Tales from Sharston Mount

These stories are gathered from memories from over 25 years ago.
Fiction may have been confused with fact but this has not been allowed to get in the way of a good story!

1. Ted Hughes was invited to talk to the sixth form
The Fire
Spike is an illegitimate bastard
A Trip to Stratford
A Credit Note
A French lesson
One of the lads!
An English lesson
The Quietest lesson of All Time
10. The collapsing lectern
11. On Women . . .
12. Moments Musicales
13. Under the Stage...
14. Who Shat Outside Matthew's office door?
The 44 Bus
The Mystery of Gerighty's Pen
17. My Schooldays Part 1

Ted Hughes was invited to talk to the sixth form.

He was on an Arts Council list and with his new wife (Sylvia Plath was dead by this time) a writer of short stories for children, he was touring. The Mons. did not like the look of Ted Hughes. He was wearing a leather jacket and jeans, while he had long black hair and spoke in a thick Yorkshire accent.
I recall that he talked about the ouija board sending him messages from "King Lear" and that some of his animal poems had been written by the ouija board - "Second Glance at a Jaguar" being one. So, the Mons. glided in and out of the library in full regalia - magenta cummerbund, mortar board etc. Finally, at the close of the talk, seeing our evident enthusiasm, he stopped and gave Ted Hughes the full florid thankyou (having failed to greet him at all)
Ted was invited back for dinner and he returned with his wife by taxi from his hotel. The kitchen staff laid on a full Italian meal (It was that lovely lady who left to work at Wills Hall). There was plenty of wine and the evening didn't finish until after midnight. Apparently they talked about J.F.K. about whose assassination they shared a
mutual interest *. They also talked about Dante**. Ted Hughes was fascinated by the Mons.: his knowledge of languages, theology and music. Most of all (the cook told me) he could not get over the perfect sentence structures our Head used all throught the long evening. So much knowledge, so beautifully articulated despite being high. They parted in the early hours of the morning great friends.
* (on one occasion the Mons. took a taxi into the Gatley cinema to see the Oliver Stone film buying drinks for the whole audience at the interval)
** (our final staff meetings consisted of large chunks of
Dante in Italian typed out by Vera Warren after Monsignor had intoned passages from "The Divine Comedy" into the dictaphone. The school business took ten minutes at the end, after a further discourse on the "Beatific Vision".)

A fire in one of classrooms

It was 1978 and the first full year as Plessington High. Along with this came an influx of new pupils and new teachers with attitude.

So it was that several pupils became bored during Mr Deane's French lesson and before each lesson various pranks were worked out. This included adorning the walls with male porn centrefolds; turning all the desks round to face the opposite way or moving the desks into the rear section of the classroom and closing the partition. On his arrival, rather than confront the class, he would teach from the other end or cramped up into half the class.

The one that went drastically wrong was to leave smouldering paper in a disused desk near the partition. The idea was that smoke would eventually leak from the desk during the lesson. Unfortunately, naively and completely unintentionally it ignited and caught the plastic partition. I can still remember TD desperately trying to extinguish the flames by opening and closing the partition but only succeeding in fanning the flames. So the alarm was raised and enter the Anti-hero, latent hippy Mr Hillary.
Now for the twist in the tale and the part for which most of you can consider yourselves partly responsible. Mr Hillary, sent his class back into the classroom and used those immortal words "I'll deal with this!". He unravelled the hose situated opposite the classroom in the corridor, turned the tap and the water spurted out of the several hundred tiny compass holes which had been made over the years, whilst a small trickle emerged from the nozzle.

The alarm was re-raised

It was really odd. We were in Mr Scrowston's class and a young lad came in.
Mr Scrowston looked around and gave him a 'what do you want boy?'
'There's a fire in the next room'.
Mr Scrowston's remained a fop during the whole thing, asking us to leave in good order, while smoke poured in to the room. When we were outside, we cheered as the school burned. Apparently some kid had set fire to one of the dividers, while playing around with a lighter.

