Letters from Barry Hill [1977–1982]

Hi John and all

It seems that Heath is quite unique. I ask all my friends if they had nicknames for their teachers. Some had nicknames for a few teachers. We had nicknames for every one of them. Some of them were obvious, some inventive, some amusing, one or two were derogatory, and one or two were obscure. I hated it when they were used in torment to abuse teachers, but I remember all of them fondly.

Speaking of remembering, I believe I can also remember the names of every boy in my class, although I'd struggle to tell you the names of many of the people I have worked with in my adult life. That five years back four decades ago must have had a huge impact on me.

If I could look out of my window, and the railway wasn’t in the way, I could see our old school. Although I disliked it at the time I was there, it's presence gives me a sense of quiet comfort. I do believe the lower playground is some buildings now. Is that right? No, don't tell me, I'll remember it as was. I wonder if schools still allow kids to play football on concrete.

I have just come across the website for Heath Old Boys, and was pleasantly surprised to read a letter from myself on there. It is rather out of date now, so I thought you might like an update.

It’s nice to name drop working at the BBC but, to be honest, it was only a six months taster employment. Aunty Beeb showing her caring side. Still, I got a taste for the work and can now name drop HBOS and Sky as well. Although I can influence how they put things on their apps and website, I still can't influence what Sky put on TV.

I upped my game at the blind society too. I’m in my third year as Chairman. I didn’t want the job, but neither did anyone else, so I stepped up. Oddly, in the Society’s hundred and twenty odd year history, there has not been a blind Chair before. It still astonishes me that the committee listen to that boy who always ‘could try harder’ but never did at school.

Last week, I got my fifth guide dog. No, I don’t currently have five guide dogs. Chester is a black lab crossed with a donkey — he’s huge! Although he’s fully trained and I’m a seasoned GD owner, we have to go back to basic training to learn how we both do everything together. So, if anyone sees me around town over the next few weeks I’d appreciate it if you didn’t distract him, especially if the GD trainer is watching.

Every year, I intend to come to the AGM dinner, but I’m always away when it’s on. This year... I’m away again. Sigh. Maybe next year.

Barry Hill

I attended Heath from 1977 to 1982 and wasn’t exactly a model pupil. Attendance was more on a part time basis and, even when I was there, I wasted what I now know to be a very good opportunity. Still, I had a chance to make amends following a horrific car crash thirteen years ago that left me blind. In 1998, I enrolled at college and then went on to university in Huddersfield and, two years ago, came out with a respectable 2:1 BSc Hons in Behavioural Sciences.

Since then, I have worked, on a voluntary basis, on several health and disabilities committees, including the Halifax Society for the Blind for whom I advise on technology used by and for visually impaired people.

This degree and voluntary work put me in good stead for a recent job application, for which I am delighted to say that I have been successful. I will soon be working for the BBC as the Access Technology Manager. This will mean that I will work with the Access Technology Strategist to provide continuous support and advice to project managers, disabled people and Heads of technical services to ensure a cohesive and generic level of service across the BBC. This will be done by my providing advice and practical support using assistive technology, allowing people with diverse disabilities to use the in-house applications throughout the BBC. I’m sorry, guys. I won’t be able to influence programming schedules and content.

On reflection, I’m sure some of the lessons at Heath must have sunk in and provided a firm foundation for future education and consequent job offer. So, perhaps my time there wasn’t completely wasted.

Barry Hill