Wilmslow Grammar in the 1960s

Memories of a Pupil

Colin Evans was a pupil at Wilmslow Grammar from its inception (as Cheshire's first co-educational grammar) to 1964; here are his recollections...

First day at the new school. Our form teacher was Mr Wilson, a dead ringer for Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim. Fresh faced, out of his depth, easily embarrassed, a science teacher capable, we thought, of unwittingly making noxious smells with his experiments or, on a bad day, of deliberately blowing up the county council’s great experiment - their first-ever co-educational grammar school.

Within an hour the classroom was in uproar - one or two of us being natural winder-uppers of inexperienced schoolmasters. Mr Wilson pointed to my pal and me saying: "Evans and Jolley. Two names to remember. I'm going to have to watch you." And he had a serious warning for all of us. “Don’t on any account slam the door otherwise all the windows will drop out,” he said. “They’re only temporary.”

Ray asked in an innocent tone: “Is that why they have all got TEMPORARY scrawled across them in big red letters, sir?”

“Yes, they’re very fragile so be careful….are you trying to be funny Jolley?”

“No sir. Just Jolley.”

“Yes, well. You particularly be very careful. And you Evans. Now I’ve got to go to the office, I’ll be back in a few minutes. Occupy yourselves usefully.”

With that Mr Wilson went out slamming the door behind him. The windows, three of them, each about four feet deep and three feet across, caved in - slowly at first, cracking across the middle then splitting left right and centre before capsizing totally to smash into a thousand splinters.

And so in September 1960 Wilmslow Grammar School, the first grammar in Cheshire to take boys and girls, swung into life.

We were second years having already spent 12 months at other grammars such as Altrincham, Sale, and Moseley Hall. The intake covered a large area encompassing Knutsford, Wilmslow, Handforth and surrounding areas. The school was new, the architecture an uncompromising blend of concrete and glass, and the headmaster was Mr Fred Tye.

Names I recall from my year - Ray Jolley, Robert Woodier, Howard Kirkham, Neil Britten, Howard Corry, Chris Muter, John Smith, Nick Pegg, Penelope Spinks, Jennifer Hay, Mary Shaw, Julia Midgeley, Jane Blake, Bill Cartwright, Stu Baker, Ian Barratt, Bob Morrissey, Chris Owen. From other years - Anthony Chapman, Graham Risebrow, Chris Nicholl, Alan Wild (head boy).

Teachers included - Mr Rollerson, Ms Anderson, Ms Walker (all maths); Ms Marsh (English?), Mr Wilson (chemistry and window smashing), Mr Davenport (PE), Mr Osborne (history), Mr Pearson (geography), Mr Robinson and Mr Appleton (French). I hope I've got the spellings right.

Just picking out a few of those names....Howard Corry, like me, went into the newspaper world. He married Jane Blake. Howard was remarkable. A top athlete, an energetic rock drummer, a brilliant off the cuff limerick composer, and a rock solid journalist who overcame a stammer to get the best out of people when interviewing them.

Howard Kirkham, I think, became Head Boy and later went successfully into business. Nick Pegg was a superb miler and cross country runner.

Chris Nicholl became a football star. In fact in the mid 1970s he captained Aston Villa to a League Cup triumph over Everton in a replay at Old Trafford. I was reporting the game. Afterwards I waited for him to appear from the dressing room knowing he was certain to give an old schoolmate a decent quote about the match.

"Hi Chris," I said proffering my hand. He looked puzzled. Maybe, I thought, it's the long hair. "Remember, Chris. Colin. Wilmslow Grammar?"

"No, sorry," he said and walked off.

As far as the teachers were concerned Miss Anderson, shy and lacking a little in authority, was our favourite. She left after a couple of years and not long afterwards, while on a day out on the Wirral, we spotted her passing us in a bus. She smiled sweetly and waved. We gave her a two fingered salute. (Sorry, but we were angry teenagers on the cusp of the Great Youth Rebellion. I don't remember what we were angry about, but we must have been, mustn't we?). I've craved her forgiveness ever since. Mr Rollerson was good value too. He rode a motor bike and played the piano (not at the same time).

I didn't get on with the Head. My fault. I resented not being allowed to play soccer and I was glad to get away after scrambling a few O levels. Three years later I returned with Howard Corry, as representatives of the local Press, the Knutsford Guardian and the Wilmslow Advertiser, to cover the school's speech day. Afterwards Howard and I adjourned to the King's Head to celebrate escaping detention and bumped into a number of teachers. I was rather disappointed that they didn't offer to buy us a drink. There again we were probably earning more than them!

I'd like to find out what happened to Ray Jolley. He was a Manchester City fan and I was reporting a game at Maine Road in the 1980s when they played a piece of music composed by him over the tannoy. It was pretty good. What I want to ask him is whether or not he still has the Hohner electric guitar I sold him for £15 way back in 1963. If so I want it back!

Article (c) Colin Evans