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Portrait of a College
Part III - Bilborough College 1973 - 1987
A Choice I'm Glad I Made - Rachel Byron (née Sherry)
The Best of Times - Gillian Godbeer (née Hull)
My Experiences and Memories of Bilborough - Janet Browne (née Bass)
In the Last Intake - Alison T Buttery
A Choice I'm Glad I Made
Rachel Byron (née Sherry) (1971-78)
How tall and adult all those sixth-formers looked to me as an uncertain
first year! How I dreaded the periodic skirt length checks, and wanted to cringe with
embarrassment at the girls' assemblies when we were lectured on the perils of 'going too
far'. As we worked our way up the school, the sixth-formers seemed to shrink in height!
The news that there would be no first year intake was a disappointment
to me. I had looked forward to the prospect of keeping an eye on my sister. However, this
was more than compensated for by the abolition of uniform, and most importantly for me,
the development of the Music department into a major subject centre, with over 10 students
studying A-level music and a chamber orchestra that won through to the finals of the
International Youth and Music Festival in Vienna.
Bilborough has given me several lifelong friends, one of whom, David
Ashmore, introduced me to my husband. I am eternally grateful to some of the teachers:
Andrew Burnham for firing my enthusiasm for music, inspiring me to make my career in it,
and, following his ordination, officiating at my wedding; Tony Goodchild for building up
the Music Department and the endless time he put in helping me to develop musical rigour,
discipline and stamina; Gilly Archer and Gill Elias for instilling a love of English
Literature, and John Kendrick for many pearls of wisdom and for sharing his love of French
Bilborough had a wealth of interesting and unusual extra-curricular
activities, thanks to the willingness of staff to share their enthusiasm and give up their
time. Among others I was involved in mill restoration at Cromford, Organ building (the
instrument I helped to build has since been dismantled) and the annual school opera which
was great fun to play in, and in later years, great experience to sing in. Going to
Bilborough was an active choice, and one that I am always glad I made.
The Best of Times
Gillian Godbeer (née Hull) (1972-79)
I was one of those lucky ones who really enjoyed school, every aspect
with the exception of language classes which I found positively stomach churning. I used
to devote my energies to finding the desk in the classroom where I thought I was least
likely to be picked on. I would then look attentive whilst simultaneously trying to blend
into the background. Was I the only one or was half the class cowering in their seats? I
wonder if the likes of Mr Richards and Mr Kendrick knew what effect they had on us?
I joined Bilborough in September, 1972, the last intake into the
Grammar School. As the youngest year throughout our secondary education, I wonder whether
we were over indulged, given freedoms and treats that we would not normally have had until
we had reached the sixth-form. I remember as a first-former queuing outside the dining
room, peering into the small tutorial classrooms of the sixth-form and catching glimpses
of the sixth-formers relaxing in their common room. From our perspective they seemed to
have a privileged existence and I looked forward to the day when I would join their
exalted ranks. But of course by the time I reached the sixth form I was one of many. There
was no sense of being special, no sense of being in a position of responsibility. We were
poorer for it.
I have a vague recollection of the traditions and ritual of the Grammar
School. As a first-former I remember presenting a posy to the Sheriff of Nottingham at the
School Speech Day. A big thrill. The Speech Days were held in the Albert Hall in the
centre of Nottingham. They seemed very grand to a little girl. These petered out into
little presentations in the library and then disappeared altogether.
The greatest fun I had was participating in the school operettas. It
gave the younger pupils of the school an opportunity to mix with the older members and
teachers on an informal basis. The stern, imposing teachers were in fact a lot of fun (I
include Mr Robinson in this category who was a stalwart member of the orchestra). The
Little Sweep by Benjamin Britten allowed myself and my small group of friends starring
roles. Kate Shaw played the title role with great aplomb. I fear my voice was so weak that
those in the orchestra would have been hard pressed to hear it, let alone the audience,
but I had a great time.
All this was lost as we headed towards the sixth-form. But it was not
all gloom and doom. New intakes of teenagers meant new friends and new characters entered
the school and if there were no longer operettas, there were alternatives. A group of us
led by Miss Archer toured the primary schools with a short musical play. The music was
provided by Mick Walker, a fellow sixth-former, on the guitar and the rest of us played
all sorts of characters. Mr Knowles and I ended the play flying off as daddy and baby
All this reminiscing makes me wish I could do it all again. It was for
me at least the best of times.
My Experiences and Memories of Bilborough
Janet Browne (née Bass) (1972-79)
Arriving at Bilborough for the first time as a pupil was full of mixed
emotions, a first step into the 'big world'. Bilborough's head at that time was a Mr
Williams, who was very much of the 'old school'; I think it was no accident that the
school tie was very similar to that of Eton - Bilborough certainly had high aspirations!
