Robin Dew - 1957 - 64
14th May 2002
I am writing in response to your email via friends reunited. I am afraid that I do not at present recall you and suspect that you are maybe 2 years younger than me. I see from your member notes that you live in Timsbury. I met my wife, who at that time lived in Timsbury, back in 1968 and we married in 1970. I still regularly go to Timsbury to visit my mother in law. I would be willing to drop in some time to meet up with you.
I left school and went to work with the GPO as it was then. This later became the Post Office and then BT. I stayed with BT until September 1996 when I took early voluntary retirement. After that I worked for Siemens Communications for 3 years before being made redundant. Then in October 2000 I joined Orange and I am continuing to enjoy my working life in telecommunications.
Here are some of my memories from the school past. I know some of them are in your notes and also I recall a couple of the other names around the 1964 period.
Started September 1957 in the Weymouth House site in the City centre where Marks & Spencer is now situated. Left in July 1964
I stayed in the Y stream of class up to year 5, then 6X1 and 6X2 for ‘A’ levels.
These are the names as far as I can remember of my class. I am not very good at remembering first names, I have been searching my memory for the last few months since receiving your email.
Andy Bale (twins) one in the X class and one in the Y class
Ivor Morgan 1957 - 62
IVOR MORGAN PEN PICTURE
Years at the Tech: 1957 – 62
Favourite Teacher(s): Mr. Frew, a gentle chap whose son would sit quietly next to him in the classroom
Favourite Subject(s): PE, History, English
A School Memory: In my first lesson after my brother died in a road accident, no one would sit next to me in class… but after a few minutes one of the Biggs twins did, and this was a comfort. (There was no bereavement counselling in 1961.)
Occupation(s): Further Education Teacher
Places lived: Twerton, Centre of Bath, Hull, London, Melbourne, Lincoln
Hobbies & Interests: Trying to work out what this life is all about
Notable Achievement(s): Subbuteo table football coach (now retired).In the 1980s I ran the Lincoln Red Imps Subbuteo Club. One of my sons became the England Junior Subbuteo Champion and the other became the England Junior Subbuteo Runner-up. I might be the only person who grew up on the Newton - Woodhouse Road prefab estate who gained a Masters degree from the London School of Economics.
David Hough 1956 -61
The many faces of David Hough throughout the Ages.
DAVID HOUGH PEN PICTURE
Years at the Tech: 1956 - 60
Favourite Teacher(s): ‘Pete’ Moore, Mr Griffiths
Favourite Subject(s): English
A School Memory: Playing football in the snow
Occupation(s): Ministry of Aviation Accountancy Service, Air Traffic Controller, ATC College Instructor, Author of Fictional books
Places lived: Bath, Scotland (including Hebrides), London, Northern Ireland, Wimborne, Poole
Hobbies & Interests: Writing novels, Model Railways
Notable Achievement: Publication of first full-length novel after retirement from ATC
My starting date at CBTS must have been about September 1956. We lived outside the city in Whiteway and I travelled into the city by bus with another new boy called Peter Blight. Peter and I were close friends in the following years until, in 1960, his family emigrated to Australia. I did not hear from him again until he contacted me by email from Canada, long after I had retired. During our school days together, he had a pocket chess set and that occupied most of our bus journeys to and from the city. It cost about 3d (old money) in those days to go by bus from Whiteway into the city. Ah, those pre-decimal days when there were 240 pennies in a pound! Anyway, Peter and I were assigned to class 1Y, a load of spotty-faced new boys in an old building called Weymouth House, next door to Evans Fish and Chip shop. Weymouth House is no longer there now, knocked down to make space for a Marks and Spencer store. What a terrible piece of vandalism on the part of the city planners. Our form master, a Welshman known to all the boys as “Killer” Keating, introduced us to the joys of secondary education and assured us it wouldn’t be painful. “We’ve even wiped the blood off the walls,” he told us with a mock serious expression. Some boys actually believed him. One by one, the other masters made themselves known to us: ‘Old Nick’ Nicholas, the headmaster, ‘Bill’ Hayman, the deputy head, ‘Jammy’ James, ‘Uncle Bev’ Lloyd and the rest. There was a German master called Herr Ault. I seem to recall he had a stutter that got worse when he lost his temper. These names will be known to all the old boys of the fifties. You tend to remember the teachers as individuals long after you’ve forgotten what they taught you. I was particularly inspired by Mr Griffiths (we never had a