Spirit of Birkenhead Institute

Pupils' and Staff Memories of Birkenhead Institute Grammar School



Here is the first of your memories from former pupil Ben Johnson:


BI Memories: Foottee in The Yard


If you were to ask the world’s leading scientists to organise a group of over 100 boys, age from 11 to 18, to play five football matches in parallel in a restricted space, with no demarcation of where the pitches stopped and started, no shirts to show who was playing in what team, no officials to maintain the rules, and groups of non-players scattered around in the same space then I’m sure they would quickly turn to simpler tasks, like developing sustainable supplies of energy. Yet if you just let the boys organise themselves then it all worked perfectly. It’s a bit like running downstairs, if you try to think about what you are doing at the time then disaster will ensue, but if you just run you’ll get down quickly and safely.


Being on Merseyside meant that football was a passion for most of us and that before school began and during the breaks we played foottee in the yard. In the earlier years, yard football was played during the autumn and winter terms, and some cricket in the summer term, but as time went on it was football all year round.


The school yard was slightly longer than the length of the school building, since there was a passage at the eastern end, and, from memory, the yard was about 40 yards wide at the widest point. There was a slight slope from the school building down towards Hollybank Road and on the other side of the road was a row of terraced houses. Those dwelling within must have wished foottee in the yard never existed because, in spite of the additional fencing placed above the normal school railings, the balls frequently landed in their gardens. On one memorable occasion, from nearly everyone’s point of view, a coffin was being respectfully carried out from one of the houses in Hollybank Road when a miscued shot flew over the fencing and bounced off it. The wayward kicker rushed out to recover the ball with no more remorse than if it had bounced off a gatepost, much to the collective horror of those accompanying the deceased…life goes on, and so must the foottee!


Taking a coffin-eye-view (let’s call it that) of the BI yard, the First years’ “pitch” was across on the left-hand side. They had the first opening into the “bikeys” for the goal at the top and the corresponding space between the railing stanchions at the bottom, a width of no more than 10 yards.  The next opening of the bike sheds was the upper goal of the Second years’ “pitch”, the Third years’ being further along. The upper goal of the Fourth years’ was the concrete slab in front of the toilets. These four “pitches” took up about half the overall space in the yard; the rest of the space, all of the right hand side of the yard from the toilets over to the wall, was for the outrageously over-privileged 5th and 6th years.


If we were lucky someone had a decent ball to play with, otherwise we made do with a tennis ball. The balls were all provided by the boys, who would be eagerly awaited at the start of the day. Since everyone knew who was in their own year it was obvious to each “team” who they were playing with and who they were playing against. The matches all ran in parallel, each one ignoring the existence of the others. There were frequent bumps, but remarkably few injuries. Everyone respected the rules, there were free kicks awarded, even penalties, without any intervention by a ref. For the duration of the match, blazers were hung on the railings, often to mark the goal posts. Shoes took a terrible beating. Boys coming along and joining a match in progress, for example after second serving, would ask “Up or Down”, meaning “Which team should I join, the one kicking up the yard, towards the school, or the one kicking down?”. Players were added according to which team was winning at the time they came along, there were no fixed teams, in the morning you’d be in the same team as your best mate, at lunchtime you’d be opponents.


If you asked any of the BI teachers “What do the boys learn in this school?”, I’d bet a large sum that not one of them would have said “They learn to organise themselves to spend about 2 hours a day playing football, even though the official school sport is rugby.” But that is what we did, and we did it very effectively: no teachers, no funding, no refs. We did leave a little time for other subjects, though, but without the yard foottee, we’d have had far too much energy to concentrate on any of them.


Ben Johnson, Aug 9th 2009.



 Many thanks to Andy Halliday, (1961 - 1967),  (Also known at school as Hiram Holliday), for the following item:-

It has been great reviewing the times of B.I, I was there 1961-1967, and belonged to scouts under Don Coughtrie, Frank Tomlinson-who I think was an editor on the Liverpool Post.They were assisted by Rob Brookes and Prof Jones-he lived in Woodlands .We stored kit in the basementof the old junior school.I could then imagine following in my dad's fotsteps. He too was a member of 23rd,and like me went on to serve movement as a leader for many years.My first Patrol leader was Mike Shaw, then David Thorne was Troop Leader. My colleagues as PLS were Pete Watson, Phil Vaughan, John Williams, and Stuart Dawson.We had camps at Hawkshead,Slaidburn, Dinas Mawddwy-where we were helped by Pete Farrell, and David--  I met Pete recently,in the Library in Bath where I am a manager. He is a football scout for Portsmouth,and lives in Wiltshire.One old boy I would much love to write to is Peter F Taylor--who at our time lived in Pemberton Road. I have heard from Tom Howarth, and Hal Darlington-both contempories at school. One teacher not mentioned in notes is Stan Pierce,who taught me French I remember to this day, and still find useful.He lived in Irby,and with his wife lead us on school twinning trips--great experiences.I also recall with thanks J.P.Langley--whose R.I. lessons encouraged me to find Church--and still am active in our local Chapel in Keynsham nr Bath. Thanks for letting me fill up some space on this well presented web site-good luck with future developments. Andy Halliday--often known as Hiram-Holliday.

