Spirit of Birkenhead Institute

Pupils' and Staff Memories of Birkenhead Institute Grammar School


More of your memories have been added below, and many thanks to everyone who has already sent in recollections and photographs.

Please continue to send in your memories of Birkenhead Institute!

The email address is:-








Dean Johnson is a former pupil and also a Wirral musician.  Dean is working on his musical project "Bullets and Daffodils", based upon Wilfred Owen's poetry. Here is Dean's information:-

"I'm writing to you as I'm working on a musical project entitled Bullets & Daffodils, based on Wilfred Owen's poetry. Like Wilfred I'm also a Birkenhead Institute old boy (1970s) and have been interested in his life and poetry ever since.

I'm wondering if the Institute would like to be involved in this project, given the connection with Owen.  As part of my research, I'm looking for more details on Wilfred Owen's place in the school's history, and perhaps any testimonies about what it's like to attend a school with such a celebrated former pupil, etc. "
Dean has also very kindly made available two songs from his music project, which former pupils and staff can hear. Please contact me via the email address below,  and I can arrange for you to hear them.
More details about Dean's work have been added to the Wilfred Owen page of my web site, and if anyone has any more information about Wilfred Owen, and his important place in the Birkenhead Institute's history, please write to me at:-
Here is a link to You Tube, with Dean's performance at Birkenhead Library on 11th September:-


ROY DIXON has sent in the following email. Roy was not a B.I. pupil, but was taught by some of the B.I. teachers:-

I was reading a website dedicated to BIRKENHEAD INSTITUTE and noticed a few teacher names which I think I recognise.
I did not attend BI, but rather Woodchurch High School where I think some those teachers moved there and taught me.
I remember having a Mr Townsend for Chemistry (could be fiesty!) and a Mr Connah (Dracula look-alike with good sense of humour and excellent "A" level Maths teacher!)
Do you have any other information?
I believe that Mr E.G. Webb also became our Head in 1969.
Roy Dixon


Above are some excellent photographs sent in by former pupil Dave Garry from 1969, along with a reunion photograph for the 1969 pupils. There is also a BI Prefects' badge!

In the cricket photo, Dave has named on the back row, 2nd from left, Dave Wilson, and then Ben Johnson. On the front row, on the left is Colin Candeland,  and then Unknown, Tommy Ashworth, Dave Mabbutt, Steve Easdown.

In the B.I reunion photo, Dave has named the pupils from the left as Pat Whearty, Graham Leeming, Steve Easdown, Dave Garry, John H. Williams, Dave Mabbutt, and Tom Howarth. Here are Dave's notes below:-

"My bash at attributing names, if it any help/use/interest   is....

1)       Cricket Pic.....Back row.....2nd from left is Dave Wilson, and next to him towards right is Ben Johnson...

Front row, from the left is Colin Candeland. “AN Other”, Tommy Ashworth, ( star at all sports), Dave Mabbutt, ( now got a caff/museum in Normandy and very interested in BI history), Steve Easdown

2)       Pic of school all classes :-

2nd row, seated, from the left...AN Other, ditto, ditto, Dave Mabbut ,Pete Woods, Steve Easdown ,Jim Haddow, Cliff Hughes, Paul O’Hare, ( Cheshire schools XV and school Head Boy)

Back row, 6th from the right.... Pat Whearty , I think...

3)       Pic of school , part 2:-

2nd row seated, from the left.....Paul Nicholas, (now a medical consultant in Scotland I think..), Moi, John Hall, Paddy Rimmer, Brian McGarvey, Steve Drake( now a NASA scientist!!!!) , Mike (I think..) Carty, John Beattie, Howard Fallowfield, Jeff J Roberts, Charlie McBride....

4)       BI Reunion....all the same I think.....

So , from the left..... Pat Whearty , Graham Leeming, Steve Easdown , some very odd looking bloke pretending to be me, John H Williams, Dave Mabbutt, Tom Howarth, (one time teacher at BI , I think , as well as being a BIOB and bro of Arthur..) "


David Lee, former B.I. pupil, has sent in the above images of the outstanding medals he received in the 1950s, along with the B.I. Cricket Team, 1956.  Many thanks to David for these. David has also sent in two photogaphs below:


SOCCER TEAM, 1956/1957. (Above).