With the school forced to sit on the bank, as the fire brigade attended, the local nutters from Sharston decided to take the entire school on, scaling the front fence. It was the greatest sight to watch our highly trained PE department set off to initiate the skurmish. Unfortunately, Wythenshawe's finest did not fancy their chances.

And finally I have to admit I was the third man in the arson affair...I supplied the match!
[Billy Brennan]

Just want to put the record straight once and for all. It was a complete accident, honest.
[Mark Bob Roberts]

In the early days when Denny Howells was head of PE the first graffito appeared in the boys' toilet by the gym.
Denny discovered it on a Monday morning; there had been a home match on the Saturday.
The scrawl read "Spike is an illegitimate bastard."
Denny duly reported it to the Head, and opined that the culprit was probably one of the visiting team. On hearing that the visitors were from a sec. mod., McGuinness disagreed, saying that for one thing there was no spelling mistake, and for another, two words had been used where one would do. It therefore had to be an Augustinian.

A Trip to Stratford
I think Terry McSweeny had left, while Barney Quinn had not arrived from St Ambrose. It was the guy from
Altrincham Grammar, who went back having driven us to Stratford to see "Cymbeline" in the afternoon with "Richard II" in the evening. Unfortunately, all the boys got drunk, most not turning up for the evening performance. Nevertheless, we could hear in the auditorium alternative shouts from our boys plus a group from Leeds of, "Leeds are shit!" and "Man. U. are cunts!" The poor man never recovered. He was particularly annoyed as we had to continually stop on the way home for piss-stops. One boy (MM), I recall being sick all over the road after an emergency halt (The same boy, by the way, suddenly got up from his seat at the back of the stage in the University Theatre and walked across the playing area in the middle of a performance of O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night", so that he could pee).

A bright lad (Anthony Greenwood) was sent to show his exemplary work to the headmaster . The headmaster allegedly assumed the usual reason for a pupil knocking at his door and promptly administered the strap! On realising his mistake the headmaster apparently apologised and then gave the boy a credit note excusing him the strap should he ever require future discipline

Nellie:  Est-ce que c'est un cahier?
Class:  Oui, c'est un cahier
Nellie:  Is this a booook?
Class (except for Tony Wood):  Yes, that is a book.
Tony Wood:  No, that's not a boook, it's a book.

Another story came from Kenny when he perceived that a normally well behaved student (Mark Box) was trying to curry favour with the rowdier element by playing up in class.  After a brief exchange, much to the delight of the rest of the class who, for once, agreed with him, Kenny yelled out in an incredulous voice, 'Box!  You think you're one of the lads!!'
Poor old Box had to put up with this being used against him for quite some time.

In Richard Scrowston's English lesson, a class member (John Bell) was keen to draw the teacher's attention to the graffiti on his desk which read 'Scrowston is a Wanker'.  The exchange allegedly went something like this:
Bell:  Sir, sir, there's graffiti on my desk, sir
Scrowston:  I know, Bell
Bell:  Sir, sir, it's about you
Scrowston: I know, Bell
Bell:  Sir, sir, it's really rude
Scrowston: I know what it says, Bell
Bell:  Sir, sir, it says, 'Scrowston is a wanker', sir
Scrowston (by now infuriated):  Bell, I was wanking before you were born, boy!

The Quietest lesson of All Time

Credit goes to Miss Shiner - approx. June'77.
...the memory of her, legs slightly apart, standing in front of the library window whilst the sun streamed through her flimsy summer skirt (remember the infamous Diana photo?).
1H was never again so captivated by the reading of "The Mayor of Canterbury" - we never took our eyes off her

The collapsing lectern ....

I clearly remember the first time time the lectern collapsed at assembly.  I think it was just an accident, at least it had nothing to do with me.  It happened at that point when Spike leaned forward to address us, putting his not inconsiderable weight on the lectern and saying something pompous, usually starting with, "Gentlemen, as I look out over the future leaders of our nation ..." 