1934 Cubs and Scouts :-


Here are some great memories from Paul Crockford:-

I went to B.I.from 1965/70. I can still remember the holes in the sandstone building that the pupils had dug out with pennies. I was in Westminster house and my housemaster was the woodwork teacher "Yosser Hughes".Like all new pupils I had to suffer "Peb" the music master and his choir. I greatly appreciated the sports master "Big Bill Edgar" who taught me to play rugby, I captained the "Chicks" going to away matches on a Crossville bus,complete with school cap on!!!! I have many more memories,too many to summarise here.I have most of my rugby fixture cards
plus the school photo taken in 1965 when I was a first year (newt)
The first years (newts) were taught in the annexe which was through a wall from the "yard".It was actually an old house with two classrooms, Atkin & Stitt in one & Westminster & Tate in the other. The bycycle shed was underneath, and the school canteen was also situated nearby.
On the first day after all the usual getting to know you etc etc the first formers were marched off to Ingleborough,to see the sports ground ,this was to show the newts where it was and ensure everyone new how long it took to walk as lateness would not be tolerated.After a quick look around we were all free to go home,this was a trial run.
 to be continued......


GRAHAM VAHEY, (1945 - 1950),  has sent in some excellent memories of his days at the B.I., and about a chance meeting with a former pupil again :-

"It is daunting to peruse the online data and not see any names that I recall from my years at 'the Institute'   Where has everyone gone?   Despite being now a retired gentleman ( folk ask me what I was before I retired and I reply 'gentleman', which usually stops the conversation! ).

When in England last year my wife and I took a stroll along West Kirby Promenade ( as one always did, of course).   Coming towards us, some 100 yds away was an enormous elderly man, with white hair on two sticks.   He shuffled along with his head down.   I had a most uneasy feeling as we approached.   Then he looked up and glared at me and I knew who he was.   I had met him before, when about 16 yrs old in a second or reserrve Rugby Team and we had been playing away at Calday Grange Grammar School rugby field.   I saw this enormous youth - 'Garth' I termed him, hurtling towards me from the other team.   Despite bracing myself with the ball he completely floored me and winded me for a while.   He terrified me as he was so massive and strong.   Here he was, still terrifying me, in his 70's.   How I chuckled, and I wondered if he remembered too."

Graham Vahey, BUSBY, Scotland.   (75 yrs)   Stitt House, 1945-50.

Here are some more interesting comments from Graham, and information about who influenced him at the B.I.:-

"Influences: 1. Alf Morris for his beautiful playing of Chopin during lunch hour in the Junior School building. I have a lifelong love of music now, particularly of Chopin.
2. Middle distance running from the Playing Fields down muddy Landican Lane via Little Storeton village landed me up running for Port Sunlight Athletic Club and later for Southern Command in the Army - not that I was any good at it, but I loved it.
3. Thanks to 'Johnny P' (John Paris), my Form Master and English Master as he gave me a great love of language, grammar and of literature, which is still with me today.
4. Thanks to 'Nancy Price' (Miss Price), Art Teacher. She gave me a great love of art, which remains today.
5. Thanks also to Len Malcolm - a former old boy who returned to teach when I was there. He coached me to take an interest in Physics, which I had discounted as it involved Maths. He taught me how to appreciate it another way, which is why in my country of Scotland it is called Natural Philosophy at Glasgow University. "
Many thanks to Graham for these positive comments.


Here is an article sent in by Alan Jones about the B.I. Rugby Team:-
The following article appeared in the local paper during the 1954/55 rugby season.

Birkenhead Institute Rugby team completed one of their most successful seasons in the school history on Saturday ,with a 14-0 victory over Grove Park, Wrexham, at Ingleborough-Road:-

"During the season they have won 12 out of 14 matches and the only school to beat them was St. Anselm's, who gained a double over them. During the season, the forwards, in particular, have improved a great deal under the coaching of Mr. J. D. Robins."
The victories over The Birkenhead School and Wade Deacon Grammar School were the highlights of the season for me.

Alan Jones
p.s. has there been a more successful season since this?


Former pupil Keith Sedman has sent in some wonderful photographs of Sports item from the B.I..

Here are his memories of Mr Edge:-

"I remember Mr.Edge very well. In fact, I can see him before me now, wearing his apron in the woodwork room. I was at the school from 1942 to 1949 and thoroughly enjoyed his classes. He was an avuncular man and very popular with the pupils. He was also a very good teacher. The woodwork room was always clean and in tip top fashion. His first concern was safety (not the current 'elf n'safety methods). He didn't let us near tools until we had learned how to look after them. Planes, for instance, had to be turned on their side when put down. He never lost his temper, but was always in control of the class.

I still have a T square made there. I have used it for years to put a straight line on wallpaper!

It was a sad loss when Mr Edge died and I, and half a dozen other boys, attended his funeral.

Happy memories! "

Many thanks to Keith for your memories of Mr Edge.

These can be seen in the YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS page of this site, and I would like to thank Keith for sending these items to me.


