From the age of five I attended St Clare’s Catholic Primary School in Blackley. At that time the church was little better than a Nissen hut but the American born parish priest Father George had great plans for a new church which eventually came to pass. However, in the fifties the primary school suffered a great deal from overcrowding. My class had fifty four children and most of the other classes were the same. When my father came to visit once he was appalled to discover that there were two classes of a similar size sharing the hall, divided by a coat rack – the noise level of one hundred or so seven year olds must have been pretty astounding.
We weren’t a rich family but neither were we poor. We lived in a semi close to Heaton Park Road and rented it for 32/6 pence each week. Sacrifices were made to send me to the prep school of the grammar school that my father had attended, even though it entailed a two bus journey of over an hour to Fallowfield on the opposite side of Manchester. At first I travelled most of the way with my elder brother Bernard who had made it to Xaverian the hard way – via St Clare’s and the 11 plus. After a few weeks I made a couple of friends who lived on the north side of Manchester and we usually caught the same bus from Piccadilly bus station.
St Clare’s was a tough school. I had been bullied on and off for about three years until my brother negotiated some protection – how I have no idea – and two boys he knew used to accompany me at dinner times which helped a lot. I think I must have been quite a sensitive child and doubtless a worrier which may also have helped Dad in his decision to remove me from the cauldron of fear that was my school experience up to that point and which deserve a separate post.
On my first day at the Prep I went into a room which I remember resembled a conservatory with a great deal of glass and a piano. It doubled as the music classroom. It was the first day of my first term and I was nervous to say the least. Then I heard a teacher shout ‘Vicky!’ and a boy smaller than me started to run towards him and they hugged each other. This was a sight that never left me. This school had people who actually showed affection rather than the scowls which were the usual exchanges which took place at St Clare’s. This was a different school, different people. It could almost have been a different planet.
Over the next few weeks I realised that there were the offspring of some very prosperous middle class families with fathers who were doctors, dentists and so forth. But there were many boys like myself whose families made sacrifices for their children which were almost unbelievable. I never felt that I was looked down upon because of my background – it was never an issue. But for years I was always acutely aware that I felt out of place for most of my working life in a ‘trade’ . Only later did I feel this had been because I had had a taste of a different kind of life which for whatever reason, I could never join. It was, of course, a complete illusion.
4 thoughts on “St. Anne’s Preparatory School”
I was there from 1953 to 1956. I remember Andy Byrne who was badly injured or killed on a motorbike in about 1961. We had a school bully called Chubb who terrified us but I later met him when I was about 18 and he was a charming Naval officer who tried to recruit me.
Our form teacher was a former paratrooper and a very kind man but some of the teachers were very strict and liable to throw the board duster at you.The punishment for chewing gum was to stick it in your hair – a devil to remove once it hardened.I went to the main school afterwards and the art college in the 1960’s – a great period.
I was very interested to read your reminiscence about St Clare’s, Higher Blackley, John, which I attended from the age of 5 until 10, before we moved to Chorlton-cum-Hardy where I attended St John’s before going to Xaverian.
As I remember it, St Clare’s had circa 650 pupils from all backgrounds and was a vibrant, happy school run by its ebullient but kindly headmaster William Froelich.The teaching was of a high standard [here let me declare an interest, my sister Eileen was a newly qualified teacher there] and laid a good and wide foundation of knowledge, not least as preparation for the 11 plus. Yes, it was tough in some respects and I sympathise about the bullying: for my part I received many a gratuitous thump from older boys once it became known that Miss Flood was my sister! Lads from St Clare’s who went to Xavs included Roger Byrne, Denis McKay and, I believe, Bernard Hill. As regards Andy Byrne, he survived that awful motor bike crash and was a contemporary of mine. Edmund Flood 14 January 2021
Thanks for the comment Edmund. I would love to know what years you attended St Clare’s. I can still remember some of the teachers who taught me. In the infants class it was Miss Stead. An old fashioned school marm with her hair in a bun. Year 2 was Mrs Cockrene who I found sadistic and cruel and frequently gave me the strap, even for stenciling a rabbit the my favourite colour at the time which happened to be purple. this at the age of six. The experience has stayed with me evermore!
Hi Bob, I was at St Clare’s from 1950 until 1955. What years were you there? I too was in Miss Stead’s and Miss Cochrane’s classes and can understand your comments! Later I was in Mr Debonair’s class [I think he was Belgian]and finally Mr Cusack’s before transfering to St John’s, Chorlton. I guess this was an equivalent experience to what John Heffernan wrote about -going to St Anne’s Prep.It was run by nuns and was in effect a small village school with a quite different ambience. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time there. I have some memories of Xavs which I will send soon. Best wishes Edmund Flood