon we took the tram to the CERN complex on the outskirts of Geneva - the main purpose of our visit. The first thing that struck us was the size of the CERN complex which spans two countries, France and Switzerland. It took us several hours to be bussed around the facility. We were lucky that the Large Hadron Collider had been closed down for maintenance because we were allowed to go underground and look at the inner workings of this giant complex piece of equipment. We also visited another experiment at the complex which involved the AMS Space Station whose purpose is to search for antimatter. The space station is controlled from CERN. The next day we took a walk round the lake and visited the science museum situated in a lakeside park. Making the most of our free time before our flight, we took two boat trips and a further walk round the old town. Just for information the funniest Physics joke ever was written by Connor Lee and is as follows. One magnet says to another, “From behind, I find you quite attractive, but from the front you repel me.” How would you have done in our the Physics quiz? The full Physics quiz included rounds on anagrams, quotes relating to physics as well as physics-related knowledge. Here is a selection of questions from the quiz. Can you answer the following: 1. tactless erotic is an anagram of which branch of physics ? 2. What do the letters in the word LASER stand for? 3. How many moons does Venus have? 4. What well known astronomical term has now replaced the term “Gravitationally completely collapsed object”? 5. The moon Selene belongs to which planet? Questions 6-9: What missing word completes the following quotations: 6. The only thing that interferes with my learning is my........................ (Einstein) 7. Physics is not a ........................... If it were, we'd have a much easier time raising money. (Leon M. Lederman) 8. If all of ........................ disappeared, physics would be set back by exactly one week. (Feynman) 9. In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the ................. (Carl Sagan) P. Webster
Mr Webster in front of the iconic Hadron Collider.
Chris Way in the L6th represented the School at Wirral Business Partnership’s first annual Corporate Cup golf challenge held at Caldy G C on 13th June. Despite the adverse weather conditions, Chris managed to win the prize for ‘Nearest the Pin’ and received his award from Esther McVey, MP for West Wirral and Minister for the Disabled. The photograph right shows Chris with the other members of his team - L to R: Mark Ainsworth, Ray Eugeni and Gavin Harris. Birkenhead School is a member of the Wirral Business Partnership, formerly Wirral Investment Network (WiN), which organises many events throughout the year including ones which have benefitted Birkenhead students, for example seminars held by senior representatives from the Bank of England and trips to the Houses of Parliament. In addition, over £900 was raised for Stick ‘n’ Step, a charity which provides free specialist conductive education to children with cerebral palsy.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
I was one of the lucky pupils from Years 8 to 11 who boarded a very early flight to Geneva in the Easter holidays. We arrived at our destination at 10am and, making the most of our first day, visited our exchange school, met our exchange partners and went to their home for lunch (I had hamburger and chips which was very nice! Not so different from England so far!), then back to school from where we caught a tram to the old part of the city. Here we wandered the streets trying to answer our quiz sheets. In the evening, we all went to a pizzeria but I misinterpreted the menu and, although the topping was good - egg, ham cheese, chicken, it was the sort of pizza which is folded over like a large pasty. Next day, we visited Bern, the Swiss capital, and looked round Einstein’s House, the Paul Klee art centre (which I really enjoyed, although I am no artist!) the Tower of Time but not the cathedral, unfortunately, because it was closed on the day of our visit. However, we did see something we weren’t expecting - four large male grizzly bears - kept in captivity to remind people that they were once native to Switzerland and they are where the name Bern comes from. On our third day, we visited the UN building, the 2nd largest after the one in New York. Our tour guide took us through the various conference rooms and assembly halls and we even saw a meeting taking place. Later, after the obligatory stop at a McDonald’s for something to eat, we had time to spend with our exchange partners. My partner and I went on a horse-ride through his village and later joined the others at Arco-Branch for tree-top climbing, walking and zip-wires. Unfortunately, my feet got stuck in some stirrups, at some distance above the ground and, although the instructors tried to talk me through how to get out of them, they eventually had to get a ladder to help me down. The weather was pretty awful during our trip and the hike in the mountains was cancelled because of it. However, we did cross Lake Geneva into France where I bought a very
large ice-cream which made me ever so slightly ill at the end of the day. The next to last day of our visit was really exciting. We were visiting CERN and the Large Hadron Collider where particles are accelerated to very high energies are allowed to collide with other particles. It allows scientist to analyse the byproducts of these collisions and evidence of subatomic structures which decay very quickly and the laws of nature governing them. When we arrived we were split into groups and given tours. We were shown where the experiments take place and the estimated 10,000 computers needed to make up LHC computer grid. We were then taken more than 100m underground where we saw the huge and awesome LHC itself, which is 50m in diameter and weighs more than 10,000 tones. In the afternoon, we had an interesting talk in school about the history of Switzerland and Geneva, I admit not all of which I understood. Later we met up with an Old Birkonian who works in a bank and he told us about his experiences living and working in Geneva. A party had been arranged for us in the evening, so we got to bed quite late. On our last day, we went to the mall because I wanted to buy some cheese and chocolate to take home to my family. From the mall, we went straight to an amazing water park. There was a near vertical slide, an enclosed slide that was pitch black and also a spinning slide. My favourite was the vertical drop slide. There were also great rapids and a freezing cold fountain you had to go through. I had an easier time that evening, when a friend of my exchange partner’s family came to dinner, who was bi-lingual. I would like to say thank you to our exchange partners and their families, the teachers in Geneva, but most of all to Mrs Holgate for arranging the whole trip and to Mr Turner and Miss Moore for joining us. Apart from the weather, which could have been better, I think everyone had a good time. Taken from Matthew Macdonald’s account of the trip.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
McLaren is the most successful team in Formula 1 history and has a bloodline that stretches back over 50 years, so, when the Design and Technology Department teamed up with McLaren, Manchester, we knew that we were in for a visionary and inspirational ride. Each year, we try to inspire our A Level Product Design students by studying modern and contemporary designs and products. What better way than to approach McLaren to help us on this path. They use their engineering and design excellence from Formula 1 to influence their supercar range, which currently consists of the MP4-12C, the MP4-12C Spider and the P1. Last December, Manchester McLaren brought one of their MP4-12C Spider’s to School so that we could discuss modern and future manufacturing processes, materials technologies, supercar design and development, as well as marketing strategies for such high-end products. All of these topics have direct links with our A Level specification and benefit the students’ coursework and exam preparation. Plus it is a very inspiring day for the students and opens up conversations about degree courses and internships. On the day of its arrival, the MP4-12C Spider could be heard before it could be seen. With a V8 engine, 2 turbo chargers and 616bhp (that is a power to weight ratio of 459bhp/tonne!), this is not a car for the faint-hearted. We had prepared the Sixth Form Centre and, folding in its door side mirrors, the pearl white Spider rumbled into the glass atrium. Images of the car on the internet are impressive, but seeing the car in the flesh was even more breathtaking. The A Level students had an introduction to the McLaren brand by its Marketing Manager David Smith under the watchful eye of the McLaren Sales Specialist Saiqa Akram who has specific responsibility for P1 sales. The talk was very informative and detailed in all aspects of the brand, their vision and commitment and the inspirational people that make up the McLaren family. The MP4-12C was then under close scrutiny. The students were allowed an ‘access all areas’ approach and everyone had a chance to get behind the wheel, albeit only while the car was stationary. The interiors of the cars are as detailed as the exterior, with careful consideration taken at
every stage and for every component. Small things, like the aesthetic form and function of the air conditioning system, which take inspiration from propellers, to the centre console and button forms. This was truly a delicious beast. The car was then started up for the students to hear the V8 roar and several blips on the accelerator pedal confirmed that this was a true thoroughbred. The engine note was also carefully designed during the development of this car and special baffles and exhaust technicalities allowed McLaren to create the perfect sound from the perfect engine. The students quickly realised how special this was and how much design and engineering goes into this kind of beautiful, high-end product. Next on the agenda was the new McLaren App for the P1 supercar, which has only just started production. The App can be downloaded for the i-Phone or Android phones by searching on the various marketplaces. The App uses augmented reality to visualise the car in 3D. With a print out from the web, you aim the phone at the image and a virtual car appears. There are options for viewing air-flow and internal make-up of the P1. The twist in the tail was that McLaren had brought a full size print on canvas so that, when we aimed our phones at the image, the P1 appeared full-size. Truly amazing! The image below shows the real MP4-12C Spider that came in and next to it is the virtual P1 from the App. See if you can work out which one is which.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
After the excellent visit in December, the Design and Technology Department were lucky enough to be invited to the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking in June, as guests of McLaren Manchester. The Technology Centre contains all of the F1 servicing departments, the design studios and the manufacturing area for the MP4 12C and P1 road cars. This was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for the students (and Mr Parry!). We set off from School, travelling down in the school minibus to Guildford where
Page 29 we were able to stay at the home of Naomi Guinness (sister to Mr Guinness, Head of Design and Technology). In the morning, we were up early, breakfast was eaten quickly, our sleeping bags were packed and we were ready for the exciting day ahead. On the way out of town, we saw a McLaren P1 in traffic - a rare sight indeed. On arrival at the gates of the McLaren Technology Centre, the security team quickly brought over a map to show us the way to the VIP car park. We set off through the barriers and around a large grassy mound. As we cleared the edge of the mound, an amazing vista opened up in front of us. There was a vast lake at road level and we saw behind it, the Norman Foster designed building, appearing to rise seamlessly from the water. At the door, we were greeted by Saiqa (Sales Specialist from Manchester McLaren) and Caroline (McLaren Technology Centre VIP tour guide). We were quickly standing in a presentation area with an MP4-12C spider
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
on a large carbon-fibre turntable. The room was very high-tech and echoed the architecture of the rest of the building. Our first presentation from Mark Roberts (McLaren Design Manager) was extremely interesting and engaging. He explained the McLaren philosophy of 'everything for a reason' and that this was used in every detail of the design and development of the MP4-12C. The obsession with weight reduction was evident at every level of the project and was proven when Mr Parry and Mark picked up the complete carbon inner section of one of the cars on their own. Then we were off around the facility with Saiqa and Caroline. We walked past so many historic Formula 1 cars that we began to feel overwhelmed. The trophy cabinets were bulging with accolades from the whole of the McLaren story - from Bruce McLaren’s first trophy, won at the age of 14, through to trophies won by Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button. As we travelled past the wind tunnel and down a long, wide and winding white corridor, we approached the McLaren manufacturing area. This was a quiet, calm, clean and aweinspiring area. Technicians were going about their business in a focussed and purposeful way. I could easily have offered to eat my lunch off the floor which was sparkling white and cleaner than many hospitals. There were all 3 models of car at various stages of production. Some were being tested in the 'Monsoon' area for water tightness, some were having engine run-in tests and others were waiting for component parts to be attached. It was a truly astounding set-up and the reason that McLaren is
the best at manufacturing high quality supercars. They are built in the same place and to the same exacting standards as the F1 cars and this is the reason why these cars are so desirable. Moving out of the manufacturing area, we went on to a tour of the historic race cars. There were cars from every era of F1 and which had been driven by such famous names as Alain Prost, Kimi Räikkönen, David Coulthard, Niki Lauda and Ayrton Senna, to name but a few. Of course, we also saw Jensen Button’s and Lewis Hamilton’s cars from last season. As we walked past the F1 workshops, we also saw the current cars from Button and Pérez in various states of build and maintenance. As we approached the end of our tour, there was a photo opportunity next to Jensen Button’s car from last season. The tour had been amazing, overwhelming, inspiring and very educational and we were privileged to have been allowed the honour of visiting the McLaren facility. The Design and Technology Department and our A Level students would like to thank Caroline from McLaren for guiding us around the McLaren Technology Centre, Mark for giving us such an inspiring presentation and to Saiqa from Manchester McLaren for organising such a great day. S. Parry (BS’s answer to Jeremy Clarkson!)
Congratulations to Annie Mills in Year 10 who has been selected for U15 West Cheshire and Wirral county hockey team and U16 North West Manchester Pumas. The photos show Annie at her North of England hockey trials in September. Annie has also been selected for the U15 Girls Cheshire Cricket team for the third season running. She will be competing in a variety of T20 and 40 over competitions. The finale of the season is a cricket festival at Malvern College where they play other counties and European squads.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
The end of term is often a time for reflection and, of course, in some circles, unbridled celebration. This year, the cocktail of emotion was further flavoured by the seemingly untimely retirement of Irene Smith, our Art teacher for the lion’s share of a quarter of a century. I’ve always said that the true artist is not one who is inspired, but one who inspires others.....well, alright, it wasn’t me, it was actually Salvador Dali, but you get the gist of it. The truth of it is that Irene has spent the last twenty four years nurturing, enthusing and, yes, inspiring all around her and we are all extremely sorry that she won’t be coming back again come September. My arrival at BPS some eighteen years ago was, I recall, met with some trepidation. Would I be equipped with all the skills required to deliver all facets of the School curriculum? Fortunately Art would not have to be one of them. I was introduced to Irene in the art room, surrounded as she was by artwork which would have graced my own front room. I gazed in wonderment at studies ‘based on images from Matisse’, only to discover they had been painted by Year 3, and my troubles instantly lightened. It’s not that I considered myself under-qualified to teach Art; I’d done it for years in less prestigious educational establishments, but as a child,
my mother ‘s refusal to display even my finest works with a dismissive, ‘It’s good, but it’s not refrigerator good,’ still hurts to this day. Yes, the children at BPS have been taught by the very best, and I know that we will all miss the skill and dedication that have been the hallmarks of the time Irene has spent with us. During her tenure, she has taught across the entire Primary age range and shown a versatility in communicating her ideas that is unrivalled. Beyond the delivery of the curriculum itself, Irene has always been there to support all staff members in a whole host of other ways, from painting scenery for School plays to creating amazing and outrageous props for form assemblies. Indeed, I fear that the know-how required to make a three foot pineapple from a piece of chicken wire and some newspaper, may now be lost forever. Irene, I know that I speak for all staff and every single pupil, when I say you will be sadly missed here at BPS. We will miss your calmness, your cheerfulness and the sense of fun you have shared with all of us. All that remains is for me to wish you, on behalf of the entire School community, a long and very happy retirement. Don’t forget that although the money may not be quite as good as you’ve been used to....the hours are absolutely terrific. Mike Stockdale
Chapel Choir CD £8 BarLine CD £8 Buy both for £15
Storm proof golf brolly £25 School roller ball pen £5 Silver-plated cufflinks engraved with the School crest £20 Pavilion notelets £2.50 for 10
Drawn by George A. Hayes, OB 1936-40
Two details from the School Chapel’s stained glass windows. Pack of 10 A5 cards with envelopes £5.50
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Photos taken during the matches against Glenwood High School, South Africa, during their UK tour at the end of June. BS had visited Glenwood during their 2012 Hockey Tour to South Africa, so our students were able to renew acquaintances, as well as make new ones. The South Africans were hosted by BS families, Mr Clark and Mr Edmunds. Our new Bursar, Mr Turner, (photo top left), a qualified umpire, oversaw fair play. Unfortunately, the BS team didn’t do so well against Glenwood (who specialise in cricket), but everyone enjoyed the matches and our visitors were impressed by the School facilities and pupils’ behaviour e.g. the immediate silence in the Prep playground when the whistle was blown! However, the very next day, Mr Turner witnessed the determined batting against the MCC which led to a well-earned draw for BS, despite the MCC using strong pace bowlers.
