St. Catherines


St. Catherines

My memory of St Catherine's is tinged with the happiness I felt there in my final year (Junior 4) before departure to Xaverian. In that year I began to feel attracted towards ... GIRLS! Yes and I did feel fond of some of the girls. As the academic year neared its end I recall it was Theresa (Terry) McClusky towards whom my (probably unnoticed and thoroughly un-requited) affections were directed. The stirrings were I guess sexual, but at the time I knew nothing of 'the facts of life'. Nothing. Not a single thing. I knew not where babies came from or how they were created. I had no idea at all that my penis (a word I did not know at the time) was involved in any way. And the girls knew that I knew nothing. On one occasion I recall being handed a wet paper towel, and being told that it was a 'sanitary towel'. I understood nothing and girls giggled happily at my utter ignorance.

I recall one occasion which must have been after the '11+' exam because classes became easier and less rigorous then. I recall somehow being last out of class with a girl called Clare ??? I recall sitting on the table at the back of the class with her and she said (or asked) whether I was fond of Terry and I said I was. I don't know if that information was ever passed on, but if it was, nothing came of it, and after I left St Catherine's, I did not speak to a girl socially for the next six years. But I still remember Clare's kind enquiry and there was an air of honest innocence about my time at St. Catherine's.

The world of my school (the playground) was divided into girls and boys and so are my memories.


Terence (Terry) McGuire: Terry lived almost next door to the School on School lane. He was tall and good at football. He was slightly mischievous boy. Near the end of the last term at St Catherine's he explained to me some of the basic phenomena of male sexual functioning, but it all seemed so strange I just kind of ignored what he said, though I remember it now.

Terry McGraw: As I recall him Terry (was that his first name) was a kind boy who suffered from psoriasis and lived near the school.

Patrick Cooke: Patrick Cooke lived on Atwood Road, somewhere near the top and he was big child who seemed to me as I remember him a very kind, slightly ungainly child.

Ian Hampton: Ian was the only boy in my streamed class to fail the '11+' and so he went to St. Marks just across the way and not a grammar school. He was a small handsome boy who was very good at sports.

Derek Henshaw: Derek was big child. He held the class record for drinking the 1/3 pint bottles of warm milk we were obliged to drink each morning. I think his parents owned a newsagents.

John Connolly: Was the eldest son of Connolly dynasty and he lived it. He was a very kind, vaguely intellectual boy who eventually became a doctor and did something worthwhile in the third world. He also went to Xaverian.

Michael Nelson: Michael's mother was a teacher at the school which I guess must have been a pretty tough call. Michael was good at football and generally good fun as I recall it. Recently I found a photograph of him visiting my house when he was aged maybe 8 or 9, so we must have been good friends.

Vincent Dwyer: Vincent is (and I guess was though I didn't know it) the person I know with the greatest raw brain power. Back then he just seemed sort of quiet and had the kind of parents whom I can now identify as intellectuals.

Michael Dwan: Michael was a short boy who was a very fast runner and was absolutely brilliant at drawing. I remember his parents moved house while we were at school from one nearby street to another in order to live in a larger house. I did not understand this at all.

Julian ???: Julian came from the south of england and so was fated to be perpetually outcast.

Paul Nealan. I liked Paul. Paul was smart and quick rather than book clever like me. He confided in me that his mother was 'spastic' . This was unusual, but I had no concept of what it meant for him. But one day, at the Missionary fete (which was an orphanage and thus a place of peculiar focus for my father) I met Paul and we played at the stall where you had to throw a ping-pong ball into a goldfish bowl to win a goldfish. Paul simply hopped over the barrier, put the ping-pong in the bowl and then called for the attendant to give me my fish. I was stunned. Paul: if you read this. Thanks.

Peter Quigley: Peter lived in the house next to the back passage to the school from Atwood road. I liked him and at times he was my best friend. He was small and may not have been all that well now that I think back to it.


Theresa (Terry) McClusky: Terry was the object of affection at the end of my time at St. Catherine's. As I recall her she was slightly freckled, wore flowery skirts, and was very clever (but not as clever as me!: I generally came second or third in class)

Kathleen ??: I can't remember Kathleen's surname, but she had very long hair

Clare ??: I mentioned Clare above. She had short dark hair.

Pamela Marsh: Pamela was tall and had such a kind face. I feel warm just remembering her.

Joan Diamond: Joan had brilliant red hair and ... well I can't recall much about her except for hair.

Deborah Peers: Deborah Peers just must, just MUST, have been an only child. I don't know anything about her except that she was perfect with long straight hair, perfect handwriting and she was always top of the class.

Clare Nortney: Clare was a petite girl who was the youngest of one of the parish dynasty's. The elder Nortney's had been at school with some of my brothers and sisters. My brothers in particular teased me that I was in love with her, but (and I would like to state this for the record) I was not.

