About Manchester Xaverian the Sixties

The time arrives, when you have reached a certain age, when you want to look at the past and see if you can make any sense of it all. Was it part of a carefully conceived plan, designed to ensure you had just enough good and bad experiences to keep you on ‘the straight path’? Was it just a random collection of events, any one of which could have been totally different dependent on a single flap of a butterfly’s wings?

Xaverian College in the Sixties

I recently listened to a conversation on the radio where a well known psychologist was adamant that everything that composed a person’s personality and circumstances was based purely on ‘nurture’ while another guest who was an expert regarding DNA and genes, put forward the view that there was a genetic component, although admittedly a small one. This was dismissed by the psychologist who ultimately ended up sounding like a catholic priest from the 15th century or a spokesman for daesh, so intolerant was he of his fellow guest’s point of view.

However, if the psychologist is right (or even if his is only a partial view which later knowledge will supersede), surely there is some value in examining the events that happened years ago to see how they might have influenced one’s later life.

I often think about incidents that took place at Xaverian College in the 1960s, and St Anne’s Prep School in the 1950s. The intensity with which I can recall them indicates to me the importance they have exerted over the years. But as my father and his brother both attended Xaverian maybe there is a genetic component too…

FriendsReunited is now closed and it looks like all that history is lost forever. I am hoping this site may eventually act as a repository for past pupils from their old grammar school days to capture the experience and history of the place before we all turn to dust.

This site is about my experiences at Xaverian College, Victoria Park in the Sixties, as well as St Anne’s Preparatory School, Fallowfield which was also run by the Xaverian Brothers and acted as a feeder school for the grammar school. I hope it is an affectionate look but I will try and be as accurate as I can. These schools were set up by a Catholic order of brothers, based in the U.S., the Xaverian Brothers.

Although I left in 1965 with two ‘O’ Levels, too ashamed to collect myself, I think many of the experiences I had rather than the academic achievements I missed, have stood me in good stead over the years. I have now retired (if looking after grandchildren could ever be called ‘retired’) after careers in printing followed by Further Education which I left after several years as a software developer.

I hope to give a flavour of the education system in the Fifties and Sixties as well as some of the events which influenced my life over the following years. Oh, and I hope it occasionally makes you smile.

Robert Cummings – St Anne’s Prep – 1957-59, Xaverian College 1959-65

Xaverian College Manchester was, until  the 1970s, a grant maintained grammar school. It had been one since it first moved to Victoria Park in 1903. This site is devoted to the grammar school history and has no connection with the present college, housed in the same premises. Xaverian changed to a very successful mixed Sixth Form College and continues to prosper.

The site aims to preserve the character and events of its previous incarnation with an emphasis on the Sixties as there are still (one hopes) many of the former pupils still alive, retired with time on their hands enough to search the site out!

If you have any memories of that time, in any capacity, please register and then share your views and experiences on the forum.

Xaverian College Speech Night
Xaverian College Speech Night, Free Trade Hall, Manchester – circa 1960

Firstly,  my credentials. I went to Xaverian College, Victoria Park from 1960 to 1965 when I left with a total of two O levels (Eng Lang and Geography for those with a morbid curiosity).  My father had also trod the same path roughly between 1925 and 1931. He always told me he had left with his School Certificate but as he left to become an apprentice compositor (as did I) I can’t imagine he did a whole lot better than I did.

My father had an elder brother who was my namesake – Robert Cummings  – who made the leap from solid working class background to English teacher in a grammar school near Hull, thus demonstrating that social mobility did exist before the Second World War. Oh, and he fought in that against the Japanese in Burma. The only Xaverian story about him that I remember my father telling me was that he had been a prefect who had seen my father, his brother, jump up and pull at a tree branch on the way to school. He reported my father who was caned by the redoubtable Brother Martin as a result. There was still an element of resentment sixty years later. According to my father’s account, Brother Martin had a selection of canes, each with a different thickness and chose an appropriate one based on what criteria I know not. He must have been quite clever as he won the prize medal displayed below.

Xaverian College Student Medal awarded to R.G. Cummings, my uncle some time in the 1920s

The engraving reads: ‘Pro Scholae Fidelitate’ R.G Cummings. Translated by Google, this appears as: ‘For Schools Fidelity’. What does that mean? I have no idea unless ‘well done for grassing your brother!

