Speech Days

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Speech Days

Postby malc » Sat Apr 06, 2013 3:29 pm

Does anyone's memory - or archive - of the period 1958-65 cover Speech Day speakers? I ask this because in the annual update and explanation from my union's pension fund, a section congratulates those members who reach 100. One such member of the fund in this year's list is Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw. I have some Speech Day programmes, but can't find them at the moment. But I'm pretty sure her name was on one. She was a famous mathematician, with an early involvement in the Northern School of Music, and may have been Chair of Manchester Education Committee or somesuch. Why of interest to CGS? Well, it shows that having two scientists as Heads in that period didn't do too much harm, given the celebrity of the guests they could nobble. Earlier posts have commented on the hob-nobbing involved but I don't really see much change to the way influence is exerted..... either in UK or in France.

Best wishes, and thanks for any help,

Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 10:36 pm
Location: france

Re: Speech Days

Postby Geoffrey Whitelegg » Sun Apr 14, 2013 8:27 pm

Hello Malc,

Just seen your question about speech days and celebrity guests.

I was at CGS from Sept 1956 to July '61

Kathleen Ollerenshaw was indeed a guest speaker on one of my five speech days. She was the Chairperson of the Manchester Education Committee. Another speaker I remember was the then Chief Constable of Lancashire police-
Christian name forgotten but his surname was definitely "St. Johnson", or "St Johnston". As regards Kathleen O and the Northern School of Music, I attended there for three years- Ken Pearson got me in there. The lady in charge was Ida Carol, and she was a contemporary of Fanny Waterman, who started the Leeds International Piano Competition round about that time. During all my time at "The Northern" I knew of KO but never heard of her being associated with "The Northern". I may be wrong.

Just as a side bit of information, four of us members of forms 1S and the C streams later - Bruce Thwaite, Mike Edwards, Roy Webster and myself had a second lunch together at the Hare and Hounds Pub on the edge of Altrincham last week. The first was last Autumn. We will be having another later on in the year. If anyone else is interested in joining us, please answer this. We would love to have other former form mates join us. Mike came from Colwyn Bay, albeit to go to the Manchester Derby last Monday night. I have just seen you're in France. You never know, a video link may be possible? The same could apply to other "wanderers". I actually lived in Norway for three and a half years in the late "eighties", but came back in 1989.

In years past, I have seen Phil Page on Urmston market, and Sidney Lampard in the dentist at the Nag's Head, Urmston - both numbed - him, coming out of the treatment booths, me going in, but we recognised one another. I had a strange contact on Friends Reunited about two years ago from John Clowes. I answered his contact but received nothing further.

Hope the first part above helps you Malcolm, and look forward to a response to the lower entry.

Best Regards,

Geoffrey Whitelegg
Geoffrey Whitelegg
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Location: Eccles, Manchester

Re: Speech Days

Postby malc » Sun Apr 14, 2013 9:19 pm

Thank you, Geoff, for an interesting and informative reply.

But Ida Carroll has my surname and spelling. It is the only intellectual or cultural similarity. I am as musical as a two-legged milking stool. But you raise enormous interest in your tone-deaf correspondent. When you say Ken Pearson "got you in", I am intrigued. I thought Ken what the French call "le top", an enormously witty, highly sensitive guy, with a naughtiness which few in CGS could cope with. Holding a cigarette in a rather fey way, prior to stubbing it out on the school's GP, he was quite a hero. And his ability to move the piano across the Hall resembled the flexibility of the dodgem car - both vehicles having three wheels. Even as an ex-gaff lad at Belle Vue, I couldn't have bettered him.

You must have become a very good musician - but does anyone know anything about Ken Pearson? A super guy in my mind.

Best of wishes,
Malcolm the Frog ...... Yeh! Yeh! We (Janet and me) pay our taxes here, vote here, and even kiss babies for political reasons. But everyone kisses everyone else here. It's so unhygienic.

