I think I’m going back…

A few years ago I visited Xaverian College with a couple of colleagues to view one of their student data systems – this was when I was developing IT systems in Further Education. The department we were visiting was in the Mayfield building at the far end of what used to be the cricket field but now appears to be a quad. This building used to be a seminary type establishment where future and existing brothers were domiciled. It was an odd feeling to be in the holy of holies, the beautiful wood bannisters and stained glass still visible and as dark and dramatic as I remembered it from over 40 odd years previously. It brought to mind a memory that I had completely forgotten.

We had a newcomer to our class from Huddersfield – his name has completely vanished unfortunately which is a shame as he became one of my very best school chums at the time. He joined our class because he had decided to become a Xaverian brother and stayed at Mayfield for probably about six months or so. I remember him telling me about a new batsman that had just started playing for Yorkshire, a young lad with glasses. He was very impressive – Geoffrey Boycott. For whatever reason, he decided that being a novitiate was not where his future lay and had some fairly scandalous opinions as to his fellow would-be brothers. I was incredibly naïve at the time and not sure what his issues were. He very much wanted to stay at college but just as a student. However, it was made clear to him that this was not a possibility – if he lost his vocation, he lost his school place. Off he trudged back to Huddersfield.

The visit to the college was rewarding. I remember going into the side entrance of what had formerly been the gym. The recessed handle was still the same one I had used many times in the past and conjured up many memories of house meetings that took place in that room. Mr Arklass was our house master. I was a member of Xaviers – the chosen ones. Every meeting seemed to be an excuse for telling us how rubbish we were, how other houses had accumulated more house points than we had etc etc. One day an older boy came in to the meeting without his school tie – oh what a an eruption that caused! Arklass was definitely old school – much shouting and a face that rapidly changed colour from sallow to dangerous red in a remarkably short period of time.

He once gave a speech that I never forgot. He said that there are boys who will waste their time at Xaverian and live to regret it. That some of them have come back and told him how much they wished they had worked harder. I knew at this particular time that I was about to have a car crash result from my forthcoming O levels. I also remembered saying to myself that I wouldn’t have regrets. Ha! He was right but I also discovered that you can only learn when you are ready to learn. In my case, it was round about 35…

Mr Akless in typical pose - 1966
Mr Akless in typical pose – 1966

 

 

20 thoughts on “I think I’m going back…”

  1. The house which was used as a Juniorate for aspiring Xaverian Brothers was on top of a short steep bank at the end of a field, sometimes used for tennis, which was across the path to the tuck shop from the cricket field. It was not called Mayfield, that being the site of the Xaverian College in East Sussex, but gloried in the name of Marylands. Prior to its use as a Juniorate, it had housed the music room, which moved to the old science labs when the new science block was built.

    Reply
  2. Further to my comment above, I understand the erstwhile Marylands has been renamed Mayfield as a nod to the multicultural secularisation of Xaverian.

    Reply
      • I lost touch with him after he left the Juniorate. I did, however, meet him several years later c1970 when he was completing his degree at Manchester University in Economics I think. I’m pretty certain that Don Baron had made a great impression on him at Xavs. I’m afraid I lost touch with him after that. I always found Mike a very engaging lad. Once when I was playing for the college cricket team, I took an unwise quick single and was well short of the crease when the bails came off. Mike was umpiring at the time. I asked him why he hadn’t given me out. He said that he would have done had he been able to extricate his hand from the hole in the umpire’s coat. So he simply shook his head in response to the appeal.

        Reply
  3. Other memories come flooding back;
    Mr Swallow the woodwork teacher whose classroom was located in the cricket pavilion; he always seemed to have very nice cars including a red BMW.
    Playing snooker in the cellar at Marylands – I thought Mayfield was the building where Brother Cyril’s office was located.
    The tuck shop run by a formidable Irish lady whose name escapes me.
    A smoke room in Sudbury?

    Reply
    • Mr Swallow used to run a Saturday morning woodworking session for those of us who may be thought an academic career was rather too ambitious. I remember the smell of wood shavings and the sight of those perfectly honed chisels for our tenon and mortice joints very well. My father once told me the building you refer to was once a raquets court. I wonder if you remember the groundsman, Mr Bates (Master Bates as he was universally known) or ‘Bates’ as he was referred to by Bro Cyril? The Gradige practice bats, covered in vellum, the concrete square laid out for judging a good length ball in the nets and the assortment of cricket boxes, some of which looked liked they were made in Edwardian days are some of my cricketing memories.

      Reply
    • The tuck shop was run by Miss Brady. When I first went to Xavs in 1956 she did a nice line in what she called ‘hot dogs’, a mixture of sausage meat, baked beans, onions and sage and onion stuffing. This was scraped into a round roll (4d) or a finger roll (3d). This popular trade, however, had a serious impact on the take-up of school dinners in Ward Hall. In 1957 or thereabouts, the hot dog concession mysteriously disappeared from the tuck shop, but, happily, Miss Brady remained at her post for many more years.

      Reply
    • The tuck shop was run by Miss Brady – at least in my time (1956-64). Sunbury was the sixth form centre when I was there. It was due to be pulled down when the new sixth form block was completed round about 1966, but it’s still standing half a century later.

      Reply
  4. On a different topic, the photo of speech day on the home page comes from round about 1960 rather than 1955. I know this as I recognize a number of people on the front row.

    Reply
  5. I’m not sure where to put my thoughts about Julius Caesar. I think the play was put on about 1958. I went with my father to see it. We always chuckled after because one of the lads delivered the line ‘to ratify that office’ but it sounded like ‘ratify the toffees’ which left us rather puzzled. Several plays were put on in that era: The Bishop’s Candlestick which starred Chris Glynn; Babes in the Blackboard Jungle with Jim Thomas and Chris Glynn (1956)and in which Bernard Hill was also on the stage, and The Upper Room directed by Brother Pius (who took a turn vigorously shaking an iron sheet which was supposed to sound like a thunder storm.) Oh the joys!

    Reply
    • I don’t know about Bernard having a younger brother at the school. In my year, there was a Michael Hill who was a superb musician. I think he had a younger brother at the school in the 1960s, but I forget his first name.

      Reply
      • Maybe that was him. I remember a lad who got the same bus as me home from school and his mother had an off-licence in Cheetham Hill. His second name was Hill. Could have been Peter.

        Reply
  6. Going back to Mr Swallow, when he first arrived at the school, circa 1960, he cycled in each day assuming a rather upright position on the saddle. He passed his driving test sometime around 1964.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Phil Blinkhorn Cancel reply