nickname for him) another Welshman, who taught us English. Calm but firm, his love of literature was infectious and his teaching methods were effective. If he asked for a page of homework, I would most often come back with two or three pages because I enjoyed the experience of writing. I also enjoyed art classes. Was that because writing and painting are both creative pursuits? A writer creates pictures in words and an artist creates them in paints. Weymouth House was a real piece of history. Georgian in style, it had bare wooden floors, a brick-built latrine hut at the far side of the playground and was subject to the occasional sound of pigs squealing in the slaughterhouse across the road. There were several annexes: St James’s Hall just down the road past the Modeller’s Den shop, and some rooms near the city’s Pump Room. In our lunch breaks, we walked a couple of miles out to the old prison near Brougham Hayes for our woodwork and metalwork lessons and thought nothing of it. It must have been around this time that I learned to dislike football. Partly, I think, it was the depressing sight of bus-loads of supporters with long, miserable faces leaving the Bath City ground after their team had lost. It was only a game, dammit! More telling, perhaps, was the passion Old Nick (our headmaster) had for sport, obliging us to play football in shorts and shirts with snow on the ground. No wonder I caught so many colds in those days. It was at the technical school that I had a very personal and practical demonstration of how good teaching practice can make all the difference between success and failure. In the fourth year I had great difficulty in understanding the way the teacher, ‘Bill’ Hayman, put across the concepts of mathematics. He was a nice enough old soul, but he didn’t inspire me and, often, his words didn’t make much sense to me. I came next to bottom of the class in the end-of-year exams. The following year we were taught by a younger teacher known to us as ‘Pete’ Moore. His teaching style was very different. He explained every detail in a clear, logical manner, and all the things that had once befogged me suddenly made sense. The fog lifted and my ability increased as my confidence grew. I sailed through GCE ‘O’ levels with no bother and won the school prize for mathematics. The prize book I was given (A Guide Book to Electricity) still sits on my bookshelf. I like to think that lesson in good teaching practice stayed with me and helped me in my later work as a college instructor. ‘Pete’ Moore would never have known what a major positive influence he had on my life. I left the City of Bath Technical School in 1961. By now, the school had moved out of Weymouth House and was housed in a bigger building at Brougham Hayes. Many years later, I drove to Bath and stopped near that school at Brougham Hayes. I wanted a photograph of it for nostalgia’s sake, so I strode through a gate onto the sports field with my camera at the ready. Big mistake. No one had warned me it was now a girls’ school and the young ladies were out on the playing fields in their revealing sports knickers. I beat a hasty retreat, hoping I would escape the long arm of the law. I never did get the photograph I wanted.
LIFE AFTER THE TECH - READ My STORY
Peter Blight - 1956 - 60
This photo of Peter Blight shows him holding a commendation he received from NASA for the work he did on the space shuttle. That was when he was invited by NASA to witness the first launch.
PETER BLIGHT PEN PICTURE
Years at the Tech 1956- 60
A school memory
Occupation(s) Car mechanic, Engineering draughtsman, Reliability engineer,
Places lived Bath, Brisbane, Perth, Bristol, Pucklechurch, Toronto
Hobbies & Interests Sudokus, Cryptic crosswords, making static steam engines.
LIFE A FTER THE TECH - READ MY STORY
Graham Priest - 1956 - 63
GRAHAM PRIEST TECH SCHOOL PEN PICTURE
Years at the Tech 1956 -63
Favourite Teacher(s) Alvis, Stennet, Coard and Webb
Favourite Subject(s) Geology and Art
A school memory Music lessons in St James's Hall with Sid. Class 2X armed with biro pea shooters loaded with blotting paper/pin darts. All hit the back of Sid's tweed jacket as he walked to the front of the class. Lesson continued with stifled chuckles. After lesson Sid returned to Weymouth House and pins spotted in staffroom. Bill tracked 2X down in physics. Shoe box held for weapons' amnesty. Filled with catapults, spud guns, pea shooters etc. but no biros! Class detention. Sid always accompanied by another teacher from then onwards
Occupation(s) Primary school teacher/headmaster
Places lived Biddestone, Wiltshire
Hobbies & Interests Collecting, researching & writing about socket bayonets. Exploring historical sites, gardening, interacting with friends/family
Notable Achievement(s) Raising 3 children, helping with 6 grandchildren and remaining married for 54 years!!
