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Portrait of a College
Part IV - For men may come and men may go ...
The Bilborough Magazine, 1958-73 - Marion England
House System & Sports Day
Annual Presentation of Prizes
Parent Teacher Association / Bilborough College Society
The Bilborough Magazine, 1958-73
Marion England (History, Latin, ... 1965-97)
Nowadays in education as in most other areas, the buzz word is
'Communication'. Masses of statistics, spread-sheets, league tables and shiny brochures
pass from institutions to waste-paper baskets in its name. But from its first academic
year in 1958, Bilborough Grammar School had its own unique form of communication, each
year eagerly awaited and closely read by pupils, staff, parents, governors, and friends,
in the magazine which not only provided full information on academic, sporting and
cultural achievements, considerable as these were from the outset, but through the
original contributions by staff, pupils and guest writers gave a feeling of the atmosphere
of the institution and what it was really like to be a member of the Bilborough community.
The first edition stated its editorial policy - 'We see no point in
imitating other school magazines at their worst; we believe that a magazine is meant to be
read and enjoyed; and we believe that in a school magazine much of the writing should be
done by the boys and girls'. Under the skilled guidance of Robert Protherough (whose later
work as Professor of Education at Hull University has disseminated the good practice) the
magazine achieved a good mix of information, on events as large as the opening of
Nottingham's last purpose-built grammar school by the then leader of the Labour party,
Hugh Gaitskell on April 25th, 1958, to as (relatively) small as the theft of the
staff-room teaspoons, with reports, reviews, and original contributions in prose, poetry,
and, under the guidance of successive Heads of Art, Mr Rowat and Mr Manners, art and
design, which greatly added to the attractive and user-friendly format.
The range of activities which even in its first few years the school
undertook is astonishing. Twelve societies, and the first dramatic productions,
inter-house sports competitions, sporting victories including pupils being selected for
county sides, were already providing good news for the very first edition; over the years
all these expanded, and added to it were foreign visits, academic achievements, with the
first O-level results (in 1960), A-levels and the first seventh years proceeding to
university in 1962, an expanding careers service, and the take-over of the Albert Hall
(Nottingham not South Kensington) for the annual Speech Days. Early dreams in 1958 of one
day putting on 'Macbeth' came true in 1967 (also successful were productions not even
fantasized about . . . of Molière, Shaw, Pinter, Ibsen); the Bilborough Road Relay Race
became a fixture in the National cross-country calendar; a steady stream of places,
exhibitions and scholarships to Oxford and Cambridge justified the first Headmaster, Dr
Peake's, hope that the school would win 'a reputation for hard work, good sportsmanship,
and sensible behaviour'.
A big change to the magazine's cover, as to the school as a whole, came
in 1967 with the opening of the new 'Sixth-Form block' - the dining room and those rooms
beginning with '6' that Mr Leatherland's groups never quite fit into - which meant the old
design based on the school plan was no longer accurate, nor with the discontinuation of
the House system the cover's alternating house colours. But, now fully run by a student
committee (though always with the guiding hand of Miss Skedge and later the two Michaels,
Saunders and Higginbottom), the magazine in new larger format went from strength to
strength. The development of the school's photography department enabled a wider range of
illustrative and decorative material to add to the increasingly relaxed style perhaps
typical of the 'sixties' - more jokes, fewer Latin phrases, and the poems rhymed much less
frequently! But the record of achievement and the quality of the creative work continued
to rise, till, with the reorganization of Nottingham's schools and the establishment of
the new phase of Bilborough's life as a sixth-form college in 1973, the grammar school
magazine as such bowed out after its highly successful fifteen years.
Many other 'occasional' publications supplemented the regular magazine
- depending on the creativity and tenacity of current pupils / students, we could read
'Verbage', 'Xylst', 'Zilch' or the less felicitously titled but now ubiquitous 'Bilborough
Bulletin' at different times over the years. But the regular magazine provided not only
the record of a school of which much was hoped and which if anything exceeded
expectations. Looking through them consecutively provides a fascinating slant on half a
century of social and educational change. Whilst some things change less than one might
expect - in his speech at the opening ceremony Mr Gaitskell said that 'The standards of
education were not good enough' (now where have we heard that more recently?) and,
in 1964, a contribution on 'A Day in Shakespeare's Life' might well today have won an
Oscar as the germ of 'Shakespeare in Love'. But could we today get as excited about the
appearance of a sixth-form tie? (Would all of the present sixth-form know what to do
with a tie?) Would job adverts for the Midland Bank now ask for 'a personable young man'
(1964) or suggest you 'Apply now to the highly productive East Midlands Mines' (1971)?
