Towneley High School 1959 - 1966
Ah, the sixties! The decade of free love. Somehow I must
have been asleep and woken up when it was all over! I suspect I'm not the
only one who missed it all.
It was the decade of Towneley School (or more correctly Burnley Technical High School). Lucky us - the only mixed secondary school in Burnley - how many of us deliberately toned down our 11 plus efforts so we wouldn't have be dragged screaming to the (boring) single-sex Grammar or High Schools? Come on, you're all old enough now to admit it. It was the first time the 11 plus had included "vote for joe" examination papers and somehow I must have blindly put enough crosses in the right boxes to avoid Barden. My parents were thrilled - I was dumbfounded!
After surviving the "cuffing" of the first day, which seemed to last well into the 2nd year for those poor frostbitten individuals who were still wearing short trousers, life at Towneley settled into a pleasant routine. The "wonderful" school dinners, bettered only by the miniature Hovis loaves from the shop across Fulledge, the diversion into Fitzpatricks for a "Hop Bitter" at the end of the school day, and the girls - ah the girls - particularly Lesley Winter and Daphne Cowell! Enough to encourage even the most reticent scholars to rise from the relative security of a warm bed each morning and face the frantic school bus riots, neurotic bus conductors, and double French with "Fifi".
Remember the school dances? I'm still trying to forget them! Spending untold hours in the bathroom, nearly passing out from the heady aroma of aftershave, and the smell of singeing hair from overenthusiastic use of the hair dryer. All that pain so we could stand about in small groups all evening trying to look "cool" and evaluating the local pop group to cover up the fact that we were too shy to ask any of the girls to dance. Somehow, after all that, we went home happy!
The annual prize giving, the endless hours practicing the school hymn - "To God Eternal" - I still know it and have been trying for years to forget it. And yes, once again, aftershave and singed hair!
Derwent Bank - dragged, soaking wet, up endless mountains and then holding illicit drinking and gambling sessions in our rooms, late into the night, after the compulsory country dancing. Sixth form "courts", shove ha' penny, brag, Bob Dylan mania, midnight hikes, table tennis, smoking in the sixth form common room - we had a proper education in those days.
Finally, there was the rocket design team - myself, Robert Bichard, Trevor Duxbury, Mike Worsdall and the final glorious day on Widdup Moor when our 3 foot monster took to the skies - and exploded. I suppose nowadays we'd all be hauled in as terrorists.
Somehow we all seemed to turn out as normal psychopaths (exactly what "normal" means I'm not sure). I once had a long debate with Lesley Winter on its meaning, she won the argument. She always won, it was my way of trying to endear myself to her - it didn't work.
Outside of school most of the time was taken up rock climbing with John Greenbank, Philip Anforth, Peter Clegg and Alan Lawson, with frequent hair raising trips to the Lake District in the back of a minivan. Any remaining spare time was spent with Burnley Young Liberals - I'm not sure whether I had a real political leaning or whether I was more interested in the secretary, Barbara Woof, and the conferences at Blackpool. I do, however, remember pulling a horse around Burnley with David Anforth on its back whilst he was canvassing to be a town councillor - he didn't win and so emigrated to Canada. Such is the price of failure in politics!
1966 was the year most of us left to be let loose on an unsuspecting world (I believe that year is also noted for some minor football event). We all went our separate ways, but not before Mike Worsdall and I finally managed to get one of our songs recorded by The Pendlefolk (the recording session was in the elegant surroundings of the Stordy Swiss Roll factory at Nelson), and played on Radio Blackburn - fame at last!