LIFE AFTER THE TECH
Best laid plans began to change. Primary teaching was, to me, more rewarding than secondary. On teaching practice (TP) at Featherstone Road Comprehensive in Southall (2,000 pupils) my history remit was the First World War Schlieffen Plan. Numerous streams were graded by ability but the coverage was the same. To involve the least academically able I borrowed a (live) Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Rifle and took it (uncovered) on the bus to school. Old-timers discussed it on the journey and I had to prise if from the teachers as they were playing cowboys & indians with it in the staffroom! The kids loved it and the TP was a success.
In 1964 I helped a mate out by attending a blind date to distract his potential girlfriend's student teacher friend. At Richmond cinema he was okay, but not me; but later the friend warmed to me and 54 years later we are still married! This caused a dilemma as my potential wife was on a three year course at Maria Grey's College so would qualify before me. I dropped my final year, we both passed our Teachers Certificate and got jobs at Colerne Primary School or Bath High School. Marriage in 1967 opened up our residence in Biddestone. A career for Wiltshire Education Authority started. 1969 The Grove Trowbridge (senior teacher), 1972 Longleaze County Primary (deputy head), 1980 Hullavington Primary (head) & 1987 Corsham County Primary (head). I commuted in almost every direction from Biddestone, plus a secondment to Bristol University to get that degree! Three children appeared, a son (1972) and twin daughters (1977). These all matured, attended university, married and now each have two children.
This contented bucolic life enabled me to pursue another hobby that started in the playground at Weymouth House in 1957. Peter Gray mentioned that he had just been given his uncle's sword from the Crimean War (1854-56). (Uncle must have been very old!!) Did I want to buy it for half-a-crown? I did and carried it from his home at Weston on my bicycle that Saturday. Thus began an interest in and collection of, edged weapons. By the 1970s (due to reduced income when my wife gave up teaching for motherhood) I had spotted an historic item called a socket bayonet that was overlooked by others and so cost less. Unfortunately information was scarce so national & international contacts were made and primary research at museums and the Public Record Office began. Specialist journals accepted my papers (to raise funds for more bayonets!) and in 1986 my book The Brown Bess Bayonet 1720-1860 was published (line drawings courtesy of lessons from Peter Coard etc.). More have followed since and many delightful visits to collectors and institutions from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA and Europe have been the result. In the 1980s I nearly applied for a post at the Tower of London, but eventually lectured there, together with the Imperial War Museum. In 1997 I began to find that life as a headteacher was all administration or politics so called it a day before I became too much of a dinosaur. Teachers' pension arrangements were due to alter in April 1997 so I jumped before they changed my future. My wife was made redundant in September 1998, when Biddestone School closed, so, for a while, we had some extended holidays around the world and felt lucky to be in places before the 'Baby Boomers' caught up! (I even catalogued the bayonet collection in the Grandmaster's Palace on Malta.) Grandchildren duty called from 2010 onwards, sadly stopped by the pandemic in 2019.
We never moved house, so, with an immediate family of fourteen, home events can be quite a squeeze! So far ties are strong and visits to Cambridge, Bristol & Bath have resumed. A small garden, writing magazine articles, collecting, volunteering at The Weapons Collection, Warminster and studying military history fill the days. I even wrote a Biddestone history in 2013! My wife has nearly traced our ancestors back to Adam & Eve so seems content too. Thankyou Tech for life as is.
LIFE AFTER THE TECH - READ MY STORY
RICHARD CAVIN - 1957 - 62
Richard Cavin Pen Picture
Years at the Tech 1957 - 1962
Favourite Teacher(s) Bill Hayman, Peter Coard and Herr Ault
Favourite Subject(s) Maths, Tech Drawing
A school memory See below
Occupation(s) Chartered Surveyor
Places lived Bath, Bristol, Cornwall. And for work purposes – Hampton, Shepperton, Walton-on -Thames and Slough
Hobbies & Interests Tennis, gardening, writing
Notable Achievement(s) Being elected a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
I was the only boy from my junior school to go to the Tech so was lonely and scared on my walk from Old King Street to Weymouth House. I arrived at the gate and could see only much older boys inside so hovered around for what seemed like eons until some kind pupil came out and told me I should be at the other gate near Evan’s chippy. I duly dragged myself to the correct gate, saw boys closer to my own age and went in and stood around on my own, praying for the bell to go. No assimilation videos or counselling in those days. Just get on with it!!