SOCCER TEAM 1961/1962, Liverpool Old Boys League champions. With many thanks to David Lee. (See David's notes below about the names of pupils in these photographs).

In the past,  Old Boys soccer teams have  played both in the Liverpool Zingari League  and  latterly in the Liverpool Old Boys League for many years, from the time when soccer was played at the school.
This photo is  post war,  with the team in quartered shirts.   I do know that  AJ, RD,  and EM   were Old Boys.
L to R    back row
   Ken Ingman, Don Morrison, Alan Jones,  ?    ?   ?   Arthur Sager (Chairman)
Front Row L to R
       Ken Langshaw,  Roy Dorrity,  ?   ?    Eric Molyneaux    
Ken Langshaw, who is  a  Liobian ( Liverpool Institute Old Boy ) was always embarrassed when playing against his old School !      
The later  Old Instonians Soccer team in white was successful for several years in the Liverpool Old Boys League at a time when it was difficult to attract actual Old Boys of the School, Rugby being their chosen sport.  Old Instonians Rugby Club was thriving at that time with a Clubhouse, bar facilities, social functions etc.  However this successful team included seven Old Boys. The BI colours were abandoned at this time  due to cost of supplying quartered shirts. The collars and arm bands  were black and yellow, representing the school colours. The Club was running two teams  and this mixed eleven from 1961  won the Liverpool Old Boys League Championship.
I believe there still exists a Old Instonians team in the Liverpool Old Boys League, but I  know nothing of its structure. 
Back Row,       Mike Parry, Phil Robinson, Brian Riley Eric Roberts   Alan Jones,
Front Row,      Bobby Neighbour, Frank Stalker, Billy McGuire, David Lee, Stu Cannell,  Paul Lomax
 Underlined players were non -Old Boys   
The 1956 Cricket team you have added to the website has the following personnel:-
Back row L to R
Clive Colley, Frank Watt, Gerald Buckland -Evers, Peter Sampson, Landeg White, Ron Blackwell. Mr. L.T. Malcolm
Front Row  Bobby Neighbour, Tommy Jones, Howard Jones,  Peter Lythgoe, David Lee    
Here is more information about the 1956 photograph which David has provided via Ken Langshaw:-

Soccer Team c1956 Liverpool Old Boys League :-


L to R   Back row


Ken Ingman, Don Morrison, Alan Jones, R. Curis? , Trevor Lewis, K. Wilkinson


L to R Front Row


Ken Langshaw, Roy Dorrity, Phil Jones, Norman (? ) Dearnley, Eric Molyneux


I have been reminded by Harry Burkett of Hetty Rosenbloom, who taught Art at the B.I. in the 1940s, (1944-1946),  prior to Dave Jones. If anyone can recall more information about Hetty or her time at Birkenhead Institute, please let me know. Meanwhile, here is part of the 1946 school photograph, and you can see Hetty on the extreme left of the teachers, in a grey suit. A separate photo of her is shown below. I understand that Hetty left the B.I. in 1946, and Mr Davies then took over for a short time as Art Teacher, and then Nancy Price, who was Art Teacher prior to Dave Jones.  Many thanks to former pupil John Baker for this information.

Above are shown Hetty Rosenbloom, (Top), and Nancy Price


Above are two excellent pictures from the BIOB Annual Dinner, 2009, sent in by John Baker.