As expected this has been a transitional season for the senior cricket squad. Although the Year 13 cohort were a successful team moving through the School (county finalists as U14s), only three members of that squad are currently in the senior side, with others having either left the School or lost enthusiasm for the game. Whilst a number of the students in Yrs 11 and 12 still enjoy playing, the majority prefer the reduced pressure, less arduous second team games (although getting schools to fulfil these fixtures on a Saturday is becoming an increasing problem). As a result, half of the first team squad is made up of players from the U15 and U14 year groups. Fortunately, this hasn’t seemed to have had too much of an adverse effect lower down as both of these teams are having successful seasons, despite the absence of some of their star performers. Marshalling an inexperienced squad has not been easy but Harry Sturgess and Alex Watkins, captain and vice-captain respectively, have done an excellent job, both in terms of leading from the front with their own performances, but also in the way that they have encouraged the younger students. Although the extremely cold spring made conditions unpleasant, we have avoided the regular downpours suffered throughout last season. As a result, only the match against Newcastle has failed to be completed (a pity as we were well on top in that one), when the umpires inexplicably refused to carry on as the hailstones battered down. Although we have had a few disasters (bowled out twice in a week for a combined total of 110), we have competed very well in the majority of games and have secured some notable victories. Our current record of played 10, won 4, lost 5 and drawn one is as much as we could have hoped for at the start of the season. With games against Merchant Taylors’, M.C.C., Old Birkonians and three at the festival (hosted by George Watson School in Edinburgh this time) still to come we are optimistic of gaining a few more positive results. Highlights of the season so far have been the narrow victories against Cheadle and King’s Chester and there have been a number of notable individual achievements. Harry Sturgess smashed his first senior hundred off 66 balls against AKEQMS, hitting the last two balls of the innings for
4 and 6 to finish 100 not out, and looked set to score a second century before getting stumped on 84 at King’s Chester. Next highest scorer is Alex Watkins who has over 200 runs and he will be hoping to get his name on the honours board before completing his school career. U15 Luke Filer achieved his first senior 50 against The Grange and two other Year 10 students Dom Smith and Will Brewster have made useful contributions without yet going on to get a big score. U6th Oliver Mills has probably been our most improved performer and he has bowled with pace and accuracy at the start of each innings. Along with Alex Watkins, he is currently our leading wicket taker. U14 Gabriel Johnson-Aley has opened the bowling in most of the matches and shows great promise, whilst Dom Smith (medium pace) and Luke Filer (off spin) have kept things tight and forced errors in the middle of the innings. Cheshire U14 Ashley Watkins has also chipped in with useful runs and wickets in several matches. Once again, I know the lads would like me to thank Graeme Rickman for all his expert coaching and advice. The results so far are as follows: BS 126 all out (Sturgess 53); MGS 128 for 5 : lost by 5 wickets 40 Club 180 for 6 off 35 overs; BS 132 for 3 : lost by 48 runs BS 239 for 3 (Sturgess 100 n.o); AKEQMS 228 for 8 : won by 11 runs BS (mixed 1st/2nds); 54 all out: Bluecoat 55 for 4 : lost by 6 wickets BS 56 all out; Ellesmere 58 for 2 : lost by 8 wickets BS 148 for 3 (Filer 62 n.o); Grange 87 for 8 : won by 61 runs BS 92 for 2; Newcastle (match abandoned as a draw) Cheadle 150 for 7 off 40 overs; BS 154 for 6 off 39 overs : won by 4 wickets BS 181 all out (Sturgess 84); King’s Chester 157 all out : won by 24 runs BS 124 for 9 (35 overs); King’s Macc 126 for 5 : lost by 5 wickets P Lindberg, i/c 1st XI Cricket 18 June 2013
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Senior Prizegiving 27 June 2013 ...Firstly I am delighted to introduce formally our new Bursar, Mr Mark Turner, who joined us in January from his post as Area Commander with the West Mercia Police. The skills he has brought with him from his previous role have already proved invaluable (I’ll leave you to think about what those might be!), but much more importantly he is a cricket umpire and seems to have spent most of this week in the middle of School Field (but failing miserably to fix our matches against the South African tourists or the MCC!). At the beginning of this term, we welcomed our new Head of Prep, Mr Harry FitzHerbert, previously Head of King’s College School in La Moraleja, Madrid. He and his wife Joanne have two children, Holly who has joined Year 8 and Bobby in Year 4. He has very much a whole school vision and has a very good grasp of the unique ethos of Birkenhead School and the benefits of an all-through school. Not on the stage this evening because he has to be on duty at Queen Victoria School in Dunblane tomorrow morning, is our new governor, Professor Bart McGettrick, Dean of Education at Liverpool Hope University and Emeritus Dean of Education at Glasgow University, who has had a long and distinguished career in education in this country and abroad. He is on the governing board of Bethlehem University. His view of education as founded first and foremost on relationships is so fundamental to what we believe at Birkenhead School that I am sure he is going to be a great asset to our community. Our chief guest this evening, however, is Howard Skempton. An Old Birkonian, he left School in 1966. A few months ago I wrote to invite him to one of our Welcome Back Dinners. A prior engagement prevented him from attending but, spying an opportunity, and on the basis that there is no such thing as a free invitation to a free dinner (even if you have turned it down!), I tentatively invited him to present our prizes this evening. To my delight, he agreed and enthusiastically embraced the idea that he should also spend some time with the Chapel Choir and meet our own resident composer Marco Galvani. Howard is a composer of national and international reputation. He is also an accordionist. BBC Music Magazine wrote of him: “His music is elegant, British, civilised, with a touch of anarchy. I see him as a gentleman in a bowler hat, a briefcase ... and sandals.” Whilst at Birkenhead School, he also played rugby and cricket – he was a member of the 1st XV – so one of a continuing line of sportsmen musicians. His record card in the L6th reported: “he seems to be neglecting A level work for his music.” Perhaps you can judge for yourself whether that was a good decision on his part as I sit down and you listen now to one of his choral pieces, Beati quorum via, which he has been working on with the Chapel Choir this afternoon. Space hasn’t allowed us to put the whole Choir in front of you, but they will all be singing it in Truro Cathedral in two weeks’ time. So here is the Chamber Choir conducted by another new face, our new Director of Music, Philip Robinson. Beati quorum via integra est Qui ambulant in lege Domini
Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.
Goodbyes Just as we have welcomed some new faces, so this evening we say goodbye to two colleagues who are moving on and three who are retiring. Julian Eisner has been our Chaplain for only one term – it was always planned like that. But in that term he has thrown himself into the life of the School, not just in Chapel and assemblies, but
musically too. His stay may have been short but he will be remembered as the Conjuror Chaplain who brought a shotgun to his first assembly and used it, fascinated us with his ability to turn water into wine, or nearly, and through all this had a remarkable ability to seize our attention and direct our thoughts uncompromisingly towards the central matters of faith and spirituality. In September, he will become Deputy Head of the new Durham Free School and we wish him much happiness and success there. Thank you, Julian, our best wishes go with you. Sara Mason has taught part-time in our English Department for the past three years. An excellent teacher of English, she exudes poise and calm authority and has been much appreciated by her pupils. She has also been teaching Drama this year to our Year 7’s and only today at lunchtime pupils were telling me that her drama lessons and been ‘the best’ and they really didn’t want her to go! Outside the classroom, she has involved herself in theatre visits, helped with drama productions, invited writers into school and most importantly coached our public speaking teams. She has been looking to move to London for some time and we are delighted that she has secured a post at Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith. It’s a fine school and I am sure she will be very happy there. Sara, thank you for what you have done in your time here and good luck with the London traffic. The School also loses this summer one of the towering figures of the past thirty years and an anchorman of the English Department, Gary Hopkins. Sadly, Gary can’t be here this evening but that at least means I don’t have to spare his blushes. A Wallasey man through and through, he went from Wallasey Technical Grammar School to read English at Christ’s College Cambridge, distinguishing himself particularly in the study of American Literature. After 4 years and a term teaching at Wrekin School in Shropshire, he came to Birkenhead School in January 1982 and made his mark as a fine scholar of English Literature, a natural teacher and a superb communicator. Amongst other things, he writes the most insightful, caring and finely crafted reports you could wish to read. In 1990 he was appointed as Head of Junior School – now Overdale – and in 2003 I asked him to be Assistant Head of Sixth Form. Head of Sixth Form at the time was David Edmunds who had just been appointed Deputy Head, so for most practical purposes Gary was running the 6th Form, and four years later he formally became Head of Sixth Form. When I asked him to take on the role back in 2003, he had one stipulation and that was that he would have an open door policy in the Sixth Form Office. I agreed and this in a sense has symbolised the Gary Hopkins’ era. It has enabled him to keep a remarkable finger on the Sixth Form pulse and, especially with the move into the new Sixth Form Centre three years ago, the Sixth Form has, under Gary’s leadership, been a most civilised, happy and supportive place, the nerve centre of the School. When I attend Old Birkonian dinners and meet former pupils who were taught by Gary,
they wax lyrical about his knowledge, style and ability as a teacher, but also about his insight and engagement with them as people. Current students say the same, whether they have known him as a teacher of English, as their Head of Sixth Form or their mentor in the European Youth Parliament Teams (which have been so successful in recent years). The phrase which recurs is: Mr Hopkins is a legend, … and so say all of us! We thank him for 31 years and two terms of inspirational commitment to the pupils of Birkenhead School and wish him well in his retirement – in Wallasey of course! Also retiring this year is Dr Will Hughes. An Old Birkonian, he left school in 1969 with an Exhibition to read Natural Sciences
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013 at Churchill College Cambridge, followed by a PhD at Birmingham University. He worked for 16 years as a research scientist with Unilever, primarily focussing on applications of biotechnology to food systems. He then saw the light and entered the teaching profession and was appointed to teach Biology at his old school in 1997. He brought with him the world of real science and the application of research, and this has permeated his approach to teaching, adding a very particular dimension to our science department. In 2003 he became Head of Biology and four years later Head of Year 9, balancing the academic and pastoral roles with seeming ease. Will is first and foremost an ideas man – his Head of Department describes him as a ‘genuine visionary’. It was he who had the vision behind our very successful series of Science Fairs. On these, he worked very closely with Head of Science, Mike Hayward, and they formed a formidable team: Will as the unceasing generator of ideas and Mike as ‘the finisher’ (to use Will’s own word). Together they put extra-curricular science at Birkenhead School on the map – featuring in an independent schools’ publication on Innovation and leading to many enquires about ‘how we do it’. There followed ideas like Science in a Box – complete experimental science kits in a box for non-specialist primary school teachers – which were distributed widely in local schools. For several years, he ran our Science in the Community groups and brought pupils into contact with primary schools, old people’s homes and cub packs in order to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for science. Will, thank you for your ideas and inspiration and we wish you all the very best in your retirement and I hope you will continue to find many outlets for your creative thinking. Our third retiree this evening is another Cambridge man, so the balance swings very much back towards Oxford in September! John Fox has taught in the Maths department for 23 years and came to us bringing valuable experience of his time teaching in the maintained school sector. He had read Natural Sciences at Selwyn College, Cambridge, although as he explained to me recently, this was just a way of getting to do a lot of maths. Generations of mathematicians have not only benefitted from his phenomenal understanding of the subject at the very highest level but equally from his superb ability to communicate his subject to pupils of all abilities. As a maths teacher, he is an ultimate professional: the preparation he puts into his teaching is a model of its kind and, if he had nothing else to do in his retirement, I am sure there would be profit to be had from publishing his finely order and immaculately presented notes and worked examples. He has helped not only to open the door to university mathematics to many of our brightest, but he has also been committed to ensuring that every pupil he taught had the best possible grounding in the subject. Unlike some teachers, John has a life, and many of my professional review meetings with him over the past few years have drifted onto his many interests, not least of which are philosophy, history and film: not many of you may know that he makes historical films and is hoping this summer to complete a book on Richard III, which, as he explained to me the other day, is actually going to involve teaching himself some new and rather complex aspects of mathematics. Retirement sounds as if it is going to be anything but dull. John, thank you for your contribution to the mathematical and wider education of our pupils, which I know has always been important to you, and we wish you well as you head off to undertake exciting and challenging projects in areas which you love just as much as mathematics. Strategic thoughts Since the beginning of this term the Governors, my colleagues and I have been starting out on what we have referred to perhaps rather forbiddingly as a ‘strategic review’. It is something that all good schools and good businesses need to do from time to time if they are going to stay good. Although we value and maintain our traditions, we have to look forward and, in a rapidly
Page 35 changing world, anyone who stands still is almost certainly moving backwards. To set the ball rolling, members of the Senior Management Team in Prep and Senior School, members of the teaching staff, and the Governors themselves have met to brainstorm some key issues. Amongst the questions were asked ourselves were: What does the ideal school look like? What do parents in particular look for in a school? and, perhaps the most fundamental question of all: What do we want our children to learn? These are questions we would like to ask you as parents too. We will be in touch during the early part of the summer holiday and will be grateful for your thoughts... because, for one, you as a body have many more career experiences than we could assemble on our own. Your insights are likely to be very valuable, not least because we want to know what it is that parents are prepared to pay hard-earned money for. We did a similar exercise with the 6th Form in April since we felt that after, in some cases, 15 years at the School, their views would be valuable too. The answers we received were, as you can imagine, not always the same as those of teachers or Governors. The ‘Wordle’ we produced showing the frequency of words they chose to describe their ideal school included prominently words such as: Community (the biggest, which pleased me), Opportunity - good, Academic - yes, Fun – why not?, Results - of course, Good Food – fair enough (actually Good Food was slightly larger than Results!) and .............. in quite large letters FREE! I said that the fundamental question was “What do we want our children to learn?” Yes, that does mean what subjects should we be teaching as we look ahead 5, 10, 15 years, but more importantly for me it means what lasting life skills, values and personal qualities do we want our children to take with them from childhood and adolescence into later life? From that have to stem all our decisions about curriculum, staffing, facilities, pastoral care, co-curricular activities, etc. I don’t want to preempt your thinking, but you probably won’t be surprised that high on the list which the teaching staff produced were: Respect, Responsibility and (a little lower) Resilience, but also Confidence and Compassion, Teamwork and Tolerance, Manners and Motivation. However, the word which loomed larger than all others in our Wordle was INDEPENDENCE. Perhaps that shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, we are an independent school, although I doubt whether any of you chose us because you thought ‘independent’ was about learning independence! I think there’s a bit of an identity crisis in the independent sector at the moment: our very name has been hi-jacked by politicians and we now have maintained comprehensive schools marketing themselves as independent – I noticed that one of them not too far from here which calls itself a State Independent School was closed today because of the teachers’ strike. Perhaps not so independent after all! The real meaning of an independent school – independent of government interference, free to determine our own curriculum, not having the government or local authority as our paymasters, able without interference to make decisions which are right for our pupils – all that remains and will remain absolutely true of this school. But maybe we shouldn’t waste our time trying to claim back the word itself, but switch our energies to thinking more deeply about what independence means, not for our schools, but for our children. Why was it that so many of our teachers in both Prep and Seniors placed so much weight on the word independence? Certainly it’s a debate we have been having for some time. When I look at the Wordle of what we think parents (and maybe students) want from a good school, certainly independence is there but much more prominent are Confidence, Happiness, Friendships, Life Skills, University and in the biggest letters - Success and Results. Did we guess right, I wonder? Maybe you will surprise us with what you say in the summer.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013 So why do my colleagues think independence is so important? One of the principal reasons for our success as a school is the level of individual support which we give to students to enable them to do their best and achieve their potential. That’s what you rightly expect of us. I know that you as parents and students are often very appreciative of that support and I would like to thank staff in all areas