I never really enjoyed the classroom environment and was pleased that our school buildings consisted of Weymouth House and a myriad of other buildings in the vicinity. Consequently, the periods between lessons were often spent walking through town, giving a welcome sense of freedom. The venues I recall were St James’s Church Hall (music and singing) and the basement rooms below (various subjects), the gym of the Technical College (now the Gainsborough Hotel) which was on the third floor on the Hot Bath Street elevation accessed via an external metal staircase, 3 or 4 classrooms on the first floor of a building on Lower Borough Walls accessed via Bilbury Lane and a complete Georgian House on the corner of Abbey Street and York Street opposite Hands Dairy. Then there were the woodwork and metalwork lessons at the old jailhouse in Oldfield Park, almost a mile away from Weymouth House; these lessons were either first lesson in the day or after a breaktime to give us time to walk the walk. Finally, games were at Glasshouse playing fields up on Odd Down and we were given the fare to bus it, though those that had bikes would cycle up Wells Road then Wellsway before engaging in a few hours of Rugby, athletics or cross country running! Oh, for that energy now!!
One abiding memory from this period is a lesson on the top floor of the house in Abbey Street taken by Herr Ault at Christmas time when we had to sing Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht unaccompanied by any musical instrument – excruciatingly embarrassing for a tone-deaf class of 12 or 13-year-olds and never to be forgotten!!
After 3 years at Weymouth House, we moved to Brougham Hayes to a newly refurbished building, formerly the Domestic Science College. This building had all the latest mod cons in stark contrast to Weymouth House. So, my final 2 years were spent here with head down up to O Levels. I remember having physics with Bevers in a classroom with tiered seating to enable clear vision of the experiments, I suppose, and this seemed very grown up to me. I was surprised, on the tour at our recent reunion, that this tiered seating had been removed in a later refurbishment of the building.
Having no artistic ability, I dropped Art after the 2nd or 3rd year. At the end of the 4th year I (and others!) decided that I should not take Chemistry at O level and I had to choose another subject to fill my spare lessons. I saw Art as an easy option so chose that. On my first lesson back with Peter Coard, he told me that he was not going to have me freewheeling in his lessons and that I would have to take Art at O level. Within one academic year Peter taught me how to pass the Art exam which I duly did. What a teacher!
I had Bill Hayman for maths during this period and he was a top-class maths teacher. Maybe once a term he would ditch the maths and spend the whole lesson expounding on some subject or other, usually triggered by recent world events. He imparted some profound thoughts on life and death which have stayed with me to this day. On one such diversion he covered the subject of careers and the diversity of opportunity available to us out there in the big, wide world. He chose Quantity Surveying as an example and this is the path I eventually took, leading to a varied, interesting and, I think, successful career. I owe Bill Hayman a lot.
LIFE AFTER THE TECH
I left school after 0 Levels at the age of 15. I was 16 within 2 months of leaving but 15 sounds much better when I am reminding young uns these days how rough it was when I was a lad!
I spent my first 9 months of employment as a Clerical Officer in the Admiralty in Bath then found my niche with W. E. Underwood & Son, Chartered Quantity Surveyors, at that time the largest such firm in Bath, now sadly no more. I immediately started my studying for Chartered status through day release and correspondence course with The College of Estate Management eventually qualifying ARICS in 1971. I had moved on from Bath by then and held various posts with three professional quantity surveying firms in Bristol over 13 years gaining valuable experience on projects ranging from churches to nuclear power stations.
During the 80s I was in partnership with one other Chartered Surveyor running a small practice in Bristol and I gained a broad experience in civil engineering work and mechanical and electrical services installations. Towards the end of this period, I also lectured part time at Bristol Polytechnic, as it was then named, teaching measurement of building, civil engineering, mechanical and electrical installations to degree level.
The end of 1990 brought another recession and I secured a position with a major professional quantity surveying firm on a large sewage treatment project, approximate value £25m, in Swindon. During this project I was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in recognition of my varied experience and standing within the profession. When this project ended, I was asked to take commercial charge of an innovative new water treatment works in Walton-upon-Thames, value about £48m. This started a period of 21 years working as a consultant to Thames Water mainly site based around West London and as lead consultant for all commercial aspects of major projects.