Anna ?: Was there a beautiful girl called Anna in this class. I think she was the first girl I ever kissed, as a dare, underneath a table around the back of the hall. Is this a memory or a fantasy? I can't tell, but I can see her face as clear as day.

Angela ???: I can't recall Angela's second name but I recall she had stunning bushy blond hair full of ripples that fell down to her waist.

Alison ??: Alison was kind and had a round and friendly face. She came from a large family and I believe she had an adopted sister or brother. She lived in a house on Atwood road and was originally a neighbour of the Dwans.


Infant 1: Mrs Worswick and Mrs Nelson: I don't remember much about this year, except my first day on which I remember my mother being there, and then not, and I cried.

Infant 2: Miss Kelly: Miss Kelly was beautiful and I was in love with her. It was during this year (February 1966) that my mother died and I undoubtedly became Miss Kelly's teachers pet. I was lucky. At some point in the year she took me to the cinema in Manchester just near to the Free Trade Hall to see Mary Poppins. I don't recall feeling much about it all but I was bought a program, which I kept for a long time, and for some reason the bus ride home sticks in my mind.

Infant 3: Mrs Ford: Mrs Ford was older than the beautiful Miss Kelly and I recall being in fear of her strictness. I recall reading Janet and John books in her class. If I remember correctly my elder brother Sean was her 'pet' when he had passed through the class some five years previously. I recall one incident when she asked for all the children who could not yet tell the time to put up their hands. I raised my arm only to be sternly old that I did know how to tell the time.

Junior 1: Mrs Cosgrave: How can a year go missing? I recall almost nothing about this class. Except that Miss Cosgrave seemed old and a bit crabby.

Junior 2: Mr. ??? . Was this when we had our first male teacher. I think he had a limp and introduced athletics o the school. He was very enthusiastic. Years later I stood outside the school looking in for some reason, and he came over to see what I was up to and bizarrely he recognised me!

Junior 3: Mrs Hughes: I learnt several life changing things with Mrs Hughes.

  1. Firstly she taught us Euclidean constructions, such as how to divide a line into a given number of equal divisions, or construct a triangle on a chord of a circle. These constructions included everything I was later required to do at 'O' level geometry (five years later). We also constructed and icosahedron which I enjoyed enormously.

  2. Secondly, she played us classical music, something which I had never heard. I heard something about 'Exodus' and Haydn's trumpet concerto.

  3. Thirdly, she read us the story of King Soloman's mines. I was absolutely gripped and it was the best bit of each day when she read to us at the end of the afternoon.

  4. Fourthly, I learned that there was something wrong with Philip (Maxwell?).

  5. Fifthly, I learned that life was not fair. I was going to be part of the choir which sang at the wedding of one the teachers, I can't recall her name. At one practice I was told by Mrs Hughes that I was 'tone deaf' and was forbidden to attend the wedding. I felt absolutely gutted and excluded.

  6. Finally, I learned that water evaporated, even when it was not boiled.

Junior 4: Mr Johnson and later Mrs. ?Riley: Too much to write. Mr Johnson was strict but a nice teacher. Several things occur to me:

  1. Mr White, the head teacher, occasionally came in to teach a class. On one occasion he asked us to do sums which had results which were negative e.g. 13 - 25 = -12. We had never been taught about such sums. His response to the class was one of contempt and anger.

  2. On another occasion we were to be grilled about 'times tables' I recalled all those on the front row had to stand up and recite the next sum in the series. I felt the moment approach me and when asked 6 x 7 I could not answer. Mr White's response was again one of contempt and anger. As I reflect on this now with my first class degree in Physics and D.Phil. behind me, I feel nothing but contempt for Mr. White's essentially bullying persona. At the time I was just terrified.

  3. I recall we did some piece of work about dreams. I recall that Mr Johnson identified my work and read it out in class. Now, I imagine I would be very moved if I received such work from a 10 year old. I described my recurring dream of living with a happy family in a flat at the top of a tall building. And then a ghost comes and haunts the flat and we all jump out of the windows to escape. In the dream I fall and fall but never reach the ground. I recall that I analysed the dream in my essay and mentioned my endless need for my mother as being the meaning of the endless fall. At least, that's as I recall it now. So I understood the concept of dream analysis aged 10. Sigmund Freud eat your heart out!

  4. I remember being given the strap (along with Michael Dwan) for having a 'sword fight' using our wooden 12 inch rulers. It hurt, but even at the time I remember thinking what a stupid idea it was to hit people. Mrs. Riley sent me and Michael for this cruel and unusual punishment. On my end of year report she described me as 'happy -go-lucky' and my family wondered whether she had confused me with another child. I think it was the influence of ... GIRLS.

  5. At some point we had to do some project work - something we had never had to do before. I had to do something about Devon (a county in the west of England). I traced several pictures and cut out various things. However, I had written down as text not a single sentence. I think it was Michael Nelson who swore that he had seen my work after I explained that I had left it home or lost it or something. Thanks Michael, I owe you.

Link to Xaverian College Memoirs