Poundswick in the seventies
|Gordon Marino was a pupil at
Poundswick from 1966 to 1973 and he sent in this article,
which he describes as "an honest appraisal of of
my time at Poundswick". I'm confident that many
of us will smile and nod our heads in agreement with much
of what he writes!
If anyone ever tells you that school days were the best days of their life, they're a liar. Or very sad. Similarly, if they tell you that they "hated every minute of it", they're also a liar. The truth is, that for all of us, schooldays were a heady mix of adolescent excitement, a hormone-coursing roller coaster with its fair share of embarrassment, laughter, challenges, resentment, tears, fun and sheer pig-headedness. This could be said about any teenager at any school, but what made Poundswick different was that it was us and Poundswick was our school.
Over the nearly fifty years that Poundswick has been in existence the stories are legendary. From my own time, there was the occasion that the Lower Sixth used weedkiller on the front lawn to inscribe their name, the sight of Mr. Sparks' little green detention book, Mr. Welsh's tricycle; all sights that I remember well. It was just my luck to be wagging it when the sixth form decided to occupy the common room over the subject of smoking - although I do remember the subsequent photo on the front page of the Wythenshawe Express and Mr. Gilpin's indignation as he called a special sixth-form assembly.
Every school and every age has its characters and Poundswick was no exception. No names, even this much later, but I do know who it was who stank out the whole of the science block by making hydrogen sulphide bombs in the darkroom, resulting in the block being evacuated. Then there was the case of the small explosion in a desk during a French lesson, just as Mr. Gilpin entered the room. Who put ice cubes into the bath of water for Mike Ryder to jump into when on stage during a school play? I couldn't possibly tell. Maybe someone was getting their own back on us when the fire alarm went off during an A-level exam and the teacher in charge wouldn't let us leave. At the end of the exam we trooped out to find the whole school evacuated. There had been a real fire. Just desserts.
There were many questions that I'd loved to have had answers to. Why was room 12 made the music room so some poor sod had to lug a piano all the way to the top floor? Who designed windows that wouldn't open when the blinds were down so you either fried or couldn't see anything for light playing on the blackboard? Or, my own favourite, the heating system in the science labs that was set into the ceilings so it was lovely and warm if you stood on two stools and a demonstration bench but freezing when you sat down in your place. Anyone remember all the dark patches on the ceilings from it?
Part of the confusion about Poundswick was that I don't think it was really sure what it wanted to be. It could be amazingly progressive when judged against other schools, for example it had one of the first School Councils in the area. On the other hand, its worst excesses came about when it tried to emulate some minor public school, for example with its mind-blowingly boring speech days and prizegivings. But maybe this was my perception because of my own confused state of mind at that time. If I wasn't sure what I wanted out of life, then I'm pretty certain that it must have confused the school. I suspect, though, that I wasn't the only one who received conflicting messages.
The vast majority of the staff were courteous, hard working and concerned for their pupils. They had a sort of steely determination to make sure that everything worked, including us. There were some that were fantastic - Rac Rigby, Eric Platts (sadly, with us for only a short time; he died in my fourth year), Frank Welsh, Maureen Linton, Bill Nicholson, Bill Hutchinson, Geoff Scargill, Miss Williams, to name but a few. But there were others who seemed totally intent on pursuing their own vindictive prejudices - one of them was an out and out bully who shouldn't have been let anywhere near children. I've spent enough time since leaving school on the other side of the desk to confirm to me who were the teachers who cared about their pupils and who were just collecting the pay cheque.
Poundswick delivered some fantastic opportunities to get involved. The school plays and revues involved hundreds (and not just in the 5th and 6th forms). There were sporting events every weekend and many lunchtimes and there were inter-form and inter-house competitions. There were trips abroad and within the U.K. - a tradition was the class outing at the end of each year; few schools in those days had such a relaxed feeling to a day away from school. The Cat-and-Fiddle sponsored walks. The sixth-form outing to Stratford (the staff battled to get on it!). Free tickets to the Forum Theatre. The reunions and sixth-form dances at the Pinewood Hotel. A host of societies including, at one time, a beer-brewing society. Foreign exchanges. The sixth-form review. The school orchestra. Christmas carol singing around the local pubs. I'm sure there are many more that others will remember.
So why is the time we spent at Poundswick so special to us that we're moved to look it up on the web? Maybe it's our age that is creeping up on us; a longing for a gentler past. I think not, for there were many times at Poundswick that were anything but gentle. Rose-tinted spectacles? No, I can still remember the excruciating embarrassment of some occasions and the sheer indignity of others. A spirit of vindictiveness? Surely not, or I would have mentioned the names of the other group of teachers. No, I think it's because we know in our hearts that not everything was perfect, but not everything was bad either - and the good far outweighed the bad. And because it was our time, and that's important to us. After all, when we were pupils there, we were the reason that Poundswick existed. For a short time we were its prime concern. Besides, I think we're all entitled to an occasional self-indulgent backward glance. Aren't we?
Gordon Marino 1966-73