Towards the end of this period, I had a major involvement with Heathrow Terminal 5, negotiating on behalf of Thames Water with BAA to establish the 30-year running costs of certain assets owned by Thames Water which were to be funded by BAA as part of the deal to transfer from Thames to BAA the land on which Terminal 5 was built. The total value of this package of work was around £200m. This fascinating, complicated and unique negotiation entailed areas of work far removed from those I was trained for but was a fitting end to a full and varied career. Thanks again, Bill!
On retirement I moved to Cornwall with my wife of 41 years, Francine, who is a gardener. We now own a Cornish mill house with three acres of garden incorporating a ruined mill, cultivated areas, woodland, water meadows, many watercourses and a small river along one boundary. This now provides us with full-time jobs and, I hope, keeps us young! My role could be classed as estate management and it is amusing that the name of my old College (of Estate Management) is being put into practice by me here after all these years.
Don Cox - 1957 - 63
TECH SCHOOL - PEN PICTURE
Name: Donald (Don) W J Cox
Years at the Tech 1957 - 63
Favourite Teacher(s) Peter Coard, Harry Mower, Mike Williams
Favourite Subject(s) Art, Metal Work, Technical Drawing.
A school memory
One that comes to mind is of Dear old “Sammy” Seale’s Chemistry lessons in Weymouth House. Evidence of his presence there often seemed to permeate most of the building with the “gentle,” rotten egg, whiff of Hydrogen Sulphide everywhere on some days, or was it just the pupils? What did he do with the stuff once he’d made it?
Most of his lessons seemed to owe more to “Tales of the Unexpected” than to teaching us chemistry. Along with memories of his demonstration of a glass replica soda acid fire extinguisher, which spectacularly doused the front row of the class and the fluorescent light fittings above it, and our first outing with concentrated sulphuric acid, memories of which still make me shudder today, came his demo of three metals which react when in contact with water.
It went something like, he had a large glass bowl a couple of feet in diameter on his lab bench and he then dropped a small sample of each metal in so that we could observe the effects. First off was Sodium which gave a sharp bang, then Potassium, which was less spectacular, but similar, and finally Calcium.
He had a pair of small metal spatulas, usually carried in the top pocket of his lab coat, and was trying to use these to pare off a small piece to allow it to drop in. In the event both pieces, large and small, went in and we sensed, by his rapid withdrawal that something exciting was about to happen. Apparently the reaction of these metals with water breaks it down into Hydrogen and Oxygen and at the same time the heat released by the reaction ignites the gas mixture which then explodes. Of the three metals, Calcium is the least reactive in this respect and it was some while before the combined chunk of metal stuck to the side of the bowl and produced enough concentrated heat to ignite the large amount of gas mixture accumulated there. All of the considerable contents of the glass bowl were blown skywards with the loudest bang of the afternoon, the front row, as usual got soaked, but, more by luck than judgement I suspect, the glass bowl survived to fight another day.
You could tell the keen types who sat in the front row, their books always had smudged manuscript writing in them, I always sat as far back as possible.
I was never really happy with school, I’ve come to conclude that I’m a slow learner, with a reasonably good memory, so, to a large extent what I learn stays learned. However, following an enforced year in the sixth form (my Mother wanted me to go to university, I didn’t, certainly I was academically inadequate and it took a whole year to persuade her otherwise) I slouched out of the door in July 1963, without a backward glance and with 7 O levels to my name (I failed History and Religious knowledge) and went to start my career as a Post Office Telephone Engineer (I know that “Engineer” is reserved in some people’s minds as a professional qualification not for use by the likes of me, my excuse is that the job title was commonplace all those years ago before a few people got precious about their paper qualifications.
Post Office speak for an apprentice was a “Youth in Training” even so, unlike at the school I’d just left, I was treated like a grown up and for two years I learned to fit switchboards, put up overhead wires, fix underground cables, install bits into telephone exchanges and, eventually to maintain both customers’ equipment and the exchanges themselves. Shortly after this period of basic training they gave me a clapped out green Minivan with crowns on the doors and a ladder on the roof and for about three glorious years I was a “Bath Linesman.” This had been to a large extent another phase in my apprenticeship, next I was told to report to the, then, new exchange called Bath Kingsmead in Monmouth St. There followed a mix of learning to maintain the exchange equipment itself (when I took great interest in working on all sorts of electro-mechanical equipment) and filling in where required in various roles, eventually spending some time on the “Test Desk” handing out faults to, and carrying out line tests for, the Linesmen I’d recently left behind.
