Rose Tinted Glasses
(excerpts from the mesage board)
As many others have commented, Augustines was a bizarre
institution. I doubt many other schools could have generated this
site - which is as bizarre and, sometimes, as aspirational as the
institution (and I use the word advisedly) which spawned it.
To set up a school, just outside Wythenshawe (then, I think, still Europe's biggest council estate) and name all (well most) of the terms after the Oxbridge model almost defies belief.
Some of the things that went on - the vicarious pleasure that a certain bunch of staff took in strapping (in both senses)pupils, the pupils that were invited to extra-curricular events by staff (allegedly) and the bizarre rules (does anyone remember: "Today summer has begun. You can no longer wear jumpers...") seem very weird in retrospect. I think that I can only appreciate just how weird by looking back now. One of the factors in this is comparing notes with people who went to other schools. The Augustine's experience was unique, sometimes in a positive way, but there were a number of negative undertones. I sometimes wonder if any of these contributed into its forced transformation (for the worse) into SJP. SJP was a much more conventionally brutal school, with none of the bizarre flourishes that made SA unique.
When I meet former SA pupils, which is not very often, we are inevitably drawn into discussing the school, almost to the exclusion of everything else. It is almost impossible to discuss with anybody who wasn't there as no-one would believe it - particularly the "Dear Monsignor, I have the honour to be..."etc, spike turning up pissed and knocking the microphone onto nobby wyatt's head during assembly and various other strange happenings.
Parents loved the retro-catholic feel of the school; it reminded them of much of their own upbringing. Acadmeic aspirations were high, discipline was just a shade this side of brutal, but, ultimately, how healthy was the atmosphere?
I remember other strange things: in 1979 we had to, overnight, switch biology syllabus becuase the one we were previously doing covered contraception. Thanks to the then administration we knew how to avoid getting plankton pregnant and were experts in amoebic seperation, but little else in this sphere.
Much of the tone of this site reminds me of the "abductees" in the "X-files" - individuals joined by a common bond of having been removed from normal experience and subjected to a bizarre experiment.
It is a pity there was no sexual abuse. If there was we would all be in line for mega buck payouts from the good ol' catholic church.
On your point about strapping lads I recall being required to strap Johnny Maher, our version of Oasis. I was so nervous (did I fancy him? I know that according to Spike, everyone thought that I fancied everyone; however, I did keep my hands to myself).
Anyway the point of this story is that I ended up hitting myself. I do admit that when I first arrived I was so intimidated by all the testosterone fuelled lads that I foolishly resorted to sending them to Spike: actions of which I am now very ashamed. I also became angry far too easily: a fact that was pointed out to me by one boy: "Ok you can teach, but why fly off the handle all the time?"
Neverthless, there were some superb teachers there who achieved excellent results (how important was that? and from whom I learnt a great deal. Indeed, I went back to Manchester from Bristol, where I now live, to see Danny Howells, who gave me news of Mike Brennan, Jim McCabe, Alan Addis, Pete Foley and Tommy Moore.
So, having missed last year's reunion, I fully intend to make the one this November. Quite apart from nothing else to see John Rice again, whom I intend to call.
The other guy whom I know is Roger Callan; I was at school with him: he introduced me to the Monsigneur. I see him pretty much every year, either in Europe or in New York where he now teaches and lives.
Some of the comments in my msg were tongue in cheek. Some were not. There was undoubtedly a gay mafia at SA, but there is a gay mafia within Catholicism as a whole. There is no reason, apart from the inherent hypocrisy, that this is necessarily a bad thing.
As far as I am aware, despite vague unsubstantiated rumours, no pupil at SA was ever subject to sexual abuse at the hand (or anything else) of any master. However, there was a "campness" that was almost de rigeur amongst a certain set. It was part of the blend of the place and was perhaps, in part, dictated by the character of the headmaster himself. A lot of his affectations had certain similarities with the extreme rightwing Catholic institutions that emerged later. many of which had a gay component (largely still unacknowledged).
Of couse, somebody reading this may have a very different recollection and I would not want to undermine or belittle this.