To go to the "Spirit of Birkenhead Institute" site, please click on the following link:



Here is a fascinating item from former pupil Ron Whitmore, via Tony Moody in Australia:-

Tony & Phillip. A very big "Thank you" to those all involved in this article, I loved every word and picture, even the one of Wynne-Hughes. Never thought I would say that! I joined BI in 1936 and was placed in Form 3J, there was one form academically lower, and my form master was Thacker. Cannot remember all names, but a few come to mind, particular friends were Jasper Bartlett and Laurie Tunna, the latter being crazy about the navy as I was, and Johnny Haughton, he was a Quaker and therefore different in my eyes, but a good friend.  There was Len(?) Malcolm, Peter Wynne and Syd Baker, the latter was of the Jewish faith and excused Saturday forenoon school and much envied by me. Chris Hayes, Harold Armitage and ? Scully come to mind and that is just about the limit of this 85 year old brain!
I negotiated my way though 4J, 5J, RemoveJ into 6S, with a remarkable lack of academic distinction, despite the efforts of Physsy WimpsWilliams Physics; Bummy Jones Chemistry, Butch Haines Latin, WEW Williams and Biddy Harris History, Tiger Lewis, Sis Lord and (?) Moate French, Thacker the various forms of Maths and Geography, a most unpleasant man called Darlington Woodwork and dear "old" Peter Paice Art, except it wasn't any form of Art in my case. There was also a large example of obesity, Clegg perhaps, who took us for Physical Training who was quite incapable of demonstrating "Astride jumping with arms extended upwards and outwards" or even "Running on the spot". There had to be others too, but my memory fails. A few items related to the above masters which stand out. Butch Haimes whom I loved, was the easiest person in the world to distract from the subject and was very interesting when he wasn't teaching Latin - the next Latin exam I pass will be my first! Biddy Harris gave me "Six" for failing a History exam, I was really quite good at History, except American history, which being a firm believer in the British Empire I failed gloriously, even then I found Biddy's philosophy amusing, "Can't get it in through the ears, try his backside". A clout from Tiger Lewis across the back of the head was something one didn't forget and then dear Peter Paice: there was one occasion when travelling from a classroom to Art I relieved Johnny Haughton of the detention sheet, hopefully so my name would not feature on it again in the near future! During the lesson it was required for some other malefactor and nobody knew where it was. Eventually I had to own up with a "Oh! Here it is, Sir, amongst my books", Well, Peter may have been gentle, but he was no fool, so Whitmore featured again, but this time for a Wednesday Afternoon Detention. This could not be allowed to stand as I was always in some team for Wednesday and Saturday afternoon sports, so later I asked for the detention to be changed to "Six", pleaded, to no avail; mentioned the Honour of the School, seemed to be getting nowhere however hard I tried....... then Peter said "Alright". Then he thought more and obviously he having to dust the rear area of my trousers with a cane didn't appeal and with a sharp, "Alright off you go", I was dismissed. Late in 1939 I sat the entrance exam for a career in the Royal Navy and eventually the results were published.... I had passed. However when I totted up the vacancies in relation to my exam position I didn't feel I had passed highly enough and was pretty downcast, but my own fault, as usual I had done the barest minimum work for the exam and I was always hopeless at maths and  most aspects of science.
 However on the morning of about 8th September1940, at the end of assembly in his usual sonorous tones Wynne -Hughes uttered the words "I want to see Whitmore in my study". My immediate thoughts were "What have I done wrong now". On appearing at his study he handed me a telegram which said my naval career was about to start, I had been accepted and start a programme which meant I was about to look upon the visage of Wynne Hughes for the last time I my life, we shook hands and he wished me good luck, a quick dash home and that evening I pulled out of Woodside Station, southbound for London where I experienced the first of the major German fire raids on the capital, and thence points west, to start at the age of fifteen two and a half years training in navy business, like how to salute, etc, and Engineering  specialising in Air Ordnance, and thereby lift some of the weight off Churchill's shoulders!
Mid 1943 saw me graduate and posted to a Swordfish/Albacore pilot training squadron,  753/754 Squadron in Arbroath, which led me to 887 Squadron Seafire FIIIs, aboard HMS Indefatigable on her commissioning. Saw service in the North Atlantic, mainly runs to Norway to keep the Tirpitz suppressed in Alten Fjiord and do damage to the radar installations at Hammerfest, thence we moved into the Indian Ocean for a few runs to Sumatra to keep the oil installations at Palembang and Pankalan Baranda subdued, here we had our first experience of Jap kamikaze attacks, all failures as regards any of our fleet ships being hit, then on to Australia to form the British Pacific Fleet. Beginning of 1945 saw us sail for Okinawa where we had the dubious distinction of being the first British warship to be hit by a Jap Kamikaze, at 0712 Easter Sunday morning. Clobbered on our flight deck at the junction of it with the island. He caught some pilots in the Flight Deck crew room, the medical staff in the Flight Deck Sick Bay, wrecked one of our flight deck barriers, started a good fire in A Hangar and just missed our Flight Deck Control Room, which was just as well for us, as a hit there would have really put us out of action. As it was with a bit of "sweeping up" and a bit of welding here and there we were landing on our aircraft 40 minutes later, which was just as well for them as many of them were low on fuel. Well eventually Peace came, I who had always fancied myself as a modern day Biggles was given the opportunity to learn to fly, but whilst I enjoyed it up to a point, and got satisfaction out of being able to handle a plane and more inmportantly having got it off the ground, get it back down again with both me and the plane in our respective one pieces, I quickly realised it was not what I really wanted. I knew I was not of the temperament to be a "Hot Shot Jock",  nothing on the "clock" ( the altimeter) other than the maker's name, at full throtle, on the other hand jogging along at 230 knots in a Grumman Avenger ( Torpedo Bomber) didn't seem to appeal, so I withdrew myself from further training. During a subsequent Junior Officers' War Course at Greenwich Naval College, I had taken Hydrography as a voluntary subject and had really enjoyed it and that stayed in the back of my mind. In 1950, by which time I had given up Ordnance Engineering and become a Fish Head, an unspecialised Executive Officer, I transferred to the Royal Australian Navy, having married an Australian woman in 1947 in Britain. After the Korean War in which I served in my eighth aircraft carrier, I volunteered to specialise in Hydrography, was accepted, swotted up on Maths etc and started to learn a new job from the ground up. Eventually, commanded five RAN hydrographic vessels, starting with a small single officer vessel, which could best be described as a direct drive diesel driven 75 feet of fighting firewood, thence to my favourite which was a conversion from a wartime frigate, with lovely triple expansion steam engines, driving two well spaced large propellors, one could stand on the bridge and make that ship dance, a real joy to handle, finally to the first purpose built, RAN Hydrographic ship which was diesel electric driven, carried her own helicopter and as hydrographic ships were in those days painted with white hulls and superstructure and buff funnels, she looked like small P&O liner. She was fitted out accordingly. Eventually my bum polished the seat of THE chair, that of The Hydrographer RAN, now known as The Hydrographer of Australia.  Just before compulsory age retirement at 50 in 1975, from the RAN, I was asked by the University of New South Wales to formulate a syllabus in Hydrography and Law of the Sea for them to start a module within their Baccalaureate of Surveying, this became the first university degree in this subject in Australasia, some say the Southern Hemisphere, but I have never tested that claim, and I started 17 years as an "Academic(?)".This led me to becoming an advisor and examiner for Hydrography at the then new Australian Maritime College in Tasmania. It was a very full life for me as I also had time to be a consultant in Hydrography and managed to fit in two periods in command of commercial hydrographic ships in the oil industry off Thailand, and do two periods overseeing quality control for the British Admiralty in the North Atlantic, when they started out sourcing hydrographic tasks to civilian contractors, plus umpteen lesser jobs of short duration. Retired from all forms of paid work in 1992, but in 1993 was asked by the then Hydrographer RAN if I would join a team for about four months, researching the development of the electronic chart, actually it was more than a mere representation chart it was, and now is actually a very sophisticated, navigational intelligence. Well one thing led to another and I ended up retiring from my four months job after eleven years at the age of 78.
I also was a founder member of the Australian Branch of the British run Hydrographic Society and was on the Council of its international body for eight years and Chairman for three and a half years, during which time I started the process which led to its devolution from a Britocentric body with foreign branches to an international body with independent autonomous foreign societies. That job led me to twice a year visiting Britain and mainland European places to attend Council meetings, etc, which was very pleasant as I used to take a month off and clocked up many thousand air miles during 17 visits in eleven years, never one that fitted in with a BI Annual Dinner - damn it. Now it is just me and my "hound", a mini Maltese called Sam, and the odd talk to Rotary, Probus and the like on International Law of the Sea and especially why Australia cannot do something with Japan and whale killing like Britain did with Iceland during her Cod Wars. There we are that will do for now! I can hear any of my BI contemporaries who are still alive saying, " How the hell did he end up like that, when I knew him he was as thick as a plank" or in the Navy we would say "As wet as a scrubber".Keep up the good work Tony and Phillip, Yours aye, Ron.W         

