First weeks at Salford Grammar School - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

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First weeks at Salford Grammar School

We moved to No 15 Murray Street, Salford 7, on Wednesday 19 April 1950 and a week later, once the Easter hols were over, I started at my third grammar school in 30 months. Salford Grammar School (SGS) - the old school, now demolished - had been on the Leaf Square site since about 1914 and was quite a comedown after Roundhay Grammar School. The buildings were very old and dilapidated and the school had fewer staff and pupils than Roundhay. I soon learned, however, that the staff were better than at Roundhay - in my opinion anyway. Although I didn't know it immediately, my arrival at SGS was when my aspirations to a career in music really started to take off. The school timetable included proper music lessons, not just singing. The Music Master was Mr Taylor, B Mus FRCO, fondly nicknamed 'Tink' because every Friday immediately after morning assembly Mr Taylor used to give the whole school a short recital lasting about 10 minutes. He was a really excellent pianist. I found the recitals most enjoyable and Mr Taylor quickly cottoned on to my interest.

I started spending at least an hour most evenings practising my violin - still self-taught four years after the violin had been given to me back in 1946. I immediately wanted to join the School Orchestra and, after a brief audition, I was invited to join. I noted in my diary that, "We were not very good but I was by no means the worst violin player!" On 19 May, barely three weeks after starting at SGS, my diary records that: "Mr Huddard came to school just to listen to me playing". I can only imagine that Mr Taylor must have arranged this. Thereafter Mr Huddard gave me an occasional free violin lesson at school after hours but I had to tell him that my parents could not afford to pay for any lessons. I was very grateful for the occasional free lessons but embarrassed; I didn't like to accept what I considered to be charity. (Only in October 2014 did I learn that William Huddard was with the Hallé Orchestra when I first met him; he was their sub-principal viola and, as such, he almost certainly commanded a considerable fee for private lessons.)

This is my first end-of-term report from Salford Grammar School

From the start of 1950 I had started writing my daily diary pieces in various notebooks and sundry exercise books which allowed me to write as much as necessary every day instead of being constrained by the very limited space in the Schoolboys' leather-covered diaries. The things I wrote about were mainly concerned with what we had to eat, what I had done at school, and what we listened to on the wireless at home. As the year progressed I started including news snippets and eventually longer items about current affairs. Here are a few, unedited, extracts from early October 1950.

Friday 6 October 1950
. Today was a rather uninteresting day as I was still off school, with a cold, and was left in the house on my own for most of the day. In the early afternoon I heard the last part of the Midday Prom (it's on every Friday). The bit I heard was by Aaron Copland - "El Salon Mexico" - or something like that.  I had never heard of Copland but it was an intriguing piece of music - very jazzy. Later I explored the short wave. I heard a lute recital from Radio Switzerland, which was very nice until it faded out on me! I found Radio Moscow very clearly on two different channels but they were going on about Moscow did this and Moscow did that - so I moved on. I listened to an orchestral concert on the BBC at 3.45pm and heard Haydn's Symphony No 76 in E flat and part of Rimsky-Korsakov's Piano Concerto in C sharp minor. Every time I hear Rimsky-Korsakov mentioned on the wireless I think back a few years to when Wilfred Pickles in the BBC quiz programme Have a Go referred to "The Bum of the Flightful Bee by Rip-your-corsets-off!" Very crude of him but it got a lot of laughs from the audience. Before the concert ended Kathleen came in from school and wanted to listen to Mrs Dale's Diary on the wireless. Ugh! On Children's Hour at 5.15pm it was episode one of Biggles Hunts Big Game.

Sunday 8 October 1950
. What a day! The weather looked promising so I set off early for a bike ride. I was only out for about an hour but when I stopped at the bottom of our street to fill in my route log I almost fainted. I felt that dizzy and sick. I pushed the bike up the street to our house and then staggered through to the kitchen where Mam got me into a chair and revived me with a cold flannel. Poor Mam! What a shock I must have given her.

Monday 9 October 1950
. I didn't go to school today after yesterday's incident. In Korea the first American troops crossed the 38th Parallel while the south Korean troops were battling for Wonsan. In the evening I had developed a bad headache and was feeling very sick so Mam took me to the doctor's. After a very long wait the doctor arrived - we were second in the queue. He said I had better have the rest of the week off school and he gave me a prescription for some medicine and some nose drops.

Tuesday 10 October 1950
. The south Korean troops captured Wonsan and the Americans crossed the 38th Parallel in force. In the afternoon I started writing "Mystery at Walkden Manor"*. I only managed 12 pages today - I wonder if I'll ever finish it? In Family Favourites the Hallelujah Chorus (Sargent's Huddersfield version of course!) was followed by Bing singing "Have I told you lately that I love you?" and then Flanagan and Allen singing "Underneath the Arches". What a weird collection!!! NB When I wrote those 3 exclamation marks I recalled how at Christ Church School when I was only about 6 years old I was told by the teacher that you should always write a ? at the end of a question and I asked the teacher if you had to put a ? at the end of the answer as well. I can't remember what she said.

*2013 Afterthought:  I regularly used to cycle around the villages of Walkden, Worsley, Eccles and others either side of the A580 East Lancashire Road in 1950-3. My friends and I often raced along what we called simply "the East Lancs" - there was very little traffic in those days, so it was quite safe. There was a series of roundabouts between Salford and Liverpool and we used to compare notes to see which roundabout we had reached on a particular day. I have no idea what the plot of my 1950 story was. I don't remember whether or not there was a Walkden Manor but these days there is one and it is a Care Home.

Above: This was my very scrappy diary entry for 01 January 1951.

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