I take what Richard said not as an apology or an admission, but really an acknowledgement that it was an unusual environment and I doubt that many of us, masters or pupils, are entirely at ease with some of the things that we did or some of the attitudes that we held.I am maybe thinking, particularly, of the the bullying ethos that developed during the Sa/SJp transition. But it was all a long time ago... (Ps I didn't do the bullying)
I regard Dick Scrowston's recollections as an honest attempt at expressing how he felt in what must have been a very difficult situation. I don't feel apologies or explanations are neccessary particularly as I remember his painful attempts at "manliness" as required by the system. I'll never forget his histrionic screech of "Rainford you tit" as he attempted to referee an inter-form rugby match. Sexuality is a non-issue unless it manifests itself in an unacceptable way. Apart from those who enjoyed beating young men's arses (you know who you are) I never felt threatened in any way. Dick, you are/were a great and interesting teacher and I could have been entertained by you for years. Thank you wherever you are.
As far as bullying was concerned, this didn't just develop during the SA/SJP transition.Each year had at least a couple, ours being no exception. I still have a burn scar caused by one such pain-in-the-arse placing a heated metal rod on my hand in the metalwork room.Other delights included have bare feet after games stamped upon by a pair of rugby boots.Another buffoon hit me on the head with a hammer, then punched me so my head hit the wall in the same place.
Unfortunately, these idiots had the run of the school.At that time there was no real support for bully victims and it was understood that you didn't report it. (this would have been unheard of)Luckily, this seems to have been improved over the last few years.
So when I look back at my time at Augustines, I have to balance out the good times with the bad.
yes i think your assessment is spot on- there were certainly drunks, paedophiles, charlatans, bullies, incompetents... but also heroes and leaders and inspirational staff, all led by the paradoxical priest; what i think stands out in this virtual memorial is actually a lack of rose tinting - everyone seems well aware of the shit but could still smell the roses
nostalgia - it's just what it used to be
Sorry, I can't let this statement go with no response.
"heroes and leaders and inspirational staff, all led by the paradoxical priest"
Does the fact that some pupils left SA/SJP mentally scarred mean nothing. I still have nightmares about the place and my experiences at this school have shaped and scarred my life. I have it all in prespective now which proves that you can survive oppression and move on to better things.
The only teacher I have any time for was Barry Thorpe as he was the only teacher who thought wider than his role. But even then I feel that he was part of mentality that believed that somehow you emerged from bullying and physical and mental brutality a better person.
Lets get something straight here - Bullying was permitted and actively encouraged at St Augustines.
"paradoxical priest"?? He was a loon - He roamed around the premises drunk and dispensed physical violence against boys on the whim of teachers who would send you to the HM because you walked too fast down a corridor.
Maybe there was an inner coterie of SA alumni who did chummy things with Mcguiness and who perhaps thought he was more than this. . I will leave you to your fond memories - maybe you derived some sort of auto-erotic pleasure from being hit hard by another human being - I didn't.
Well done Kipper - Please keep posting messages to the site
St Augustine's was part of our life (like it or not) and definitely had its ugly points. This ugly side is represented on this site too (...and much of the pseudo public school hype is maybe just a trifle tongue in cheek?)
I suspect that the school definitely changed in character during its short history. The aspiring new school in 1965 was not the same school as the run down SJP (and headmaster?) in 1980.
FJM firmly believed in corporal punishment and my own arse was certainly not spared! usually for minor offences. However, my impression is that punishment in the earlier days was less arbitrary and more proportionate - albeit totally unacceptable in today's terms. This is corroborated by comments from earlier intakes.
In later years, along with his ambitions for the school failing, I wonder if his judgement began to fail? ... It would hardly be surprising.
Whereas there may have been a few staff members who might, for various reasons, come under close scrutiny these days, there were also some memorable teaching staff, to whom I am certainly thankful.
I wonder if the "Grammar School" kids may have fared worse within a comprehensive school (at least the Sharston High standoffs were limited to after ten to four!)
Also, were we not protected and thereby deprived within our exclusive elitist catholic christian single sex school? Certainly I found there was a more diverse world and a lot to learn after I left school.
I didn't give St Augustines much thought again until 1999 (the year of the 1969 reunion)and then it was to meet up with friends I had lost contact with. This is, to my eyes, the original and main purpose of this site, to allow folk to keep in touch.
Hopefully this site can too reflect the common formative experience we all underwent
- *GOOD* and *BAD*
So keep them coming Kipper!
It is a very British way to deal with adverse experience by humour. This should not be confused with enjoyment of the event.