Many thanks to Tony and Ron for these memories.  I am sure that your B.I. contemporaries would have been proud of you!


Here is an article from Richard O'Brien, (B.I. 1963 - 1968):-
Hi Phil, and thank you for this site. I came across it by chance and have found it most interesting. I was there 63/68 (I think!) and don't remember enjoying much of it! My fault. Mostly! Anyway, I remember David Gregory , one of your contributors, who must be about twelve feet tall by now, and I, having a conversation on the home turn of the 440 yards as he passed me. Something on the lines of 'Go on Gregory' from me and 'I don't need your permission' from him! I was on ten a day by then though!
In my first year I was awarded the victor ludorum on sports day (a very important day in the school year) for winning my four individual events and anchoring the Atkin relay team to victory. I got the impression they would rather have handed it to someone from the upper sixth and not a newt in borrowed shorts! An old boy who had won the shot putt for Britain at the olympics presented me with it. Are their any records of sporting achievements anywhere?
With reference to our lady French teachers mentioned earlier, something I will never forget is, when we were at lunch, a particularly attractive one being asked by a sixth former if she would like stuffing! True! Richard O'Brien.
Thanks, Richard, and I hope to add some more information on sporting achievements to the site shortly.  Phil,  (Editor)


Here is a photograph of former pupil Ian McFarland, (B.I. 1940 - 1944),  which Ian has kindly sent in to the site. Also shown above is part of the 1943 B.I. school photograph, which Ian has added names to the faces. Many thanks to Ian for these great memories!



Here are some memories of the school and its teachers from former pupil Neil Tudor, (B.I. 1972 - 1979):-

I was at the school from 1972 till 1979, (sixth form too) I have just signed up as a member.. I now live on the corner of Tollemache and Upton Rd.. and look out over at housing estate that the school used to be! very sad.
Im also saddened that in all my time at the school... not one school photograph was ever taken !! during the 70's the old tradition seemed to just die!! as do most traditions in the end!

