John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Third year at Fleetwood Grammar School

Early Days

Thursday 12th September 1963
 1. The date of my return after the long summer holidays to start my third year at Fleetwood Grammar School, according to The Georgian, No.64, Summer Term 1964, page 3, was “September 12”, which in 1963, in common with every year there except the first, was a Thursday:
Sept. 12—Beginning of Christmas Term
 I was placed again in the top-achievers’ class, Form 3A. This year, we began our learning for the General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level. Most pupils at the school would take their O-levels, aged 16, at the end of the fifth year; but we 3A ones were set to do it a year early, aged 15.
 We were to be examined in nine subjects. At the end of 2A, the choice was put to us whether to study Latin or Biology. To be accepted at Oxford and Cambridge Universities one would need a pass in Latin. I had no aspiration to enter either of these establishments; and having no interest in Latin, or the Arts in general, but having a keen interest in Science, I chose Biology. The other eight subjects were: Chemistry, English Language, English Literature, French, Geography, History, Physics, and Mathematics.

The Cedar Block
 2. Our form room was the one coloured yellow in the plan, below. It was in a block of four classrooms, called the “cedar block”, close to, but not physically connected to, a metal extension of the main school building. It was a wood-framed building on a brick base, with a pitched though shallow-rising felt roof. Steps led up to a door giving access left and right to the two rooms in one half of the building, and similar steps led up to the rooms in the other half. The frame was covered with vertical cedar slats on the outside (which was why the building was called the “cedar block”) and with plasterboard on the inside. My form room was at the end of the building away from the metal extension, just across from the canteen.
 Unlike the previous year when we each sat with a companion at a double desk, this year we had single desks. Mine was at the back of the classroom, in the right corner. The wide window looking across to the main school building didn’t quite reach me, so I had a wall to my right. The plasterboard of the wall was damaged just there, and had a big hole in it extending down to a horizontal strut of the wooden frame, just above elbow height when I sat there.
[1] This memory becomes significant in Andrew Pickup, par.7.

My form room (yellow) was at the end of the “cedar block” away from the metal extension.

The “cedar block” (left). It wasn’t connected to the metal extension beyond it; this, though, had a corridor at right angles to it connecting it to the main wooden school building. My form room is out of shot to the left.
 3. The afore-quoted issue of The Georgian is useful for reminding me of a number of forgotten and half-forgotten facts about teachers and classes that year (page 6):
We… wish success and happiness to Mr. Bacon in his new post as Head of the Geography Department at Queen Mary School, Lytham.… A cordial welcome is offered to… Mr. Cooper who is in charge of the Chemistry Department, and we hope [he] will be very happy with us. We also welcome Miss Pennington who is with us temporarily until the end of term to teach Religious Instruction.
 The edition of The Georgian before that one (No.63, Autumn Term 1963), issued shortly after the third year started, also helps to set the scene for my time in Form 3A (page 5):
On behalf of the School, we welcome Mr. E. M. Hall as Deputy Head Master. Mr. Hall comes to us from Rhyll Grammar School where he was Head of the Classics Department. We hope he will be very happy with us, and that he and Mrs. Hall will find the Fylde coast as congenial as that of North Wales. We also welcome the following new members of staff who have joined us this term: …[eleven people, including] Miss E. Hodgkinson (Religious Instruction);… Mr. K. P. Clegg (Chemistry)…. We hope they will enjoy their work with us.
We… wish success and happiness to Mr. Bacon in his new post as Head of the Geography Department at Queen Mary School, Lytham.
 4. Mr. Bacon was the father of Kathleen Bacon in my class. I remember him vaguely; I think his hair was thinning on top. I remember that he taught us at some time, and since it was Mr. Cox who did Geography in the first year, it must have been Mr. Bacon in the second and/or this year. (It was Miss Annis in the fourth year.) It was strange to think that his daughter was in the same class; if she wanted to ask a question, would she address him as “Mr. Bacon” or as “Dad”? We perhaps had the lessons in the actual Geography Room at the north-west corner of the main school building.

