For an article about Blackpool Grammar
School written by the ex-pupil & broadcaster, Alistair Cooke (1908-2004) click
BLACKPOOL GAZETTE & HERALD—JANUARY 14th,
Some of us
just can't believe it
By R. G. SHEPHERD
WHEN old students of Blackpool Grammar School gather at the end of this month to celebrate the
fiftieth anniversary of its Opening some of them just won't believe it.
It simply can't be 50 years, they will say, since they transferred from the old Pupil Teachers'
Centre in a top room of the Winter Gardens to the fine new school in Raikes-parade just as it can't
be over 32 years since I passed out of the portals as a schoolboy for the last time.
But it is.
Ah. well—it's worth the pang to look back to those
Sweet boyhood days. that were as long
As twenty days are now.
The Grammar School has an odd history. One might almost say that it happened
because the Town Council couldn't make up its mind.
The council secured the land in Raikes parade with the idea of establishing a technical school -
and then dithered. While it was dithering somebody had the bright idea of combining it with a
secondary school, then quite a new departure, and of adding to it the "pupil teachers" who gathered
for instruction in the top room aforesaid under the redoubtable Joseph Turral, BA. a man destined
to leave his mark on Blackpool.
The combination explalns why parts of the school were equipped for technical
instruction, and why, for many years. it was familiarly referred to in the vernacular as "Blackpool
Tec" or "Blackpool Sec" indiscriminately. It was, remarkably, not until 1933 that it became
officially "Blackpool Grammar School."
In its 50 years the Grammar School has had only two headmasters. Mr. Turral retired in 1933. Dr. E.
Benson, his successor retired last year. The school awaits the coming of its new head, the Rev. H.
M. Luft. of Merchant Taylors. Crosby. Mr. Turral, dynamic, spectacular and lovable, will live in
the memory of all his pupils and become a legend to their children. Dr. Benson, a more retiring
personality, has nevertheless worked wonders in most difficult times.
When the school opened under Mr. Turral it had 120 pupils and seven teachers. At
one period during the war, under Dr. Benson. it shared the building with the evacuated High School
for Boys. Manchester. and also accommodated the hosts of other evacuees for whom its services were
required. and the total was actually over 700. Yet the standard never fell.
I never knew the school without the girls, who left in 1925 for the new
Collegiate School. The fun and charm of their presence was something which succeeding
generations missed...but this is an historical, not a romantic article. Yet the influence of
that happy, chattering flock who made the place so gay all those years ago still remains. There
is a Grammar School Old Girls' Association as well as a Collegiate School one and all are
linked. with the Old Boys. into the Old Students' Association.
Continuity—yes, that could well be the keynote of the jubilee celebrations. For
instance, in 1910 the sports championship cup was won by one W. Haythornthwaite: that same W.
Haythornthwaite is now acting headmaster. It would be invidious to pick out too many famous Old
Boys. but two of my time, Jack Robinson and "Young Cooke." have since become Sir Roland Robinson,
MP for Blackpool South. and Alistair Cooke, the broadcaster and journalist, whose words can help to
shape the fate of nations.
Earlier there was Harold Noble. now famous in music, later there was A. W. G.
Kean, whose scholastic achievements made university history: today J. T. Hodgson is the Cambridge
centre threequarter and will probably soon be the England one, too.
As for local life. the Grammar School's contribution to it over all those years has been profound.
There is so much more to be said, but no space in which to say it. It's odd, but I almost have the
feeling I should hand this in to Ivor Coombes for marking, just as I used to. He started teaching
English at the Grammar School in 1919 and he's there yet!