I loved my time at the school.. and was lucky to be there in the period just before it all seemed to "go downhill".. I often bumped into the teachers in the three or 4 yrs after I left.. in particularly Brian Bowker (may he rest in peace) who bemoaned the fact that standards, and the behaviour of pupils had dropped alarmingly !! ... anyway... glad to see there is a site thats still actively recalling the school in both its grammar and comprehensive forms!

Here is a list of the teachers I recall during my tenure as a pupil from 72 through to 79 inc (I have placed an asterisk against the names of those that actually taught me at some point

Sam Dennerly.. Headteacher... was feared and respected in equal measure as he stalked the corridors in his black gown.
Bill Edgar... Was again feared due to his imposing stature

"Lenny" Malcolm .. again a slightly feared gentleman.. when viewed through childish eyes, I bumped into him in Claughton Village a couple years ago, and we started chatting... a finer chap you couldnt meet and it was clear to see the pride he still had in the old school (I suspect mainly for the "grammar" years)
Mrs Tomlinson * .. History.. wasmy "form" teacher for registration in year 2 (my first year)
Stevie Wilkinson * Geography.. and football team manager on several occasions when I was there... inc 6th form.. I was always a good footballer..and was team captain and Merseyside schools player too..and it created a bond with the sports teachers:
Wynn Hughes* maths and sports
Brian Bowker * sports.. a fab guy... who i heard died tragically young, about 8 years ago? ..RIP Sir !!
Ted Croker* sports
Taffy Evans * French.. quite an eccentric guy.. prone to outbursts of controlled "anger" directed at pupils... in the days when neither pupil or parent made much of it really !! ..
Art duo.. Keith Davies and Dave Jones*... I took Art to sixth form level.. and was one of only 2 pupils that did.. so I got to know them both quite well... great guys and laid back as art teachers invariably are !! ..
Mrs Pritchard..who became Keith Davies wife... taught pottery amongst other things... was always "fancied" by the boys there!!
Mr Allen* English
Joey Topping* English.. was instumental in orgnising trips to see plays and theatre all over the country..
Mr Gardiner* Maths.... but only there for a couple years
Mrs Smalley * Religious Education !!
"Dinky" Dollard (due to his small stature) Chemistry
"Windy" Miller * Chemistry
Mr Howarth* Biology
Mr Murphy (year master)
Woodwork... a guy whose name has been lost to me... but his catchphrase was "gather round the bench" ... he too was prone to a bit of superficial violence to errant pupils.. much to the mirth of others !!!
Im sure i will think of others.. when I do.. i will post up... now I need to seek out my "Cohen house tie.. I will photograph it and post it up

There were never many female teachers... I seem to recall a Mrs or miss Grice.. who was a bit of a babe!! but that was rare.



 Many thanks for all your memories of the B.I.  teachers and the school!  Phil, (Editor).


Here are some fascinating memories from Nigel Thomas, and also some interesting memories from Nigel's Grandfather, Edward Molyneux, who was a pupil at B.I. from 1912 - 1915:-

A very good site and excellent resource. I hope you manage to obtain more for the 1979 - 1986 period, when I was there. (I re-sat my maths A level to obtain a higher grade and go to my preferred university rather than another one, hence the extra year at BI.) My connection with BI, however, goes back to just before WW1 when my maternal grandfather, Edward Molyneux, attended the school in Whetstone Lane. He was born in 1901 and I think in those days everyone left school at 14, not 16, and so I'm guessing that he was at BI from 1912 to 1915. He told me that many was the time he had to write out lines for something he had done and so, whenever he had spare time, he would write out sheets of lines (the school motto) so that when he was given lines he could hand them in straight away and then go. This worked well until one day someone gave a different sentence to write out and so he had to stay behind and do his lines properly. He taught me the school motto before I ever went to BI.


In 1979 I lived in Upton and went to Overchurch Junior School. When it came time to consider which senior school to attend some schools sent a teacher or two to talk about their school to the potential pupils. One day we had a visit from a teacher who looked exactly like my grandfather. Tall, dark hair, same build. Scary. I wondered why he was at my school and had to look hard for several seconds before realising this was not my grandfather. When my mother eventually met the same teacher on the school's open night she too saw the striking similarity. The teacher in question was Mr Edgar, deputy headmaster and maths teacher when I was there. I think Mr Dennerly (?) was the headmaster when I arrived but was soon replaced by Mr Farman, who was in turn replaced by Mr Sutton. Mr Malcolm was the other deputy headmaster. My form master was Mr Citrine who taught history, and then there was Mr Jones (chemistry) and Mr Jones (art), Mr and Mrs Davies (or was it Davis) both art teachers, Mr Topping (English), Mr Morris (aka Plagosus Orbilius or Nogger the Flogger - Latin), Mr Colin Garfield (French), Mr Wilkinson (Geography), Miss Smalley (RE), Mr Richards (physics), Mr Allen (English), Mr Hall (physics or chemistry), Dr Baker-Schomer (biology), Mr Platt (metalwork), Mr Moore (maths and computer studies), Mr Dobby (maths and computer studies), Mr Thomas (no relation to me - woodwork and GED, that's Geometrical Engineering Drawing - I'm still wondering what the difference is from Technical Drawing), Mr Downing (woodwork), Mr Murphy (metalwork) and the other younger Mr Murphy with the round "penny eyes" John Lennon glasses and the guitar, Mr Broadbere, Mssrs Croker, Hughes and "Balco" (sports), Mr Letocha (who replaced Mr Allen (English)), Miss Smallpeace, Mr Forster (maths), Mr Prescot (physics), (Welsh) Mr Thomas (geography). I know there are a few others I had as teachers whose names escape me for the time being (another history teacher and a biology teacher who also lived in Upton).