of the School who are so ready to go the extra mile, determined to put the needs of the individual first. But where is the line between ‘spoon-feeding’ and ‘molly-coddling’ on the one hand – both words which appeared in quite small letters and perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek on our Wordle of what we think parents want – and on the other hand the independence I referred to earlier? If we draw the line in the wrong place, we send young people into the world, university or wherever they go, with the best possible results, but how well prepared are they to stand on their own two feet, take the initiative, make their own decisions, fight their own battles? Will they have the resilience to cope with the hard knocks and moments of failure that are likely to face them? We had a meeting of Heads of Department last September when we discussed this very issue and speculated what more we could do to provide our pupils with more opportunities for independence and, since independence is high risk, more opportunities to fail and therefore learn to deal with failure and to bounce back. The Chinese have lots of proverbs on this theme (interestingly!) and one of the simplest is “Failure is the mother of success.” Does the idea of Birkenhead School staff sitting round a table thinking of ways for our children to fail fill you with horror? Certainly, it goes against our instincts as teachers and as a school and yet I believe that our children – your children – may need more help in this area than many less privileged young people. By choosing this school, by deciding to make the sacrifices to send your children here, you are saying you care enormously about their well-being and success. Would you sign up to a school which marketed itself as ‘the place where children learn to fail’? And of course, we are equally aware of our enormous obligations to you. It makes a school like ours quite risk averse and that’s probably very reassuring in many respects! But can you see the dilemma we as a school and you as parents face? We all want the very best for our children but, if we take the longer term view, what is the very best? It is so important to allow young people the independence to make their own decisions but how hard it is as a parent or a teacher to stand back and let them make the wrong decision and face the consequences of that? But then – and how important this is – learn from their mistakes, so that they are better equipped to make the right decision next time, when perhaps they won’t have the safety net of school and family. As a school we do, of course, offer significant opportunities for independence: independent learning is built into all our schemes of work and outside the classroom the list is long of opportunities for students to go out of their comfort zone and grow their independence: our European Comenius Project, the Sports Leaders Award, opportunities within the House system – House Drama, House Music. And of course: Duke of Edinburgh Award and CCF, stays with families abroad on foreign exchanges, encounters with unfamiliar cultures on sports tours, last year’s month-long expedition to Mongolia, next year’s to Morocco... and so on. But even in these things, we are perhaps too cautious to take the risks which go with independence. And how often do you as parents intervene far too quickly if a problem arises? You do it out of the very best of intentions. But is it the best thing to do? If I ask the students what a good teacher is, I doubt whether many of you would say a good teacher is one who allows you to fail. If I ask you what a good parent is, I doubt whether you would reply: one who allows you to get lost. But maybe, within a caring and loving framework, that is exactly what you need.
Page 36 At a trivial level, how many of you, I wonder, are brought to school by car when, with some ingenuity and determination or maybe just by getting up earlier, you could actually get to school on your own – on foot, by bus, by bike? I get the impression that some parents – none here I am sure – would drive into the buildings if they could! Or a parent with three children of different ages who drops them off at three different entrances! Is that being a caring parent or is it robbing your children of their independence? And now multiple choice question for you. If your son or daughter does badly in a test or exam do you: (a) email the teacher asking them to check the marks? (b) email the headmaster accusing the teacher of unfairness or incompetence? (c) email the teacher asking for extra work for your son or daughter? (d) encourage your son or daughter to take the initiative, speak to the teacher and ask for advice? One would be tempted to expect the good parent to do either (a) or (c). Sadly, response (d) is probably the least frequent but maybe, if we pause to think, it is the most beneficial one. Twelve years ago, when I was still Deputy Head, we were, as usual at this time of year, interviewing for the posts of Head and Deputy Heads of School. We interviewed five or six candidates and one was appointed along with two deputies, leaving two or three disappointed. One of those not appointed was distraught, angry, aggrieved – all those emotions that can come with failure - and wrote a letter the then Head, Stuart Haggett, expressing what he felt. Towards the end of his time at the School, he wrote a second letter which I am going to share with you now. Dear Mr Haggett, I write to you now almost a year after the last time, and I hope a year wiser. I realise now in retrospect that a year ago I was too immature, lacking the control, confidence and compassion needed for the Head of School position, which I coveted too much. (Andrew has done an absolutely first-rate job). I think it was a blessing in disguise, as it taught me a lot about myself, and how to deal with failure better. It also allowed me to become House Captain, which I have enjoyed immensely. I feel that I am more relaxed, and more comfortable with myself than I have ever been. I now look forward to the opportunities of the rest of my life. I wish you all the very best for the future. Yours sincerely, Gareth Jarvis
Gareth has gone on to establish a successful medical career for himself. He is a Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and on target to become a consultant in 2015. So we as a school will continue to wrestle with the tension between giving you the support you need and deserve, and our longer term ambition to encourage you to be independent, stand on your own two feet, cope with the mistakes and failures and learn from them. I invite you as parents to join us, think of ways in which you can promote your children’s independence, have confidence in them to cope without your intervention and help them to develop the resilience which could be one of their greatest assets in later life. And students, I challenge you to expect more independence, loosen your dependence on parents, teachers, friends, the lift to school, supper on the table, and the parental email when you have missed doing your homework. Not only will it equip you better for life, strengthen your immune system, build up your ability to cope with all the changes, challenges and failures which life may bring, but it will be FUN! Thank you.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Page 37 afternoon with the Chapel Choir, and with the Director of Music, Philip Robinson, and extraordinary to reflect that I myself was singing here fifty years ago.
Howard Skempton, OB 1959-1966, guest of honour Senior Prizegiving 2013 Collecting my thoughts for my “speech” - too grand a word for what I hope is more like an open letter - I recalled a meeting in 1966 with the School Chaplain, Dick Homan - it was a chance encounter in a bookshop. This was a few months after I had left School and I was in limbo, writing letters, looking forward to a second round of university interviews and In rehearsal with the doing voluntary work in Liverpool. He Birmingham asked me how I was, and kindly Contemporary Music invited me to read a lesson at the Group forthcoming carol service, as an Old Birkonian. I hope it was through diffidence rather than arrogance that I declined, but I felt strongly that I should achieve some level of success before returning to my alma mater. Well, it has been an extraordinary life, and there seemed to be a crowning moment last year when I was awarded Honorary Membership of the Royal Academy of Music. My late wife had been a student at the Academy, and it gave me pleasure to imagine how thrilled and amused she would have been by this award. I say it seemed to be a crowning moment, but I was no less startled and delighted to receive a letter (well, actually an email) from the Headmaster of my old school, wondering what was in my diary for Thursday 27th June, the day of Senior School Prize -giving. I accepted immediately and it was only much later that I considered what might be required of me on such an occasion. I approached a friend, a remarkable painter who happens to live in my home town, Leamington Spa. Almost as remarkably, he is as old as I am, and he agreed that, “in our day”, Prize-giving used to be called Speech Day. “So why the change of name?” I wondered. Quick as a flash came the answer: “Howard, perhaps it’s because they don’t want you to make a speech!” At this point, let us briefly celebrate friendship. The composer, Malcolm Arnold, described composition as an act of friendship, and many of my shorter pieces, for piano, clarinet, cello, choir, and so on, have been written for friends. One of my favourite quotations on the subject of friendship comes from the American humorist, H L Mencken: “When a man laughs at his troubles, he loses a good many friends. They never forgive the loss of their prerogative.” A composer no less complex than Malcolm Arnold, and perhaps too thin-skinned to have been an easy friend, was Benjamin Britten whose centenary we celebrate this year. Britten has always been a hero of mine. I worked for his publisher, Faber Music, during the early Seventies, and was encouraged to write piano pieces for him: he’d lost the use of his right hand following a heart operation and these were little pieces for left hand only. I recently gave a pre-concert talk about Britten’s first string quartet. It’s a fine piece, familiar and strange, arresting and timeless, and it was easy to speak with enthusiasm. Much later, after the concert, an elderly member of the audience (that’s tautology - they were all elderly) was moved to thank me: “That was very interesting; a most illuminating introduction! By the way, who are you?” In warming quickly to my task, I’d neglected to mention my own name. So, I’m most grateful to Andrew Sutton for welcoming me, and touched by the Chapel Choir’s lovely singing of my motet, Beati quorum via. It was a great pleasure to spend two hours this
This is the moment to pay tribute to Timothy Lawford, Philip Robinson’s and Graham Ellis’s predecessor, Director of Music during my own time as a chorister. He was always encouraging. “Ah,” he said to me, when my voice was breaking, “you’re an embryo tenor!” We kept in touch until his death, a few years ago, exchanging Christmas cards, and meeting occasionally - the last time, by chance. I was having a meal at the Snape Maltings in Aldeburgh and looked up to see my wife grinning broadly; and standing between us, to my right, the bespectacled, unmistakeable figure of Mr Lawford. It just happened that he and his wife, Jenifer, were sitting with friends at the other end of the table. We were all grabbing a bite to eat before a concert of Baroque music - probably Bach. I remember that we talked about cricket, a favourite game among musicians. Timothy likened cricket to the law. Interestingly, he’d studied Law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, before taking a degree in Music. I’d enjoyed cricket at school, gaining my 2nd XI colours, and was pleased to observe that cricket and chess were the only games to have “laws” rather than “rules”. Most surprising was Timothy’s revelation that, in his retirement, he had become a member of several county cricket clubs and spent the summer months happily supporting all of them. Later, during the interval, and before saying goodbye, we doubtless exchanged news. I’m sure he would have been bound, for the nth time, to deny that he had taught me anything; and to remind me that I still owed him an essay. I would have been quick to insist that I owed him everything because he’d prompted me to compose; and introduced me to Britten’s music, and choral music in general. I know that he was pleased by my commitment, in later years, to choral music; by my work at Wells Cathedral, for example. I felt particularly cheered when Timothy attended the Barbican première of my Lento for the BBC Symphony Orchestra. There was one of those pre-concert talks, of course. I’d taken a lot of trouble, writing two or three thousand words. I offered him the script as a substitute for that missing essay. “You should send it to Keith Stephens,” he suggested.(Maybe I owe Mr Stephens an essay?) One of the purposes of music, I would argue, is to inspire confidence. My message today, in this final paragraph, is to all you prizewinners: please face with confidence the challenges that await you. The School must have been puzzled in the extreme by my choice of vocation. But my education at Birkenhead School had prepared me to take full responsibility for pursuing it. We have the right to make the choice of a lifetime, and we have a responsibility perhaps to meet the challenge of sticking to it; of trusting in our intuition and judgment; of trusting in ourselves. Thank you. Howard Skempton, 27 June 2013
Photo right: Howard Skempton in conversation with Ian Boumphrey, OB 1949-1961 and School Governor, after Prizegiving.
In Focus/OB Bulletin Summer 2012
Old Birkonian Society
SUMMER 2013 Issue No. 55
The Lodge . 58 Beresford Road . Oxton . Wirral . CH43 2JD. Tel: 0151 651 3015 www.obs.org.uk
Panoramic photo by John Taylor, OB 1955-1962, taken on arrival at the Open Air Concert which was held on School Field in June 2011 and was part of the 150th Anniversary celebrations.
This year sees several new faces on Council. Apart from myself, Will Roberts (1983-96) has taken on the Secretarial role and Tom Harrison (76-82) and Paul Briscoe (89-96) have brought Council up to full strength and more importantly have reduced our average age! Mark Feeny, my predecessor, stood down at the end of October due to commitments but thankfully continued to serve as a Trustee along with Ian Bakewell and Trevor MathewJones. A new Investment Advisor, Charles Stanley & Company, has recently been appointed and will be working alongside the Trustees. A gift of just over £30,000 has been made to the School this year to provide “Hardship Bursaries”, a form of support that is warmly received in such a difficult financial climate. It is important that we acknowledge the Voluntary support that is injected into the Society by so many of our members. At this moment in time we particularly thank Mark Feeny who has been involved with the Society’s administration for about 26 years, of which the last 9 or so were in the Chair. There is a distinct need to address the growing female membership and to attract the views of the girls as they join our ranks. There are 60 past female pupils on our membership list and there are 280 girls on the current School register which includes the Prep and Nursery. All these are potential members who will soon boost our numbers. It would be a good start to introduce an additional event on the Old Birkonian weekend in September. Which has the greater appeal? Netball, Lacrosse or Hockey? As an introduction, perhaps Netball puts less pressure on team selection. So girls, I await your call. Give me your opinion? Communication between members and School has always been a key factor, indeed a prime aim in our constitution, and so it is imperative that members take advantage of our website at www.obs.org.uk and also Facebook and Twitter, which have been launched this year. (see separate article). The effectiveness of our Members Register depends on updated addresses, especially e-mails, so please keep us posted via the Alumni Office (0151 651 3007) or the Website.
