Mike Ramsay remembers…

Thanks to Mike Ramsay for sharing his memories from over 60 years ago

Remembering Xaverian College Manchester

Miss Eaton at Ward Hall

My grammar school life began in 1958 at Ward Hall, after having spent my early years at the Prep School. Miss Eaton, who had taught us music at the Prep, taught us Maths at Ward Hall.

I remember her sending me to be caned for forgetting to bring a compass to school !That experience put me off Maths forever & from an interest in Irish ballads that is  until ‘River Dance’ came along!

Ward Hall, Victoria Park.
Ward Hall, Victoria Park.

Foggy Days at Ward Hall

In the days before the clean act there were many foggy days in Manchester. Some were worse than others .The smoke from Trafford Park and elsewhere would drift over the city not only in the winter but also the summer. Because most boys lived some distance from the school, the teachers thought that they should send younger boys home early so they could get home safely.

There was nothing better for us boys than to be told that after we had had our lunch, we were all to go home!

Sitting there eating fish and chips and then going home was a real treat .Off we would go on our buses to the four corners of the city. The best times of all were when the fog suddenly lifted while were travelling home and the shone brightly as the blue sky appeared!

Fog at lunch time was the key moment. Fog and we were home .

It’s not surprising that many boys at this time wished and prayed for foggy days!

Air Rifle  Incident

Who can forget one of the teachers being fired at by a lad with an air rifle? We were all lined up after lunch time outside in the playground. The teacher was taking us through the usual prayers when he suddenly grasped his forehead and staggered off towards the door.

We later discovered that a lad with a bit of a grudge ,had entered the sixth form block and from an open window used an air rifle to shoot at the teacher. I never heard what happened but I think the teacher was OK and the boy expelled.


Back in the 50,s and 60,s it was very easy for boys to buy fireworks. Bangers would be lit and thrown about the streets quite frequently .Apart from the ‘Penny Banger’ there was the ‘Air Bomb’. This was a super- deluxe banger and quite expensive to buy. When lit, it would fizz for a couple of seconds and then launch some other kind of explosive into the air. This was followed by an extremely loud bang which would get the dogs barking and the neighbours complaining! There was timed delay when all would go quiet .Then another would be launched and once again a repeat performance. This would happen three times, causing anyone nearby to jump out of their skin. One day when we had just come into the classroom, the French teacher began the lesson with prayer ..in French.

He had only just begun when there was a terrible explosion outside the window ,very close to it in fact. One of the boys had tied an ‘Air Bomb’ to the drainpipe earlier in the day, to which he had attached a long fuse ,so that he wouldn’t be caught. He had placed just outside the window!

The teacher stopped, looked at us and bellowed “Who is responsible for that?” No one said a word so he continued in prayer. Half way through the prayer there was another ‘Bang!’

This time he screamed at us ,”Wait till I find out who did this !“ . He began the prayer for the third time and after the third explosion he threatened us with lengthy detention until the guilty party

 owned up ! This was the liveliest lesson I ever remember attending! Did the boy own up? I don’t think he did .

Wood work

Having been denied the opportunity to learn Art or Music some of us were sentenced to doing woodwork for three years in a workshop  above the cricket pavilion.

I clearly remember how the teacher dealt with trouble makers. He would hit them with lengths of wood which hung from a rail in his room. He would call out a boy who was often in trouble.”Smith? ”, he would bellow. “Come out here!”

  Smith would go up to him and then the teacher would say sarcastically. ”Smith, which type of wood would you like this afternoon? We have some nice Japanese oak or maybe some maple? Or you might prefer some mahogany or how about some elm?”

And there on a rail hung all different kinds of wood .

The class would know what would happen next .After Smith had chosen his favourite wood he was told to bend  down and receive his punishment. It can’t have been too bad because Smith was misbehaving as usual the following week! I like to think that the teacher was fooling us all and that his ‘special’ wood was really only balsa after all!

Lunch Time Distractions

My father originated from Bristol and had moved to M/C in the thirties .He had no interest in neither Man City nor Man. U. But as we lived only about two miles from Maine Rd, he took me there to watch City, the team that eventually I would follow with a passion. It wasn’t long before I discovered that most of the lads at school were Man. U. fans and to admit you were a City supporter in those days was to invite trouble!

In time I discovered who City supporters were.  It was like belonging to a secret underground movement! They told me that the Man. City players went for lunch at a café on the main road in Rusholme. So after we had rushed down our dinner, we tore down Thurloe St. turned left and stood outside the café waiting to see the players and get their autographs. (There was also a sports shop on Wilmslow Road owned by the ex Man City player Roy Clarke – he also supplied the school with its sports equipment (ed))

Paris School Trip 1962

We were on our way back from Paris on the train. Just before noon a steward came round and gave us our lunches on plastic trays, similar to the type seen on aircraft. Some of the boys had had enough of French food and now here was a ‘French Salad’, lettuce leaves, slices of cucumber & tomato, a slice of ham & a bread roll. Also on each tray was a hardboiled egg, still in its’ shell .These they put in their pockets .The whole meal was doused with a liberal portion of mayonnaise! In their disgust some of the boys decided to get rid of their food immediately, so climbed up on their seats, slid open the window and threw the meal out of the window. Unfortunately because the train was going so fast, the meal failed to clear the train and splattered alongside the window of compartment next to ours.

A couple of seconds later and a teacher appeared at our door. He quickly discovered the culprits and marched them into the corridor and into the teachers’ compartment! Spread all over their main window was a collage of dried tomato & cucumber slices, some lettuce and mayonnaise which was quickly drying in the sun. Some of us made an excuse to use the toilet, giving us the opportunity to go into the corridor see what had happened. As I stared into the teachers’ compartment I could see very little out of the window. Instead there was what looked like a colourful stain-glass picture of a French Salad! It covered the entire window.

The hard boiled eggs? They were used as hand grenades and thrown at unsuspecting travellers as they waited on station platforms, while we made our way to Calais!

3 thoughts on “Mike Ramsay remembers…”

  1. ‘Miss Eaton, who had taught us music at the Prep, taught us Maths at Ward Hall. I remember her sending me to be caned for forgetting to bring a compass to school ! ‘
    Mike, I was very surprised indeed to read this comment as I thought Miss Eaton would have had a strong aversion to compasses for the following reason: The year before, 1957, in Form 3.2 Miss Eaton was leaning over a pupil explaining some maths problem when one of the lads sitting behind in the adjacent row started to hold the sharp end of his compass close to her posterior. Inevitably he was shoved and Miss Eaton let out a shriek of pain as the compass drove into its target. As she spun around she belted every boy within reach and hastily left the classroom. Enter Ward Hall’s headmaster, the normally affable Brother Gerald, who lectured us about unacceptable behaviour. There was no witch hunt to identify the culprits but, if I recall correctly, the whole class got detention.

  2. Reference the above comment regarding Miss Eaton and the compass incident: On further reflection it would be more accurate to say “As she spun around she lashed out at…” rather than “As she spun around she belted…” Apologies to Miss Eaton wherever she may be!


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