SW France
Posts: 43
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 10:36 pm
Location: france

Re: Speech Days

Postby Geoffrey Whitelegg » Mon Apr 15, 2013 12:18 pm

Hello again Malc,

My, ....were you actually waiting for a reply, even from your entry on the 6th,(I think it was)?

Ken Pearson was the music teacher when I started at CGS. I had already had a piano upbringing, right from being about 4 or 5, my mum used to sit me up on the piano stool alongside her, as she was already an accomplished pianist, having passed the "Royal College of Music" examinations up to grade 7, and she was also able to play all the "pop" music of the time.

When I was 8 she paid for me to have piano lessons by an oldish man who lived nearby in Moss Side, on Raby Street. My lessons with him were on a Tuesday afternoon at 17.15 hrs, - the same time as Richard Green was on the TV as Robin Hood. I never saw any of these in allthe two years up to me stopping the piano lessons to concentrate on the requirements of the 11 Plus Scholarship. I passed, although my first choice was Burnage Grammar School.

Soon after arriving at CGS, I suddenly found myself as one of the leading "musicians" in the first form, singing treble. Another lad in my form Victor Black, was another who seemed to "hit it off" with Ken Pearson. On the first Christmas's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which Ken copied from the Christ College Cambridge, I was the treble who started things off, unaccompanied, with "Once in Royal David's City". Ken told me I had what he called "Perfect Pitch", something in my brain that allowed me to easily remember the actual tone of a note and be able to sing the note much later 'bang on key'.

Victor Black did a solo on our second speech day with "O Taste and See" how gracious the Lord is..... can't remember the rest, by Vaughan Williams, but it had apparently been used in the Queen's Coronation, although I have seen endless hours of recordings and not spotted it.

Digressing before I forget to mention it, St Johnson's first name was Eric and he was an old boy of the school.

Getting back to my music, On the first parent teacher's evening, my mum had a meeting with KP, and she asked him if he knew of a good piano teacher. The outcome was an introduction to the Northern School of Music, on Oxford Road near All Saints. There, I kicked off with what I had already learnt, and my teacher, a prim and proper spinster of about 40, Marjorie ( can't remember her second name) took me through the 'Associated Board' of the Royal Schools of Music starting at Grade four, through grade five and then grade seven. The Northern School of Music later linked up with The Royal Manchester College of Music, to become The Royal Northern College of Music, which it remains to this day. Chethams', which you will no doubt have heard about in the news, was and still is a separate institution.

By this time Ken Pearson had been long gone from the school. While he was there though I thoroughly enjoyed his lessons, usually in the school hall on the Beckstein Grand, complete with tea stains on the side panels of the music carriage. I can remember one day, him moving the grand to the middle of the hall and we arranged the metal/canvas chairs around him on one side, and he started to play.

Well, I was in aw of him. It was absolutely magnificent, playing just like Lang Lang does now. with a mixture of pure classics and some of the current pop stuff and probably the Warsaw Concerto and Exodus. Later on at the end of the first year, I was in Cavillaria Rusticana, which he produced with our lads and girls from Withington High School for Girls. In one of the photos on the CGSOB web site, I am the smallest of the three lads standing in front centre of the stage on the right with my arms folded in line with my waste. Victor Black is the tallest, the left of the three of us , and I don't know who is in the middle looking to his left. That was a great night.
My next claim to fame was being awarded to Lower School Music Prize in 1958. I think the money award came to about £5. I bought a hard backed copy of Beethoven Sonatas, which had the Moonlight Sonata in it, and the remaining money bought a two piano copy of Tchaikovsky's piano concerto. I have been able to play the easier bits of this for many years, and have only recently started to learn the massive arpeggios at the end of the first theme.

