In giving this account of my activities since coming to Crossleys, I wonder if I can claim the rather dubious record for the longest time between leaving school and joining the Old Crossleyans Association – 66 years! But better late than never.
My association with Crossleys goes back a long time. My father came to the school as an orphan, aged five, when his father died in 1888. After getting his BSc, he returned to Crossleys to teach chemistry. It was here he met my mother, who was teaching in the prep school. They were married in 1931 and the clock given to them as a wedding present is now on my mantelpiece with the inscription ‘Presented to WA Rucklidge MSc on the occasion of his marriage, by his colleagues and the boys of The Crossley School as a token of their affection and esteem’. A marriage between two members of staff must have caused a lot of gossip at that time, as it still did when my French teacher, Mr Clegg, married his counterpart at the girls’ school.
My primary education was at the preparatory part of Heath Grammar School, then bitter rivals with Crossleys. In 1943 I moved to Crossleys, where the Head was ‘Egg’ Bolton. I was put in Spartans house, the other houses being Trojans, Vikings and Paladins, names chosen by the previous Head, Mr Newport, who had been a classicist. My main interest at school was in the Scout group, led by ‘Jerry’ Margerison, with its base in the cellars. A small group of us – John Hollin, Neville Sykes, Len Shackleton and Douglas Kemp are names I remember – were very active. As well as the summer camps at Appletreewick, we would go trekking, climbing and caving in the Dales. We also climbed nearer home, on the ‘Rocks’ where we pioneered climbs that are in the Yorkshire Gritstone guidebook under ‘Woodhouse Scar’. We climbed even nearer home, on all the turrets of the school but never managed the clock tower! At that time the boys’ and girls’ schools were quite separate, with Miss Richardson being Head of the girls. There were the occasional joint classes in certain subjects but fraternising was discouraged – not very successfully!
In 1949 my father retired and we moved to Carlisle. Two years at Carlisle Grammar School was followed by four years at Pembroke College, Oxford reading medicine. At Oxford I resumed my friendship with John Hollin and we went climbing in the Alps and on two expeditions to the Arctic together. From Oxford I moved to London, to complete my medical training, then to Cambridge, where I met Margaret – my future wife. This was followed by three years working at the hospital in Hobart, Tasmania. One of the reasons for going to Australia had been the idea of driving back to the UK and this we did in 1963, in a specially prepared Land Rover, first driving all round Australia, then a boat to Singapore, another boat to Calcutta, then road all the way to the UK. It took nine months, a great adventure.
Back home I needed a job, so went into General Practice in Penrith. I found I wasn’t temperamentally suited to being a GP, so went back to Oxford to train in Anaesthesia and came to Lancaster as a Consultant in 1972. This turned out to be very satisfying work and a good place to raise our family of four children, now all with children of their own, giving us nine grandchildren.
I kept in touch with John Hollin until he died last year and Eric Pratt has given me some information on my contemporaries. I would like to resume contact with Crossleys and would welcome news from anyone who knew me and perhaps meet some at this year’s reunion.