Whilst working in the exchange I got to chat to a young lady who had the role of the “Testing Telephonist” on the Ensleigh switchboard located on Lansdown. Her job was to ‘phone details of failed calls originated by the other operators and suspicious 999 calls to the “engineers” in Kingsmead and I got to trace a lot of them. Things progressed to a meeting, a sort of early online dating you could say, the relationship developed, and this year (2021) we celebrated our Golden Wedding anniversary.
Jobwise, I eventually escaped from the Test Desk and got to be let loose maintaining a succession of small/medium sized exchanges, initially for a week or two when the regular “engineer” was away, and eventually I became the permanent “Technical Officer in Charge” of a few of my “own” exchanges. These included Batheaston, Limpley-Stoke, Falkland, Mells, Beckington and Nunney at various times, I worked largely alone and had a 24 hour emergency call-out commitment to them and any others the out of hours control needed me to attend to. The majority of these were old-fashioned (certainly now anyway) Strowger exchanges, but Mells and Beckington were more modern common control, reed relay switched TXE2 types which were sometimes quite exciting things to cope with. The electronics involved in them was all separate components, not a micro-chip in sight and we were expected to locate and change faulty components (mostly reed elements, diodes and the odd transistor)
It was all too good to last and technology changes and politics eventually made rapid and massive changes to the state of affairs and I jumped, before I was pushed, into the grandly entitled ‘Special Faults Investigation Officer’s” job. This entailed resolving persistent faults reported by customers which “ordinary linesmen” couldn’t resolve and, similarly, formal letter complaints. Back to where I’d started out twenty odd years before, climbing poles and getting wet!
The main advantage I had was that a large proportion of the faults were exchange related due to the ailing Strowger network that still abounded and which I knew a bit about that. Once the new digital exchanges had replaced a large proportion of the old ones, the faults largely disappeared and there were rumblings about not needing people of my pay grade doing that job any more. I always preferred working on my own and would have seen my time out doing that, but, with the prospect of being pushed into something I didn’t want, I started down the path of becoming a manager something quite alien to my previous thinking.
I spent 3 years in charge of 20 odd, mostly Bristol based, cable jointers, I’d spent all of my previous years avoiding Bristol and knew almost nothing about underground cables. In the event, it transpired that the guys I was in charge of, despite their rough and ready demeanour, had hearts of gold.
Three years later I had reached age 50 and B.T. were shedding staff of my age and over, with some quite generous redundancy packages. I applied for, and received, one of those packages, leaving after 33 years. I was never very happy in the role of manager, I missed the hands on engineering jobs I’d had, although by then technology changes meant most of the engineering content of even those had disappeared.
Now unemployed, I started looking for a new job. My wife spotted a local press advert for a workshop technician in the motor vehicle department at Trowbridge College. Amongst many other things, I’d “played” with cars since my early teens so, with my wife’s encouragement, I gave it a go. Within the week I was fixing faults on a small fleet of practice vehicles, counting tools in and out and making the tea.
I had acquired quite a bit of practical vehicle relevant knowledge over the years, my boyhood pal Eddy Priest (Graham Priest’s younger brother) and I had spent many days and late nights in our youth building up reconditioned engines and the like. So to prevent future embarrassment in my new job, and to make my knowledge “official” I started to progress through all of the levels of the City & Guilds qualifications the students were studying, a three year course for them which I was able to complete in two in between working there as well.
As time went on I was sometimes asked to teach a class when a lecturer was unexpectedly absent. My original intention had been to see my time out until age 60 playing cars and getting paid for it, but as time went on I came under pressure to take the necessary teaching qualifications.
After three years of “back to school” I passed the Certificate in Education qualification that FE lecturers needed, to be fully qualified. Some keen types continued on from Cert Ed and get a B.Ed qualification as the next stage in their development, fortunately that was more bells and whistles than I needed, besides I was close to 60, and the end of the road, by then.
Life on that side of the educational divide was quite an eye opener, we taught “proper” motor mechanics attending on day release and full time students, mostly school leavers.
The mechanics were great, if a little boisterous, I learned as much from the as they did from me. Most of the school leavers seemed to have been surprised by becoming 16, came from the bottom links of the academic food chain and had very little idea what they would do after the end of the course. Many wandered off line as the course progressed, I would suggest to them that it might look better for any future job application if they at least achieved the qualification they’d embarked upon even if they had no intention of becoming a motor mechanic. Most saw the sense of this advice, and we did have quite a high pass rate, although few progressed on into the motor trade.