The popular Welcome Back Dinners, hosted by the Headmaster, have now done a complete circuit and reached all ages, but not of course all past pupils, so make sure your contact details are up to date so that you will be sure of an invitation next time round. One or two of our year groups have set out a basis this year for funding a scholarship. What a splendid idea.! The Bursar and Headmaster are sure to be delighted with such a proposal as it eases the pressure on the School income. We are in the process of ordering some more ties in the original well known colours. The basic tie will be selling at £8 and the bow tie at £10. Scarves and socks may follow. Fresh ideas are always welcome. In the early part of the year the OBFC Hot Pot was disappointingly cancelled due to clashing dates and shortage of numbers. However the Liverpool lunch in March and the Pragmatists Dinner in April were excellent events and the group that gather at 6-30pm on Wednesdays at the Wheatsheaf in Raby continue to put the world to rights. Events approaching us in the last quarter of the year include: 7th/8th September 4th October 8th November 22nd November 27th December
Old Birkonian Weekend Golf Day at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake Lunch at the Artists Club in Liverpool London Dinner at the House of Commons. Birkenhead Park RC v. OBFC at Park
So let’s meet on 7th September (OB Weekend). Free entry to Hockey and Rugby matches Free Coffee and Biscuits at Archives Free seat at the AGM?? Free Lunch in the 6th Form Centre . It all seems free and easy! Come and enjoy the day. It will help if you book in. Roger Ewing, (1943-56) Chairman
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
The Leavers of 1955 and Earlier, April 2013, listen to the Headmaster’s Welcome address.
This year completed the full cycle of Headmaster’s Welcome Back Dinners. Over the course of the latest four Dinners, Leavers from 1967 back to our earliest Leavers were invited. It was marvellous to see 60 of our oldest Birkonians at the first dinner in April, a third of whom left in the 1940s, among them Major Tony Hughes (1938-1940) and George Hayes (1936-1940), a retired architect, who were the two oldest and well able to hold their own with the youngsters in the group! Although they have become venerable gentlemen, with distinguished careers and a credit to the School, it has been good to read in their School record cards that they too were capable of mischief and could be the despair of their masters back in their schooldays - shows a passive resistance to work; industrious and determined in what he wants to do; I have not made much of him; in the opinion of some masters he is a veritable pest; somewhat slack; a cock sparrow; a charmer. There have been so many ‘thank yous’, every one of them expressing enjoyment of the evening, consistently highlighting the good food (the School’s Catering Manager and his staff have produced gourmet fare and service worthy of a 5-star venue), and their delight in reconnecting with the School and with their fellows. The Headmaster’s grand tours at the beginning of the evening have proved to be the icebreaker. All have been interested to see the changes which have been wrought on the School in the intervening years but glad to see enough of the old place has been left to enable them to transport themselves back in time. There were few who did not comment on the shrinkage which has occurred in their absence to Big School Hall and the Gym. Dear Headmaster Thank you for all the arrangements and the wonderful displays for last Saturday's Welcome Back Dinner. It was a very special occasion. I had lost my father shortly before I joined the School and it would not be an exaggeration to say that the School was indeed my alma pater, rather than my alma mater. It was the first time I had been back for almost 50 years and it was a wonderful experience. I have been writing up my family history and with both a brother-in-law and nephew also
OBs it was particularly poignant and nostalgic to tour the school, and it brought many memories fresh to my mind. It was particularly good to meet Dick Hubbard, Steve Laing and Robin Moor with whom I shared many a sporting or musical occasion, and to find that Dick lives not far from me in Yorkshire! So plans to meet for a drink are in hand! But perhaps most special was seeing Keith Stevens again. He arrived while I was at the School, and he and Neil Hargreaves were my Sixth Form teachers and together they so inspired me that I decided to pursue English rather than Geography, which had been my first love, at University. But it was also their generosity and invitations to their homes which I also remember. Two wonderfully committed teachers and wonderful men. Acting in many school plays and productions under NLH also led to a lifelong love of theatre. So two English degrees later, I started teaching English at Bradford Grammar School under KD Robinson, thus maintaining the Birkenhead connection, and was joined there by Colin Gordon, also an OB, who also taught English. From the start, I combined dramatic productions with my teaching and often thought of the excitement of acting in the many very enterprising plays in Big School, wanting to pass on that excitement to younger generations, staging many plays myself, and even later being involved in commissioning plays from leading playwrights for schools to perform. "KD" instilled into us that we were the leaders of the future, so my social conscience quickly took me into the state sector at a time of great educational and social change, where I was to spend 25 years as the headteacher of some of the country's largest comprehensive schools. I often thought of the superb range and diversity of the opportunities I enjoyed at Birkenhead School, and of its inclusive values, as yardsticks for what my own schools were providing. So thank you very much again for all the work in arranging these dinners. With the lucky weather we experienced it will remain as a very special occasion for me. Very best wishes Geoffrey Smith 1953-1960
The Leavers of 64-67, June 2013, visit the ‘smaller’ gym
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
The Leavers of 60-1963, June 2013, start of ‘The Tour’
The Leavers of 60-1963, June 2013, the Dinner gets underway and Keith Stevens was there!
The Leavers of 64-67, June 2013, visit the Chapel
The Archives were founded in 1989 by the “Significant Six” led by George de Ritter and now, 24 years later, the work is continued by the “Thirsty Thirteen” led by Alan Hanson.. The operation is manned by Old Birkonians, (yes, we still await our first lady); some are past pupils and some are former staff. We are situated on the top floor at 44, Bidston Road. Do you remember the Tuck Shop? - well, that is the building. We open every Monday morning from 10am to 1pm (except Bank Holidays), School holidays included, or by appointment on other days. We open prior to Welcome Back Dinners and also prior to the AGM at the OB Weekend (7 September) . In recent months, there has been a steady income from the Pictorial History book sales, the Part 1 (pre 1960) costs £5 and the Part 2 (19602010) costs £10. Our more recent challenge, however, has been to develop an income from sales on E-Bay. The McAllester Pavilion now displays the Honours Boards of Captains of Sport and also the Hockey photographs, which were previously in the entrance to the Sports Hall. Meanwhile, scanning continues tenaciously. School Form Lists, Birkonians and In Focus magazines are almost complete. The sorting and logging of incoming photographs is a huge task. The day that they are all scanned is a long, long way off. Last year we were invited to visit the Archives of Newcastle under Lyme School in Staffordshire and in October this year we will be sending a delegation to Oldham Hulme Grammar Schools in Greater Manchester. The day will include presentations on various aspects of maintaining an Archive and there will be a useful exchange of ideas. If we can tempt you to visit us, you will discover: x A gallery of 70 large frames which recount the history of the School in words and pictures . x Registers from 1884 x The poignant records of Old Birkonians who lost their lives during active service.. x Displays of Memorabilia - cups, caps, uniforms and badges. x Photographs of endless activities and also the Panoramic ones where every effort was made to prevent naughty boys running from one end to the other in an attempt to appear twice. x Newspaper cuttings. x Film and Video x And coffee of course
So, do give us a call on 0151 651 3076 on Lists of attendees and those from whom apologies were received, Monday mornings together with photographs, will be posted on the School and OB Or e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org Website during the summer. A. Hanson
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Philip Jones, (19711978), was promoted to the Royal Navy’s Fleet Commander and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff at the end of last year. He is tasked to provide ships, submarines and aircraft ready for any operations required by the Government. Vice Admiral Jones was profiled in the 2010 Summer edition of the OB Bulletin and the School was privileged to welcome him back as guest of honour at the 2011 Senior Prize Giving.
Michael Barry Owen (1955-1960) OBE BA FRICS arrived at Birkenhead School on a scholarship from Kingsmead and went straight into the 3rd Form, dodging Junior school, which may not have pleased Daddy Rankin! He carried the red stripe of Pearse’s House and became a prefect under the watchful eye and smoking pipe of Mr Camier. Barry was an excellent all round sportsman; a strong batsman at cricket, a keen sprinter on the athletic track and a second team rugby player “to boot” He left school in 1960, read Economics at Liverpool University and by 1967 he had set up the Mason Owen Partnership with Geoff Mason. At that time it was Liverpool based but now the business of over 60 staff are active across the country in all sectors of the commercial property industry. In 2009 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to business and charity. Barry is now an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University and he was a Governor of our school from 2002 until 2009 Barry has been a longstanding member of the Artists Club in Liverpool which is where the Old Birkonian Society enjoy a Friday lunch twice a year. Last year he celebrated a very special birthday and doubtless his 6 children and 12 grandchildren were all there to enjoy the party. In September at the Annual General Meeting of the Society, Barry reaches the end of his two year term of office as our President. The Society has been most fortunate to have had the support and generosity of the Chairman of a distinguished firm of Chartered Surveyors. Roger Ewing
Tony Hall (1965-1969), now Baron Hall of Birkenhead, w a s a p p o i n t e d Director General of the BBC this year. After School he went up to Oxford University to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He then joined the BBC in 1973 as a graduate trainee. When he was 34 he was appointed Editor of the 9 O'Clock News. Later the BBC appointed him Director of BBC News and Current Affairs where he oversaw the start of Radio 5 Live, BBC News 24, BBC New Online and BBC Parliament. In 2001 he became Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House and left to take up his new appointment. He was appointed a CBE in 2005 and made a life peer in 2010.
Michael Gee (1953-1961), was awarded the BEM in the New Year’s Honour’s List for his services to environmental conservation and particularly cherry conservation. After BS, he went on to Hertford College, Oxford, to study Geography and then Heriot Watt University. He became a planning officer for the Scottish Development Department and from 1979-1982 Head of the Centre for Exploration and Field Studies at the Brathay Trust, Kendal. He became Chief Officer of the Dartington North Devon Trust in 1989 and became interested in the Landkey Mazzards, a type of cherry probably introduced by the Huguenots in the 18th century. Until WWII, Mazzard Greens, as the orchards were known around Landkey, covered 100 acres. Until recently, they were in danger of becoming extinct. Michael Gee, the Chair of Orchards Live, has been helping the residents to create new M a z z a r d Greens. The cherry trees used to reach up to 50’, and were resistant to bacterial canker. Photo: copyright Stephen Tomlin
Jennifer Taylor, 2001-2003, is now a sports physiotherapist. She wrote: I currently work for a football team in Sweden, Ostersunds FK. I moved here a year ago and before this job I worked as a physiotherapist for rugby players. I do sometimes have to run onto the pitch during matches and then I work with injured players until they are fit to be on the field again. I love my job and it’s great to be working in such a beautiful place. In my spare time I can go skiing and skating, though the downside is that temperatures can go down to minus 25 in winter. I can’t believe it is 10 years since I left School and my little cousin is now in Upper Sixth. David McDonald, 1998-2005, has completed his training contract with the London solicitors Allen and Overy LLP. During his training, he was sent on a six-month secondment from their London Office to the Abu Dhabi office and, because of that, was unable to attend former Director of Music Graham Ellis’s retirement dinner last December. His training as a Chorister at BS has led him to join choirs in London. He sang in a production of Carmen at the Sadlers Wells Theatre. Dominic Charles, 19952002, is now working in St Helier, Jersey as a Chartered Accountant for the Fund Administration division of Wells Fargo & Co. He too has joined a choir and sings in St Helier Parish Church photo right Dominic is 5th from the left.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
The annual Old Birkonians (London Branch) dinner last took place on Friday 23rd November, 2012 from 6.30pm on a cold November evening at the Army and Navy Club, St James', London. The reunion was organised by Joint London Branch Secretaries, Jon Bradshaw and Andy Jones. It was one of the most enjoyable Old Birkonian reunion dinners for years and we were delighted to have more ladies in attendance this year. Our special guest for the evening was Mr Barry Owen, OBE and President of the OB Society who presided over the event. The Headmaster, Mr John Clark, was also in attendance as he has always supported the London Branch Dinners. Drinks from the bar, as always, set a most convivial tone to the evening, allowing all to mix with those that they have not seen for some time or who had arranged to meet there. All enjoyed a good catch up about old times at the school and since. Following a substantial meal washed down with some most acceptable wines, the Port started flowing…….only to the left. "PORT TO PORT OLD BOY" was heard once, a booming from one of the elders to instruct one of the youngers of the traditional direction of travel. A mistake they won't make again! El Presidente welcomed the assembled, and by now louder, throng. Barry's speech was both humorous and entertaining and enjoyed by all. In his report, the Headmaster updated us all on how well the School has been progressing. All were most impressed. As usual, as the dinner ended and the Club's kick-out time approached. Groups congregated and OBs went onwards together into the cold November night, to other venues. Some to recall and some to re-live the old times over more welcomed ports or pints. The evening was excellent.
The London Branch looks forward to next year's Reunion Dinner, which is to be held in t h e h i s t o r i c surroundings of the House of Commons. This has been organised through the offices of our very own MP for Lincoln, Karl McCartney, OB. The date: 22nd November, 2013 The venue: House of Commons, London The price: £85 per head for standard ticket. A subsidised ticket price of £50 per head for those under the age of 30. Please note: The subsidy to encourage our younger Old Boys and Girls has been made possible this year by the generosity of our current OB President Barry Owen who enjoyed the event last year so much that he wanted to support it even more! Early booking for the event is highly recommended as the number of tickets is limited and demand is expected to be high. For booking details / form please contact Andy on email@example.com or Jon on firstname.lastname@example.org If you have not been before, get a small group together and come along. If you have been before, you'll know what you are missing, if you don't get your seats booked early! We look forward to welcoming you on the 22nd November….
