Alastair Macdonald remembers…

I was always called Angus at Xavs by both pupils and teachers, which was nice  for a young Scot new to England. Everybody knew my name! Having read all the other contributions it was interesting to see the similarity of opinion about the teachers. I liked most of them but some of their methods were boring, but they were all determined to get us through our exams even if it just meant reading us the text book or copying it onto the board! I enjoyed being a Xav. I wanted to learn and make friends like we all do, so felt happy there, and felt that our teachers wanted to be there as well, giving us a very full and well rounded education, which has carried us as a strong foundation throughout our lives.       

 One major disappointment for me was that I couldn’t get a regular place on the football team. However when Mr Lackey started managing the team I started getting more games. He was more willing to give other players an opportunity. “That was a very good Denis Law type goal, Angus” I’ll always remember him saying. Yes!! He really cared about nurturing my abilities. I was awarded man of the match after one game which reflected my contribution to the game, which made up for the feelings of rejection no end. Very thoughtful and caring was Bernard Lackey. I met him on Deansgate by accident one day after I left Xavs. He asked me what I was going to do. I said I was going into teaching. “You’ll make a very good teacher” he said enthusiastically. And he was right!!! Very perceptive and supportive. He had a very modern approach even then, forty years ago! They all did their professional best at Xavs, including the pupils!

Classes at Xavs were always serious and hardworking.There wasn’t any time for humour or messing about. However…I do remember Gerry Dewhurst telling us a very good, but rather risque joke at the end of a class which fell flat with the class basically. I always enjoyed jokes and humour and was a big fan of Sunday Night At The London Palladium and variety shows in general. A few weeks later I cracked rather a good joke that had the whole class laughing. “Stop performing Macdonald ” was Gerry’s angry response.

Gerry was a great and inspirational teacher of English lang and lit whose enthusiasm was infectious. PS I’ve since written my own Joke Book! I remember Gerry looking very unhappy and depressed at one point. I later learned I from my pal Jim Coleman that he had separated from his wife. Jim and Gerry used to play snooker together where he learned the sad news. 

I remember taking part in the school’s production of Iphigenia In Aulis by Gluck. I was a member of the chorus and played a guard – one either side of the prisoner. I lobbed a line to the effect that we would “sort him out” which had the audience laughing their heads off! So you see ladies and gentlemen, I’m a born entertainer, who has worked as a professional magician over the years, including the Staff Show at the British Council School in Madrid!

On entering our hallowed Sixth Form I was made a prefect, so maybe someone remembered my Iphigenia performance!

Teacher Quotes

Mr Lackey – “Here’s your bonus homework…”           

Mr Dooley – “Drumlins, lads, Drumlins”

O Level Geog. “The Lake District , lads” – an O Level exam tip which came up! I think he knew someone at the Joint Matriculation Board! “Monkhouse, lads. Monkhouse.” A Level text.

I heard a leaving class gave him a bottle opener as a going away present. Well earned indeed.

Mr Halstead – “Come in foghorn” – French oral practice encouragement.

I remember Brother Cyril coming in and memorizing everyone ‘s name which is probably why his school reports felt so personal. I remember he once called me “Mac” which I liked. He came across as a bit dour but he took responsibility for all of us .Big workload and long suffering Man City supporter!!

Back to my football suffering! I was a more or less permanent sub for the team BUT I scored the winning goal against arch rivals St.Bede’s from the half way line, 1-0! Our guys won the Manchester School’s Under 15’s Cup in 1964. I played a blinder in the semi-final and scored the only goal. 1-0! Of course I was sub for the final as usual. They knew I could play but I wasn’t part of the clique and we had very good players. HOWEVER…when I moved to the Sixth Form, Tony Blackburn (PE) made me Captain of the 2nd X1 and we were unbeaten the whole season. Invincibles! Arsenal eat your hearts out!         

Thanks, Angus. I’ve not come across anyone with a bad word to say about Bernard Lackey. Good to hear about your positive experiences at Xavs.


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