Pardshaw Past and Present
It was November 1971. Leighton Park (LP) was a vibrant boarding school for boys, with a radical curriculum. I’d just arrived, aged 24, hot foot from 3 years in East Africa. Whereas normal schools did O levels in June of the fifth form (now Y11), LP got O levels out of the way in November – then, quite interesting things in the spring and summer. But what about December? For a dozen, Pardshaw, with me.
Dennis Secker, from Cockermouth, was a ‘Head of House’ (senior prefect). And somehow, I had met J Bernard Bradbury, who had a strong concern about putting Pardshaw to use. I think it was Bernard who fixed up with social services for us to do some decorating at the home of an elderly lady in Workington – we did that each day for a week. Usually, half the lads sat by the coal fire with the lady, who regaled them with tales of bygone days. They bought her a pot plant at the end of the week and the headmaster, subsequently, got a nice letter from social services.
We were billeted in the building on the west side of the road at Pardshaw. Lads slept in the room on the south side, I was in the room at the other end. There was a fireplace in the buildings across the road (a room with a lot of very old and possibly valuable Quaker books). I bought a bag of coal and we lit a fire in the evening. There was just one sink, OK for food making and cleaning teeth, a bit awkward for anything more. Seckers to the rescue! Wednesday evening, we joined Friends in worship for half an hour at Cockermouth MH. Then to the Seckers’ lovely house, Cocker Brows overlooking the river, for baths and dinner. Mrs Secker, very active in the Meeting, was an excellent hostess. Dr Secker was chief executive of the detergent works (Albright & Wilson) at Whitehaven – he entertained us with tales of ‘the things you have to do if you’re a chief executive’. One anecdote was ‘flowers for Mrs Robinson’; LP boys were always interested in that kind of thing.
Altogether a good time had by all, and a good learning experience.
J Bernard Bradbury was head of maths at Cockermouth School. I had occasion to go there five years ago and I was delighted to find that he is very well remembered by older colleagues who remain on the staff – the head of English happily recalled being taught by him. Bernard, and Pardshaw, are well remembered by me too.
Jim Bennetts, Yealand Meeting, June 2019