Hello to Julian Bowyer from Australia…
Julian attended the prep from 1959 to 63 and then went on to Xavs. Maybe you remember him – feel free to add a comment.
Thanks to Mike Ramsay for sharing his memories of Xaverian College Manchester from over 60 years ago – click the link below.
If there is anyone else who would like to do the same please email me at
Chuck Sellars – David Challinger remembers…
I remember Chuck SELLERS, and am grateful for the passion for music he instilled in me, although he did once call me a Philistine! I took part in all productions from Iolanthe (1961) up to The Happy Prince (1966). You mention The Magic Flute, which was favorably reviewed in the Times Educational Supplement! The orchestra of 30 of the better pupil players augmented by 8 or 9 Old Boys coped well with the score. Recently found my programme for the Bartered Bride (1966) and among the cast was Anthony Knowles, present Headteacher of the College as Ludmilla ( a peasant’s wife). Chuck was well known for his outbursts during rehearsals. “This is definitely the last one I ever do” was often heard. A splendid outburst during final rehearsals for the Happy Prince, which I used to have on tape, went like this. The chorus had just come in late. ” I’m going to throw something heavy at you nitwits. There are people coming tonight who have an ear for music and not just friends of yours and relations, so it’s got to be as good as possible”. I suppose this indicates the enormous responsibility and sheer effort involved with these productions for him. SO grateful he made that effort.
Chuck got his MBE in 1991 while at De La Salle. He did some work in N. Ireland during The Troubles when music teachers were hard to get. Rumour has it that was why he received the award. Fully deserved anyway.
Reminds me of my A Level Music Group which was full of great musicians. Nigel Blomiley, who was for abut 20 years Principal Cello in the BBC Concert Orchestra, John Thornley, a violinist who went on to teach at Cambridge University. Iain Fenlon, who retired last year as Emeritus Professor of Historical Musicology at Kings College Cambridge, my younger brother Andrew Challinger, who was in the National Youth Orchestra and has composed and had published a long list of works for recorders / consorts, Stephen Blinkhorn , a viola player and finally me, who sold his cello to buy his first motorbike!
Great group, great memories. Thanks Chuck the mentor.
June at Xaverian College in the Sixties
The end of May and beginning of June was the dreaded time at Xavs when ‘O’ levels were taking place in the gymnasium. I remember it felt as hot as the inside of my father’s greenhouse – not the best atmosphere for trying to conjure up the odd sentence from Henry IV Part One in the absence of having any idea what the play was about.
Occasionally one of the more sensitive boys would end up vomiting, the excitement proving just too much. I was reminiscing with Fred Wilson the other day on one of our annual catch-ups. I really liked French and had no problem remembering vocabulary. However, because I was painfully self conscious, the idea of speaking the language was a nightmare. There was an oral examination which meant we had to engage in French conversation with a complete stranger. This was one of the most embarrassing episodes I can ever recall and I am beginning to feel hot round the neck area as I think about it. My French conversation consisted of ‘Oui’, ‘Non’ and precious little else. The bespectacled middle aged spinster who had to endure this travesty let out a couple of ‘tut’s’ and I knew I was sunk.
I have recently come back from Provence and had no problem conjuring up most of the words that I had learnt so well way back in 1964. My Piece du Resistance was being able to ask reception for the ‘lunettes’ which I had left in the bar the night before. Thank you Mr McEvoy and even Brother Finbar!
Sad News – the passing of Bernard Lackey
From Liz Eyre:
I have sad news to report – Bernard Lackey died 4th June 2018 aged 89.
Thanks to Phil for his excellent contribution to the Manchester Xaverian in the Sixties blog. For those who didn’t attend the school, there are interesting insights into how the Catholic faith has changed dramatically since the early sixties – it has become a softer, more open religion, more of a social support system than an authority that told its members how to behave in virtually every area of living. It was a message that is no longer sustainable and will probably be followed eventually by all world religions.
Who was the ‘Cool Kid’ in your class?
I think there was always one student who stood out from the crowd in most classes. I remember one – I am fairly sure he went to the Prep School as well as Xaverian. His name was John Scott. Mr McAvoy (who took us for French) came in one afternoon and start to tell us what a wonderful innings he had seen Scott play and what a future he could have as a batsman. I always wondered whether Scottie lapped it up or found it embarrassing. Probably the latter – otherwise he wouldn’t have remained the cool kid. I don’t really like that Americanism – class hero seems much more British. He was also a good footballer and did okay academically.
Does anyone know what happened to him?
Anyone remember this?
I seem to remember when I was very young (7 or 8 maybe?) being taken to see a school play at Xavs. This was before the extravaganzas that were Chuck Sellars’ concerts. It was Julius Caesar. Am I the only surviving witness?
Bob Cummings 4th October 2017
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.
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. 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.