37 thoughts on “About Manchester Xaverian the Sixties”

  1. Hi Robert,
    I attended St Anne’s Prep and left in 1958 to go to Xaverian College
    I left in 1963 and now live on the East Coast
    Please email me sometime …I’ll send you my memories !
    Mike Ramsay

  2. You have summarised memories of an important period of our development. I too went to St Anne’s and Xaverian and have many recollections – some good and some not so good. Do you recall the names of the teachers at the prep – apart that is from Brother Cyril.

    • I do Dale. I also remember the name Littler although not enough to put a face to your name unfortunately.

      Other teachers included Mr McManus, Mr Quale and Mr Bernard Lackey. I will add a post soon expanding my memories of them.
      Thanks for getting in touch and please spread the word if there is anyone else who you think might be interested.

      • I seem to remember a female teacher – Miss Heaton?
        I have come across a couple of prep school group photos taken in the 1950s (probably 1957/1958). They include three of the teachers – including Mr Quale.

  3. Hi Dale
    It was Miss Eaton and she taught music at St Anne’s although I seem to remember it was mostly singing Irish ballads. Her brother was Alec Eaton, bursar (accountant?) at Xaverian who also taught me Maths O Level. He lived just along Wilbraham Rd, I believe, next to the synagogue. His best friend was ‘Pug’ Diamond who taught us Latin. They used to slip out at lunchtime for a glass of the black stuff.
    Oh Mr Crotty – we were so cruel to him, but it all seemed to go over his head. Endless stories there.
    Re recording of memories, we had a small reunion a few years back and it is astonishing how much more gets triggered when you share memories. We walked around the outside of Xavs and almost collapsed in laughter with some of the stories. I think a passing police car assumed we were all drunk.
    And the school trip to Paris – I still have the scar inside my lip from a now famous actor, for singing in the shower in the dormitory and waking him up in the morning. You didn’t mess around with the prefects or their mates. The girls’ school who were also staying there were from Hull and it was probably out first experience of meeting girls – oh how innocent we were.
    There was also a trip to Rome about which I remember little apart from how cheap the wine was and being blessed by the Pope.
    Does anybody remember the annual school dances at Xavs? I remember The Defenders playing covers of Coasters songs (probably 1964).
    Running out of time and space – there is so much more.
    I will pass details of this website to another couple of old boys and hope they will enjoy it and add something. Thanks for starting it Robert – good job!

    • Brilliant John. We have been in touch before of course. I remember that you were a good musician and I have many memories of your brother Barry who was good friends with my pal Fred. Don’t really remember you from the Paris trip but do remember the girls and the Le Twist club which was out of bounds for us twelve year olds. Please pass on the details of the site to anyone you think may be remotely interested.

      Bob Cummings

  4. Sorry to lower the tone, but do you remember the toilets at Xavs were outside and freezing cold in winter. Hence the origin of the saying: A swinging chain is the sign of a warm seat.

    I have a photo of some of us having breakfast in Paris (sent to me by Nodge Carnegie, I think). I have to figure out how to upload it, though. Also, I recognise a number of people in the St Anne’s group photo. I can’t figure out if one of them is me!

  5. I do remember the outside toilets – brownstone and as you say, very cold. Also the cloakroom situated in the basement under the sixth form block if my memory serves. Please send photos and more stories/anecdotes to my email address and I will give you your own page:



  6. Paul

    Thanks for this. You can either send me an email and I will create a new post for you, post your comments under the Your Experiences heading or, if you are familiar with WordPress, I could make you an author. Let me know which you would prefer



  7. A couple of memories from the Rome trip in 1963: a number of us were so bored on the rail trip in Italy that we put the heating in our compartment at full blast (at the height of Summer) and then competed to see who would be first to leave the compartment. I can’t remember who lost!

    On a more serious note. Brother Chad came along as infirmarian. Just before the Pope (Paul II at his first public audience) came near us, one of the lads felt faint. Brother Chad took him out for some air and missed his only chance to see the Pope. I will always remember this truly Christian act.

    • |It’s good to have a positive anecdote about one of the Xaverian Brothers. They were all human, of course, good, bad and indifferent. I just hope the lad wasn’t faint as a result of the heating being turned up!

  8. Pleasant surprise to come across this Bob. I think we were contemporaries as I remember Price from Glossop struggling at Xaverian – as I did actually. I was a Longsight boy and I found Xaverian very daunting initially after my cosy primary school St Roberts. I made 2 very good friends at Xaverian – Jim Gillligan who also attended the Prep school – and Clive Jones. I’m pleased to say we remain very good friends to this day.
    Regarding Br Finbar I remember thinking he was a bit ‘dodgy’ after leaving Ward Hall be he was inspirational in the first year in getting me to come to grips with Latin which I excelled at. Unfortunately Pug Diamond soon rid me of and linguistic confidence in L4.1 and the subject was soon dropped.

