The Gateshead senior high school where I was educated was demolished a couple of decades ago. I’m assured it’s nothing to do with my attendance there and the hate mail’s abated, but the self-doubt still lingers.
The school’s penchant for turning out top level professional footballers, a world renowned orchestra leader and an international rugby player insufficient to save it’s fate at the hands of a demolition ball. It’s once hallowed ground now the domain of residential housing.
On the day of it destruction, this alma mater basked in the glory of being the ‘finishing school’ for ex England footballers Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne, Steve Stone, Proms conductor John Wilson, former Leeds United footballer Neil Aspin and ex Scottish international rugby lock Alan Tomes.
I’m pretty sure Heathfield will’ve educated many other people who’ve enjoyed stellar careers in a variety of fields. However, a combination of my ignorance and lacklustre research mean I’m unable to furnish you with those names at this juncture.
Personally, I’ve aspirations of one day creating prose that’ll jettison me into the top 100 of famous Heathfield ex-pupils. Yours truly’s creatively fertile mind producing a literary effort my old English teacher Mrs Evans would’ve deemed worthy of an A+ grading. Locutions that see me replace another ex-pupil Micky Mackerson at number 100 in the schools most lauded list.
Micky the science geek who in the late 1970’s, from his dad’s shed at their home in Frome Gardens, made his name as inventor of infra-red peanuts. Sadly for Mackerson his epiphany was too niche to catch on with the UK’s discerning snack lovers, with only cinema goers and coal miners showing any real interest in the product. To further add salt to the Low Fell lad’s wound the early 1980’s saw a mass closure of cinemas and mines countrywide, diminishing his market further.
Whether I usurp Micky’s achievements and find commercial success with my one true love remains to be seen. Incidentally, my one true love is writing, not Helen Mortbrush. A lass who lived on Cromer Avenue for whom I had a schooldays crush. Sadly, though, this fondness wasn’t reciprocated, eventually leading to the first of many restraining orders.
To be honest, I hold greater existential ambitions than merely overtaking Micky Mackerson at number 100 in the Heathfield ex-pupils ‘done good’ list. If truth be told I’m aiming for at the very minimum securing position 75. A hierarchical position currently held by Lottie Cruickshank; a lass who lived on Saltwell Road South when she attended the same alma mater as GJ Strachan.
Lottie rose through the ranks of my old school’s ‘most famous’ list in the mid 1970’s after her name was read out on Saturday morning TV. This moment in the sun following her knitting of a letter to kids show Multi Coloured Swap Shop; upon which she advertised her desire to swap a ball of wool in return for notepaper and a pen.
Although only fleeting, Miss Cruickshank’s fame led to a mention in the local Gateshead Post newspaper, along with several orders to supply Swap Shop presenter Noel Edmonds with kaleidoscopic woollen sweaters.
Just behind Lottie at number 76 in the top 100 list is esteemed QC Andrew Grown-Tall. He a former pupil who, despite only attaining GCSE’s in Advanced Brevity and Origami, rose through the ranks of barrister’s firm Haddaway & Ballacks to reach the lofty legal perch of Queens Council.
Anyhow, with regards attending Heathfield Senior High School, my memories are like the unreliable visions of Mr Magoo – Vague, with sporadic visions of lunchtime sandwiches from The Griddle on Low Fell .
I remember one of my best mates at that juncture was a lad called Philip Old. Nicknamed Ossie, he was a happy-go-lucky scamp who regularly wore a mischievous grin and held career aspirations of becoming an arsonist, or a train driver – Depending on which path provided the best perks.
It was Ossie who taught me “The bigger the lie, the bigger the bollocking you’ll get from your mother!”….. Actually, thinking about it, it was my mam who taught me that!
If I ever watch director Ken Loach’s movie Kes, set slightly before my attendance at Heathfield, I always think of the school I left in summer 1979. This departure as a 16 year old my cue to embark on a directionless career odyssey. One where, much to my regret, I foolishly didn’t play to my strengths; resulting in deeply ingrained unfulfilment.
The comparison made between the northern English comprehensive school in Loach’s kitchen sink drama and my old alma mater is a consequence of similarities in both education establishment’s aesthetics. Billy Fisher’s school’s 1960s linear design and huge metal framed windows taking me back to my Gateshead schooldays of the late 1970’s
As is the want of many educational establishments, I don’t recall whether Heathfield Senior High School had a coat of arms with an inspirational latin quote. However, if I had to create one it’d be:- ‘Consequi, Servate, Meministis’.
‘Achieve, Fulfil, Remember’……. or alternatively, but less inspirationally, ‘Eat, Lunch, At The Griddle’.