A Heathen Century

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Heath in the Seventies

The final complete decade of the School began with a series of retirements of Staff who had given sterling service to the school.

Walter Swale [Headteacher 1946–71]

The 1971 Heathen paid many outstanding and complimentary tributes to the 23rd Headmaster of the School whose interests and traditions he nobly and enthusiastically championed. Under his guidance, the School developed in many ways: extensions, improvements and adaptations to buildings as we see them today; the Old Boys Association was re-founded by him along with the Parents Association. Others besides Mr Swale contributed to the School’s successes, of course, but it is he above all others who co-ordinated and directed the policy of the school. His vision was clear, matched by courage and determination. He supported each pupil and member of staff which earned him sincere and profound respect.

Tributes to his services were repeated on several occasions leading up to his retirement. They were spontaneous and a recognition of his worth and devotion. Such was his lasting impression upon both students and staff that, on his entry to the Hall during the 400th Year Celebration in 1985, his sudden appearance witnessed a standing ovation from all present. In short, Mr W.R. Swale is Heath.

The following year saw the retirement of Arthur Owen who had been appointed to the School in 1935. Again, and understandably, glowing tributes were paid to a Classics Teacher whose enthusiasm was infectious. N.J. Gain’s tribute states, In Arthur Owen, Heath has had one of the best of schoolmasters and the country an educational statesman.

Kindness, patience, dignity, authority, wit and wisdom are only a few of his qualities outlined in detail amid many references to Latin, which I have long forgotten (probably never did understand, in the first place, if honest!) the meaning of but understand the intimations of an outstanding teacher.

Mr Harry Birchall came from Carnegie College in 1936 and took charge of Physical Education until 1973. During that time he used his considerable athletic talent, attention to detail in organisation, tireless effort, persistence and patience. He served throughout the Second World War, being seriously wounded in the invasion of Italy before returning to ensure the standards of rugby reached record heights from an establishment so small and were, especially in rugby sevens history at Ilkley, ones to use as an example of good practice. How ironic, that, in his final years he was to ensure that that reputation was to be repeated with one of his last ever First Form intakes in the early 70s.

Science master, Mr Herbert Morris, was another long serving member of staff who retired in 1972 with a distinguished career both in performance, commitment and respect from pupils and staff. In his time, he supervised the expansion of scientific studies at the school as well as buildings where he spent much of his time. As a teacher typical of his time, with his attention and commitment to detail as well as no nonsense discipline and an underlying sense of humour, he ensured that high standards by sixth formers were achieved. His interest in Photography saw the fruition of the Photography and Radio and Electronics Societies as well as trips to Austria and Switzerland.

Mr Littlefair too retired in 1972 after first coming to the school in 1966 as Senior Modern Languages. Despite adapting to new methods of examinations and syllabuses, he ensured high standards which went beyond languages and into dramatic productions and he was Queens House Master. He, like others before him, was well liked by students particularly for his pastoral qualities and his colleagues alike.

Birchall, Morris and Littlefair — all have orderly minds, a real capacity for hard work, great determination and efficiency, a great love of their subjects and desire to impart it to others, undoubted loyalty to the school and ability to communicate with pupils and arouse interest. If losing those staff was not bad enough, the retirement of long serving and committed Staff continued over the next few years.

Mr Frank Haigh came to Heath for his first and last post fresh from Cambridge in 1936. Daily he made the trip to Halifax and back by train from Leeds. His service particularly to First Formers throughout his career must surely be unrivaled, including playing full back for the First Form Team when allowed as well as organising the Choir. Beyond his playing career, he continued alongside Mr Birchall to provide a vital and supportive foundation in the early years of schooling at the school. Equal zeal and respect of high standards were given to music and the school Choir. A Classics and Geography teacher as well as Music Master, many generations of boys who were not perhaps gifted in languages or science or maths earned their passes (and Distinctions) which they otherwise might have missed. They owe much to him!

Not until 1978 did the School see the retirement of Mr D.M. Hallowes who served the school for 31 years particularly in Maths, as Deputy Headteacher (from 1972, 1972!), numerous Society and Parent Association Treasurers and Tuck Shop Accountant! The man had so many facets to his character that it is difficult to know where to start. The contribution made by DMH is immense; let there be no mistake to this. All this plus his outstanding knowledge and teaching of Maths. As many boys and men were to discover, his bark was worse than his bite along with a genuine, friendly warm hearted teacher and colleague.