    • Phil

      I do remember you and Jim Gillian. Am I right in thinking he became a headmaster? Good Times – seem to remember we shared a similar sense of humour. So good to know we have survived! If you have any anecdotes please either post them to this site or email me direct.



      • Hi Bob
        Jim Gilligan did become a head. Despite years in IT I have created two similar entries – the other one is in Forums. Can you delete one of them?

  9. Mr Chisnall was my uncle. He went on to be headteacher at St Bede’s prep after St Anne’s closed. I was at St Anne’s from 1961-1964 and after at Xavs. MIke Chisnall

  10. I have very fond memories of your uncle and indeed your great uncle.
    My late father Pietro made a number of suits for them.
    He was always a stylish and dapper dresser and, from memory, also had some very nice cars including a green NSU.

  11. Just to let everyone know but this Friday a number of us from Xaverian 1972-79 are meeting up at the Fletcher Moss pub in central Didsbury at c 17:30
    In may cases it will be the first time in 40 years that we have met.
    There is an open invite so please come along.

    • I think I remember you Peter as all those teachers were min e. I am pretty sure we all played in the same football team and won a couple of trophies , other names I remember Chris Doyle, Sean Ring, joe cox, Richard Barker ( still my good mate) , Mark Buckley etc. Happy days as I remember them

      • Hi Pete,
        You may have been thinking of my younger brother Giovanni who was in the same football team as the guys you mentioned.
        Sadly I never made the football team.

    • Hi again Peter.
      Remember Brother Robert (French teacher years 1 and 2)
      Brother Anthony – religion
      Mr Arklass – Maths
      Mr Newton – PE
      MR Blackburn – football guru coach

      People in my year (3 classes to a year)
      Pete & Steve Schofield
      Phil Bowker
      Greg Whelan
      Malcolm o Connor
      Conrad Swalkion
      Michael Porter
      Paul Benson
      James Doheny
      Michael Vickers

      List goes on & on

      • Hi Mike,

        You butchered my name a bit, but thanks for remembering me!

        A few other names to add to the list:

        Mike Brady
        Tim Sellers
        Mark Sloyan
        Stan Kucharczyk
        Anthony Jutrzenka

        Good times. I hope you’re well.

  12. Is this wonderful website still active?

    I was at the Prep from ‘65 to ‘68 and then Main School through to ‘75. (My brothers Andrew and Stephen before me and my father Tom before the War!)

    Lots of memories and some photos from the Prep. It’s now Covid 19 Lockdonw, so there is plenty of time to reflect about the whole of one’s life so far!

    • Paul

      Sorry about the delay in approving your post – for some reason the site didn’t notify me. Yes, the site is still alive and well. Please feel free to add any memories you might have by sending them direct to me at bob.cummings@rpmail.uk and I will add them.


    • I think I was in the same year as you – I was at St.Annes from 67-68 and Victoria Park 1968-73 – I am fairly sure I am in one of the photos as I can name quite a few of the kids in it and think I recognise myself.

      • Peter. Did you and I used to compete with each other in the long run we used to do at the Prep? Out on the road, along the railway line etc and back around the playing field?

        I am going to try to send Bob a photo or two to upload.

  13. I attended Xaverian from 1952 to 1957 having attended St Mary’s primary school in Glossop. I recall several of the teacher’s mentioned including Brother Martin who I think retired as head master in about 1954 and was replaced by Brother David. I also remember Mr (Tom) Arklass, maths teacher and Mr Diamond who taught Latin and used to have a glass at lunch time.

  14. I was at Xavierian from 1963 to 1970. I wonder if anyone remembers me John Welsh.
    Teachers I remember include Jock Burns, Mr Crotty, Brother Cahill, Mr Sellers, Mr Archdeacon and others.

  15. Remember ‘em all: Cahill was tough but great,Archdeacon knew his stuff,Jock Burns OK, Crotty confused and Sellers…..what can one say?

  16. Robert, great site, thanks for setting it up! Konrad Swolkien is my brother (he just posted a comment). We are both from Whalley Range in Manchester, he now lives in Poland, I in México. I went to St Anne’s, left in 1967 then to Xavs 1967-73, then to University, remember just about all the teachers from then, I did none of the trips but did play football for Barlow at St Annes (do not remember the names of the Houses at Xavs), my contemporaries were Anthony Berry (from Glossop), Rory Nolan, many more whose names I do not recall


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