At age 60 I handed in my notice, saying I was happy to see out the academic term until they could replace me, I’d many times told my superiors of my intention to do this, but it seemed they weren’t listening. After an initial panic, a replacement was found. I helped by holding his hand whilst he acclimatised until I escaped. Not for long though, I worked part time for another 3 years, mostly in Chippenham College, with a period of 3 months full time whilst the head of the department recovered from a heart attack and I finally retired fully at age 63.
We were married and set up home in 1971, living in our house in Bradford on Avon until June this year (2021) when we moved to Aberystwyth in Wales. After almost exactly 50 years of living in the same house, you might imagine that this was a major upheaval, it was and still is. The main reason for this bold decision was the arrival of our first Grandchild 140 miles away and very late in life for us. There were other reasons too, mainly relating to the workload associated with keeping the house and garden maintained and also because our remaining family lived remotely.
Hobbies & Interests
I grew up in an era when everyone around me seemed to be practical, so my interests have always had leanings that way. Over the years I’ve installed central heating systems, rewired a couple of houses, kept family cars in good order with only MOT tests requiring garage visits and probably the biggest project of all extending our first house, I did the drawings to get planning permission and building regulations approval, we increased the ground floor area by a third and doubled the first floor area (it was a chalet bungalow). I employed a jobbing builder to do the block work etc whilst I was his labourer. We became great pals, taking the Mick out of each other as we worked. A few years later I dry-lined an equivalent to half of the original bungalow first floor area to construct two workshops in the, up until then, unused Cellar area.
Since retirement I’ve taken up model engineering and, until our recent move, had two Myford 7” lathes, a small milling machine and other tools set up in those workshops. Currently all of this equipment is stored in a dismantled state waiting to be set up in a joint workshop at our son’s home.
When I have finished beating our “new” bungalow into shape I intend to move forward with a project there to at least replace the workshop facility I had to leave behind.
None really, I look upon myself as a very ordinary guy, so surviving this long in a reasonable state of health and solvency until age 76, is probably the only notable success I can lay claim to.
Looking Back at the “Tech”
Overall, I consider it was my good fortune to be selected to go to the school from the selection on offer. However, a few things about it I didn’t like, the major one was the ever-present malevolent threat of corporal punishment that gave me a constant feeling of unease. I think I would more accurately describe it as a licence to enact physical violence on the pupils. This was not exclusive to our school, most others in Bath, and I suspect in the rest of the country, were as bad in this respect if not worse.
What did they think they were doing, keeping the lid on an armed uprising? At a whim, a teacher could “sentence” you to a detention for some, often arbitrary, transgression and a couple more of these in a term could get you a caning from “Uncle” Bill Hayman, (the smiling assassin as I came to think of him) viewed from the perspective of now it is nothing short of disgraceful.
There was often a feeling, from my side of the fence at least, that if you failed to understand a subject it was down to your inability and had nothing to do with the performance of the teacher, or their inadequate teaching style.
I included Mike Williams in my list of “Favourite Teachers” primarily because of a enlightening incident that occurred at the start of our fifth year. He was there to greet us back and to tell us that we’d all been put into his class because our previous year’s performance had assessed us as likely to fail at 0 level.
Once the dust had settled on this news, he set about telling us what we could do to make the most improvement on this situation. He suggested a collaborative approach to pick apart the marking process, telling us to look at exams as a point scoring “game” between the candidate and the examiner. I, for one, had never thought of it that way before. If you had to select, say, six questions out of ten, (as in Maths) then by studying past papers you could recognise and pick which question topics you could most easily answer and either abandon, or at least relegate to the back of your attention queue, those you found difficult. He even suggested ignoring some of the more difficult subject topics altogether when revising.
He also explained that exams were usually marked as a collection of separate parts, so it wasn’t necessary to get every part of the whole question correct, or even answered, to gain points. He also taught us Physics that year ,with a smile on his face, which was a great improvement on the dynamic duo of Messers Lloyd and Harbour, who had scowled their way through lessons in previous years. I’m sure his talk gave me much to think about when exam time approached and it seems probable that some of my results were improved from near miss to pass by adopting his tactics.
When, many years later, it came my turn to try and drive up my students’ success rates, I gave them an updated version on the topic of exam techniques similar to Mike’s lesson delivered all that time before, and again, I’m pretty sure that improved the results the students achieved.