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Portrait of a College
Part II - Bilborough Grammar School
The Williams Years 1965-1/1973
To begin ... at the end. Here is part of the address given by Bill
Bristow, Acting Headmaster, at Speech Day in March, 1973, five weeks after Ivor Williams
Bilborough has indeed been fortunate with its Headmasters. The energy, drive and
organising ability of Dr Peake, the first Headmaster, rapidly established a School which
gained a reputation for its Scholarship, Sport, Drama and moral and social standards.
Throughout this period Mr Williams, as Deputy Headmaster, was the perfect complement,
tempering justice with humanity and helping to create what he always referred to as the
'family atmosphere' in the school. He succeeded Dr Peake as Headmaster in 1965, and for
six months or more went through a period of intense strain carrying the combined load of
Headmaster and Deputy Headmaster and gradually mastering the details of organisation*.
Events have proved him to have been in many respects an ideal successor. A man of
considerable culture, Celtic warm-heartedness and humanity, genuine humility, gratitude
and self-sacrifice, his strength has lain in personal relationships. He has devoted
himself unsparingly to the well-being of all his pupils and his Staff, and has never
paused to question the cost to his time or, indeed, his own health. I suspect that a very
large number of present and past pupils will look back in future years to realise what a
debt they owe him, and there are very few Staff who do not owe him some personal debt of
gratitude. His door was always open to Staff and pupil alike for advice or assistance on
any matter. Nothing was too trivial for his attention and it mattered not whether it was
strictly business or purely personal.
[*Ivor himself wrote on 29th April, 1966: 'In September last I became
Headmaster but a Deputy Head was not appointed until two months ago. During this interim
period ..... Miss Thompson carried out extra duties as Acting Deputy Head, as well as the
many commitments she had as Senior Mistress.' I may add that the appointment to Acting
Deputy Head was made by the Education Authority. Ed]
Some ten years before that valediction was offered, in the period
September, 1962, through to July, 1963, plans for the much needed extension to the school
buildings had been drawn up with Dr Peake and W G Jackson (Director of Education) making
regular contributions at the Sites and Buildings Sub-committee monthly meetings. Now, in
Ivor's first term in office, having shown around the school those candidates short-listed
for the vacancy of Headmaster, but been himself appointed on 24th September, 1965, the
building programme was underway. It fell to Ivor to engage in the difficult task of
developing a modern Sixth that answered the demands and needs of society. Cometh the hour,
cometh the man. Ivor used his first public opportunity to outline part of his philosophy
when at Speech Day in March, 1966, he had this to say.
I am proud of our Sixth Formers at Bilborough - one hundred and ninety of them -
especially those who have joined us from the Bilateral Schools - they have to work harder
than at any other time of their lives without the material compensation that their
contemporaries enjoy. They represent a true Bridge between the sheltered life of school
and the outer world and I do beg parents of these young men and women to continue to
encourage them, exercise solicitude and patience in their vacillation of moods, and to
share with them their troughs of depression and moments of joy.
Socrates believed that in all men was something of God. My task as Headmaster and that of
the staff is to find that core of goodness in these young men and women. They have a
passionate desire to be someone, to be an individual in this bewildering world - to find
With the drilling and clanking of building machinery ever audible to
remind Ivor of the problems ahead there arrived on his desk a copy of Circular 10/65
Organisation of Secondary Education (of which more anon) seemingly to compound those
difficulties, though one hindrance to progress was eventually removed when the vacancy of
Deputy Head was filled on St David's Day, 1966, by the appointment of Bill Bristow, who
had taught in Swansea before moving to Mundella and finally Bilborough.
Blissfully unaware of such 'unimportant' (to them) matters, the vast
majority of the 676 pupils and students continued to display their talents and enthusiasm
in the many out-of-class activities, in concert and on stage, in service and on canvas, in
club and on field, in competition or purely for fun. Ian Barnard created a new United
Kingdom record in the steeplechase at the All England Schools Championship, and in the
same season, with wins in Nottingham, Lichfield, Oxford, Grantham and at Rugely, the
cross-country team had justifiable claim to be hailed the All England Schools champions.