And then there were the boys. A few names in the previous comments I remember, like Topham and Kolokotrone and Martini, but then there were (Michael ?) Edge, Philip Newbould (and eventually his three younger brothers - Colin, Stewart and Daniel), Grant McEwan, Andrew Perrigo, Andrew Garland, Andrew Twin, Phillip Hinton, Roy Sherry, Richard Shaw (Rick Shaw, and his older brother Christopher Shaw - C Shaw), (Layton Quinton and Andrew Cameron ?), Peter Rourke, Peter Walker, David Bradshaw, Barry Hearsey.

There were good times and not so good times. Receiving house points (although the huge board outside the secretary's office wasn't always kept up to date it seemed), and winning prizes. But then there was having both arms broken by another (still unknown to me) boy so that he could get me wet in the snow just two weeks before Christmas. (The boy came behind me, put both his arms around me in a bear hug and then fell forwards on top of me. I think he was eventually found but no apology was ever forthcoming and his identity was never revealed to me.) My grandfather died just ten days into the new year, while my arms were still in plaster.


Other highlights I remember are the trip to the school cottage in North Wales where it was so cold the milk froze in the bottle while sitting on the window ledge. A trip to Snowdonia and another following the course of the River Alyn (I think that's how it's spelt) noting it's sharp 90 degree turns because of obstruction by glaciers from the Irish Sea. I also remember the Sixth Form's Wilfred Owen Library being amalgamated with the Junior Library (I was a librarian as well as a cloakroom monitor and prefect), and the cataloguing and shelving of all the books. I looked after the plants, the careers section and the ordering of new books. Grant McEwan looked after the stationery. He loved keeping everything under lock and key and making the other librarians beg for a roll of sellotape etc. He tried it with me but was not quite so successful because I knew him from Overchurch and I was taller than him too. (I was taller than almost everyone except Mr Edgar, and I think I even outgrew him eventually by the time I went to university.)


Twice my exercise book disappeared while it was in Mr Garfield's care for marking my French homework, but after only one year instead of two I passed my O level Latin with Mr Morris. I remember the Sixth Form winning the school's first computer, a Research Machines 380Z. The programming language, BASIC, had to be loaded from a floppy disc (which really was a pliable 5 1/4 inch magnetic disc in those days) every time the computer was switched on. The sixth formers who took O level Computer Studies had lessons before school but I was in the first properly timetabled computer studies class. I was also one of the first two boys to take the subject to A level. Later the school upgraded the Audio Visual Room to a computer room by purchasing a 480Z upgrade for the original computer and then a host of BBC Acorn computers. Now, instead of everyone having to take turns on one computer, boys could have their own computer to use during the lesson, with programmes kept on cassette tape! Remember this was the age of the Sinclair ZX81 and it was a big thing when the Sinclair Spectrum came out with real (rubber) keys instead of a touch pad. A Commodore 64 had a huge amount of memory (64kb), mobile phones were the size of house bricks and digital watches were still a pretty neat idea.


Other things I remember include the Plateau eventually being turned in an all weather sports area. The storage area below the hall being turned into two more classrooms. The "temporary" classrooms where I learned GED. Watching James Bond as a Christmas treat in the hall ("The Man with the Golden Gun"). And my house: Stitt. In those days the number of houses had expanded to six: Atkin (the founder) - magenta, Stitt (the other founder) - green, Tate (financial backing from Tate and Lyle sugar) - red, Westminster (from the Duke of Westminster, who opened the school) - blue, and also (Lord) Cohen - white, and Davies - orange. When pupil numbers fell the latter two houses were disbanded although Cohen was kept as the house of the sixth form, I think because there was a bequest, which stipulated that a prize for something was to be made to someone in Cohen. The school colours were black and gold and so everyone's house was immediately visible from the third colour in everyone's tie: black, gold and green in my case.


I would have liked to have attended the centenary dinner but unfortunately I was at university in Edinburgh at the time, and now I live in Sydney, Australia. Being in New South Wales I still can't get away from rugby. (I was never keen on sport of any sort.) Aussie Rules Football is played here but it is much bigger in Victoria. I still prefer tennis or badminton though.


Another old boy of BI is Donald Chapman. He attended the school in the 1930s, I think, but is sadly no longer with us.


I hope some of the names and events I have mentioned will jog a few memories elsewhere so that others can expand this history. I wish you well in your endeavour.