I am more into Rackmaninov, and can play most of his second, and third piano concerto, the one highlighted in the film "Shine", where a bully of a father was transfixed with a desire for his young son, (aged then about ten or eleven) to play the third. It was apparently a true life story of a lesser known concert pianist - David Hathgart or something sounding similar. I also play all the pieces played by "Sparky" on his magic piano. as well as others. KP gave me his copy of the Schuman piano concert, which I still have and use occasionally. Generally now, I photocopy pages from my purchased music to save wear and tear on them. The worst damage is from the natural grease on your finger tips, rotting the bottom corners of the pages.

Back to Ken, - he made music how it should have been at a grammar school. At the end of my second year or during the third, he suddenly was absent and then apparently had to leave because of ill health, apparently through the affects of the Second World War out in the Far East The people we had after Ken were absolutely pathetic, and could not even play the piano to accompany the hymns in the school assembly. One of the lads on the form above mine used to do the accompaniment, but even he could not play Jerusalem. It was an impossible task, trying to read it from the "Hymn's Ancient and Modern" music, so I went to a music shop -H Wright Greaves- in Manchester and bought a full page copy, and leant it. H Wright Greaves' son, Martin, was in the 6th form at that time.

So I learnt it, but during this time, the Grand piano was sent away for reconditioning, and came back nearly a year later, in all it's glory. A black shiny monster waiting to be played, but spent most of it's time covered with a shaped cover, and no one was allowed to play it.
At assembly's we were still struggling, now unaccompanied, with Jerusalem, so in the afternoon after a total disaster with it at assembly that morning, I sneaked into the hall, removed the cover, opened the lid, and played Jerusalem as loud as I could.

Within a minute, the doors at the far end of the hall, opposite the Head's office opened, and Merriman bawled out, "who is on the piano?". I carried on playing until I had reached the end, then stood up from the stool and stepped out from the keyboard. By that time Merriman was just a few yards away from the end of the piano, where he stopped. He had cooled down and when I had finished, he complemented me on my playing.

After that, I did the accompaniment a few times before leaving. I seem to recollect the school getting another music teacher who could play the piano.

Since then, I have nearly always had a piano of my own. It went to Norway with me after I had decided to stay there. In the first eight months there, I hired a Yamaha upright from the local music shop. I had wanted a Schimmel, but they were not for hire. In the first month after arriving there, I was allowed to play the Steinway in the top hotel in the town, Sandefjord, south of Oslo, on the Sunday mornings, whilst all the cleaners were working, clearing away after Saturday night functions.

I still have the piano I took to Norway. It's an Eavestaff Mini-Grand, upright, bought new for my Mother-in-Law in 1972, by her husband.
Last year, I was pressed by my family to forget work and get rid of all the stuff in the box room (my office).Before retiring in September 2009, I had been a Health Safety and Environmental Manager for a national utilities contractor. So my office was full of files of legislation and other work information. I cleared it all out, and set out to make me a "Boy's Room". It's done now and I have a magnificent Roland digital piano, cost over 2 grand, in black ebony, like CGS's Beckstein grand, with a key action and sound like a full Steinway grand. With the touch of a button, it has 75 other sounds from organ, honky tonk, harpsichord, to all the modern electronic sounds., so the Eavestaff is now redundant.

Besides CGS, KP was also attached to the Maia( Pronounced Mya) Boy's Choir in Stockport. At the time I knew him, I went to see a couple of concerts they did in Stockport Town Hall. They were very good and well known throughout the Northwest.

Ah well, Sorry for going on, ... and on,..... and on.
Just one last thing-
From memory, you were at CGS a couple of years after me, so you must have been close to it's change from a boys school to the mixed High school.

I go down Sandy lane and on to the bridge at St Werburg's Road, after visiting my Grandfather's grave in Southern Cemetary, each Christmas.
All that is left of the school now is the front railings and central gate. Behind it, there are "little boxes" they call houses. It's the same on the spare ground between where the hall was and the railway line. This was closed by Dr. Beeching, but has recently been regenerated into one of the links in the Manchester Metro system. Chorlton's station for the Metro is by the end of the old rough ground.
I must go now. SWMBO (my wife) needs me to help her with something.