Would the Principal of today's multi-cultural Bilborough feel comfortable in advocating at
Prize Giving 'the supreme importance of the development of Christian character'?
But whilst much has changed, sometimes for the better, sometimes
perhaps not, the magazine, many of whose earlier contributors now have had, or have,
children at the college, is not only a record of a successful educational community but
shows the roots from which the present Bilborough grew, flourishes and will, if allowed,
continue to do so in the changing circumstances of the new millennium.
For the record, the full text of the editorial in Magazine No 1 read as
Now the school's first year is over. The building is deserted as I write this, the
silence unbroken by the feet of 3c charging down the staircase, the gramophone booming
from the music room, the small boys squealing as they duck under cold showers. Nobody is
producing a five-course dinner in the Domestic Science room, running a four minute mile
through knee-high grass on the top field or rehearsing Hamlet on the stage. They
have even stopped making tea in the staff-room. One year; and the building has already
acquired a history of its own. Do you remember how the tomato juice got on the blackboard
in this room? and who held the record for going up and down those wall-bars? and who got
locked in this store-room? Yes, the buildings have got their history all right.
The first year is over, and ''firsts'' always have a fascination for us. We blaze our
trail by them: the first day at school, the first long trousers, the first girl-friend,
the first pay-packet, the first grey hair . . . This has been a whole year of first
experiences; a new school and a new staff; new work and new games; new friends to know;
new societies to join; new traditions to make. Some of these things you will find recorded
in these pages, and if others are omitted it is only because you didn't write about
them for us. For here is another ''first'': our first school magazine. Though some things
about it may be a little unusual, it will soon become as familiar as the buildings, the
faces and the subjects that were ''new'' a year ago. Before that happens we are seizing
this once-and-only chance of saying what our feelings are about school magazines (and this
one in particular).
''But they never have stories in school magazines'', said one girl when we asked
her to write one. ''But they always have house notes'', said a rather older voice
when we suggested leaving them out. Our ideas on the subject are few and simple. We see no
point in imitating other school magazines at their worst; we believe that a magazine is
meant to be read and enjoyed; and we believe that in a school magazine much of the
writing should be done by the boys and girls. When it goes home to Mum unopened; when a
boy only looks to see how often his name appears in print; when two-thirds of the printed
matter consists of lists of names and results - then it is time for the magazine to fold
We could have said that as this school is a new one, we would wait until it had grown
before publishing children's work. This seems to miss the point, though. If nothing is
worth printing at the ages of 11, 12 and 13, it is unlikely to appear magically at 15 and
16. We have been encouraged by the large numbers of boys and girls, drawn from every form
in the school, who have submitted work for this magazine, and thank them for all the
efforts they have made. Some you will read in these pages, and we hope that you will enjoy
their work. We do not believe that we are printing masterpieces, but we do believe that
constant writing for publication is one of the surest ways to success. The athletes in our
school have their matches, the actors their public performances, the scholars their
examinations, and you may read here of what they have done. Principally, though, the
school magazine is a training ground where our poets, story-tellers and artists show us
what they can do.
And now, on to the second year. R.P.
There follow (a little tongue in cheek) two extracts illustrating the
quality of the creative writing, the first being excerpts (accurately quoted!) from
examination papers, the second displaying the very high standard consistently achieved
over the years.
- If I lived in the Pyramid Age I would be very old now.
- An isosceles triangle has five sides.
- Stonehenge is the place were the people who worshipped women made there sacrifices.
- The language is plain. There are no smilies or metrophicals.
- When Napolean invaded Egypt he found the Rosetta Stone. On it the Egyptian hieroglyphics
were written in Greek.
- A quadrilateral is an angle with four straight sides.
- The feminine of fier is fierce.
- Parliament bribed Charles by not letting him have any money until he agreed to whatever
- A chord is a line which measures the same distance in each part from a fixed point.
- Some of the coins were not worth what they really should have been because the hedges
had been clipped.
- Homer was a great writer and he wrote the Iliad for the archaeologist Dr Schliemann.
- Henry attacked English clergy and finds them £100,000.
ELIZABETHAN FOG 1564
'Six o'clock on a cold night and all's well.'
It was November and bitterly cold. My hands were numb and my cheeks clung tight to
their bones. Already the fog was thick, and the houses closed in on me, their latticed
windows yellow in the candlelight, just a faint blur against the dark oak beams. It was
hard to avoid the gutter in the middle of the road. My hair hung damply in tendrils about
my cheeks, and my heavily brocaded dress hung limp and straight even over the
A wall loomed high in front of me. I had missed my turning. I dare not think what my
mistress would say, I had no leave to be out at that time of night. I drew my cloak round
my shoulders, but even that was soaked through.
