by Mark ‘Welly’ Worthington (1978-85)
I joined in 1978 in Viv Varley’s 1V form alongside Philip Osborne’s 1O (we definitely had the less scary option!) John Woolmore was head and alongside Wally Evans they were a formidable number 1&2 of the school.
In our formative years on the rugby field we had Adge Douglas & Vern Rooke with a bit of Delme Thomas thrown in coaching us, what more could a young budding rugby player ask for! Wilbur Paley trained us for Cross-Country, he had an uncanny knack of knowing who had taken any short-cuts, especially those boys who dared to have a crafty cigarette on the way around!
A new dawn arrived when David Buckroyd arrived as Headmaster in our 4th Year. I’ll never forget his son Russ (fantastic back-row player!) telling the then PE teacher Malc Shields that he didn’t think the bottom field would be long enough for his javelin throw on sports day. “Don’t be daft lad, no-one’s ever thrown it that far,” said Malc in his broad Geordie accent. At which point Russ proceeded to land it on the school drive. Chaos ensued as spectators fled in all directions! Sport was thriving at the school and at that stage and we had formidable Under 14 & 15 Rugby Teams. With Simon ‘Beefy’ Beaufoy (Full Monty and SlumDog Millionaire fame) in the centre and our formidable Captain, Colin Wilson at hooker we won far more than we lost. The year below us were not too shabby either, with Michael Harrison (son of the late great Jimmy, pulling the strings at Fly-Half), Dave Schindler at Scrum-half and the ‘new boy’ Buckroyd at Number 8. Between us all we ended up with a pretty good 1st XV in the mid-80s!
Discipline got a little ‘gentler’ with the arrival of Mr Buckroyd (although Wally was still his very able lieutenant!) I’ll never forget being sent to Mr B’s office during his first term at school by our legendary caretaker, Peter ’nuff nuff’ Clarke. Playing lunchtime cricket in the quad, I had unfortunately hit one of Vern Rooke’s donkey drop off spinners straight through the Geography Room windows with a superb, lofted on-drive. Despite the plaudits from Vern and the rest of my 4th form pals for timing it so beautifully, Peter didn’t quite see it that way (too much broken glass to clear up probably!) He grabbed me by the collar and hauled me to the head’s office. I’ll never forget waiting outside for the fateful green light to signal enter. Thoughts raced through my mind about all the canings that had been allegedly given by Mr B’s predecessor. As I timidly stepped through the door and began to explain the circumstances for me being there; sure enough he went over to the cane mounted behind his desk, took it down and quietly paced towards me. This was it, the cane, my heart pounded…….until he suddenly thrust it into my hands, made me show him my stance and then uttered those immortal words: “You need to bend that front elbow lad, that way you’ll hit it along the ground!” Phew, what a lesson learned!
Then, who could forget Thursday night footy against the staff at Sandylands Sports Centre against the likes of Colin Tickner (Carlisle United’s number one fan!) and Andy Sellers, who’s endearing Lancashire accent could just about be understood! We 5th formers usually won, or perhaps my memory is playing tricks on me.
The lower 6th Form Geography trip to Paris was also unforgettable on so many counts. However, eating your evening meals in the Moulin Rouge restaurant is particularly vivid, for all the wrong reasons! (or right, depending on your 16 year old point of view!). Adge Douglas’ tactics to instruct our coach driver to take us on a scenic ‘City Centre’ tour after one supper, to cut down any time for mischief, failed terribly when the whole group had just the one hour of free time around the Champs Elysee district. The amount of alcohol consumed in that hour meant the coach needed a very good clean-out the following morning – and needless to say we were grounded.
Despite this, Adge was, and I believe still is, a legend! His map reading lessons using maps where he grew up in Somerset were unforgettable, even the barn where at 16 he and Myrtle, a check-out girl from the local Woolworths had a “snog!” (True or false? – you never could tell with Adge!)
In the Sixth Form, and under the guidance of Billy Bingham, I had the dubious role of being Head of Petyt, the House ‘whipping boys’ at that time.Several ‘canings’ on the sports field were dished out to us! However, to represent the first team and get your colours tie for rugby was fantastic and skippering the First XI cricket team is still one of my proudest moments in life. Beating the likes of Bradford and Leeds Grammar Schools was especially sweet! Vern Rooke and Richard Slaney were our cricket coaches. Vern was also our Form Teacher. He wrote on my report, after I had got a perfectly decent set of ‘Mock’ A-Level results at Christmas –
“That Welly needs to make sure he does not mess up his exams in the coming Summer!”
I was really annoyed at the time, but how right he was, Vern knew my love of cricket could potentially get in the way of exam revision and I duly unfulfilled my potential! He also muttered the immortal line on walking into class one morning for registration, “Ridiculous haircut, Welly! Fined £2!” Vern apparently didn’t like the mullet then! (Where did all that ‘fine’ money go? Probably towards a valet of one of his many second hand cars!)
Now as a primary teacher with over 23 years under my belt, one can look back with great fondness at some of the superb role models we had then. Messrs Douglas, Bingham, Paley, Tickner, Rooke, Thomas, Harrison, Sellers, Morton, Evans and Buckroyd were just a few that will live forever in the memory. One can only hope that somewhere, sometime, someone will say, “That Mr Worthington, he was a bloody good teacher and a smashing bloke as well.” All the above were certainly that and more!
I will make it back one of these days, and renew friendships that time and distance have caused to fade a little over the years. I would love a tour of the school and see at first hand the fantastic facilities you see and read about in the regular newsletters and social media pages.
About Mark Worthington
Mark Worthington is now Director of Teaching and Learning at Laxton Junior School in Oundle near Peterborough.