“Where were you while we were in 1Y?”
Here yousens! Did youse bring a tennis ball? Baggsy not nets. That’s rare so it is.
It’s hard for me to believe that the above photo is 25 years old this week. It was taken on my first day at Bangor Grammar School, in August 1991 and it was taken by David Gherardi, my back door neighbour. I was 11 and life just seemed so easy back then. On this 25 year anniversary from that photo, it’s probably a good time to reflect and put this one to bed. I’m delighted to be featured in the Bangor Grammar School Annual Magazine this year, the Grammarian. Of that, I’m immensely proud now, I can’t share the article with you just yet but I look forward to it. But it wasn’t that simple a journey to get there and I feel it’s a good time to clear the air and reflect on this quarter century of years that have now passed. How the “ward park duck” did we get so old lads? (answers on an interim report card).
“Don’t tell me, it’s not worth trying for, you can’t tell me, it’s not worth dying for” – Bryan Adams. (it was number 1 single in UK the week we started)
In days gone by, I’ve expressed many times my hatred for the school. I admit that and I don’t condone or regret it. I didn’t enjoy my time at Bangor Grammar School, that’s the truth. I always consider myself to have had a horrible youth, a time that I didn’t aspire for anything. It took me to leave that school and head to Belvoir Tech in Belfast before I could really feel I was progressing in life. At Bangor Grammar, the infamous and notorious 1Y class was once dubbed “the worst class in the history of this school” (by Dominic at careers).
“Bangor Grammar took a load of smart people from Ballyholme and Kilmaine and turned them into wasters” – Ryan Smith.
But while we may have been portrayed as wasters back then, it seems we were the special ones. Oh look at us now lads…
- Stuart Leathem went on to produce music for Queen.
- Dougie Gordon completed all the world marathon majors (only the third male from Northern Ireland to do this).
- Paddy Campbell won a hat-trick of awards for his west end play, Wet House.
- Lucan Toh started a successful business in Dubai.
- Michael Whitford has ran campaigns raising awareness for cancer, on the BBC and in the London Metro.
- Scott Callen travelled the world then set up his own local business in Bangor.
- Jonny Blair backpacked through 135 countries, some of which don’t even exist.
“Search for the hero inside yourself” – M.People.
The bad stuff – that’s all in the past. In August 1991, I started in class 1Y. This was the first time in the school’s history that they had a “Y” class, ironic that when spoken it sounds like “why?” There were a huge amount of pupils at the time due to some kind of Bangor baby boom around 1979-1981. I was the last person to be added to that class. Just a week before school began, I didn’t know what school I was going to. I had been rejected by Sullivan Upper (in Holywood) and I had been accepted by Regent House (in Newtownards) but in the end I went to neither, and chose Bangor Grammar at the last minute. I made it in time for the photo shoot.
“Paddy and I are doing a fantasy league every week during Chemistry. Don’t tell Miles.” – Jonny Blair and Paddy Campbell.
I wasn’t going into the class alone – some of my classmates from Kilmaine Primary School were in my class! Andrew Boggs, Dougie Gordon and Scott Callen. Plus there was my neighbour David Gherardi. I also knew Craig McCune, Willy Dallas, Michael Whitford from hanging around Kilmaine. Plus we had a weekend trip to Ganaway just before school started and I met Neil Young, Chris Rowan and Ryan Kerr. “Big school” and the step up in life, began for me on a Northern Irish Thursday in 1991. It was an all boys school, something which I detest. I will never recommend single sex education anywhere. In many ways, it ruined my youth. Boys will be boys. Boys mess around. There were no girls to impress or to act mature around.
“Rhythm is a dancer” – Snap.
“40 minutes I am entitled to, and 40 minutes I shall have” – Linda Macklin.
I studied hard at Bangor Grammar, but I was never well behaved. I didn’t care much for the school’s pretentious over bearing rules. I once got a detention for eating an apple in a corridor, and for wearing a football shirt to P.E. (Physical Education). I kid you not. The school bore heavy rules down on us, rules that became too strict for most of us and some of us rebelled.
“Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old” – Kurt Cobain.
My upcoming book, Backpacking Centurion has three whole chapters on my time at Bangor Grammar School, some of these have been shared before. The popular “The Great Exam Heist” episode in particular had to make the book, and it cannot really be edited too much different from the blog post. They will tell some truths, but my upcoming feature in the Grammarian Magazine will close things nicely and in a positive way. In the long awaited book, this hat-trick will be my story:
Chapter 5 – The Great Exam Heist
Chapter 6 – Where Were You While We Were Getting High?
Chapter 7 – The OXI One
That is the three part BGS trilogy to come. Yes, I did hate the school at the time, but it was teenage angst. I’m at ease with it finally and all is forgiven. I grew older and wiser and I don’t regret my time at Bangor Grammar School any more. They were decent memories and I thank the school for them and for the chance to appear in the annual magazine. Having also appeared in the Bournemouth University magazine and website as a former graduate, this completes a nice double for me. I guess the dream treble would be if Kilmaine Primary School came knocking on my door one day.
“Rowan where’s yer homework?” – Bummer.
Roll call for one last time lads? I’ll start, I always did…
Campbell (joined in 1992, left in 1994)
Leathem (left in 1992)
*Paddy Campbell to turn up doing a backflip whilst flicking snots at the blackboard.
Accepted nicknames – Whitty, Holmesy, Ecce, Nidge, Teddy, Snowball, Pamps, Tompo, Spliff, Rank, Boggsy.
“66” – Noel Gillespie, commenting on the last time England won the World Cup.
In the past few years I have met up with Ryan Smith, Scott Callen, Paddy Campbell, Dougie Gordon, Michael Whitford, Colin Walker, Lucan Toh, Mark Holmes, Alan Thompson, Colin Palmer and Stuart Leathem. I saw Michael Robinson in 2007 in London, and Rick Willis briefly at a funeral in 2015. The others, I haven’t seen since the 1990s. Tompo, Palmer and I all met at the Euro 2016 Finals in France which was a nice touch. Can someone share this with McKittrick? Good lad was McKittrick.
Cheers lads – happy 25 years – the original and only ONE WHY (1Y). The school never named a class before or after us, that again…
Keep er lit. And I mean yer bunsen burners.
“Trapezium” – Paddy Campbell. #greatexamheist