In contrast, at the end of the year, the Bilborough House system was laid to rest - 'to
allow the spirit of competition to be harnessed by Bilborough as a school against other
schools but not against ourselves'. House blocks for House Meetings, if indeed ever
envisaged, failed to materialise (was the A-block one such building?), and the increasing
numbers of students transferring at 16+ reluctantly transferred House allegiances
Come September, 1966, change was in the air. On the day before term,
prospective sixth-form students were greeted not by the three most senior staff alone but
accompanied by, for the first time, heads of department. The music department was
relocated in the A-block and the classroom at the rear of the hall was fitted out as a
language laboratory. The start to the sixth-form timetable the following day was slightly
delayed while equipment was moved into the new extension; classrooms and tutorial rooms
were used for teaching in the afternoon. In the following week there was convened a Staff
meeting to discuss a Constitution for the Sixth Form Centre, if, that is, 'centre' is the
appropriate word. The extensions comprised nine small classrooms, six tutorial rooms,
common room and library for the use of the Seniors, together with a dining room (brought
in to use in the following January) enjoyed by the whole school, Seniors and Juniors.
Further, many sixth-form classes were still conducted in the 'old' buildings, both in the
general classrooms in the tower block and in the specialist rooms, such as the
laboratories. Whilst it was generally recognised and agreed that the 'new' sixth should be
treated as young adults in their new environment it proved difficult to draw up
appropriate guidelines for behaviour given the physical constraints of the buildings.
No doubt some of these matters were raised when the Governors came to
view the Centre in early December, and again when a party of Councillors, accompanied by
the Director of Education, visited in the following June. There was rather more to these
visits than self-congratulation. By this time Sixth-Form Colleges had been founded
elsewhere in the country and the creation of such colleges within the City was the subject
of considered debate.
There were two births and a burial in the course of the year. Advantage
was taken of the newly available common room to hold separate senior and junior school
assemblies. The Fencing Club was formed and members entered into local competition. The
Annual Athletics Sports Day was laid to rest. There was another first - the administration
corridor, staff-room and hall were re-decorated. No mention has so far been made of the
Service Group. Here is their report from Magazine No 10.
THE SERVICE GROUP
During the last year, the Service Group has re-emerged with the generous assistance of
Miss Scott, Mrs Watts and Mr Day. We have tackled several activities including the
distribution of Oxfam boxes, the sale of Christmas cards which raised £14 4s. 6d., a
collection of toys for the N.S.P.C.C. and carol singing for Oxfam, which raised another
£4 5s. 8d. Projects were begun and completed on the 'Community', the 'Elderly' and
'Racial Integration' which brought many interesting results. The most recent money raising
activity with the help of the Junior Dramatic Society was the collection for the
N.S.P.C.C. after Toad of Toad Hall. Apart from all this, members of the group have
helped to arrange a silver paper collection, a Second Form dance which raised £5 for the
S.C.F. and various film shows during the year. Recently a local children's home has been
adopted and we hope that visits will continue, also that the Service Group will grow in
size and continue its work next year. MEMBERS OF THE
The A-level results for Summer, 1967, one year after the new tutorial,
library, dining and common room facilities had been brought into use, were duly reported -
97 candidates scored 164 passes - with the comment - These results were not up to our
previous standard. The following year the pass rate improved by 8% to 69%.
There were two little changes in administration in the new academic
year - one at the beginning, one at the end. The usual staff meeting was called on Monday
29th August with years 1-5 and 7 appearing the following day. The new year six arrived on
the Wednesday for discussion and confirmation of their courses. On the last day of the
summer term, there was an Assembly (in place of the traditional service in the local
Church) followed by refreshments with Staff at 11 am. In between these two events, the
Essay Society and the Bridge Club were formed, and football with a 'round ball' appeared
regularly in the sporting calendar. Members of the Climbing Club tested their skills on
the rock faces in Skye and in the Junior Drama Festival, some of the plays were both
written and produced by the pupils themselves. With Mr Singleton's organisation, the
senior school took part in a twenty-mile sponsored walk which raised over £300 for SHELTER.
In November 1968, Ivor explained in a letter to parents of sixth-form
students his proposal concerning a new dress code.
... Now that we have established the Sixth Form Centre where senior pupils are treated
differently from the rest of the school, I feel it is logical that the next step is to
allow the Sixth Form a wider choice of dress.