Indeed Mr Williams was frequently to be found playing the piano wearing his gown! Other
eccentricities which one had to accustom oneself to on arrival was the 'unique' 6-day week
Bilborough operated. This meant whatever you did on a Monday this week would be done on
Tuesday next week. And then there was the staff - all characters in their own way. The
mnemonics-mad history teacher (Mr Nicklin?), Mr Downing whom I'm convinced only possessed
the one jacket and Mr Littlewood - who can forget him? Indeed one of my very first lessons
at Bilborough was Physics with Mr Littlewood. I recall he leapt onto the side benches,
threw the windows open, bellowing that we were not to follow suit! Subsequently I recall
another lesson with him. He had a ball of plasticine which he punched to demonstrate some
aspect of physics, and as he did this he was drenched in water. He thought we had filled
the plasticine ball with water, but it seems it was one of the other classes who knew
exactly which theory he would be demonstrating and the course the demonstration would
take. My first mathematics lesson was also memorable. Each of us was given an exercise
book for classwork, one for homework and one for graphs to last the year. At the time I
recall finding this very daunting, realising just how much work we would be covering. By
the time I was nearing the end of my time at Bilborough I was getting through those same
books in just a couple of months! Then there were the Miss Betts assemblies, what girl
could forget those? An announcement that we were to attend one of these was quickly
followed by much combing of the hair, straightening of ties and pulling down of skirts!
Sports provided some noteworthy occasions, like the day we returned to
school from our swimming lesson only to be immediately traipsed out onto the playing
field, lying under several inches of snow - for a hockey lesson. Or the time the refuse
collectors were so busy watching two of us play tennis (again it was snowing) that they
reversed into the lamp post nearly knocking it down; and the cross-country runs which as
we became older the more keen we were to partake in them, as once out of sight they
degenerated into brisk walks and lots of chat.
As regards being a member of the 'special group', the last intake of
the Grammar School, I do feel we were treated a little differently. I recall there being
some uncertainty around the 3rd year as to whether we would remain at Bilborough or be
sent to various other schools to finish our secondary education. I personally found this
unsettling. We were given certain concessions though; the principal one was not having to
adhere so strictly to the uniform, mainly because no one was prepared to make / stock it
for ever decreasing numbers (a real slipping of the standard).
The influx of 'strangers' coming into the 6th form did, I believe, help
to make us more understanding and tolerant of other cultures / societies. Until then we
had largely been cocooned from cosmopolitan society. Other aspects of Bilborough life that
deserve a mention are the rugby scrum for the buses to ferry us to and fro between home
and school and the 'run ins' with William Sharp, particularly when snow was about.
In the Last Intake
Alison T Buttery (1972-79)
I was part of the so called 'special group', being the last intake to
the Grammar School in September, 1972. I distinctly remember certain members of staff
having difficulty in re-adjusting to the fact that there would be no younger ones coming
through after our year. One incident in particular crystallises this in my mind. The
'form' had been that the new intake would always clear up (ie wash up) in cookery
classes for the sixth-form. I remember the kitchens had been left in a real mess before
one of our lessons and we were expected to clear up before we started our own cooking.
From memory it was Judith Grundy who spoke up for our year and pointed out that we would
be washing up until we reached the sixth-form and then there would be no one to do the
same for us. The point was taken and from then onwards we were treated differently.
Other incidents that spring to mind include the energy displayed by
some of the male teachers, two of whom used to leap onto benches to gain our attention,
namely Mr Littlewood who taught Physics and Mr Stone who taught Art. I remember Mr Stone
taking the 'pottery' class one step further by leading a trip out of school to some muddy
fields where we gathered our own clay and brought it back to Bilborough where we made it
in to pots. I understand that Mr Stone is now a successful businessman running 'The Bottle
Kiln' locally. My family are particularly amused by Mr Dearing (whom we nicknamed 'Darling
Dearing') trying to teach Janet Bass and me to play chess. Poor Mr Dearing could not
comprehend the fact that Janet and I tried to clear the chess board as a matter of urgency
because the game was interrupting a good gossip. I believe his words were, 'Girls, girls,
this is not draughts - consider strategy'.
Kay Eade (née Drury) (1972-79)
I arrived at Bilborough in September, 1972, after my first journey on
one of the 'special' buses costing 2p! I recognised some of the children in my class from
Fernwood Junior School but none of them were my close friends.
I soon realised my new class seemed to have all the 'naughty boys' from
the year and individual and class detentions were quite commonplace. However, we all
showed remarkable team spirit and won a trip to Skegness by collecting the most jumble for
the Bilborough summer fête in 1973.
Being the last intake year for the school did change things for us but
I think most of it was for the better; school uniform was abolished a couple of years
early and we got the chance to socialise with the older new sixth-form intake. We never
had to be form prefects and 'baby-sit' the young ones before the form teacher arrived. I
think we were treated differently by the staff as our progression through the school
marked the end of an era and we were the last ones they would have known possibly for a
seven year period.
I still live close to the college and drive past quite often and look
over with a smile as I remember my enjoyable years there.
18th September, 1999