Head and shoulders of Albert Crosby
Albert Crosby

Albert Crosby succeeded Swale as Headteacher and reigned before J.T. Bunch — with J.E.M. Blythe his deputy — held the post to the final closure of the School. They were among younger but nevertheless equally talented and committed members of staff, including A.N. Connell, D.R.A. Morton, A.V. Edwards, G.M. Stansfield, P. Keenan, Dr Dean, P.F.H. and R. Kay, F. Rule, I.C. Hogley, J.M. Newton, R.F. Eastwood to name a few who entered the School giving further impetus and upholding the traditions to the end and on into the new ‘Crossley Heath School’ after the merger. My apologies to the many others whose hard work and loyalty was valued by pupils and colleagues, alike, but space does not allow.

Close scrutiny of Heathen Magazines of the 70s era provides ample evidence of the vibrant School with many Clubs, both sporting, arts and academic, being run by staff on a voluntary basis both during and after School.

Clubs include: Fives, Badminton, Cross Country, Knur & Spell, Chess, Young Scientists, Transport, Scout Group (thanks ‘Bonzo’ Makin for allowing me in during wet luchtimes even though I wasn’t a Scout), Radio and Electronics, Christian Discussion, Favorites, Basketball, Biology Club and The War Games Society. All deserve more than a mention but it would take another decade to recount some of the many memorable events. Their provision by a dedicated and committed staff and elder pupils is nonetheless valued by many who benefitted.

The House System continued to flourish with a series of competitions. The new Pool at Huddersfield Road created opportunity for Swimming and, of course, the legendary ‘Plunge,’ dominated by Sunderland’s 64' 4" record; English Schools Championship swimmer M.J. Seary, Yorkshire Schoolboys C.J. Short, M. Wood-Ives and Atherton to name but a few oustanding performers.

Music Society

This decade also saw and heard a superb School Choir under the baton of Michael Hampshire. The Choir made regular performances in Cathedrals around Yorkshire and such a healthy reputation was created that they also became the Choir in residence for a week at Bath Cathedral.

Drama Society

Befitting the history of the school, the Dramatic Society continued to flourish in the 70s, with a series of outstanding Drama Productions.

Hamlet (J.H. Peevers) ably supported by B.B. Baxter (Polonius) and Horatio (P.D.M. Grabham) was one of the final productions under Mr Hardill before Mr Bunch and Mr Talbot became Directors.

The Devil’s Disciple, played by M.J. Shaw, alongside S. Bonfield (General Burgoyne) and many more, set the scene for the new, more professional approach with a larger stage and ‘real girls’ from Princess Mary’s High School.

Flushed with theatrical success, this was followed by Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale staring G.J. Hyland as Leartes and many more notable performances. As usual, there were many supporting the scenes, especially Mr Morton who continued to produce fantastic artistry with backdrop scenes and Mr Newton with his lighting expertise.

Further success continued with an Upper School production of Arthur Miller‘s The Crucible, by S. Shipman (John Proctor), P. Lucas (John Hale) and C.Green (as Danforth). This was followed by a Lower School performance of The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew with talented leading roles being played by K.N. Walton (Bolligrew), S.M. Beverley (Fitzoblong) and D.A.G. Brooksby (Bobble-knob). I still take this casting personally!.

Scene from the musical ‘Oliver’ when Oliver approaches the staff of the workhouse on raised dais at the back to ask for seconds with the orphans seated at tables in the front
Oliver [Photo credit: Halifax Evening Courier]

The Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Mr Talbot, was worthy of a stretch on Broadway and rightly performed to packed houses. It was arguably the most ambitious but nevertheless outstanding performance of the decade and for quite some time. The success of the Drama Society was bolstered by the emerging actors becoming ‘elder statesmen’ along with a combination with the highly talented School Choir anchored by the talented K.N. Walton (Teyve). The props and scenery were equally impressive, being produced by Sixth Form woodworkers under the enthusiastic and skilful workmanship of Mr Keenan.

The end of the decade saw a series of lavish musical productions brilliantly directed by Brenda Hewitt and Michael Hampshire, starting with Oliver and a cast of hundreds.

The involvement of girls from Princess Mary High School brought a new tradtion to these productions — real females playing female roles. This lent itself to the only sex education being offered within the school curriculum at the time — a memorable decade of performances.