Kathleen Bacon, September 1962 (left), April 1965 (middle), and July 1965 (right)

A cordial welcome is offered to… Mr. Cooper who is in charge of the Chemistry Department…
 5. Till I saw the above entry in The Georgian, I was under the impression that I started doing Chemistry in the second year, and that the teacher was Mr. Cooper. For it seemed strange to be taught by a Mr. “Cooper”, because that was MY surname! (I didn’t know at the time that we shared the same first name “John”.) If the impression of initially being taught by Mr. Cooper is correct, though, the earliest it could have been was the third year, because the “welcome” to Mr. Cooper didn’t appear in The Georgian till the end of that year. Why a whole bunch of teachers should be welcomed at the beginning of the year, but Mr. Cooper only at the end, I don’t know. I have the distinct impression that the lessons were conducted in the corner classroom marked “C” in the plan, above.
 Mr. Cooper would write out notes that he wanted us to copy, on an easel-blackboard. I remember writing “dissoulting” (or something like that) in my exercise book, because that is what it looked like on the board. This brought Mr. Cooper’s correction “dissolving” in red ballpoint pen; why, though, we would have to hand our books in when we had merely copied what he’d written, I don’t know.
 To try to gain some sort of order he would typically clap his hands together and exclaim,
RIGHTsss!”, adding, “OK — settle down now.” A key phrase also of his was “at this stage”.

We also welcome… Mr. K. P. Clegg (Chemistry)…
 6. The memory of Mr. Cooper taking us for Chemistry brings me to a problem, for I also remember Mr. Clegg, whom I can picture in tweeds as a bit of a Jimmy Edwards, Whack-O!, type — did he, like Jimmy Edwards, have a handlebar moustache? — in the room at the south-east corner of the quadrangle (“Q” in the plan, above). That room was furnished with workbenches, not desks, and high stools, not chairs with backs; also it had a fume cupboard. So where and when does Mr. Clegg fit in? Was he our form teacher? If he was, it may have been the following year, for that room was our form room then. However, the above picture of Mr. Cooper is taken from a class photo from that same following school year, and it was he who was our form teacher. Or was Mr. Clegg teaching us Chemistry? I have a vague memory of him talking about weak and strong acids, saying of the latter that they were “strong — when dilute”. That didn’t seem to make sense to me at the time.

On behalf of the School, we welcome Mr. E. M. Hall as Deputy Head Master.
 7. The aged Tom Smith had retired at the end of last term, and rather than have a serving member of the teaching staff fill his post the school appointed a new Deputy Head Master: E. M. Hall. I remember that in English we were set an essay in which we had to describe a character for an imaginary novel, and I wrote of cruel eyes that peered out of vast, hollow orbits, a mouth filled with yellow, rotting teeth, and long, bony fingers like claws. The essay came back with the word “orbits” marked with a query, though it was the correct word for the bony cavities of the skull containing the eyes, and a comment in red ink, “This character does not LIVE.” “Of course the character lives,” I thought: “it’s HALL!” This was after Hall became a terror to me, when every morning at the end of Assembly he would reel off the names of those “I want to see…”. But that’s another story.[2]

[2] Andrew Pickup, par.3 onwards

Mr. Harding — French
 8. I’m trying to think who our form teacher was in Form 3A; I think it may have been Mr. Harding, who also took us for French. My chief reason for remembering him, though, is that he was the teacher who came on the scene shortly after I’d felt suddenly ill and vomited on the floor beside my desk. I remember my words to him: they weren’t, “I’m sorry, sir, I’ve been sick. I couldn’t get away in time”; they were, “Sir, I’ve just thrown up!”

Mr. Harding looks a bit dour, but he was moderately affable.
Mr. Belshaw — English
 9. I remember that Mr. Belshaw took us for English — or English Literature, at any rate. He fancied himself as an actor, I think, and would read all the parts from Shakespeare himself — very dramatically, very “affectedly”. I couldn’t understand the language of Shakespeare, and would get very bored in these classes. Once, however, I was shocked from my somnolence very suddenly when Belshaw shouted, at the top of his voice, “O HELL-KITE!” It caused a stir in the whole classroom, not just with me. This, I have now ascertained, was Macduff’s outburst in Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 3, when he learned of the death of his wife and children:
…All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?

We also welcome… Miss E. Hodgkinson (Religious Instruction)… We also welcome Miss Pennington who is with us temporarily until the end of term to teach Religious Instruction.
 10. I remember neither Miss Hodgkinson nor Miss Pennington. But their being mentioned in The Georgian does bring to mind that Mr. Smith, who had taken us for a single period of Religious Instruction each week in my first and second years, had gone off to Oxford University Institute of Education for a year to gain a Certificate of Religious Education.

I am Stephen Anderton from FGS and was pleased to be reminded of my teachers and other children. I probably joined the school in September 1962. I think you may have a year or two older. My half brother Robin Heald was in the 6th form and was deputy head boy at one point.
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