Again, Best Regards,

Geoffrey Whitelegg
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Sep 13, 2003 7:20 pm
Location: Eccles, Manchester

Re: Speech Days

Postby Geoffrey Whitelegg » Mon Apr 15, 2013 8:12 pm

Hello again, Malc,

I see you have not yet seen my "epistle" to you this morning, so I will carry on with my thoughts.

I am puzzled that out of all the staff at CGS, it is Ken Pearson who you seem to be most interested in. I thought he was brilliant. He captivated my attention. Maybe it was because he seemed so much younger than the old brigade of Jones, Gallagher, and all the others who had started straight from university when the school opened.
His was the "middle" band as I think of it, some years teaching experience but more "in touch" there with us in the late fifties.

Elaborating on KP. I can remember going to a flat he had in Lee Road, Heaton Moor, Stockport, a few times. No hanky panky took place there. It was a really modern, posh flat. By contrast, at a later time, I can remember going to his mother's terraced house at Sandown Road in Cheadle Heath, another poorer part of Stockport. This was at the other end of the housing spectrum, a tiny terraced house, but with a monster black upright piano on the wall facing the window (street side)the depth of which was about a quarter of the distance to the window. It had such a hard tone, I bet you could hear it at the end of the street.

I never saw him in a car. But I do remember seeing him on a Lambretta LD scooter (1956/7) a couple of times. I know it was one of these because I had one myself from being eighteen to twenty-one.

When I mentioned his piano playing before, I did not mention his fingers. They were longer and leaner than hands of other men of his age. This was because of his piano playing abilities. They reminded me of a plaster image of Listz's hand I saw later at the Northern School. They used to call them "fetucheeny" fingers, like long strands of cheese. I may have the spelling wrong. It's not even in my Collins dictionary, and doesn't come up on the MS Word spellchecker. He was a true gentleman, and the school lost a good teacher when he went.

When I was invited to a practice night at the Maia choirs in Stockport. There was one for boys, one for girls and a mixed adult choir. He seemed to generate the same response from the choir members as I had given him. This maintained and possibly enhance the choirs' reputation throughout the Northwest. I have just broken off and done a search for the Maia Choir. My spelling is correct, but now known as the Maia Singers. One of the pages gives a history of the choir, now over 100 years old. It mentions a Geoffrey Barber, who I met with KP, but there is no mention of Ken even amongst a large number of names of those associated with the choir in the late 40's and through the 50's.So I don't know why he isn't mentioned.

I must go now. Looking forward to seeing any input you may have about Ken.

Tata for now.

Geoffrey Whitelegg
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Sep 13, 2003 7:20 pm
Location: Eccles, Manchester

Re: Speech Days

Postby John Ellis » Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:48 pm

... Just as a side bit of information, four of us members of forms 1S and the C streams later - Bruce Thwaite, Mike Edwards, Roy Webster and myself had a second lunch together at the Hare and Hounds Pub ...

Now that awakes long-submerged memories; I was in 1S in '56-'57, although I got channelled into the "L" stream afterwards - against my will in fact, but my mum and H.A. Jones conspired together to defeat me. I remember Bruce Thwaite distinctly because he and I both turned up on our first day at CGS accompanied by our mums, and the mums got talking. Odd the completely inconsequential things that stick in the mind after the best part of sixty years - I still clearly recall he said he came from Rusholme. No "curry mile" thereabouts in those days!

And Roy Webster and I had a spell of knocking about together, both in and out of school. I think it was when we were both in the 2nd or 3rd year, but I can't recall how we found something in common when when we were no longer in the same class, or exactly when it was, or how long for, or why we stopped! Since I recall Roy coming to our house but have no memory of me going to his, the reason might well have been my mum. If I remember rightly, Roy lived in, or at least out towards, Newall Green, the best part of three miles from us, and she was paranoid about me straying too far from home, terrified that I'd either be mugged or crushed by an artic. Council estates were even worse, as she feared I'd be seized by teds - remember them? - and tarred and feathered and tied to a lamp post. I was 15 before I found the confidence and the courage to confront her neuroses! On the other hand, we might just have drifted into other interests and different friends.