They are at an age when most of their contemporaries are out of school uniform and it
is my view that if they know there is this option in the matter of dress they will feel
even more that they are being regarded as young adults from whom I can expect responsible
The whole aim of the Sixth Form Centre is to help the senior pupils to mature not only
intellectually but socially and anything which can assist them in this quite difficult
period of transition should be encouraged. I have discussed the matter with the Governors
of the school and all my colleagues, who have been most helpful with their suggestions,
and I am now sending this letter to parents from whom I would welcome any comments.
The simple guidelines which followed are given in Appendix I to allow those who wish to draw a comparison
between successive generations. The trial period of one term was duly extended. If the
experiment was further reviewed, there is no note of the comments. Yet another step in the
modernisation of the sixth-form was taken when all its members were declared equal in the
sense that all were to have prefectorial duties, in an attempt to build up a co-operative
spirit. During the course of the year, Rod Lupton reached the final England Basketball
trials for the U19 age group and Alan Widdowson swam regularly for England and Great
Britain senior teams. 'But times they were a-changing'. A rather sad announcement appeared
in the introduction to After 4 in Magazine No 12.
Five years ago as I strode confidently over the threshold into Bilborough, I was amazed
at the amount of Extra-curricula activities with which to use my time after four o'clock.
Due to the enthusiasm of those concerned the societies boomed and their horizons were ever
widening. However as staff and enthusiasts left, interest in the existing groups waned and
the whole system sank into a sea of apathy. Because of these factors the societies are
sadly lacking in support as is evidenced by the limited number of reports received by the
magazine committee. C.M.
Though the Bridge Club expanded and the Essay Society continued to
provide intellectual fare for the sixth-form, the Service Group 'battled on with its
fortnightly meetings, handicapped by lack of members' and the Senior Christian Fellowship,
also complaining of lack of support, ventured to form a Junior Scripture Union with some
success. It is interesting to note that the latter pair of these four associations long
outlived the former.
Her Majesty's Inspectors had been visiting the school since Day 1, or
rather Day 24, being 2nd October, 1957, when Mr E C Merchant (General Inspector) enquired
after the health of the new school, but the visitations were sporadic and averaged a mere
1½ inspector-days per year. Mr Brierley arrived in October, 1968, two years after the
extensions had been occupied, to investigate the modus operandi of the Sixth-Form Centre,
with particular reference to the use of Private Study. He reappeared some seven months
later to deliver his report which was then used by Mr Williams as the basis of his
presentation to 34 headmasters from local education authorities who were developing
similar centres. In March, 1970, there arrived three subject inspectors and one general
inspector, but they confined their interest to the Junior School.
The final paragraph of Magazine No 13 reads as follows.
Special congratulations must go to Anthony Page who has been selected as Captain
of the English Schools' Cricket Association Under 19 Team to tour India for eight weeks
[from early December, 1970]. Anthony has been a prominent member of almost all the
school's sporting teams since he arrived in the second form. At cricket, however, he has
excelled, and this selection is a just reward for the tremendous amount of time and energy
Anthony has put into the game. I would like, on behalf of the school, to wish him a very
successful tour, and an abundance of runs. S. Deeman.
In September, 1970, the Parent-Teacher Association was formed, and
something of its life is revealed in a later article. Four months on, we heard of the
death of Alderman Reed. Here is the tribute paid to his memory by Mr Williams at the
Annual Presentation of Prizes, 17 February, 1971.
Three weeks ago today in my room at school I was talking to Alderman Reed who had come
to see me, as he modestly put it, for his 'briefing' for Speech Day. I gave him the notes
I had prepared and a copy of my speech, little dreaming that by a cruel shaft of fortune
he would not be hearing it tonight. But that hour we spent together was so typical of the
many that we had shared: we talked of previous Speech Days, of the many school productions
which he had seen, the latest being 'Under Milk Wood', he asked how some old scholars were
now faring, what of the present, what of past staff appointments, what special problems
were now facing the sixth, problems both general and particular - and the whole
conversation was laced with good humour and easy understanding. I sat there listening to
his sound common sense, and his quiet solid wisdom. He was the same MacReed three weeks
ago as when I first knew him thirteen years ago when Bilborough opened - always cheerful,
always friendly, never pompous, never stuffy. And it wasn't always in school time that I
contacted him. A headmaster always needs someone he can turn to at any time, and I can
honestly say that I have rung up Alderman Reed early in the morning and very late at
night. On numerous occasions when I had telephoned him at home Mrs Reed said 'He's not
come home yet from the Council House but he'll ring you when he comes in'. This he never
failed to do - although often he had had a tiring day. A man who knew humility, he was
devoted to this City, and as our founding Chairman he together with Mrs Reed, took a
special pride in Bilborough. Truly no Headmaster, no school could have been served by a
finer Chairman. We were proud to know him, and we feel grateful to him and for him.