Here are some amazing memories about B.I. school dinners from former pupil Ben Johnson:-
I always enjoy coming back to this site to review the latest comments and have a few more memories stirred. One topic that was high (but not highest) on the agenda of male adolescents was food, and by the time the bell rang at 12.35 we were all pretty hungry, although I believe if it had rung half an hour earlier we would still have been ready to eat. There were two sittings at the canteen, and we alternated week by week between first and second sitting. The tables were arranged for groups of 8: one master or prefect at the head of the table and boys from each year making up the other members. I don't know whether this was an advanced experiment in fostering inter-class relations but most of us were less keen on discussing with our table-mates than wolfing down the fare as quickly as possible and then sending an envoy for "seconds". Meals invariably consisted of a main course, veg (potatoes), gravy and dessert with custard. No fancy starters, balsamic sauce or patisserie, in fact "foreign" food was practically unheard of in Britain back in the early sixties, and if present at all was treated with the greatest suspicion. Most of the masters had lived through the war period and still had vivid memories of rationing, so the idea of not finishing a plate of food was unthinkable, even if it was semolina or tapioca (now I come to think of it, those are rather foreign-sounding words!) There was a regular trade in dishes "I'll swap you my cottage pie for your Manchester tart." The boy who had given up his first course had to wait nervously to see if his trading partner would honour his side of the deal, especially nerve-wracking if the aforesaid trading partner happened to be 2 or 3 years older and considerably stronger. In case of dispute one party might end up eating very little while another had a most generous double helping. Oh, these important lessons we learned about life in the humble BI canteen! They never appeared in the text books but they carried a lot of weight. The sitting always started by saying grace, then it was the race to the food counter. Obviously, if you could get your tray back first then you'd be in pole position for the rush for seconds. In their haste some would place the tray only half-way onto the table and then, obviously not having paid much attention to the laws of leverage, would make the fatal mistake of lifting off the dish leaving the plates and cutlery to fall to the floor with a resounding crash. This was followed by a short, stunned silence and then a raucous cheer from the all the non-victims of the tragedy, celebrating their joy that this misfortune had not occurred at their own table, this time. Mr Webb or Mr Malcolm, whoever was presiding, would reprimand our hilarity, reminding us in no uncertain terms that this was no cause for mirth. Yet when I think back to those incidents now, over forty years later, they still make me laugh.

Ben Johnson.

GRAHAM VAHEY, 1945 -1950

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.
With many thanks to former pupil Graham Vahey for his positive memories of the B.I. from 1945 - 1950.


DEAN JOHNSON with the Mayor of Birkenhead and a Council representative on 12th January, 2011.



Former B.I. pupil Ernie McDonald, (1961 - 1966), has kindly let me borrow the photograph below of the Cricket Team from 1965. (1st XI, 1965). Very many thanks to Ernie for this great photograph.

Ernie has also added the names of pupils and staff, which are as follows:-


Keith Chamberlain, Peter Milne, Tommy Ashworth, Terry Titchmarsh, Albert Howarth, Eddie James, and Mr L.T. Malcolm, (Umpire).


Ernie McDonald, Mike Williams, Phil Parry, Alan Woods, and Anthony Murphy.




Colin S. Stewart, (B.I. Pupil),  has kindly sent in his memories as a contemporary of Dr Chris M. Lee, former pupil of Birkenhead Institute. Sadly, Colin learned of Chris's death via this web site, as Chris had died in 2002. Very many thanks to Colin for these excellent memories of Chris:-
I am a former pupil of BI (1954-1961). I was a contemporary of Dr Chris M Lee. I see from the site (assuming that it is the same person) that he sadly died in 2002. I last saw him in the late 90's when he visited Aberdeen. He was at the time working with in the US (New York).  This is the first I have heard of his death - very sad as he cannot have been more than around 60.
We left BI at the same time, studied the same BSc hons, (London Univ. external) but while Chris completed his PhD in Edinburgh, I did mine in Liverpool.  A fine guy and a good friend during my school /undergraduate days.  He was also best man at my wedding in 1969.

