|20 Jul 2022|
How many years did you teach at Hymers College?
I started teaching at Hymers in 1983 and left in 2002, so I was there for a total of 19 years.
What did you teach at Hymers College?
During my time there I taught Science to year 7 and 8 and Chemistry to years 9 – 13. At this time the Head of Chemistry was Alex Sutton and the Headmaster Bryan Bass. This was my first teaching post and I greatly appreciated the guidance that Alex afforded me – he was a real gent and very approachable for someone learning their trade. When I started, the other Chemistry teachers were Ian Franklin and Neil Goldie. Later Tan Ahmed, Mary Moore, Fran Green and Paul Meadway joined the department. The Lab technician was Alan Jones and he was replaced by Ann Kohler who was in post when I left.
How did things changed while you were at Hymers?
When I started the college was all boys (with some girls in the 6th form) and on leaving it was fully co-ed.
There were three Chemistry Labs and a Lecture theatre when I joined Hymers College. An additional Chemistry Lab was later built, together with an office area for the teaching staff. Originally, Biology and some Science were taught in a Nissan Hut type building which was cold in the winter and let the rain in. This was replaced by new Biology and Science labs together with a lab tech area. Frank McNaunton was Head of Biology and he was replaced by John Tinnion, who later became Head of Science and then Deputy Headmaster. The Physics department consisted of Wilf Watton (Head of Department), Roger Woolridge and Dave Thompson. Wilf retired and was replaced by John Bell.
What are your favourite memories of teaching at Hymers?
I had always been interested in Science and Chemistry in particular, and so my time at Hymers gave me the opportunity to try and instil the students with a love for the subject. Because Chemistry is a practical subject it meant that I could make the lessons interesting for the students and this seemed to enthuse the students to understand some of the more difficult ideas. Demonstrations were also times when I could get the wow factor, particularly with the younger students. On one occasion, I demonstrated the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, having primed them about this being the mixture used as rocket fuel. On this particular occasion the proportions were just right, and the explosion could be heard in the Physics lab downstairs.
Each year, the college entered the Royal Society of Chemistry ‘Top of the Bench’ competition which involved students from years 8, 9 and 10. The teams regularly qualified for the final and I accompanied the team to London on several occasions.
An important member of the non-teaching staff was Peter Hopkinson – the caretaker. One of his jobs was to hand out cover slips to staff in the senior common room and his arrival with these slips was usually met with friendly booing and catcalls. One day a pupil had brought in a ferret into school to sell to a friend and decided to keep it in his wooden locker. During the course of the day scratching could be heard from the locker and Peter used his master key to open the locker and started rummaging around at which point the ferret bit his finger and refused to let go. There was much cursing from Peter until he managed to get the ferret into a box.
Did you do any activities outside of teaching Science at Hymers?
In addition to my teaching, I was involved in running the Athletics teams in the summer and Cross Country in the winter terms.
The Cross Country teams had fixtures against Ampleforth, St. Peters York and Bradford Grammar School. They also took part in the Northern Cross Country Championships in Lyme Park in Cheshire. On one trip to Lyme Park, the coach was snowed in going through Snake Pass.
Several athletes represented the County in the Anglian Championships and English Schools Cross Country Championships. Les Price usually accompanied these teams and often drove the mini-bus.
During the colleges’ centenary year, I helped to organize the Centenary Athletics Championships at Costello Stadium in which teams from Newcastle RGS, Leeds GS, QEGS, Bradford GS, Batley GS and Silcoates School Sheffield attended. Andy Parker and Ged Vallely were also instrumental in helping, as were a large number of non-sports staff who helped with judging, timekeeping and recording.
Each summer, we hosted three Athletics completions, some of which were against local schools and some of our traditional independent schools with whom we had Rugby fixtures. Once again these events were held at Costello.
The College entered the English Schools Athletics Association Track & Field Cup and usually went to the North Eastern Finals. On one occasion the College reached the National Final. Many individual athletes represented the county at the Inter-counties and the English Schools Track and Field Championships. Some athletes also took part in the National Multi Events Championships. The College encouraged me to gain my Athletics Coaching qualifications and I became a Level 3 Field Judge. A number of staff were involved in coaching the athletes and helping with judging at our home matches at Costello Stadium, including Steve Walmsley, Chris Fitzpatrick, Dave Guy, Les Price, Billy Exley, Andrea Thomas, Julia Tapley and Sarah Guy.
I was, together with Les Price and Richard Batey, involved with organizing the 6th Form Running Club and staff and students took part in many half marathon events. On one occasion – the York Half Marathon in 1988 there were enough staff and students for two mini-buses. Les Price drove the school one with me in it and Richard Batey Drove the hired one. We were going along the M62 and were about to take the York turn off when the hired mini-bus behind us started flashing its lights. They could see that our mini-bus was on fire underneath and as we took the turn off and slowed down, it filled with smoke and stopped. We all jumped out and several minutes later it went up in flames. Some of the occupants of the school bus filled the hired one and the remainder were ferried to York by parents.
In 1998 I took over the running of the Fencing Club and took the teams to the Crystal Palace Stadium for the Public Schools Fencing Championships. A number of Fencers obtained G.B. representation. During this time I also helped Steve Walmsley with the U15 Rugby teams.
What have you done since you left Hymers College?
I met my future wife Carol in 2000 – she was Head of Chemistry at Franklin College in Grimsby. After our wedding in 2002 I decided to leave Hymers and moved to Lincolnshire. My first post was at King Edward VI Grammar School in Louth followed by Lincoln Minster School where I taught Chemistry and was Head of KS4 Science. Finally, I moved to Franklin College from where I took early retirement in 2018. At King Edward and Lincoln Minster I continued my Athletics, Cross Country and Rugby. I accompanied the LMS Rugby team to Hymers and also took the Lincolnshire Athletics team to the ESAA Track & Field Finals. I also continued with involvement in running Half Marathons and 10K’s.
Since meeting Carol, we have done some traveling including Norway and St Petersburg. Our furthest journey was to Vietnam and Cambodia, and we hope to visit more places now Covid restrictions have been lifted.
In 2019, I was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease and that has put a stop to any kind of running. Further travel is also going to be dependent on how far the condition has progressed.
If you hadn't been a teacher, what would you have done instead?
If I had not gone into teaching: I have always had real interest in plants and Horticulture and would like to have taken this more seriously than just a hobby. Plant hunting in foreign parts would have also been on my bucket list.