Congratulations to Pippa Ewing (20002002) and Andrew McKeown (19942001) who were married at St Werburgh’s Chester in August 2012. Pippa was in the first cohort of girls to enter BS Sixth Form and became the first female Deputy Head of School. Pippa got an MA from Sheffield University and is now teaching English. Andrew was Head of School. He went on to Edinburgh University where he qualified as a doctor and is now in practice in Berkshire. The couple live in Beaconsfield. The Ewing family have a long and multi-layered association with BS. Pippa’s father, brother, and two uncles are OBs. Uncle Roger volunteers in Archives and is the current OB Council Chairman. Bryan, David and Roger’s mother started as a teacher at BS in 1943. She became Deputy Headmistress of the Prep but left in 1958 to become the Headmistress of the Junior School at Merchant Taylors’ School for Boys St Werburgh’s vicar and family friend, Fr Paul Shaw, conducted the ceremony. Fr Shaw also taught English at BS from 1980-1986 until he left to become a priest.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Mulberry Harbours D-Day Heather Woodward kindly sent the eulogy read at the funeral of her father, Rowland Woodward OB, who died last September at the age of 96. She remembered when she and her sister were growing up, he would sing the School song to them but they ended up falling about laughing because he couldn’t sing a note in tune and to this day they haven’t a clue what the School song sounds like. Born in Wallasey, he was educated at BS where he won several Form prizes. He went on to read Law at Liverpool University and was admitted as a solicitor in 1938, and was appointed Assistant Solicitor with Warrington Corporation in 1939, just before the outbreak of war. He was called up and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the King’s Regiment, Liverpool. In 1943, Rowland was posted to the War office and allocated to LM5. The division, consisting of only 8 personnel was responsible for co-ordinating the procurement of all the special equipment required for the Normandy landings, including the Mulberry Harbours. For his services to the D-Day invasion and in recognition of his Top Secret work he was awarded the Military MBE in 1946, aged just 31. After D-Day, he joined the Allied Commission for Austria, spending time in Rome and Vienna. He used to say he had a wonderful time at the Army’s expense. He was promoted to the rank of Lt Colonel, the youngest in the regiment before being demobbed. After the war Rowland became Deputy Town Clerk of Warrington, followed by Birkenhead and then for 5 years in Leicester. He moved back to the North West in 1960 and became Chief Executive of the Mersey River Board, later the North West Water Authority, for 16 years until his retirement. He was awarded the OBE in 1976 and the family were thrilled to go to Buckingham Palace for his Investiture by the Queen. It was the time of drought in the North West and the Queen asked him whether they had any water in the region. He was able to reassure her that they had. After his retirement, he joined the Crown Prosecution Service for the Greater Manchester Police Authority. Initially he agreed to stay for 2 years but enjoyed it so much, he stayed on for 12. Apart from his work he loved trains, Scotland and the RNLI. He spent many hours planning train journeys and was extremely knowledgeable about the railways. If he was told a route, he could tell you the gradients and name every station along it. He also visited Scotland regularly, loved the Outer Hebrides, particularly Mull. In fact, he was staying on the small island of Canna when he heard he had been awarded the OBE. Rowland is survived by his wife Vida, his daughters Fiona and Heather, grandsons Richard and Andrew and great granddaughter Sophia.
Old Birkonians David Laing, 1944-1958, and Bryan Lee, 1953 -1959, met by chance at a regatta some years ago. David was at the helm of the 1883 Thames steamboat ‘Alaska’ and Bryan, together with a Danish man he worked for at the time, were among the spectators. The Dane wished to hire the ‘Alaska’ and so, Bryan undertook L to R: David and Bryan on duty at negotiations. Beale Park However, neither man was in possession of the £300 needed for the hire charge. Bryan explained the problem to the pilot of the ‘Alaska’ and said that he would get the money to him after the weekend. Bryan hadn’t recognised David, but David had recognised Bryan’s OB tie and said that an Old Birkonian was a man to be trusted. Since that day, the two have kept in touch and now Bryan helps David to run the narrow gauge railway in Beale Park, Pangbourne. David’s fascinating career after BS was in the 2004 OB Bulletin and he continues to provide interesting threads and connections to BS, for example: I did turn up the shadow of another OB - Martin Carpenter (1950-53), a year or two older than I am, but quite a friend in those days. Memory tells me his mother was the Matron at Highfield School, during Winifred Williams long reign. Sadly, Martin was drowned in a sailing accident off Wallasey about 1961-62 but I still have photographs of the four-litre Bentley he restored circa 1956 when such things were almost unheard of. Only 2-3 months ago a friend turned up in another such and within 48 hours I had established that Martin's car is still alive and well in Germany. I took this photograph in Beresford Road and no doubt developed and printed it in the School dark-room.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Tim Gibbs, son of J Alan Gibbs, who was at the School from 1935-1940, wrote last year to inform us of his father’s passing in 2012. My father, Alan was born in Rock Ferry in 1923. Little is known by the family about his early life, apart from the fact that it was difficult. His own father was somewhat ‘wayward’ and his mother had to bring up the three children (Alan was the youngest) virtually single- Photo of J Alan Gibbs taken handed. Fortuitously he in the 1950s received an excellent education at Birkenhead School which then had a legendary Headmaster, WF Bushell, who obviously made a great impression on my father and with whom he corresponded long after he left School. Most probably he inspired my father to become a schoolmaster later on. At the outbreak of war in 1939 when father was 16, his family’s house in Birkenhead was bombed, so having the Luftwaffe empty a few hundred kilograms of high explosive on his home probably gave him the incentive to join the RAF at 18. He went on to fly all the famous WWII planes—Tiger Moth, Gloucester Gladiator, Hurricane, Mustang, Wellington and, of course, the legendary Spitfire. He used to reminisce frequently about what a marvellous aircraft it was. He was a ferry pilot in the Air Transport Auxiliary. In 1945 he was demobbed and went to Edinburgh University to study Physics, deciding to become a schoolmaster teaching the subject. His first post was at Strathallan School, Perthshire, and there a fellow member of staff introduced him to his sister, Alizon Cutforth, during a climbing holiday in Switzerland. They married in 1953. As a married schoolmaster, father’s subsequent appointments were first at Monmouth, then Stowe and finally the Royal Grammar School, Worcestershire, where he retired in 1980 as Second Master. Throughout his career he pioneered new Physics teaching methods and became quite well-known in the science teaching world for his expertise and approach. He retired to Devon, managing his family and large garden. Sadly Alizon, my mother, died in 1990 and father married again in 1992 to Jessica, whom he had known as a student at Edinburgh University. They moved to Cirencester to be near family and then to Lechlade, also in Gloucestershire where he died. He left four children.
Retired from Chaplaincy The Rev’d William Shaw, OB 1958-1964, has retired from his Chaplaincy of the Baptist Church in Barnsley after 20 years . He will, however, retain his part-time Chaplaincy at Kendray Hospital which treats patients with acute mental health issues. We were pleased to welcome back William to the Headmaster’s Dinner for the Leavers of 1964-1967 in June.
My father, Old Birkonian, Philip Bailey (1929 - 1936) who lived in Bebington, passed away on October 3rd 2011, aged 93. The family has quite strong connections with the School. My grandfather, Laurence Bailey, was School Secretary for a number of years some time after the war, though he was never as pupil at the School, and my uncle, Alan Arden, was also a pupil during the war, in Mr Bushell's time. He went on the become Head at Bebington Secondary School for Boys and now lives in Willaston. My Dad went to work for his father's accountancy firm after he left School, then got called up in 1939. He was put into the Royal Horse Artillery and spent most of the WWII in the Middle and Far East. He was a 'Desert Rat', spending nine months in the besieged town of Tobruk in Libya. He was then posted to Burma only to arrive and find that he, and the rest of the British Army in Burma, had to walk all the way back to India, chased by the Japanese! After the war he joined the Civil Service and worked for the Inland Revenue in Liverpool and Birkenhead. In his spare time he was a scoutmaster, a very keen gardener and an active member of the Wirral Branch of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, where he would, by coincidence, regularly meet Harold McCready, my former Physics teacher from Birkenhead School. Noel Bailey (OB 1968 - 1975), Peterborough
Many ‘lost’ OBs have been in touch with the School again through the Headmaster’s Welcome Back Dinners. RJC (Bob) Mowat,1958-1968, is a case in point. After leaving BS, he spent a year as an American Field Service exchange student in Dallas, Texas. He then went to gain his MA in the Archaeology of Prehistoric Europe from Edinburgh University and a Diploma in Scientific Archaeology from Bradford University. In the 60s and Carpow Bank logboat, Bob 70s he gained excavation and dog . Copyright: Trevor Cowie at the National experience on many Museum of Scotland. prehistoric sites such as Dalladies, Grimes’ Graves, Skara Brae and Pilsdon Pen. He joined the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland field survey project, attached to the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland as a Research Assistant in 1977. He continued as a Curatorial Officer with the RCAHMS, responsible for support and the Record of the National Archaeology field team, until he retired last year. In the 70s and 80s, Bob was also in the Royal Naval Reserve Service working in intelligence and security, specialising in photographic interpretation. Bob has managed to combine his Archaeological career and love of the sea by becoming an expert diver. He qualified as a Dive Leader and Instructor in 1999. He also took photography courses at the Scottish Institute of Maritime Studies and attended various nautical archaeological projects in Scotland. He has over 50 academic publications to his name, including an exhaustive work on ‘The Logboats of Scotland’.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
These days there is an idea that leadership can be taught. My university, for example, has a whole centre devoted to leadership studies. It is not always quite clear what it actually means. My father, for example, was a successful rugby captain. In one of the pantheon of books devoted to Welsh rugby, I read that his 'cool, adroit, intellectually based captaincy' led Wales to victory after victory. What I have never been quite sure about is why my similarly 'cool, adroit, intellectually based captaincy' led Birkenhead School to defeat after defeat. I mentioned this to my father the other day and he laughed and said - well perhaps having players like Lewis Jones, Cliff Morgan, Bleddyn Wlliams etc, might have helped. However, this is not the point of the story, which is to commemorate a leadership speech which my brother and I consider all but rivals that of Henry V at Harfleur or Agincourt or wherever - I did Double Maths not History - on the occasion of the first game of the rugby season played by the Old Birkonians 2nd team away at New Brighton. In those days New Brighton were still quite a strong team and I think that it is fair to say that the OBs were on the slide and had been for some time. My brother and I had been selected for the 2nd team and I think that it would be true to say that we both thought that we should have been selected for the first team. However, we were only going to play the one game before going back to university, so it was not unreasonable. We arrived at the ground and met our fellow players, Now at the time, the OBs had tried to widen access, which was fine - but it would have helped if some of our players had ever played the game, especially when we were going to play a team which would almost certainly have ex-county players. My brother and I looked at each other and both thought ''You cannot be serious”. However, Neville Duncan, our 2nd team captain arrived and, unlike Archie Maclaren the England cricket captain who just read out the team sheet and said, “What have the selectors given me?”, decided that a more positive approach was needed. Neville embarked on a team talk which was along the lines of: This is the first game of the season and some of you are not very experienced. (the understatement of all time!). We haven’t a hope of winning but, if we can keep it down to less than fifty points, I will be very proud of you. They will have 90% of the ball, so all I can ask is that you tackle anyone in a shirt which is differently coloured to yours. We certainly didn’t win the game but I think we got well inside his target differential. David Gwilliam
William Pyke, OB 1943-1948, with great nephew Daniel Gaskell, Year 9, and great niece Amy Gaskell, Year 3. After leaving School, I spent some time learning the many aspects of the jewellery trade in Birmingham (William is related to Pykes Jewellers). The learning curve was interrupted for 2-years National Service in the RAF as an instrument technician, stationed on the North German island of Sylt. Returning to studies in Birmingham, I was invited in 1959 to join the sales department of the Swiss watch Company "Omega". The work entailed travelling over much of the British Isles, with eventual residency in Dublin and then London until retirement in 1991. I married in 1956 and have two sons and three grand children. One son resides in New Zealand and the other son sttled in Indianapolis after marrying an American girl and taking US citizenship. As parents of a US citizen, we qualified for a Green Card and permanent resident status. Consequently, we moved to central Florida in the hope that the climate would benefit my wife’s chronic arthritis and general poor health. Sadly she died in 2011. My strong ties to Wirral are maintained through my sister and her family living in Willaston and Oxton The visit to School this June was my first since 1948! Two incidents stand out in my memory from my years at School. The first was my one and only thrashing, which I received from the Headmaster, WF Bushell. I had already spoken twice out of turn in class and received two warnings. A third misdemeanour would result in the cane. Inevitably, the third misdemeanour happened when I laughed at some joke made by a classmate. Three strokes across the backside were the norm but when I stood straight, perhaps too early after the third stroke, Mr Bushell told me to bend over again to receive a further two strokes and to ‘Take it like a man!’ Thereafter, I achieved fame throughout the School as the only boy to have received five strokes from the cane. The other incident involved a cricket ball, hit for 6 which landed in the niche above the entrance to Chapel. It ricocheted from the top and finally lodged at the bottom of the niche. As far as I am aware, it remained there for all to see for many years afterwards.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Dr Colin Steward (OB 68-78) has received a prestigious award from a USA charity for his work with boys and men affected by a genetic disease called Barth Syndrome (named after the Dutch doctor who first described the disease in 1983). He received the “Varner Award for Pioneers in Science and Medicine” at the Barth Syndrome Foundation Conference in Florida in July 2012. Dr Steward specialises in bone marrow and cord blood transplants for children with genetic diseases at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and is Reader in Stem Cell Transplantation at the University of Bristol. “I often get asked about children with complicated medical stories who also have blood problems, particularly when colleagues are wondering whether there might be an underlying genetic disease.” He went on to explain that it was after just such a request that he first heard about Barth Syndrome 16 years ago. “I was asked about a boy who had been admitted with a croupy cough but had several other major problems – very weak muscles and an extremely low white blood cell count. I discussed his case with a biochemistry colleague who mentioned Barth Syndrome as a possible cause, although I’d never heard of it until then.” Subsequent discussions made Dr Steward suspicious that three other boys with the disease (girls are almost never affected) might have been treated in Bristol previously. “One of these little boys had died in 1959 - the year I was born - and we were able subsequently to explain to his relatives why heart failure (a major problem in Barth Syndrome) had claimed his life 40 years previously. We even invited the lady paediatrician who had treated him all those years ago – by then in her 90s – to a presentation about the disease at our hospital grand round!” This led Dr Steward to work with scientists and doctors in Bristol to establish new diagnostic techniques, and to start to identify other affected boys from throughout the UK. The real breakthrough, however, came in 2010 when NHS Specialised Services agreed to provide funding for a national service, the first of its type in the world. He and his colleagues now treat 21 boys with the disease from England, Scotland and Wales, approximately one in seven of all boys living with the disease worldwide. Boys also come to the clinic from across Europe. “We believe that many more boys and, mothers who may be carriers for the abnormal gene, still remain undiagnosed.