Ivor Williams retired from the post of Headmaster at the end of
January, 1973. Here are some extracts from the Report given by Bill Bristow at Speech Day,
March, 1973, to illustrate the health and wealth of the school he left behind.
Throughout the year, Mr Hutchinson and Miss Heath, assisted voluntarily by over half
the Staff, have coached and managed no fewer than 48 different sports and athletics teams
who have played 388 matches, and about 350 life-saving, survival or safety awards have
been won by boy and girl swimmers. This is in addition to badminton, canoeing, squash,
lacrosse, boys' hockey and golf. On some Saturdays about 130 boys and girls are competing
in sports events of some kind. 6 cross-country runners, 3 cricketers, 6 girl hockey
players, 4 netball players, and 2 girl and 1 boy athletes from Bilborough have represented
Drama has always been prominent at Bilborough. In his final year with us, Mr Saunders
produced 'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller as the School play with a cast of 20 pupils. The
middle school suffered the intense disappointment of having weeks of rehearsal for 'A Man
Dies' brought to a sudden halt by the power cuts resulting from the miners' strike, but
manfully switched their efforts to 'Oh What a Lovely War' and presented it to their
fellows at the end of the Spring Term. The most recent production was Brecht's 'The
Caucasian Chalk Circle', produced by Mr Binding, with a cast of over 60 on stage and a
further 70 or so Staff and pupils involved behind the scenes, with music specially
composed for this performance by Christopher Bochmann . . . A choir of pupils, staff and
parents, aided by solo singers and accompanied by the West Bridgford Music Circle
orchestra performed Vivaldi's 'Gloria' in St Leonard's Church, Wollaton. The music was
heightened by another programme of speech, drama and movement entitled 'Celebration', the
two short programmes designed to form a single entity.
The Geography and Biology departments have each held their annual field course for the
upper school students. . . There was a field day for the 4th year Geographers in Edale,
and a half-day excursion for the first years to study local history and geography, whilst
the Fell Club did six hikes in North Derbyshire and a 4-day excursion in the Lake
District. . . On Easter Monday over a hundred first-year pupils, together with A-level Art
and History students and Staff went on a long-planned excursion to the 'Treasures of
Tutankhamen Exhibition' and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was greatly appreciated. .
. Second-year pupils visited York. . . The Art department has made a number of visits to
London Galleries and Museums, and spent a sketching weekend in North Lancashire, and at
Christmas, 1971, they decorated one of the men's wards of the General Hospital with a
thirty foot long mural. . . Thanks to the magnificent co-operation of the Arkwright
Society, some of our sixth formers spent several Sunday afternoons on conservation work at
Cromford, restoring a corn-mill and waterworks, and acted as guides to our own 3rd year
pupils and parties from other schools pioneering experimental teaching materials provided
by the Society, and volunteers assisted with the Arkwright Festival in 1971 and the Steam
Fair in 1972. Two girls, then in their third year, won the regional section of the City
and Guild essay competition and were rewarded by a very busy and exciting 3 days in London
as guests of the Guild.
But undoubtedly the most ambitious excursion was the 17 day visit to the U.S.S.R. last
summer. Mr Richards and Mrs Ivas took a party of 24, 16 Bilborough pupils, 3 from High
Pavement, 1 ex-Mundellian, 1 brother and 1 mother, outwards via Ostend, Berlin, Warsaw and
Brest to Moscow and Leningrad and returned by steamer via Helsinki and Copenhagen and thus
passed through 7 different European States.
18th September, 1999
Last revision September 13, 2000