Mary Prescott's Recollections

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by Tony Hill

When I first made contact with Mary on the telephone, it was obvious that she had very fond memories of her long innings as St. Brendan's Secretary.

She had married and later sadly widowed, her name had changed to Mary Moore. However, to the many pupils who knew her, she will always be known as Miss Prescott.

On 9th February 2011 I visited Miss Prescott at her home near Burnham-on-Sea. Now aged older than when she left the school (she kept her precise age well under wraps) she was in very good health and clearly delighted to have the opportunity to reminisce. She had an aura of authority about her, which I found most reassuring. This was clearly an elderly lady with all her facets well and truly intact.

Here are some of the memories she recalled on my visit that day :-

"In 1958, I was working at John Harvey, the sherry company and somehow I heard that St.Brendan's College, Berkeley Square, Clifton, were looking to fill the post of school secretary.

My brother [Rob Prescott] had been a pupil at the school from 1943 to 1949.

I went out for a meal in Bristol with Brother O'Brien and we discussed the College and the duties involved. I liked the sound of it and he offered me the job.

Amongst my early tasks was to help with the administration for the building of the new school in Brislington. I was dealing with correspondence associated with the contractors as well as all the normal school administration.

In 1961 we had the official opening. Brother Hooper [headmaster] was a lovely man. (I saw his sister in Burnham she is 91 this year [2011]. I took her a copy of the new St. Brendan's 6th Form College magazine with a write up about the new buildings. She really was thrilled to receive it).

One year the school [Berkeley Square] played host to the BBC Radio programme Any Questions. It was hosted by Gilbert Harding. Gilbert and the team came into the office and it was there that I personally met Gilbert Harding. It was an interesting day. The programme was broadcast live and I was present throughout the whole event.

I remember the events held by the Parents & Friends Association. Particularly the summer fetes. Verrechias' (the ice cream company based in Brislington - their family having a long association with the school) used to donate ices.

The Corrigan brothers (former pupils) ran the Burley Press and they did really good deals for the school's printing, including the School Magazine.

Tom Molloy former teacher went out to live in Canada. He died.

I remember Michael Cronin as a pupil. He became an actor on Grange Hill.

Bryant Motors used to support the magazine with advertising. Thanks to Jim Bryant, whose son Michael, was a pupil.

I remember John Blake very well. I think he joined the RAF as an officer before returning to St.Brendan's. He later took the post of Headmaster at St.Wilfred's School in Crawley. He died in September 1982.

Mr and Mrs Greenaway were caretakers at Berkeley Square and they moved out to Brislington to carry on their duties. He died soon after in 1963.

The school canteen staff at Brislington were never employed by the Brothers. It was run by an outside catering firm, West Town Caterers. Mrs. Galloway was head of the school kitchen for some time.

Mrs. O'Connell used to cook for the Brothers in Berkeley Square. She became housekeeper for them at The Beeches.

Bill Reeves took over the role of caretaker in 1963. He was involved in the School's CCF as Sergeant Major. He was assisted by Spud Murphy [not to be confused with teacher Spud]. Caretaker Spud was known as 'Cauliflower Ears' for obvious reasons and had had a long association with the school.

I remember members of the Australian rugby touring team visiting Berkeley Square to present rugby caps. I think this was around 1959. The visit was very much appreciated and forged a link with the Christian Brothers College in Australia.

In my role of Secretary I had to liaise with various Education Authorities because our catchment area was so wide. It stretched as far as Chippenham to the East and Shepton Mallet to the South.

I have been attending the funerals of some former St.Brendan's teachers. John Savage [7th Dec 1930 to 17th Nov 2001] requiem was held at Weston Super Mare. The eulogy was read by teacher Gerald Murphy (Spud). They were great friends.

Bernard Malone. Died 24th Oct 2001 aged 67 years. His service was held at Clifton Cathedral.

Les Skidmore died in 2007, aged 68. He was president of Cheddar male voice choir. He was a good singer and he was an actor. Off stage he was head of maths and deputy head at The Kings of Wessex Community School He then moved to Mark College where he often cut a dash arriving there on his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Amongst the pupils I remember was Bruce Craig. He has just bought Bath Rugby Club. Then how can I forget Jeremy Rigden [born Kuching, Sarawack, Malaysia 18th July 1951]. I sometimes gave him a lift to and from School in my car. He lived in Weston Super Mare. He completed his A levels in 1969. He was ordained 5th july 1978.

The last I heard of teacher Michael Beech was that he was in France. He married the School's first female teacher. She taught French.

I am still in contact with Brother Brennan who lives in Cheshire.

When I left St. Brendan's in 1984 I was given a Waterford glass vase to mark my 26 years at the school. At the point I left, it had become a mixed intake.

Rob Beckley was another pupil (1971 - 1978) I remember. He became Deputy Chief Constable with Avon & Somerset Police and a leading member of ACPO.

Mrs McCarthy was also a school secretary. She was an active helper of the Parents & Friends Association. Her son attended St.Brendan's.

Elwyn and Brother Sheehan were rugby mad and they wanted nothing more than a fixture with Millfield School. One day I took a phone call from Millfield telling me that they would like to go ahead with fixtures. I rushed up to Elwyn whilst he was taking a class and gave him the fantastic news.

The exceptionally long period of deep snow that affected the country in 1963, played havoc with the normal running of the school. One day I had to walk through the deep snow from HTV up to the school in Brislington as the buses couldn't get through.

I am in touch with Peter Allen's widow, Betty. She lives in Bristol. Peter was such a good teacher. He used to set the entrance exams and I used to type them up.

Brother Weston moved to a school in Sunderland and that was the last address I had for him.

We used to have a staff Christmas dinner in the school hall and most of the teachers and their partners would attend.

John Bogie moved from his teaching role at St.Brendan's to join Prior Park College Preparatory School in 1981, when the Christian Brothers ended their association with Prior Park in Bath and Cricklade. John was president of the Prior Park Old Boys Association and it was his hard work that helped both schools stay open. [Both schools very much active today]

Elwyn Price was good at his lessons, once he got outside, rugby was his life. I got on well with him. Quite understandably, he used to get quite uptight if somebody cancelled a match.

Hedley Goodall's plays were outstanding. He would only settle for the best.

Field Marshall, Viscount Slim [born 1881] was a famous old boy of the school.

Ted McCarthy, was a fine teacher. He died.

I was given a present of a prefect's black and yellow scarf (black and yellow) and I still have it to this day. I can't quite remember why they gave it to me.

I loved my job as secretary. Particularly the early years. I have to say that throughout my time, there were never two days the same. It was a wonderful time of my life".

Mary at an Education Committee reception