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…