Something cold and wet touched my hand. It was nearly as big as myself, black, thin,
unknown - a dog! Rats scuttled around behind me and water lashed against the road side. I
must have wandered near the river!
No direction; no vision; just thick yellow fog everywhere. A shout a few streets away,
then silence. I turned again; a buzz of cheery voices and a dim light - The Blue Cock Inn,
not far from the palace. High gateways blocked my way.
'Who goes there?'
'Maid in waiting to the Queen.'
'Why so late?'
At last to the door. I stumbled down the steps and inside to be greeted by a book in my
face. 'Where have you been all this time, girl? And your mistress waiting ...'
Jennifer Martin, Year 1
House System & Sports Day
The House system served, essentially, for the organisation of sport,
particularly Sports Day. In the Inter-House Competition points were awarded (20, 15, 10,
5) according to the results through the year in the sometimes ten, sometimes eleven
sports. Over the nine years through which the competition ran, Welbeck (green) won the
All-Rounders Trophy seven times to Rufford's (red) twice, Clumber (light blue) and
Annesley (dark blue) sharing 3-2, respectively, five second places between them. Sports
Day, an important occasion in the calendar up to 1966, made a re-appearance in the late
eighties as Fun Sports Day with wellie-wanging and egg-throwing mingling with less serious
events such as the three-legged dash, the egg-and-spoon sprint and the metric mile.
Annual Presentation of Prizes
High Pavement, Mundella and Manning Grammar Schools all held Speech
Days in the Albert Hall and Bilborough followed in these well worn tracks. For three
years, this opportunity for the School to celebrate its success in the company of parents
and local dignitaries was held in the school hall. In the fourth year, two ceremonies were
conducted, one for the seniors and one for the juniors, and for the following twelve years
the event took place in the Albert Hall. For these occasions, a couple of hours were taken
up in the morning arranging the seating, with prize winners in the front stalls and
seniors behind, and juniors in the balcony (smallest in each row nearer to the organ!). A
few prize winners demonstrated the routine of mounting the platform and receiving a book
and after a few general comments, the pupils were dismissed and the orchestra and choir
held a final rehearsal. The afternoon was spent at leisure; the evening performance ran
like clockwork (or appeared to do so!). In the usual form, following the National Anthem
the Headmaster gave his address, after which the Chairman introduced the Guest Speaker.
Then came the presentation of prizes, awarded for both effort and achievement, and a
musical finale. The final four ceremonies, in the period of transition from grammar school
to sixth-form college, were held in the school. The speakers for the twenty-one occasions
are shown in Appendix Q.
Parent-Teacher Association / Bilborough College Society
First murmurings of a potential Parent-Teacher Association were heard
in the staff-room and at Parents' Evenings in Spring, 1970, and a steering committee
meeting took place in the school on 14th April, 1970, to discuss a possible constitution
for such a society. Those in attendance were
'Mesdames: Gammans, England, Gotheridge. Messrs: Williams, Stratford,
Singleton, Sutton, Pound, Lock, Croxford, Skipsey, Gofton, Breckles, Cartlidge. Mr
Williams was in the Chair.'
Items 1 and 10 of the proposed constitution (subsequently accepted)
were stated as follows.
1. The objectives of the Association shall be to encourage fullest co-operation between
the staff and parents; and to engage in activities forwarding the education and welfare of
all children attending the school.
10. The funds of the Association will be applied solely for the development of its
stated objectives. In the event of the dissolution of the Association the remaining funds
shall be devoted to objectives similar to those of the Association.
Items 2-9 dealt with the constitution and workings of the association and were also
accepted, some with minor modifications.
In a letter from Mr Williams, progress to date on the establishment of
an association was advertised to Parents who were asked to support the venture and to
indicate ways in which they would be willing to contribute to future events. In the AGM
called for 6th October, 1970, elections were held for one parent representative from each
of the years 1-7. The first committee meeting of the PTA occurred two weeks later and was
'Mrs Squires, Mrs McKeating, Mr Hallett, Mr Croxford, Mr Wright, Mr Cartlidge, Mr
Pound, Mr Breckles, Miss Betts, Mrs Gotheridge, Miss England, Mr Davie, Mr Hutchinson and
Miss Donaldson. Apologies for absence were received from The Headmaster, Mr Singleton and
Although it was anticipated that the Headmaster would take the chair,
Mr Williams had to withdraw on health grounds and Mr Breckles was elected Chairman. Mrs
Gotheridge was elected Vice-Chairman, Miss Donaldson offered to take on the duties of
Secretary - an offer which was gratefully accepted - and Mr Wright was elected Treasurer.