Nigel has also added some more memories he had of the B.I. :-

Just a quick PS to yesterday's email. I remembered a couple more names this morning: the sports teacher, "Balco"'s real name was Mr Bowker and Mr James was also a sports teacher. There was also Miss Povey, who married Mr Wilkinson. I can remember some of the first names of some of the teachers as well, if that helps:

Brian Farman, Michael D Sutton, William (Bill) Edgar, Joseph (Joe) Peter Topping, Wladimir Letocha (known as glad Wlad), Norman (Nogger) Morris, Steve Wilkinson, Pat Wilkinson nee Povey, Janet Smalley, "Dickie" Moore, T G (Graham) Citrine, Vic Broadbere (whose son, Jeff, was also a pupil at the BI), A K Richards (whose son, Simon, was also a pupil at the BI), Brian Bowker, (and Dave Jones and George Forster, I think). Another pupil, whom I shouldn't have forgotten, was Paul Pratt, whose sister married my cousin. I'm told he's now a dentist in New Zealand.
I just remembered another staff member - Miss (Fran) Guy. Very big but very gentle. I'm also unsure about Miss Smallpeace. The name rings a bell but I'm no longer sure if I know her from BI or somewhere else. I definitely remember Miss Smalley but I'm not sure about Miss Smallpeace. I have, however, just remembered the name of my other history teacher - Mr Egan.
Here are some more pupils names which Nigel remembers:-

Mark Armour, Victor D’Amrogio , Luigi Martini, Mark Latha, Paul Dillon , Mark Parry, Timothy Dunning, Gregor McEwan, (younger brother of Grant McEwan),  Kudricz (sp?).

 Here are some more teachers which Nigel recalls:-

Mr Mountford (geography, geology and economics – head of 6th form)

Mr Crabtree (careers) – I think Mr Turner was the careers teacher before Mr Crabtree took over

 Nigel, very many thanks for all of your memories, and also those from your Grandfather Edward Molyneux: It is really exceptional to hear memories from those early days of the school. Phil, (Editor).


My name is Christopher Lee Power, and I enjoyed looking at your web site regarding Birkenhead Institute. I attended BI between 1979-1983  and I dedicate a whole Chapter in my autobiography called "Breaking Free From The Street To The Stage".

Christopher, (Former pupil), is now an Actor and an Author.  Christopher's chapter about Birkenhead Institute from his book is reproduced below, with his kind permission:-

