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Bilborough 1957-2000
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 had retired.

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 their niche.

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 previously acquired.

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.

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 SERVICE GROUP

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 behaviour.

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 1 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 the County.

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.


Mike Robinson
18th September, 1999

Last revision September 13, 2000

URL: http://bilboroughgrammar.tripod.com/1957-2000/part_ii_williams_65_73.htm