Colin S Stewart
Here are some more memories from Colin of the teachers at Birkenhead Institute:-
W E Williams was a marvellous teacher of history. I remember him expressing the (very non-PC) view that the best form of government  is a benevolent dictatorship! Geography was taught by "Jake" Allison during my first few years at the school. On his retiral, Mr Allison made a very gracious speech, preparing the way for his successor, Mr Blake. He ended with something that has stuck in my memory - "....now, boys, just remember to be as kind to Mr Blake as you were to Mr Jake!"
"Dicky" Bolton was a terrific Maths teacher and had a knack of commanding the class by outstanding teaching, He had to be outstanding to get me through Maths!
Art was another strength.  Nancy Price enjoyed the respect and admiration of her pupils, and she developed my interest in Art. Chris Lee and myself studied A level Art under
Dave Jones' supervision, Nancy having moved on by then, to a girl's school in Liverpool, I think.  Dave too had a natural authority and his own stuff was just brilliant. 
Lenny Malcolm was also memorable and very influential as Deputy Head.  I was  very sorry to hear of his recent passing, but he obviously had a good knock.  As pupils, we did not think to thank these and other excellent teachers at BI all at the time, but I am certainly grateful to them now.  Even when I started my first job in Aberdeen in 1967 I had reason to remember the Institute,  as the Home Office licence I required was signed by Lord Cohen of Birkenhead.
Colin has also sent in his memories of his time at B.I. taking Art with Nancy Price and Dave Jones:-
In my first few years at BI, art was the only subject in which my performance was even adequate. For me, the Art room and Nancy Price's teaching, was an oasis. I was sorry when she left, but fortunately, she was succeeded by Dave Jones, with whom Chris Lee and I studied A level art.  Chris was much more talented but I was lucky and we both passed. Neither of us became professional artists, but the ability to produce reasonably accurate drawings was an advantage to us in our degree studies in Botany and Zoology. I have maintained a life long interest in the great painters from the Dutch Masters, to date.  At least I have an insight into how difficult it is to produce something original. My one regret about BI is that I did not go back and thank the dedicated men and women who helped me.  If David Jones is still around, I'd like him to know that both myself and Chris Lee,  who I know also admired Dave greatly, felt that he helped immensely, not just in Art but in developing as people.

Colin Stewart
Re : Former B.I. pupil Christopher Lee, Colin has also added:
"Re Chris' dates: he certainly left BI in 1961: We studied the same subjects at A level and completed the same BSc course as external students of London University.  I think Chris may have joined BI in 1953 because I seem to remember his being ill and repeating a year.  Incidentally we both studied A level biology at Rock Ferry High School with Elwyn Griffiths as BI did not at that time offer A level biology.  "


David Garry: B.I. Centenary Dinner 1989

Many thanks to former B.I. pupil Dave Garry for providing the 1989 Centenary Dinner brocure and menu, which can be seen above.



   I would like to add a memory of my time at the BI and in fact, when I was in my first or second year -1955/56 when I went on a coach trip to the Friday of the test match at Old Trafford which turned out to be the Friday of the famous Jim Laker test. What a day for us , we sat on the grass, had Godrey Evans hit a six over our head,  Cyril Washbrook score, I think a ton, we saw all most of England bat, all of Australia bat as they were out for about 78/82,  and most of the Aussie second innings. It was probably one of the most famous days of test match cricket, and I have dined out on it for years.
                                        Happy days
                                                     George Edwards
Many thanks to George Edwards for these excellent memories of Old Trafford


Here are some great memories from George, (Mr W.G. Smith), of Mr Wynne Hughes and other Masters from the 1930s who were at the Birkenhead institute:-

I found James Stewart’s account of E. Wynne Hughes very interesting.  Mr Wynne Hughes was an imposing character.  Although all the masters wore academic gowns, the Head always additionally wore a mortar board when he came in to morning assembly.  Our history master W. E. Williams would play the piano as we sang the morning hymn.  A different hymn was chosen each morning, but a special favourite of the Head, which he picked very frequently, was “O brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother!  Where pity dwells, the peace of God is there.  To worship rightly is to love each other, each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.”  Mr Wynne Hughes was a religious man and always took our weekly Scripture lessons in class personally.

Although W. E. Williams played the piano at Assembly, our music master was Dr Teasdale Griffiths.  He was also the organist at Christ Church in Oxton.  He used to dress in full red doctorate robes when he accompanied us at the annual Speech Day in the Town Hall.

Another musical memory:  I can remember one year at the dismissal service before the Christmas break, we all sang Good King Wenceslas, but the part of the page boy was sung by a pupil who was also a choir boy, I think his name was Billie Yarlott.  The part of the king was sung by Mr G. W. Harris.

Our gym master was Mr A. P. Clague.  Each week we would run down to Argyle Street Baths where he taught us how to swim.  We stood in a line in the shallow end.  He stood on the side and told us to take a deep breath and then plunge forward towards him.  This taught us buoyancy.  Then he taught us various swimming strokes.

The senior master at that time was Mr W. H. Watts, the Physics master.  In deference to his age and seniority we called him Pa Watts.  We didn’t think he knew, but at his retirement ceremony he said he hoped we would all remember ‘Pa Watts’.