Unfortunately, as he leaned forward on this particular morning, the adjustable top section fell rapidly to its lowest position with a loud bang, showering papers and books over the stage and removing all sign of dignity from the man.  He was embarrased, confused and very angry.  I remember him pulling open the stage curtains and throwing the entire lectern through the gap.  The effect on the school was predictable - everyone collapsed laughing and carried on for several minutes.  Spike tried to soldier on but, knowing he had lost it, called upon ETM to start the final hymn as he fled the hall.

I don't remember who my fellow conspirators were, but several of us felt that if this could happen once and give such good, free entertainment, then it might be "persuaded" to happen again. The lectern re-appeared the following day and seemed to be structural sound again although Spike was obviously not trusting it with his full weight again.  After a couple of weeks passed, we decided to act.  A suitable opportunity arose to inspect the mechanism, probably an orchestra rehearsal.  Our first attempt was to use a couple of washers to bring the adjuster further out and reduce the amount of engagement of the pin in the pillar.  We did a couple of trial runs but the results were disappointing - it was nearly impossible to set the adjuster up so that it would support the weight of the heavy Missal used at assembly but still collapse, on demand, as Spike leant on it.  We needed something more sophisticated.  The obvious solution was to taper the pin so that it would disengage more easily under the appropriate weight.  Now, in a school equipped with so many lathes (and situated conveniently so close to the hall) turning a tapered end on the pin didn't prove too difficult.  I think we added it to a batch of the pointed spikes used in the candlesticks we all made (who remembers those?) and the extra machining went unnoticed.  We made several, with different angles of taper and managed to swap the straight pin for one of the new, improved designs.  Our trial run was cut short by the sudden appearance of a teacher and we had to leave the tapered pin in place, not knowing what would result.

Our efforts paid off at the next morning's assembly.  The lectern collapsed, almost as planned, leaving Spike hot, flustered and again clearly angry. The next morning, for some reason, it didn't work.  We assumed that someone had discovered what we'd done and fixed it, but three mornings later it went with a bang again.  We must have got it just on the brink of stability because after that it would go about once a week!  The fun ended when "a man in a van" was seen adding a much more substantial catch and it never fell again.

Unfortunately, it was about this time that the microphone appeared for the first time.  Who remembers all the times it schreeched, whistled, went louder and quieter, stopped or added Dalek effects?  Why did he ever subject himself to such an ordeal?  It's not as though he needed a microphone anyway!

On Women . . . (from the Message Board)

Mme Fairhurst and Mrs Dawson were the gorgeous ones, I recall.

I remember Mrs. Dawson was certainly quite tasty !

Madame Fairhurst.

Most ex-pupils only think of one thing (or two) when they think of her. And I'm no exception (being a sexist from the 70,s)
We only ever had her for one lesson. She held a map of France against her body and pointed to various towns and cities. When she pointed to Brest a titter went around the class...

Can only say that she reminded me of a dead-heat in a zepplin race and had more visits to the late 'spike' courtesy of mme fairhurst than anyone else....

Mrs Fairhurst .... mmm ....

Louise Carey.

I'll never forget when she came to the Lake District with us in 4th year.There we were walking along when all of a sudden she stuck out her chest and exclaimed "Look what's some bard's done!" ("bard" is how she pronounced "bird")
A bird had left it's calling card right across her chest. Being hormonal teenagers, we should have reached for our hankies and offered to do the gentlemanly thing.Instead we all stood there, really pathetic,with our chins on our chests.
Ah! The mammaries.............

Ah yes, Miss Dolata. My favourite lesson biology and entirely due to her.

My fondest memory was of myself and another lad climbing on the roof to see Miss Dolata getting her kit off in the PE teachers changing room. She always used to play tennis with Mr Jessett whilst we were supposed to be doing our homework prior to windband practice. I'm still convinced she saw us perving through the small window. They were a truly magnificent pair and well worth the risk!

Miss Dolata and her hefty bosom, or at least it seemed it at the time. On one occasion it was particularly cold and it was obvious Miss Dolata wasn’t wearing a vest(! You get the picture). A few comments were made and James Sales in his best stage whisper said “there’s a big nip in the air this morning”, to which Dolata retorted, “I would expect more original comments from boys of your intelligence”.