Page 46 However, it’s strange to think what a part chance played in all of this." Why so? “Well, several years into our work, we were able to sequence the gene responsible and perform a foolproof biochemical test. We then found that the boy who had come in with viral infection and weak muscles didn’t have Barth Syndrome at all - but by then we’d diagnosed boys from five other families who definitely did!” Seeing many patients in the one clinic with the same disease has allowed Dr Steward and his colleagues to discover important, previously undescribed features of the disease (such as recurrent miscarriage and stillbirth of male foetuses) and to develop treatments to improve the health of affected males. They hope to start to trial new drugs in conjunction with US colleagues within the next year to improve the life-threatening heart failure that develops in some boys, as one quarter of his patients have so far needed heart transplants. The team in Bristol is made up of doctors from many different specialties, a nurse whom the patients and families use as their point of contact, and other specialists such as a dietician, psychologist, pharmacist, and physiotherapy and occupational therapists. They also work very closely with charities for affected males both in the UK and internationally. He thinks that there are important messages here for those thinking about entering medicine and science: “Our medical team are making a major difference to the lives of males and families affected by the disease both in the UK and around the world; this is a great example of how medicine in the NHS can be a real force for progress." And influences? “My father, who was a chemist by training, and John (Plug) Griffith; they both taught me lateral thinking, which has been invaluable in our quest to find undiagnosed boys and families. John was an amazing biology teacher and undoubtedly one of my heroes. I’m currently going around the country’s children’s hospitals lecturing about the disease, and in some small way I feel that I’m following in his teaching tracks. If he were still with us, I hope that he'd think I was up to the job!" Dr Colin G Steward is Consultant in BMT, Genetic and Metabolic Diseases and Clinical Lead, NHS Services Barth Syndrome Service, Royal Hospital Service for Children, Bristol, and Reader in Stem Cell transplantation, School of Cellular & Molecular Medicine, University of Bristol. For further reading go to: www.barthsyndromeservice.nhs.uk Museum of the Theatre Organ 1920s Silent Movies Live theatre organ showcases The Museum includes the history of the life and times of Robert Hope-Jones, OB, who was born in 1859 and died in 1914. He is widely accepted as the inventor of the electric theatre organ - now remembered as the Wurlitzer. Robert emigrated to America where he entered into a partnership with the Wurlitzer Brothers, who eventually got rid of Robert from the business and took over his invention. It destroyed Robert, who took his own life. Theatre Organ Heritage Centre, Peel Road Eccles, M30 7HJ www.ltot.co.uk/heritage
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Extracts from Stephen Barton’s, OB 1958 - 1965, ‘Some Early Memories’
I must have done well in the Eleven Plus exam, because I won a free place to Birkenhead School, in those days a local Direct Grant school. In fact, several of my fellow pupils did the same, so Mersey Park must have had a good academic record. I started at Birkenhead School in September 1958, and was there until the spring of 1965. As well as being a Direct Grant school, Birkenhead School was then a boys’ single sex school, and was technically a public school as a member of the Headmasters’ Conference, It had its own entrance exam, which I sat before taking the Eleven Plus I still remember certain aspects of the entrance exam and the accompanying interview - I was asked which person I admired most, and told them my Dad, for having overcome his terribly deprived upbringing after his parents died. I was also asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and answered, ‘a policeman, so I can help people’. How priggish and rather naive! Anyway, I must have done well enough as I was offered admission to the School, with a scholarship to pay the fees - later overtaken by the free place I was offered following the Eleven Plus. At that time, there were a number of boarders in the School, only distinguished from the rest of us by being grouped in the same ‘House’, School House. I was put in Pearse’s House. Each House (I think there were six Houses in all) wore a different tie (all black with narrow diagonal coloured stripes, red in the case of Pearse’s). There were a number of inter-House competitions, for example, in various sporting activities and awards based upon academic results. There were also awards of ‘merits’ and ‘demerits’ for various achievements or misdemeanours - shades of Hogwarts! - for which cups, shields etc were awarded. Birkenhead School was divided into a Junior School (the first two years), with its own building, a large converted house in the grounds, and a Senior School. The intake at age 11 was about 90. For the first two years, we were distributed, at random I think, into three forms named Romans, Greeks and Trojans. I was in Trojans. After that, forms were streamed, the top being Lang, the next Ling and the third Mod. I went into Lang. The top stream did only four O-Levels, English Language, Maths, French and Latin - taking the exams in the summer term of our fourth year. (The other two streams took the normal 7 or 8 O-Levels in their fifth year). This, together with three A-levels, was the minimum required for university entrance in those days. We did other subjects as well, including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History and Geography, which were the subject of internal end-of-year exams, together with Art or Woodwork. We also had to study either German or Ancient Greek - I
Page 47 chose the latter for reasons I cannot now recall. After our fourth year, we moved straight into the Lower Sixth to start the A-level course, alongside the boys who had taken a more normal number of O-levels after five years, and were thus a year older than we were. I never quite understood the reason for this, save that it enabled the more academic boys to have a third year in the Sixth Form and still start at Oxbridge (where we were expected to go or at least try for) at the age of 18. One consequence of this system was a narrowing of the curriculum - the subjects being studied for public examinations were taken more seriously, and it will be observed that they did not include any science. If one then went on to do arts A-levels, one effectively lost a year’s teaching of science subjects as well. The structure of the school day was fairly traditional. A service in the Chapel, or assembly in the hall of ‘Big School’, was followed by two 40-minute lessons before a break of 15 or 20 minutes, then two more before lunch. After lunch, there were three more lessons. We had to go into School on Saturday mornings, for normal lessons. In the Junior School I think we stayed in our own form room for all our lessons except Science. In the Senior School, although we still had a form room to which some teachers came, far more of the lessons involved us moving between lessons to the teacher’s own specialist form room. We had compulsory games on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons in the Senior School. There was rugby in the winter term and, despite my general weediness, I played in the scrum as a hooker (I still remember the one and only occasion on which I had a clear chance to score a try, with only one defender between me and the line, but I failed to pick up the ball cleanly, instead scuffing it away with my foot as I stooped to pick it up). There were also courts for fives (which I never played) and tennis (ditto - why not I do not now know, as I think I could have been good at it) and athletics (including hurdles, which I was never very proficient at jumping over), and one cross-country a year run through local countryside. Some boys (not me) also played ‘quad hockey’ during the morning and lunch breaks. I was not particularly good at games (though not spectacularly bad either - I was briefly tried out in the ‘proper’ cricket team, though not successfully), and spent most of my sporting career in the ‘also-rans’. I played hockey when it became available but wasn’t even good enough to make the House team in that either. We also had to join the CCF in the Senior School. Suffice it to say that I did not exactly set the military world alight, rising only to the rank of Lance-Corporal. Nor was I any good at Woodwork or Art. I was eventually more successful academically. As in my primary school, I did not shine particularly in the first few years. I got a school prize (a book) at the end of my first year, but no more until my final year, when I won the ‘History’ subject prize (another book) - partly I think because the three ‘form prizes’ awarded each year went to those who finished first and second, and the best improver; as I tended to be number three or thereabouts, I didn’t qualify. I was obviously bright enough to be in the top stream, but while I passed my four O-levels I don’t think the percentages I achieved (no grades then) were outstanding. However, I do remember being encouraged by one of the Maths masters to take Maths at A-level, because he thought I would do well enough to win a State Scholarship (which were cash grants to assist university expenditure, awarded on the basis of
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013 performance in A-levels). However, that would also have required me to do Physics and Chemistry at A-level and I regarded myself as not being very good at those subjects. Instead I decided to take English, History, Latin and General Studies. This was with hindsight a very good choice - I enjoyed the subjects and was to get four ‘A’ grades at A-level (the only pupil in the school to do so that year, I think). During the two years leading up to the A-levels, I worked extremely hard - I think it was this which enabled me to get the results, as much as any natural ability. I was able to work quite systematically and thoroughly - during my History revision, for example, I reduced the subject to a series of 4” x 5” file cards containing the essential facts, and also typed out a complete chronology of the history of Britain in the 16th and17th centuries. I also read around the subjects, not relying solely on what we were told in the classroom - the Public Library was very useful in this respect, but I also bought a few additional books, principally paperback textbooks on various aspects of History and English Literature. These were probably my first real venture into building up a library of my own books. I was also reasonably astute. For the General Studies exam, for example, I had boned up on President Kennedy, who had been assassinated the previous year, as I guessed (correctly) that there would be a question about him in the exam. One other question in that exam that I remember was to follow a written description of where an object could be found underground, reduce that to diagrammatic form and then answer questions about the result; I quite enjoyed that - not sure why! I suppose it was simply an example of problem solving by logic, which is a skill I think I have and which was to prove useful in my career. We had excellent teachers as well. Arthur Green, who taught us European history (English history being ‘Tudors and Stuarts’) was very good at teaching to achieve good exam results. He produced extremely good weekly summary sheets for each aspect of the syllabus, which made both learning and revising relatively easy. He also taught us very useful techniques for writing exam answer-length essays, and was also good at forecasting the topics on which there were likely to be questions in the exams, so enabling revision to be a little more directed. The other teachers (I remember in particular Messrs ‘Twilight’ Stevens (he got his nickname from a part he once performed in a school play!) and Hargreaves (English), ‘Rod’ Hughes (History) and ‘Larry’ Leather (Latin)) must also have been good at their jobs. I read some of the essays I had written at School many years later and was quite impressed! During these years, I had to decide what subject to read at University. I chose Law. We had no family experience of this as a career, so why did I choose it? It is difficult to remember with accuracy now, but I suspect it was a mixture of reasons a subject that would lead clearly to a well-remunerated career (as opposed to the English and History degrees, which seemed to me, wrongly I am sure, to lead to nothing in particular, other than teaching, which did not appeal in the slightest) and a subject that would fit well with the mix of subjects I had chosen and maybe a vestige of that early wish to be a policeman? Like the ‘History Boys’ in Alan Bennett’s play (with whom I inevitably identify), those of us who wanted to go on to Oxbridge (quite a number actually) did not apply to University during our 2nd year but instead stayed on into 3rd year Sixth Form for at least an extra term (two in my case) in order to sit their entrance exams. This required further study, in my case into 18th century English history and American history. It also
Page 48 gave us a bit more freedom as we had our own common room and more liberal rules about School uniform, though we still had to wear it! I was persuaded to apply to Exeter College, Oxford, and did spectacularly badly in both the written exam and the interviews. We took the written exam at School and travelled to Oxford for the interviews. A number of us went to Oxford at the same time. I went by bus, the cheapest way of getting there, and stayed overnight in the college I was applying to, before being subjected to several interviews the following day. It was the first time I had been there and I had never experienced anything like it. Those of us from BS wandered the streets of that beautiful mediaeval city in the slightly misty gloom of a December evening, visiting each of the colleges in which we had been billeted. I was of course desperate to do well. The stress and tension had led to migraine headaches in the period leading up to and over the exam. I followed this up by trying too hard at the interview. Having worked so hard for my A-levels, I did not have much of a life outside school or outside interests, which, of course, they were looking for, as well as academic ability. So, when asked about things other than my academic subjects, I was unable to answer very convincingly! My (genuine) liking of visiting old castles in Wales, which I mentioned, was unfortunately not backed up by much knowledge of their history, and the only piece of classical music I was able to recall was the ‘1812 Overture’ . I was also asked questions about Suez, which had happened when I was 9, eight years previously, so I think my lack of knowledge of that subject was excusable. Whatever the reasons, Oxford rejected me. At this time, you weren’t allowed to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge, so I was thrown back on my UCCA choices. While applying to King’s College, London, and LSE to study Law (I was accepted at interview for KCL and never went to the interview at LSE), I stayed on into the second term at School, and spent time studying non-exam subjects like Economics and some Science. In early February 1965, during one of these lessons, my Headmaster, John Gwilliam, called me out and informed me that I wouldn’t be going to KCL after all. He had contacted Jesus College, Cambridge on my behalf (and without my knowledge) and persuaded them to accept me without an interview, so I would be starting there in October 1965. After Cambridge, Stephen Barton qualified as a solicitor, ...and Now and eventually became a partner at a City law firm, Herbert Smith. He took early retirement at the age of 49 and returned to Jesus College, Cambridge, as a teacher of law, subsequently becoming Senior Bursar there. He retired again at the age of 60 (six years ago), and is now enjoying life with his wife Maureen; they divide their time between homes in London and Pembrokeshire, and travelling the rest of the world. He is extremely grateful for the part his time at Birkenhead School played in his subsequent career. The above article is extracted from a document he is in course of writing for his two daughters, in case they ever prove interested in his early history.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
My first year out of medical school, I had the honour of working as an intern for one of the most distinguished physicians of his day, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead. Henry Cohen's life story is more typical of America than Britain. The son of an impoverished Jewish tailor, he attended university and medical school on scholarships and then â€“ due to his intellectual brilliance â€“ had a meteoric rise through the profession. He practised medicine in the days when diagnosis was made, for the most part, on the patient's account of the illness and what was found on physical examination. More intellect and less technology were involved in the process, and, in this process, he was one of the stars. By the time I became his house officer, he was President of the General Medical Council, the highest medical administrator in the land, and was one of the Queen's Physicians. Definitely top of the heap. In his mid-60s he was more of a politician and administrator than a doctor. He was an incredibly impressive figure. Short and pink, a thick mane of white hair, and a bearing that made him dominate a room. He was always beautifully dressed and characteristically wore a rose or orchid in his lapel. He had those old fashioned, courtly, somewhat exaggerated good manners of his generation. The Lord was scheduled to make rounds on Tuesdays, but most weeks the business of the nation kept him away. When he did appear it was like a state visit. The ward was cleaned 'til it shone; the nurses lined up in the starched uniforms that were then the style. We, the junior medical staff, although feigning no interest in the whole circus-like atmosphere, were secretly delighted to be included in this big event. We would proceed from bed to bed, the patients were introduced, their illnesses and their treatments related, and the great man asked to comment. Rarely had he anything new to add; occasionally, we would pretend confusion so that he could clarify things for us, making the whole exercise look more meaningful than it really was. At the end of the visit with each patient, the Lord would grasp the patient's hands in his, stare into their eyes, and whisper words of comfort. After seeing the last patient, he would thank us and congratulate us on our work, always managing to find some small area in which he felt improvement could be made. He would then depart in his Rolls Royce, and we would go to the cafeteria for our greasy lunch. We would return to the ward after lunch and what we found there always puzzled and annoyed us. Everybody looked better! There was a buzz of conversation and laughter;
Page 49 patients who had been claiming weakness and fatigue were up walking, talking, and asking when they could go home. They were on the phone telling family members in distant parts of the country about their brush with greatness and repeating endlessly the words that the old man had spoken to them. It was more than we could bear. We had worked so hard for them. What did they think he had done for them? Nothing, as far as we could see. Of course, we missed the point. What had happened is that they had touched the magic. The Lord, and the doctors of his generation, had come into practice in a world without CAT scanners, magnetic resonance machines, or ultrasound. A world without cardiac or transplantation surgery. A world without antibiotics or insulin. Theirs was a world in which the physician had fewer tools with which to influence the course of the diseases that they treated. Often the only tool that they had at their disposal was their ability to raise the determination of the patient to improve and survive. They were the cheerleaders for the body's ability to heal itself. They considered it to be their duty to give their patients an optimistic outlook in order to will themselves better. The power of the physician's personality was an important part of the healing process. Now things have changed. We have convinced ourselves that we must examine every problem from a purely scientific perspective. We see and listen to a patient's symptoms, examine them, order laboratory work, and decide on the treatment. We give them a prescription, but, as we do so, we tell them that this pill may not work, that there is a small chance it will make them worse, and, finally, we tell them of its many side effects. They pick up the medication from the pharmacy and it comes with the "Patient Information Leaflet." This document was written not by doctors but by the company's lawyer. Its purpose is to protect the company. It lists every possible thing that could possibly happen so that the patient will have no grounds for complaint if anything should happen. This hardly sets the stage for making the patient believe that they are going to recover. It encourages the concept of the body as one great biochemical machine. One whose working can be altered by adding a few chemicals, rather than being a very personal thing whose performance is affected by the drive and determination of the inner being as much as by the medications. Compare what would have happened in my Chief's day. The doctor would have pressed the prescription into the patient's hand, stared into their eyes and told them that recovery was certain. How different from today. First of all, that pressing, staring routine could get you reported for harassment. Next, the assurances could be regarded as being "in excess of statistically projected outcomes" and as such could be ruled to be misleading and encouraging Continued on page 50
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013 unrealistic expectations. What has happened is that we have lost ‘The Magic’ or rather we have given it away. There is a hunger for it to be returned. There is an enormous upsurge in alternative medicine. The sale of traditional Asian medicines is a billion-dollar industry. This is partly based on an understandable feeling that this is a branch of healing that has been insufficiently explored in the West. It is also based on a perception that the major drug companies are multinational corporations with little interest in the sufferings of the individual. The increasing depersonalization of care brought on by some of the changes in medical care has left patients with a need for more comfort, a need for a little magic, a need which is answered at the local herbal store. Massage therapy, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and all the other alternative forms of treatment have in them a personal, empowering, magical element that may be missing in traditional medicine. It is ironic that at a time that modern western medicine is more able than ever before to help improve people's lives, there is an element of disillusionment in the public and a search for something simpler and more spiritual. I have no answer to this dilemma. I would not suggest that my profession become more secretive, more mysterious, that we not reveal the truth about a disease or its treatment. It is important, however, to remember that modern medicine only aids and assists the body to recover. When teaching Residents to suture, I would always remind them, “All we do is place the tissues together. The body does the healing. What we do is maximize its ability to heal. Understand that it is your body that does the healing. Have more faith in it. Summon up the magic”. Dr Michael Moreton, OB 1951-1957, is an ObstetricianGynecologist who, after leaving Liverpool, trained and spent most of his career in Canada. He went to China in 1997 to open western style Maternity units in Beijing and Shanghai and was the first foreign specialist to be licensed in China for over 40 years. He is now the International Medical Director at the Bangkok Hospital in Thailand. THE LORD extra ...and there are further connections with Birkenhead School as Henry Cohen’s No2 (junior consultant) at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary was Dr WS (Bill) Sutton (OB 1922-29). His three sons also came to the School - Michael (1948-1961) and Jonathan (1955-1968) followed him into medicine: Andrew (1952-1965) trained as a professional accountant and is now Chairman of the Governors.
