Old Birkonian Society
Thank you for the warm welcome you and your fellow members gave my wife, Joan, and me on our visit to the Archives on November 17. We thoroughly enjoyed our day at Birkenhead School, soaking up the atmosphere and traditions that mean so much to all OBs.
You mentioned that some information on our background and current activities might interest other old boys, some of whom might remember shared school days and activities. So I have put together a short summary of our recent trip with a few pictures.
Memories on a Bench Seat
It started by chance, like in 1954. I was looking through an emailed newsletter from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. There was an announcement of a forthcoming lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on the faltering beginnings of the Rolls-Royce RB211 series of jet engines. While in Cambridge in the 1970s I had been approached with a request to help understand and correct a three-dimensional flow problem in the middle of a turbine. With a lot of computational and mathematical help from my wife, Joan, we developed computer coding to assist the engineers in Derby with their redesign of a bulky row of turbine blades which were also serving as a bearing support. Eventually in 1983 this resulted in helping the RB211-535 become the launch engine for the Boeing 757 with Eastern Airlines. The engine also won a Design Council Award.
So we had to go. It had been seven years since our last visit to England, and the lecture was less than a month away. But there was a flight on a Boeing 757-200 with Rolls-Royce engines from Washington to Manchester. We could see the poppies at the Tower of London; visit Mike Wolfgang and his wife, Joan, in Sevenoaks to see where my Joan's ancestor hailed from before migrating to Concord, Massachusetts, in 1638; visit Rolls-Royce; stay in Hoylake and walk on the paths across Royal Liverpool Golf Course; and trip down memory lane at Birkenhead School.
Three hours is really not enough time to see all the exhibits at the School Archives, and as usual I was the last to leave a party! Roger Ewing, Ian Boumphrey, Brian Dunn, Alan Hanson and William Nute gave us a warm welcome and I was transported back to 1954 - 1962. There were many memorable teachers - Charlie Jones with his encouragement; Tappy Pringle, with whom I spent many happy hours in the woodwork shop; Harold McCready building his boat; George Gilliland with his enthusiasm; Frank Ellis with his quiet humour; George Willan who introduced me to local history; and Leslie Hargreaves with his Shakespearean presence.
Sammy Watson I didn't see, but as a first year student I valued his calmness and his stories. Which brings me back to my first impression of Birkenhead School, waiting outside the gate on Beresford Road and asking about the school motto - BEATI MVNDO CORDE. Then again, doing my first push-up on the path next to the school field close by the Chapel door, as we trained for school sports. There you can sit on the seat dedicated to Frank Ellis. I hope you feel the spirit of the School, just as I do.