Even Latin Masters could show their funny side when on stage at the school show.
Cowley boys school, St.Helens, later 1970s.
French lesson in progress, Crowley boys school 1977 or 1978. Unseen by the teacher I got out my Zenith E camera and took a few shots. The shutter was loud so I’m not sure how I managed to take more than one before the teacher noticed but there are two adjacent negatives rather than one.
I generally sat at the back of the class to avoid being noticed too much by the teachers. Not that I was up to no good, I just didnt think of myself as academic. Taking photographs seemed meaningful though my activities seemed not to really register with others. I’m glad I took the picture as I dont think there are many images of live classrooms from the period, true documentary.
A later documentary project of a Nottingham school allowed me to take similar images of a real life lessons in a private boys school but the difference was I was there as an outsider and conspicuous, here I was part of the scene.
Friday 21st April 1978, quite a busy day for me, shortly after taking the class pictures in the quad at Cowley boys school I photographed Ray French demonstrating rugby techniques. This was for a book he was writing on the subject.
Mr French was my English teacher (not to be confused with my French teacher who was Irish ). Before being a teacher Ray French was a top level rugby player (both codes) as well as subsequent work as a BBC radio commentator for the sport. He has a wikipedia page here.
Other pictures from this session were to be my first published work in book form, my only previous published work being a news item in the local paper.
Unofficial class photo made the day after we were given our O level exam timetable. One last bit of fun before we had to get serious. This is not my class, you can see that one which was taken first here: Form 5L You will notice that a few lads from form 5L have infiltrated the form 5W photo, this is the kind of thing that happens when you let a school boy take class pictures.
For some reason Cowley Boys school did not arrange class photos during the time I was there. This however was the period of punk and we did not need no official photographer to get the job done.
Form 5L, In one of the frames I’m holding my arm out to steady myself after running from setting the self timer on the Zenith E camera mounted on a tripod.
Team photos taken at Cowley Boys School in the mid to late 1970s.
It was sleeting as I took the pictures. As always I shot a few frames of each team so as to minimise the chance of anyone spoiling the shot by blinking or gesticulating.
Some forty years after taking these images I can recover a time element by animating between the three negatives, a highish definition black and white video of a time gone.
A separate image from another day and using the side of the quad rather than the steps.
Fellow Cowley pupil Robert Williams takes a photo as I record him and Victoria Park during a 6th form Photo Society outing in 1979.
Pilkingtons Glass was a major manufacturer based in the town and employed a whole lot of townsfolk in the factories dotted around.
Notes: this article has been updated to the correct year of 1980, originally I thought this was the Summer of 1979 but I was wrong! As new information arrives I will be updating details of other images also, if you have additional information then please contact me at email@example.com.
My first income from photography came from taking over the team photos at Cowley Boys School. I didnt charge very much, 50p bought a whole plate (8.5″x6.5″) print in black and white. Cheap even at the time this enabled me to buy short lengths of outdated film or chemicals for the darkroom.
Sleet added to the atmosphere in this shot. Of course I should really have followed a Masters advice and photographed the teams directly after a match – much less smiling!
Fellow Cowley Boys 5th form pupils play for one night only at the YMCA in St.Helens town centre in 1978. I was asked along to record the evening by Les Glover one of the singers.
Petrol were opening for another band and the hall started to fill up as they played. I had to use flash as it was so dark, manual cameras and slow film were the tools at hand and compromise had to come somewhere.
It would have been good to photograph the audience as well, perhaps a modern dSLR or mirrorless camera and a time machine would finish the job.