In the early (of the monthly) meetings discussions ranged around financing the association
(rather than fund raising) and identifying ways and means of fulfilling the main aims as
agreed in the constitution. The National PTA provided useful advice.
In the first public event organised by the PTA, Dr E B Ritson,
Consultant Psychiatrist at the Addiction Unit at Mapperley Hospital, and Det Insp Pattison
of the City Police addressed those assembled - Parents and year 7 students had been
invited - on 'Problems Facing Parents of Children Attending Grammar Schools', followed by
a question and answer session. The members in attendance at the committee meeting in
March, 1971, heard something which was to influence greatly the aims and objectives of the
Association when their invited speaker, the Chairman of a local PTA, told them that the
main aim of his PTA was to raise funds to assist in the acquisition of equipment for the
school and also to provide facilities beyond those for which the local education authority
was responsible. The speaker also gave helpful assistance with regard to the organisation
of fêtes, some of which was to be put into immediate effect. Indeed, the first fête,
opened by Alan Hill of Nottingham Forest Football Club, took place in sunny weather on
Saturday, 3rd July, 1971. Perhaps the Treasurer's report in Appendix
R will serve to help some readers to recall the events of the day.
In October, 1971, Mr Breckles and Mr Wright were re-elected, Mr Sharrod
(successor to Mr Singleton as head of Geography) was elected Secretary and Mrs Payne (née
Donaldson) and Mrs Beilby were elected Social Secretaries. The fête the following year
was not blessed by the weather but even so the Chairman was still able to confirm just
after the event that funds accumulated for the purchase of a minibus totalled £1,500. The
'Austin/Morris 250 JU Plan 2 (15 seater with front facing seats)' was duly delivered four
months later, and the gift to the school was acknowledged by Ivor Williams with the words
'. . . I wish to express my extra thanks to you [John Breckles] for guiding the PTA in
their efforts to reach this mobile target.'
There were four fêtes in all, the last one, in July, 1974, opened by
the Lord Mayor.
With the transition from school to college, it was felt that the
students should be invited to participate in the running of the association which, in
October, 1975, became known as the Bilborough College Society. Some three years after
making his first appearance on the committee, John Kendrick was elected Secretary, a post
he was to hold for 14 years. Charles Martin took a keen interest and attended all the
committee meetings in a non-voting capacity. For a number of years, with the co-operation
of the Music department, there was held a very successful AGM each September with a Wine
and Cheese supper and a concert given by the Music students. This was usually well
supported and acted as a recruitment evening for forming the new committee each year.
During the course of the year there were fund-raising activities, illustrated lectures,
informative talks, visits and social events. In addition to the Prize Draw, there were
Jumble Sales, Flea-Market Stalls and Car-Boot Sales; Doug Scott came on two occasions to
talk about his experiences on the slopes and pinnacle of Everest and Bernard Beilby talked
about Old Nottingham; visits were made to Hurts' Knitting Factory and the caves under the
City, to Shire Hall and the Granada Studios in Manchester; there were Barn Dances, Square
Dances and St Valentines Dances. In less glamorous events, information was given on
Careers, the UCCA/PCAS systems and Student Funding. Over the years, there was a very wide
variety of activities, and on one special occasion, Jayne Torville and Christopher Dean,
the World Ice Dance Champions, made a personal appearance.
The Society certainly provided a channel for parents of goodwill and
energy to put something into the college. Many, indeed, made a great contribution: Albert
Crabtree served on the Governing Body, John Wilson was elected Vice-Chairman and then
Chairman of the Governors and Alan Hawksworth was elected first Chairman of the
Corporation. The BCS Award scheme was an interesting venture which never got the attention
it deserved. Students doing active and unusual projects were invited to apply for a grant,
and money was given to a group walking the Pennine Way and then one doing the Lyke Wake
Walk. Gradually the idea of service was added to the reward for initiative, and, for
example, a grant was given to a student decorating the walls of the Children's Hospital.
The PTA of the grammar school was undoubtedly very successful in
achieving its aim of bridging the gap between home and school but in its revised BCS form,
when students were associated with the college for only two years, its management became
increasingly difficult. Certainly there was nothing comparable in any of the other
Nottingham colleges, and even in its final year it was able to purchase First Aid Kits for
Sports, provide financial support for Field Trips and the Music Competition, and buy a
colour printer for the library and sound equipment for the stage. The Society was wound up
in April, 1992, aged 22 years.
18th September, 1999