Geoff Whitelegg rings a bell as a name, but won't summon up a face, even if you did play the piano at assembly. My only recollection of an accompanist is Bernard Clough. Somewhere I've still got the form photograph of 1S - I'll root it out and see if it stirs a memory. As you say Vic Black was in your class and I remember him distinctly, we must have been in the same class. But I've no recollection whatever of Mike Edwards; not even the name stirs a chord of memory.

Like you, I once had an out of the blue contact from John Clowes. It was around 1983 and came in the shape of a phone call; I was a parish priest in south-east Wales in those days, and he too had been ordained. He'd apparently got my number from a directory of Anglican clergy in Britain and Ireland that he had. It was a pleasant enough conversation, but as I recall he didn't give me his number or indeed tell me exactly where he was except, I think, that it was somewhere round the Thames valley - Berkshire way? Also like you, I didn't hear from him again. I thought he'd come to sound terribly posh for a Moss Side lad who'd moved to Heaton Moor, but then perhaps that's what happens if you gravitate into the "gin and Jaguar belt" round Windsor, Maidenhead and Henley-on Thames!

As regards Ken Pearson - who around October 1956 so convinced me that I was unmusical and tone deaf that I was in my 30s before I discovered I wasn't - he did indeed leave suddenly, trailed by rumours of ill-health. Some time later - months rather than weeks, possibly after even a year or more - I heard a rumour trickling round the school that he'd taken his own life, but never heard it substantiated. But I remember thinking that he was both eccentric - at least in comparison with your average CGS teacher - and noticeably moody; usually upbeat, extrovert and even skittish, but just now and again (for if you recall he took us for maths in 1S as well as for music) he'd be withdrawn, taciturn and irritable, with nothing of the usual banter and humour; a change which stood out because of that.

And on another occasion back in 1S - do you remember this, I wonder? - he came into Room 1 lugging one of those suitcase-sized 1950s tape recorders, which he dumped on the teacher's desk. "I don't feel like teaching maths today", he announced, "any more than I expect you feel like learning any. So we'll listen to a recording of last night's 'Goon Show'" Which he then played. I was a maths incompetent and a "Goon" fan and so was delighted, and certainly no one else complained. But even at 11 I thought there was something strange about a teacher who would do that.
Rhydd i bob meddwl ei farn, ac i bob barn ei llafar ...
John Ellis
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Re: Speech Days

Postby Allan Rostron » Fri Jun 14, 2019 5:39 pm

[quote="malc"]Does anyone's memory - or archive - of the period 1958-65 cover Speech Day speakers? I ask this because in the annual update and explanation from my union's pension fund, a section congratulates those members who reach 100. One such member of the fund in this year's list is Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw. I have some Speech Day programmes, but can't find them at the moment. But I'm pretty sure her name was on one. She was a famous mathematician, with an early involvement in the Northern School of Music, and may have been Chair of Manchester Education Committee or somesuch.

Kathleen Ollerenshaw is the subject of one of the abiding embarrassing memories of my life. There was some big event at school (late 1950s or early 1960s) at which she was to be the distinguished guest. I had been posted to the ticket table inside the main door. Dame K appeared, and after I had told her how to get to the the room where the event was being held I mentioned that tickets were a shilling (or whatever). Dame K: 'Oh, ... I'm Mrs Ollerenshaw ...'. Which meant nothing to me as I had never heard of her and I didn't even know there was to be a distinguished guest, so I held out my hand and put on an expectant face. She rooted in her handbag and handed over the money. Oh dear.
Allan Rostron
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