OFFICERS of the OLD BIRKONIAN SOCIETY President - Barry Owen OBE Chairman - Roger Ewing Secretary - Will Roberts Treasurer - Trevor Mathew-Jones Members Brian Boumphrey Alan Hanson Paul Briscoe Tom Harrison
Graham Hurton William Nute
The redesigned website (www.obs.org.uk) has been running for several months and can be viewed using a pc, tablet or smartphone as it automatically adapts its display to various size screens. The site has a number of new features that allow OBs to post their own articles, contact event organisers for more information and, most importantly, keep the Society advised as to any changes of contact details. On the home page the “OB News” allows you to send in an article that may be of interest to other readers - maybe you are about to take part in a major charity event, have an interesting job that people would be interested to read about or are just trying to get in touch with other OBs. A recent addition to the site is the “Remembered” section where the Society lists those that have passed away. There is a link in this section to notify the Alumni Office of a death and it also allows the addition of a photo and an obituary for publication on the site. All the 2013 Society events are listed along with contact details of the organisers. The “Archives” section is being expanded all the time so it pays to keep checking the site to see if there is anything from your era that will bring back memories. The final area to highlight here is the “OB Updates” section. This is most important for the Society as it has a form where you can advise the Alumni Office of your contact details or changes to them, information about your career and professional life and feedback on the Society’s activities. The next addition to the site will allow you to read this publication, and archived copies, in an e-book format William Nute, OB 1957-1966, Archivist
It’s incredible to think that Facebook has been around for less than 10 years but it already has well over 1 billion registered users. Even in such a short space of time it has certainly had a profound impact on how people communicate, and while Social Media as a whole are still very young, the speed with which they have grown is certainly already one of the phenomena of the 21st century. Now Birkenhead School and the Old Birkonian Society may have been around for a little longer than Facebook, but as both were originally designed to help keep pupils connected there is no doubt that there is a fundamental link between what Facebook and the OBS aim to achieve. Therefore it seems quite fitting that the Old Birkonian Society capitalise on these new means of communication to help keep former pupils in touch. In particular, the Old Birkonian Council hope that these new platforms will provide an easy way for recent school leavers to keep connected with the school and the OBS. As a result we are delighted to announce that the OBS now has its very own Facebook and Twitter pages. These pages will allow Old Birkonians to keep in touch with each other and the varied OBS events that happen every year. Simply “like” the OBS page or “follow” @OldBirkonianSoc and you will receive regular news and updates about these events. Facebook – Old Birkonian Society Twitter – OldBirkonianSoc Paul Briscoe, OB 1989-1996
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
Programme Saturday Hockey Match Archives
AGM Lunch Rugby Match
4, Bidston Road 10-30am – 12-15pm Coffee available 6th Form Centre OBs v School Noctorum Field
Sunday Choral Evensong Chapel
12-30pm 1pm 2.30pm
(Preacher: Revd Andy Stinson, OB 1992-1999) Curate St. Saviour’s, Oxton)
Dr Harry Potter OBE died suddenly on 30th April at the age of 69. After BS, he went on to get his first degree in Natural Sciences at Cambridge and then did the Tropical Agriculture course at Reading. This was the springboard for a 40-year career with the Department for International Development. Having completed his training at Reading, he and his wife Rosie were posted to Zambia in 1966, on the night England last won the World Cup. Harry’s first two children were born in Zambia at an extremely basic mission hospital. Harry and the family returned to the UK in 1972 as there was no suitable schooling for their eldest in Zambia. Harry taught for a year in Peterborough until offered a post with the East African Community (EAFFRO) at Maguga in Kenya. He stayed at Maguga until 1988, during which time he got his PhD in animal production. While at Maguga, Harry and Rosie set up a new primary school which turned out students with some of the best results in the district. Returning to the UK in 1988 to look after elderly parents, Harry was recruited as a Natural Resources adviser responsible for Pakistan and South America . In 1989, Harry was sent to Mexico to learn Spanish in preparation for a posting to Medellin in Columbia. The day the family was due to fly to Bogota, the Colombian presidential candidate was shot so Harry was recalled to London. After a period in London and at the
Statistical Services Centre at Reading, Harry was eventually posted to Bangladesh in 1992 where the new country office was being established. Harry’s final posting was to Malawi from 1996-2004 where he also covered programmes in neighbouring Mozambique. Harry’s drive, enthusiasm and commitment ensured multidonor funding for the Starter Pack Programme in Malawi. This was very controversial at a time when DFID, USAID and the World Bank were all firmly opposed to subsidies to small farmers as being unsustainable; ignoring existing policies in Europe and the States. The first season, providing all farmers with a small pack of maize seeds and fertiliser, was a logistics nightmare but Harry, with support from a small team in Malawi and hard statistical evidence from the Reading statistics unit, soon refined and organised the recording and distribution system for subsequent years. The results were dramatic. The end of the first season saw Malawi turn from a persistent maize-deficit country to selfsufficiency and in later years it would be exporting maize to Zimbabwe. His work in Malawi earned him an OBE for services to Food Security in Africa in 2003. Harry’s passion for development and no nonsense approach was appreciated not least by Aleke Banda, the Minister of Agriculture and Harry became his de-facto adviser. Harry would complain of being in the bath at night when a call would come from Aleke to meet him for a drink and to talk over issues. Other memorable events during Harry’s time in central Africa was a plane crash in Mozambique from which he walked away unscathed. He also inherited a fully equipped fisheries research vessel moored on Lake Malawi that belonged to DFID. The government couldn’t afford to operate it so Harry had to organise (from a non-existent budget) a full annual service by a UK-based marine engineer. When it was put up for sale the only bid was from a casino company! It was still there when Harry left. Finally Harry was also involved in the re-opening of the railway line from northern Mozambique into Malawi so avoiding the overland journey for goods through Zimbabwe. After retirement, Harry with his usual energy threw himself into charity work in Malawi making several visits for the David James Foundation and church-based work. Latterly he became very involved with Temwa a charity that raises funds to implement community-based projects in Malawi and he was looking forward to returning to Malawi in July. Harry was deeply respected by all those that knew him and undoubtedly a master in his field. Harry’s passion, dedication and enthusiasm for development was a real inspiration for all. His work in Malawi will be his legacy, a shining example of what can be achieved by standing up and for what you know is right. He is survived by Rosie his wife, three children and seven grandchildren. Rev’d Susan Flynn Co-Chair of the Mersey URC Synod partnership with Churches of Christ in Malawi and friend of the family. Rev’d Flynn has set up the Harry Potter Scholarship, managed by Temwa (a Sustainable Community Development Charity operating in Malawi), for a young Malawian who shows leadership potential and who has the ability to take advantage of a Malawian University or college education. To date £25,000 has been raised. The School has made a donation of £500 to the Fund from its Chapel collections. If you would like further information, please email the Alumni Office: email@example.com
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
We offer our condolences to the families and friends of our Old Birkonians whose passing we have been informed of during this past year. Rowland E Woodward Philip Bailey Dr Gilbert W Gibbs Col WEI Armstrong OBE, TDD Dr Alan J Gibbs A Norman Ewbank Frederick C Hutchence Arthur Gerald Cawthra Derek A Cooper Major Danny B Prince Peter Howard Anthony M Cross John HM Harden Robin Birch G Norman Clifford Keith C Gledhill John H Golding David M Berkson David A Parker Geoffrey Michael Bowstead Brian V Roberts Douglas K Fisk Dr Harry Potter Peter Bakewell Peter A Miller Trevor D Hall Miles Carrington Alistair Wrigley
18 Sept 2012 3 Oct 2011 Sept 2008 13 Dec 2012 2012 2012 18 Jan 2013 July 2012 2012 2008 12 Dec 2010 2004 2009 2012 Jan 2013 2012 2012 Sept 2011 2 April 2013 2009 Feb 2013 4 April 2012 5 Oct 2012 2011 April 2013 Nov 2012 Nov 2012
1925-1933 1929-1936 1930-1936 1927-1938 1935-1940 1939-1941 1939-1942 1937-1944 1938-1945 1939-1945 1941-1946 1942-1948 1942-1948 1942-1949 1942-1949 1943-1949 1943-1950 1945-1952 1945-1953 1945-1954 1949-1956 1948-1957 1954-1961 1961-1968 1961-1968 1975-1980 1986-1987 1988-1993
Following an invitation to a Welcome Back Dinner, Victoria Berkson, daughter of David Berkson, was prompted to write to inform us of her father’s passing a few years ago. She said that he was a keen Old Birkonian, full of stories about the inspirational teachers and that his lifelong interest in Languages and American History had its roots at School. She added that he always wore his OB tie with enormous pride and affection. Douglas Fisk’s daughter, Jan Dowd, told us that her father passed away earlier this year. After he left School, he went on to study Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College where he gained a 1st. He was one of the first Fulbright Scholars and spent three years at Cornell University, where he met his wife, who was from Elizabethtown, New York. On his return to England he worked as an engineer for Rank Xerox and then for New Age Transmissions in Coventry. He orchestrated the management buy-out of the company and retired at 52 to enjoy travelling and golf. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter and 5 grandchildren. Frederick Hutchence passed away in February this year at the age of 85 after battling cancer. He was a member of Sloman’s House, as was his son Simon Hutchence, OB 1973-1987. Frederick became a Chartered Surveyor and practised in Chester for most of his career. He was senior partner in one of the largest surveying practices in the country when he retired in 1988. Simon wrote, ‘The main love of his life, apart from my mother, was sailing and he was a lifelong member of the Dee Sailing Club. He was never happier than when he was afloat.’
A Requiem Eucharist was held last October in Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa. for Peter Bakewell Peter, who died aged 63 following a battle with cancer. The obituary which appeared in the Ottowa Citizen wrote: Peter was a true public servant and consummate professional, insightful, principled and generous. During his 30-year diplomatic career at Foreign Affairs, he served in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and United States, becoming one of the Department's ranking experts on these Canadian priorities. Posted to Prague, he worked closely with Vaclav Havel and the Charter 77 dissidents, and was subsequently honoured by the Czech government in recognition of the role he played in the Prague Spring. From his undergraduate days at Oxford, Peter developed an abiding interest in the world of security and intelligence, shaped over time by the Cold War experience, events in the Middle East and post - 9/11 realities. Serving in various capacities at headquarters and abroad, he was deeply engaged in promoting and defending Canadian interests, earning the hard won respect of colleagues in Ottawa community and Canada's close allies. As a diplomat, Peter was valued for his informed views, trenchant policy advice, negotiating skills and mentoring abilities. His legacy - and the measure of his loss - lies in his family, former colleagues and lifelong friendships left behind. The Headmaster was delighted that Peter, despite being in poor health, was able to attend the Welcome Back Dinner for the Leavers of 1968 in February 2012.