A particularly stunning art teacher, who wore fish nets and an erection inducing perfume.
In a boy's school !
God those priests liked to test our resolve whilst leading us not into temptation.

Does anyone remember an art student teacher known only as 'smelly' due to her overwhelming perfume? I seem to reember she entranced the entire art class (circa 1977) by never being able to button her blouse up all the way and, indeed, her ability to strategically fail to fasten selected buttons at particularly interesting points on her top.

Mrs Deans ('our auld friend arriver') - Scottish teaching French aaaghhh!

Miss Shiner was pretty too.

Moments Musicales

Remembering about carol concert humiliations. it goes like this...
I was in the school orchestra and I played in second violin section (at mr jessetts orders - god knows why because I was so bad). I mean it was good cop/ bad cop (Mr Morris = niceguy and Mr bloody Jessett = nasty b£$£%d who would put you off music for life.)
Anyway, its like a carol concert and me, not a musical genius, has this school violin rather than my own.
To cut a long story short, after Silent Night Holy Night, and in front of a bishop, SPIKE, Mr Matthews and assembled school, the bridge of my dodgy violin breaks causing the whole nasty instrument to implode sending bits of metal and wood everywhere. I recall quite vividly the smirk on Mr Beeley's face as I tried to hold together the pathetic remnants of the instrument.
Of course this being St Augustine's ceremony and all that i had to sit there for another hour till the whole sorry affair ended clutching those bits of wood and metal. ...just off to write my letter to the headmaster!

I remember that night very clearly. I have told the story often. I was sitting next to you and when your violin had blown up and the strings had settled on your knee Mr Jessett looked hard at you as if you had done it intentionally. Do you remember those terrible violin lessons with - was his name Mr Bailey the Italian Violin teacher?

I remember your violin breaking up. Fortunately the pieces missed my euphonium. Was that the time you used butter instead of resin on your bow? Top trick!

I seem to remember you getting bollocked for applying butter rather than resin to your violin bow - also do you remember the Hungarian/Romanian violin/viola instructor - sounded like Dracula? I only took up the viola because there weren't any in the orchestra - remember Jessett liking The Carpenters ?

Who can remember the painfully slow rendition of "Dr Findlay's Casebook" (~1974) by the school orchestra. (A funeral procession would have had to wait for the music to catch up!)

I played in this. It was the march from "A Little Suite" by Trevor Duncan and we started playing it at the 1975 speech day. I don't know if we've reached the end yet!

I played in 'The Crawl from Carmen' Adapted by Bizet's 4-year old daughter. No wonder they closed the Free Trade Hall down. My father still wipes the tears of mirth away.

Music was compulsory up to 3rd year. Recorder playing was tested every term. Martin (will'o the wisp) Willoughby lost the part of his recorder with the holes sometime in 3rd year but still managed to pass the tests by blowing soft for the low notes and harder for high notes with his head down. Amazing. He also used to get paid for ' Farts to order' (10p i think) during these tests! Anyone remember?

I remember sitting next to Martin Willoughby (aka Wispinley) for a time when he would regularly ask me to pull a finger then he would let one go - he was an amazingly talented individual.
Recorder tests were always a bit of a high point of the musical term. I remember we all used to wait for Pat Healy's performance with huge anticipation. He seemed to play the same 3 or 4 notes every recorder test of 3 years - not bad eh ?

Under the Stage...