Birkenhead Institute was my final school and an all boys’ school. It had some old traditions and I was introduced to a strict regime of detention, the cane and hard work. Some of the teachers, including the deputy headmaster, Mr Malcolm, would walk through the corridors with their black gowns, radiating their authoritative presence. Birkenhead Institute was built in an ‘H’ kind of shape and, as you walked through the corridors (which were mostly glass) and down or up the stairwells, history would be staring you in the face. The bricks were dark and shiny and, as you entered the workshops (such as the science labs,) you could not but notice the old, long desks with the gas taps in the middle. On many occasions, I would hear stories of pupils lighting the gas taps for fun. The school had a large library called ‘The Wilfred Owen Library,’ named after the First World War poet. There was, however, a new building, called the ‘Sixth Form Block.’ It was here that you would find the ‘Prefects;’ those pupils who had decided to stay on after the four years were up. The Prefects would walk around the school corridors, with their little badges on and suits, letting the younger pupils know that they had a certain authority and if you did anything wrong they could take you by the arm and frog-march you to a headmaster’s office. If you weren’t in the sixth form, but showed that you had worked diligently and could be trusted, you could possibly be in line for a monitor’s job with a yellow or red shield and tasks such as monitoring corridors. To my knowledge, I think Mr. Morris (better known to the pupils as ‘Nogger,’) had a lot to do with the sixth form block. Other teachers that I remember having nick names, for whatever reason, were; ‘Taffy,’ a French teacher; ‘The Penguin,’ because of his walk. Mr. Maxim, the new deputy head after Mr. Malcolm had left, would walk around the class using his enormous size to instill fear into his students and making pronouncements like, ‘As far as I’m concerned, the next person to get it wrong will feel the end of my Cane.’ These are only a few of the teachers who taught at the school. Psychology has, over the years, been used in certain organisations and varies in its many forms, but one of the ways that psychology - in my opinion - is used is with the employment of privileges, rewards, ranks and different hats to determine what groups you are in. If there are any competitions, this can be an incentive to win something or to determine status. At Birkenhead Institute we had, what were called, ‘Houses,’ represented by coloured ties and named after people who had attended the school. These were Stitt, Davis, Atkins, Westminster, Cohen and Tate (which was my house). I began to become more aggressive towards certain teachers. This was largely due to my uncontrollable anger and, when aggravated, I would turn into a frightened, cornered animal and wouldn’t think twice about picking up a chair or a knife. It was a case of a misplaced defensive attitude and I rounded aggressively on my ‘tormentors.’ Whilst in the playground one day, I noticed a young black boy looking through a telescope and asked him what he was doing. He replied, ‘Looking at the gravestones,’ indicating towards a nearby cemetery. His name was Jean-Pierre Magloire and it marked the start of a friendship that would last right up to the present. In my opinion, compared with most of my, then, current friends, Jean-Pierre seemed very educated and knew things that impressed me. We chatted, enjoyed many of the same subjects, hung out and everyday our friendship grew. Every afternoon he would go into the school hall and play the piano. Being blind in one eye never stopped him from achieving his goals and he had been given special permission to practise during break times. There were only a few times, during the three years at Birkenhead Institute, that we fell out with one another. There were few occasions that we didn’t sit at adjacent desks, but one of these times was in an English class with a female teacher. Instead, he was sitting directly behind me and I was very annoyed and envious because he had made a decision to sit with Nick Williams. I turned around and shouted at him, accidentally hitting him with my elbow. He was upset at this and hit me back. I picked up a chair and threw it across the room. Mr. Hume, a nice teacher from Scotland, came into the classroom and our teacher asked if I would care to repeat my actions, thinking that she had regained control and that I would not attempt a stunt like that in front of a male teacher. How wrong she was. I threw another chair and Mr Hume summoned me outside and put me on detention. This aggression became very addictive and I found myself fighting, spitting at and chasing the teachers. Sometimes I would pick fights in the corridor with two or three teachers to get attention, but also part of me had hatred to certain authorities. It was due to the incident that happened with my dad all those years ago, when he was arrested by the police, which I still thought about. On one such occasion, Mr. Moony, a new teacher had remonstrated against me in front of the class for not participating in the work that had been given to us. Mr Moony started walking towards me and, as he got closer to ask me to leave the class, I took one look at him and swore at him. He was not amused and, grabbed my blazer, lifting me out of the chair. Jean- Pierre saw my eyebrows rise up and indicated to another friend that this gesture spelt trouble. I became incensed with rage against Mr. Moony and lashed out at him with my fist, then grabbed the green bin, attempting to put it over his head. It wasn’t long before we were both in the corridor with two other teachers, who had come from the nearby classrooms, and soon we were all wrestling with each other. Eventually another teacher called ‘The Oggy,’ who was from Liverpool, shouted at the other teachers to stop. He was very good at defusing the situation and we both went off to the school hall so that I could calm down. The outcome of this incident resulted in my being caned. I was, on other occasions, given detentions and suspended. Through it all, Jean-Pierre and I still remained friends. I would regularly bunk off school, smoke under the school stage and get drunk. My dad had a bar at home and, one time, I drank brandy before school and arrived there drunk out of control and ended up performing such drunken antics as jumping on the school stage curtains and flicking peas at people during lunch in the dining hall. There was another boy called Richard, who was also a good friend. He and I decided to start a gang at school. During break time we would try and get through the corridors without being seen, this was great fun. One time, ‘Batty,’ a small, slim boy, tried to get through one of the small windows and I couldn’t stop laughing because we knew a teacher was coming down the hallway. ‘Batty’ was fortunate because he got out in time and made his way to the playground. The boys at the school also found out that I was a member of ‘The Priests’ gang and some of the violence from outside began to spill over into school, as rival gangs started to fight with each other. I was nearly knocked out by one gang on the corridor. Despite the fact that in my earlier schools I had been a bully, I began to find that I was starting to be bullied whilst at school. The image that I was trying to portray meant that the situation couldn’t be allowed to continue, so one day I approached one of my bullies and attacked him. He never bullied me again. Outside of school I continued to steal, as I was addicted to gambling and enjoyed the power of having money, but I was arrested and sent to an attendance centre each Saturday, depriving me of being with my friends, which was a terrible punishment to me. It consisted of a highly regimented two hours. First we would all line up and then we were taken off to a large hall where we did foot drill. As punishments went, marching seemed quite good fun. Following this, we were made to scrub the floors of the building until they were gleaming. The last hour was exercise with a tough workout in the sports hall. My criminal record was fast expanding and I spent many hours in attendance centres. I blame myself for lack of education because I was too involved with ‘The Priests,’ fighting and having fun. However, looking back, I do wish that some of the teachers had been bold enough to take me aside and support me in education and, unfortunately, we didn’t have drama at the institute – one of the few things that I was really interested in and skilled at. My brother Carl, who is four years older than me, was only there for one year before he left. I tried to be careful this time, so that I didn’t use his reputation to help me be successful at school, wanting to be recognised as an individual in my own right. Christmas time would be an exciting and special time for Jean- Pierre and me. We enjoyed the autumn months. I can still remember the many snowball fights we had with the other boys and the odd teacher. In the playground, boys’ trouser pockets were used as market stores and much business would go on right under the noses of the teachers. The boys with pocket money would go to the nearby shop and buy sweets, then sell them at much higher prices, making huge profits. You always knew when a fight would be starting because boys would chant this silly tune: ‘Ere r err e-r err.’ The same ritual silly tune would be chanted so many times a week. Without any formal drama, the place I felt most at home during school hours was on the stage with Jean-Pierre, either singing to his favourite Gilbert and Sullivan songs, as he belted them out on the piano keys, or trying to learn Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which he painstakingly taught me as the months went on. Art classes were interesting: as usual we would sit together painting and talking, but also listening to the teacher called ‘The Devil,’ because of his little beard. He would regularly shout at two boys called Peter and Kelly at the top of his voice. My name too was frequently mentioned at school and so now I had a reputation to keep up amidst competition.



Former B.I. pupil Professor Alan Elliott has asked if I can include a link to renowned former B.I pupil Lord Cohen, and also a copy of the obituary of fellow B.I. pupil and Professor of Surgery Tim Cooke.

The link to the Lord Cohen obituary article is shown below:-


Also, pictured above is Tim Cooke, and his obituary is courtesy of the BMJ, which Alan Elliott has kindly provided :-

Alan Elliott writes: "In a similar vein, one of my contemporaries, Tim Cooke, was destined
for similar greatness but was sadly killed last year in a car crash. I
have attached an obituary of him that was published in the BMJ."

Both former pupils are examples of the successes which former Birkenhead Institute pupils have achieved, and I am pleased to include them on this web site. Many thanks again to Alan for this information.