CONTACT Alumni Office - Mon-Fri 9-5pm Tel: 0151 651 3007 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Archives Mondays 10-12 Tel: 0151 651 3076 E-mail: email@example.com OBS website: obs.org.uk School website: birkenheadschool.co.uk
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
The story of the first post-War school trip abroad in 1950
suitcases on an inspection table - two tables actually) in Switzerland. How much crossing that metal strip must have meant only five years previously when one side was controlled by the Gestapo and the other by "free" Swiss guards. Once over the border, we headed for the platform restaurant for coffee and rolls with black cherry jam. Such dawn breakfasts had been a great pre-war tradition for British travellers to Switzerland. We then travelled by a local train (electric-hauled but with wooden seats) to Spiez near Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland. I will never forget that first sight of the Alps rising dramatically into a blue sky and with their top after top glistening with snow. Likewise I will never forget looking out of the other side of the carriage and seeing a platoon of Swiss soldiers marching along a country road. They wore German-style steel helmets with the pieces over the ears. For a moment, it seemed as if the War had not yet finished and we schoolboys were in hostile territory! It was quite frightening. We stayed in a pre-war sanatorium now turned into a hostel for school parties and slept in large dormitories/ex wards! A staff member cared for our room and in his green baize apron and with a moustache, plus the name "Adolf", he must have wondered what had arrived from Birkenhead, such were our comments and antics. Each day Mr Hobday took us out amongst the sights and scenery of the Bernese Oberland. We sailed on Lake Thun to Interlaken. We took the local little cog-wheel trains up mountains to Kleine Scheidegg and The Niesen and we went shopping in Interlaken and Bern. But a thing that left a great impression on me was that the tram driver who took us down to the lakeside steamer point in Spiez carried a smart leather briefcase and smoked a cigar. My first impression of a one-class society where even the tram drivers smoked cigars! Did the trip have an impact on me – of course. I got the travel bug that has, over the next 60 years, taken me round the world, helped me make many friends and have wonderful experiences. Should today’s "New Birkonians" go on school trips abroad? Oh yes, but, even in the days of low cost flights, go by train so as to meet the people, and have cherry jam at Basle railway platform restaurant - it is still there. But you will not get two weeks for £30 as we did in 1950! And it was 12 Swiss francs to the pound! Bon voyage, und gute Reise. (The following article is based on notes for part of a new book currently being written by OB Peter Pennington, 1944-1954, and thus copyright belongs to him.)
My generation was born before Europe and much of the rest of the world were torn asunder by the Second World War, which started in September 1939 and finished in the summer of 1945. By then most of Europe lay devastated after the fighting, so it was not surprising that the pre-war tradition of school visits to the Continent was not able to be renewed until 1950. The first trip was led by Mr Hobday and was composed of 48 boys. There were no other staff members or adults in the group. Just one master + 48 boys ! We set off by overnight coach for the long journey to London. Motorways did not exist and our route was via Kidderminster and Oxford to London’s Victoria Station where we had an early breakfast around 7am in a nearby café called "Stewarts". In those days, London seemed a long way from Birkenhead. By around 9 am we were on our way by train to Dover, where the cross-channel steamers tied up at the "Dover, Marine" station. Four hours later, in the early evening, we tied up at Belgium’s "Ostend, Marine" quayside and station, where four long trains awaited to carry us to Switzerland and other travellers to destinations such as Copenhagen, Rome, Vienna and even through the Iron Curtain to Moscow via Berlin and Warsaw. To a generation where most of these names had so often featured as "targets for tonight" by our wartime bombers, there was an aura of magic to see the names on the metal destination boards of every carriage door. There were other places mentioned as well on those plaques. These were destinations where carriages would be uncoupled from one train and attached to another that had come from elsewhere in Europe. So a through-carriage from say Paris or Amsterdam to anywhere from Peter Pennington kindly Nice to Munich could be easily found on the daily network of donated a copy of his book trains criss-crossing Europe every day and night, without the ‘William Wood’s Diary’ to the inconvenience for the passenger of having to change. School. It is the fascinating At Ostend, I found myself in a compartment with a family of story of William and Sarah Italian coal miners returning home from working in the Belgian Wood’s (the great, great coal mines. My classmates were in compartments of 8 aunt of Peter Pennington) (four-a-side) further down the coach under the supervision of emigration to Australia in Hobday. I was left to myself and had the wonderful experience of 1852. They left their family the hospitality of the Italian mother and father and youngsters. and home in the industrial They generously shared their overnight food with a boy who north of England, travelling came from a country that had been their enemy until mid-way with their baby son in the through the recent war. Ever since that night, I have always liked cheapest ‘steerage’ class of "foreigners" as a species! the ‘Constance’ to As we got to each frontier – Belgium/Luxembourg, Luxembourg/ Melbourne some 12 France - the train stopped and customs officials walked through thousand miles away. The checking passports and our luggage. In fact all of we schoolboys book not only recounts the had travelled on a group passport. Around 6 am we arrived at the daily life on board ship, but Swiss border at Basle and I left my new Italian friends as their Peter examines the coach was going forward to Milan. background and motives for Mr Hobday led us on foot across the metal strip on the platform emigration under such difficult conditions during this time. that told us we were now (after the usual plonking of our The book is available from Peter Pennington.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
I noticed in the last School/OBS Bulletin reference to Alan Rouse, who, as the Headmaster pointed out, was the first British person to climb K2. Although this has been noted more than once in previous Bulletins, I think that there has been relatively little which actually says anything about him beyond this iconic deed. I am slightly reluctant to try and fill this gap because I really did not know him that well, but we were acquaintances at School for a number of years so I shall make a limited effort. Alan and I first met when he and a contemporary attempted to instil an interest in chess in the School. Alan was a very good chess player and we continued to play for some years in a School team which was at the very least respectable. At the local level playing one of the neighbourhood schools, I remember politely suggesting to one of my opponents that his move was likely to lose him the match but only because I was absolutely confident that our top boards, led by Alan, would win. Because my childhood and adolescent summers were heavily focused in the hills and beauty of North Wales, I was fascinated by Alan’s sudden development as a climber. We would talk about it often but I could only wonder at what he was able to do. What always seemed surprising to me (in truth not at the time but on reflection) was that Alan had never shown any ability at all at conventional physical sports. As far as I am aware, he did not play cricket, hockey, rugby or any of the sports encouraged by the School and at which the rest of us tried our limited best. My only attempts to emulate his abilities were to do two finger pull-ups on the, fortunately, very sturdy lintels in the Lodge. Alan, however, could support himself by his fingers on the classroom picture rail and then proceed to travel round the rooms below Big School, through the doorways until stopped by a member of staff or Prefect. K2 had been climbed before but was a mountaineer’s mountain, technically far more difficult than Everest. I think that Alan had been around the base for quite some time in the summer of 1986 but the weather conditions were so poor that his party had decided to leave. Alan stayed on and joined a rather disparate international group who were anxious to make an attempt on the summit. They succeeded but then the weather came in. One or two managed to struggle down the mountain but Alan’s physiology probably was not ideal for the descent under such adverse conditions. But he is, and always will be, the first Briton to have climbed the second highest mountain in the world. Alan was a very talented mathematician. He was a year ahead of me and I can still recall him discussing ‘O-levels’ as they were then. His Maths teacher for the year, Ernest Camier, again an iconic figure, had told the class that if they wanted to study volumes of revolution (a calculus based concept), they would have to do it themselves. Alan did and told me that he found the question, which duly appeared in the examination, very straightforward. Alan was one of a generation which I think might be a little underrepresented in the School’s history. It was moving on from the 1950’s when the School and the local business community had been close. In the intervening years, things had changed quite significantly. In the year I left, I think that as many as 28 went to Oxbridge and, I may be wrong, but I doubt that more than one or two of these are living on Merseyside today. It was an interesting era. There was an
appreciation of change and dissent and this meant that many in the School, quite probably the majority, disagreed with its constitution and complexion. I would imagine that Alan, who came f r o m W a l la s e y , w o u l d perhaps be in that category, although he was never anything but extremely friendly and polite to me. He was, however, part of the School Leavers ‘Fiasco’ of 1970. I think that he used his climbing skills to place something on the School clock. The CCF Naval Section showed their consummate abilities by managing to fell, accidentally, the School flagpole, whilst being pursued by Freddie Wakelin, and others enthusiastically daubed the Science building with mildly entertaining graffiti. I can still recall my father reporting the view of this event from the then very estimable Head of Biology, ‘in twenty years this will be a great joke, but it is deadly serious now’. My father, who had probably seen worse things in the past said, ‘Well, Howarth is entirely correct but at least nobody has been hurt.’ In terms of wider reflections and because so few people of my generation actually joined the Old Birkonian Society at the time, I think that it might be possible to give a little more prominence to what was in its own strange way was an outstanding period of success for the School. Obviously the Oxbridge statistics will never be matched, there were significant successes in terms of drama and culture led by some very dedicated teachers, the Choir was outstanding and I remember Graeme Vick as a second team prop – but I believe he has moved on to higher things! For periods the rugby team was outstanding. I did not see it but I am told that Howard and Rule destroyed a visiting Welsh team including at least one and possibly two future grand slam winning centres as their opponents. I did see a future England grand slam player from King’s, Macclesfield, hit one of his own players because he was so cross that they were losing. To go back to Alan, the last time I saw him was on King’s Parade in 1972 or 1973. Another time, whilst still at Cambridge, he was seen on crutches outside Christ’s College with a broken ankle, having been airlifted off Mont Blanc. By then mountaineering had taken over his life and he told me that he would spend twenty four hours hitchhiking to Scotland for the winter climbing and twenty four hours back. I am not quite sure how this fitted with his study pattern. He was happy and I really do not think that it mattered. I was genuinely sad when (ironically, I was on the top of a mild North Walian hill) in 1986 I heard that he was not going to come back. Some months later there was a commemorative service in Sheffield. The OBS, which did not always get everything right in those days, apparently said that, as he was not a signed up Society Member, they could not send formal flowers. Although Alan and my father were probably a little different in their approach to life, I am glad that my father put his foot down and flowers were sent from the School and the OBS. David Gwilliam, OB 1963-1971
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
a biography and partly a review of Welsh rugby sixty years ago by David Parry-Jones who was a well-known Welsh broadcaster and writer. Incidentally, David Parry-Jones was also an OB 1944-45, when his father was Vicar in Hoylake, before the family returned to Cardiff.
Since its foundation in 1860 Birkenhead School has had only eleven Headmasters. Longest-serving among them is John Gwilliam, Headmaster from 1963 to 1988, who celebrated his ninetieth birthday at the end of February A proud Welshman, John Gwilliam was educated at Monmouth School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read History. He saw war service while in the army between 1942 and 1946 and after Cambridge taught successively at Trinity College Glenalmond, Bromsgrove School and Dulwich College, where he was Head of the Lower School. He was appointed Headmaster of Birkenhead School in 1963 at the age of forty. The Governors, of course, knew of his distinguished exploits on the rugby field: he won 23 caps as no. 8 for Wales, 15 as captain, and Wales won the Five Nations Championship under his captaincy in 1950 and 1952. As Headmaster, he successfully steered the School through the 60s, a period of considerable social change, and during the 70s and 80s academic standards reached new heights. The School completed the purchase of all the properties round the campus, except the Catholic church in Beresford Road, the Junior School building was refurbished and The Bushell Hall (then The New Hall) was opened. Sporting standards continued to be very high, and not merely in Rugby and Cricket, the two main sports. Despite the abolition of the Direct Grant in 1976 the number of pupils remained very healthy – there were 724 boys in the school which he handed over to his successor Stuart Haggett in 1988. In retirement he and his wife have lived at LLanfairfechan, on the North Wales Coast. We wish them both continued happiness and fulfilment in a part of the world they have come to know so well. MJ Hudson, Former Head of Classics Early life: David Gwilliam (OB) comments on an account of his father’s early life in ‘The Gwilliam Seasons’ ,
The book, though mainly about Welsh rugby in those years, gives a picture of my father’s early years which does perhaps suggest a rather more comfortable progression - Pontypridd/ Monmouth/Trinity/Army/Trinity - supported by relatively well-off grandparents, than the actual reality. My father genuinely liked Pontypridd and his early school days. It was ‘a bustling, pleasant town’ in the book but one could offer alternative descriptions of the town, and the family lived in a terraced house which did not have a bath until he was seven (not mentioned in the book). I once asked my father how this problem was overcome and he said frequent visits to the town’s Turkish baths. John Gwilliam had only just started at Pontypridd Grammar when the family moved to Monmouth because his father had a minor nervous breakdown following an extension to the hours he had to work underground. In the book a transfer was arranged for John from Pontypridd GS to the Monmouth’s Direct Grant ‘semi-public school’. In fact, he had no school to go to at all when the family arrived in Monmouth and spent weeks just wandering around the town before finally being accepted by Monmouth. The book suggests that the move from Pontypridd town to Monmouth was facilitated by his paternal grandmother who ‘was evidently not short of capital assets’ and helped her son to acquire a retail business at Monmouth. This is true in a sense, as the grandmother was herself a shop-keeper in the Wye valley and did have a little money but not that much – and did help with the purchase of what was basically a corner store, probably running at a loss, located disadvantageously and which sold anything. My memory is of the smell of potatoes (and of finding a farthing in the till) sold from a large front area/room in what was one of a row of seventeenth century town cottages (sadly condemned and demolished by the local council in the 1960s). My grandmother kept the family going whilst my grandfather recovered and until he was then employed as a draughtsman/surveyor in the ratings office (above ground). Actually she continued to run the shop, at which she was very good, until the forced demolition and my grandfather continued to work until he was seventy. The book did provide one item of information which answers a question which had intrigued me, i.e. who could possibly have been paying the fees at Monmouth? I had not realised that Monmouth was a Direct Grant school and probably one of the many reasons why my father was very disappointed to see the end of the scheme, notwithstanding its imperfections. (Because I had spent five or six years at an LCC primary school, Birkenhead Council paid all my school fees for nearly seven years, whereas my youngest brother, who no doubt did much better in the eleven-plus than I did, was not eligible because he had been in the Prep). Anyway when Monmouth finally decided to accept him, they offered him a free place. Monmouth must have taken to him because, some years later, the headmaster found him an exhibition at Trinity worth thirty pounds a year. It was limited to those intending to teach history in schools but seems to have been offered to my father immediately. I have a slight suspicion that the headmaster had been at Trinity. The amount, although negligible these days, was in fact helpful financially in his first year there. When he went back he had the advantage of five-years pay as a junior officer, much of it unspent, so the finances were less of a problem.
In Focus and OBS Bulletin Summer 2013
It is funny how things come about. Just as Mr Blain’s cartoon arrived in the IF office, so did an email from Mr Clark. A School Archivist had sent him a copy of the front page of the Birkonian from June 1945. One of the elements which makes In Focus interesting and certainly colourful is that most of the articles in it are accompanied by at least one photograph, and occasionally there is the added delight of one of Mr Blain’s unique cartoons (Would we ever have imagined our Headmaster and the Head of Prep could be so happy and full of fun?). Now, of course, we have the virtual version of IF on the website as well. We take for granted our colourful, highres world of communication and give little thought to how much or what we produce, whether it be on the printed page, on our websites, in our emails, through our iPads, iphones or computers. Technology has made it all so easy and there doesn’t seem to be a limit to our resources. The struggles then of the School magazine producers not so many, many years ago made me realise how much we take for granted and how lucky we are.