School antics, now let me recall one............
As I remember there were about 7 or 8 of us and we had wagged assembly and were secreted below our great leader under the stage in the assembly hall. We had sawn off the legs from a few chairs so that we could sit in some comfort in our crawl space. Several small candles had been lit so we could see and a small campfire flickered illuminating our faces and creating massive freak shaped shadows on the walls behind us.
Unbeknown to us indian smoke signals were seeping through the floorboards and wafting up Spikes robes.
As the tittering of the masses grew to crescendo, an eagle eyed teacher, think he was called Mr. Taylor (he taught metalwork/woodwork) disappeared to the carpark to return a few seconds later with a torch.
As the trapdoor creaked open all we could see was dust as we scampered around on all fours trying to find a crevice in which to hide, to no avail. "COME ON OUT,THE LOT OF YOU" .We knew he was serious.
A great cheer went up as we emerged one by one, rather like Armstrong and Aldrin emerging from their lunar module in the Pacific. We filed through the hall and were rounded up in the corridor outside Spikes office.
Somehow i managed to be at the front of the line, think I was pushed !
We were summoned in,shoulders still twitching with subdued laughter. An explanation was required and i felt several hands in my back volunteering me forward.
Damn, I thought, no time to don a second pair of shorts. I was asked to assume the position over the back of the visitors chair, hands on the seat of course, and was duly administered 3 lashes. We were asked for our explanation. "What form of lighting did you have" enquired Spike. A line of eyes shuffled side to side, there was silence. "errrrrr, " i started, all the eyes were now focused on me. "Candles ", I finished. A desperate sigh went up from the lads.
"right bend over" He meant me ! I'd already had my turn. 3 more lashes and we were ordered out, the warning of the severity of our jape ringing in our ears.....
So if you were one of the others with me that day, one of the lucky ones who escaped punishment... you owe me....I took the st'rap'.

Yes I do remember the episode under the stage although in my true style I wasn't there the day everyone got caught . I was stood with Mr Taylor asking him what the burning smell was !! I seem to remember they also found a large turd under stage after an inspection which was apportioned to Barris Walker ( last saw him playing for Cheadle Town about 10 years ago.)

Who Shat Outside Matthew's office door?

He was as mysterious as the elusive "shadow" and was affectionately known as "The Phantom Shitter"If memory serves,he struck on several occasions,the most dastardly being on a stairwell prior to a lunchtime break bell.He remains a legend.ps,it wasn't me.

The 44 Bus

Some memories of my journey from school, when we used to get the 44 into Northenden. The open back bus, which was a special, which used to arrive first. In the early years I can remember the prefects holding everyone back until the bus arrived at the stop on Alty Rd and then a bit of a scramble ensued. In the latter years I remember lads meeting and embarking on the bus about 50 yards from the stop whilst it was still going flat out.
I also recall the day Shay Dinan left St. Augustines, as my cousin was the conductor on the 44; he smashed all the bulbs on the top deck and got off every other stop to say 'goodbye to various people. (Shay Dinan that is!) He was using a belt which looked very similar to the one that Spike used to use occassionally.(anyone remember that?)

Other strange things about the 44/41 route to/from Sale. You could get to Sale station in 20 mins easy, yet in the morning the bus used to take anything up to 1, 1 & 1/4 hours dependant on what time you had on your late pass. Strange.

The benefit of the 41/44 journey into school was, that if there were any 'unforeseen' delays in or around the Northenden area it was always possible to cadge a lift of Mr. Herp in his 'Moskovich'. He even used to pop round the back of the shops to find you if you were sheltering from inclement weather! Happy Days

I also remember Shay Dinan's last day and his purloining of Spike's strap......Several lucky pupils on the top deck got a clip round the head with it. I can only remember shitting myself because I had a load of Man U badges on my jacket and Shay was a big blue!

Other fabulous events on the 44 in Northenden were a couple of the top windows being pushed out at the Northenden stop, the whole bus being taken to the depe and being threatened with arrest by the inspector there (can't remember what for) and, of course, the hilarity of people falling off the open back in Northenden as they tried to get off while it was still moving too quickly.

The mystery of Gerrighty's pen

Who remembers the mystery of Gerrighty's pen - which fragmented mysteriously as it passed around the class - and Willy Muir playing Sherlock holmes to crack the case....?

I remember being perplexed such a minor thing could tax our leaders so outrageously. What was the upshot? I have a feeling we were all pressured into supplying an appropriate amount of dosh to replace said pen. Willie certainly fancied himself as Poirot, but was three inches short in the moustache and at least a foot short in the legs.