My very last day at Xavs arrived – sometime in May 1965. It had already become obvious to me (and to anyone who would listen) that I was going to flop in my GCE’s. I had taken a J.I.C. aptitude exam to discover whether I had the makings to be a printer of some sort. Printing was in the family – my grandfather was a stereotyper, my father a compositor, my uncle Wilfred a linotype operator on the Manchester Evening News – the slug was cast.
I am in the classroom I had spent the last year with an acquaintance – Paul McAndrew. For some reason we got a bit giddy and started throwing gym pumps at each other, like you do at sixteen and can see that your schooldays are over for ever. I took a shot at Paul, he ducked and I unfortunately hit a statue of the Virgin Mary which stood in the corner of the room at the exact second Mr Connolly walked it. “Ah Cummings!” he shouted “At last! I’ve got you!”. We were both accompanied by Mr Connolly to Brother Cyril’s office. He knocked on the door and Bro Cyril called out: “Enter.”. Mr Connolly had a raised voice at this point “Brother Cyril, these boys have just hit the Virgin Mary!”. In retrospect, I think I detected a hint of exasperation in Brother Cyril’s voice when he called us into his office. It may have been for us but could easily have aimed at Mr Connolly. We both received ‘six of the best’. I distinctly remembered that I was amazed at how much effort Brother Cyril put into the down strokes – quite stunning. Thinking back, we had actually finished school and technically this could have been regarded as assault. It’s no good looking at the past with today’s judicial standards and besides, it has given me one of those memories I daresay will flash past my eyes when my time has come. It still raises chuckle, even though it didn’t half hurt!