Sport continued to play a major role in developing pupils’ healthy lifetsyles. Cross Country teams across the school were ably led by Mr Connell and later Mr Keenan along Linden Road and into Copley Woods.

The Inter-Form Cricket Competition featuring a handicap system for sides ranging from Staff XI to First Formers was the brainwave of Messrs Edwards, Stansfield and Bunch. Their insight into promoting the game was surely a forerunner of twenty-twenty cricket and razzmatazz later seen in the early 21st Century!

With buckets of water, garden rolling and pushing of grass cutters during Games lessons, a couple of wickets were created on the centre of Conways Rugby Pitch. I would love to have seen their lesson plans for this! From there, a series of competitive matches was watched in glorious sunshine on the ‘Conways Hill’ year upon year by all the school. The advent of Risk Assessments had not yet been born which enabled the Infirmary Car Park and House Windows across the road being put under constant threat of damage as big hitting and reckless running between the wickets was the order of the day as teams endeavoured to overcome challenging handicaps against younger teams. Tactics evolved and transferred into more traditional fixtures. It is worth noting here that the standard of cricket and enthusiasm for cricket continued to be excellent thanks to the staff, in particular Mr D.R.A. Morton. Half of The Halifax Red Triangle League Representative XI come from the sixth form of 1978!

The decade cannot go without a serious mention of Rugby Football. Rugby continued to play a strong and important role within the school under the new guidance of Mr Ieuan Jones, the Welsh International Gymnast. The side of 1974/75 was one of the most notable sides in the School’s History with the likes of Race, Seary, Revill, Brear, Oldfield, Hilton, Smithies et al. playing leading roles alongside one of the School’s most talented sportsman ever, N.J. Barrett. He played rugby and cricket for Yorkshire and North of England Schools and should be placed in the same bracket as J.P. Horrocks-Taylor, W.M. Bussey and R.C. Broughton. S.J. Haliday (Yorks U19s in 1971) in the school’s sporting elite.

However, it was the team of 1977/78, under the robust leadership of R.J. Scholefield and Coaches Mr Edwards and Mr Hobson, that was unquestionably, yes unquestionably, the best ever side in the School’s 400 year history, despite creditable claims from earlier decades and that of some pretenders to the crown in the coming 80s!

Notable victories were by the margin of 128–0 over Sowerby Bridge Grammar School and over Crossley & Porter (including future British Lion Brian Moore) by 45–15 to become the first Heath Grammar School side to become Calderdale & Kirklees Champions. A record of 608 points for and only 88 against speaks for itself. Surprisingly only centre Bates P.J. gained County honours — he reached 100 points before Christmas as did Scrum Half D.A.G. Brooksby. Other notable performances were the high scoring speedy wingers, P.J. Beverley and D.G. Bates. It was the most successful side in Yorkshire School records that year (the only defeat in England being at the hands of Cardinal Hindsley with an injury hit side).

The Sevens side epitomised previous sevens teams of the past reaching the Ilkley Sevens Final, only to lose in injury time to a sudden death try against Leeds Grammar School and reaching the Final of the Halifax Sutcliffe Cup. This was then followed by a ground breaking tour in Europe which saw a shared series against Racing Club de Rouen RFC Under 19s. Large crowds became the norm at Kensington each Saturday morning as the side’s reputation for 15 man flowing rugby evolved. The quality of the side is emphasised by two players (D.G. Bates and Brooksby) playing for Halifax RUFC First XV whilst still at Heath Grammar School — the latter later playing for England Universities and Yorkshire. They were later to be followed by seven other players who were to play for Halifax First XV — again, no other Heath Grammar School side could match such a record.

Squad members names should be written into the School’s history: Atkinson, Beverley P, Bates P, Mitchell, Bates D, Beverley S, Brooksby, Taylforth S, Marshall, Marshall, Taylor P, Dawson, Heady, Potter, Scholefield, Walton, Best, Shannon.

The provision of education within and beyond the curricuclum in the 70s was outstanding. Many pupils passed under the Favour Gates and gained outstanding service from a talented and committed staff. The same pupils eventually left under the Favour Gates and, to this day, benefit from the quality and unforgettable experiences provided by staff and peers.

Thanks to Mr Eastwood for his advice, encouragement and usual corrections to my spelling and punctuation!! Back to the good old days!

Dorian Brooksby [Heath 1971–78]