I started school at Wolverhampton Grammar School in 1973, moving from Rakegate Junior School having managed to pass the old Eleven-Plus examination. My brother David took a similar route to WGS but he had left the school prior to me walking through the doors.
I cannot claim to be the archetypal WGS pupil, leaving school in 1978 at age 16 with modest GCE O Level results, and I should add against the advice of my teachers, to begin a technical apprenticeship at Dowty Boulton Paul which included day release to attend college and study engineering. That decision did however prove to be the start of a very successful and ongoing business career which, looking back almost 40 years was without doubt aided by the time I spent and education I received at WGS from the age of 11 to 16.
I left Dowty Boulton Paul in 1983 and went to work for IMI Marston where I managed to work my way up to Director level before the division I worked for was sold to the U.S. public company, Chart Industries, in 1998. In 2005 I moved with my wife of 23 years at the time, Julie, now for the record 34 years and counting, and our two children to Houston, Texas, to take up a position as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Chart’s Energy & Chemicals group. I moved into a corporate role with Chart as Vice President of Strategy and Business Development in 2013, a position I held until January of this year when I left Chart to join my present company, Energy World as President of its U.S. operations.
What do you remember about your time at WGS?
Going back to 1973 when I started school at WGS I was arguably more interested in sport than academic work, representing the school at pretty much all of the sports we played back then including Football, Cricket and Fives. I also played the cornet in the school Brass Band.
I have fond memories of many school Football and Cricket matches. I remember wanting to be an opening batsman but getting stumped for a duck swinging wildly in my first time at the crease and hence being persuaded to turn to bowling which to be fair I was much better at. I used to open the bowling for the cricket team and my opening bowling partner was a left hander whose name unfortunately escapes me. The pair of us regularly restricted the opposition to a dozen runs or less after the first 10 overs of limited over matches, hard to imagine but true. I dabbled with cricket after leaving school but my real passion was football, going on to play semi-professional and local Sunday league football in the Wolverhampton area. I was still playing football (soccer!) here in Houston until I was 50 although the heat in Texas meant I wasn’t quite as quick as I used to be!
I also remember a small group of us at school playing a strategic board game set in the early 1900s before World War 1 called Diplomacy where individual players controlled the military forces of various countries. We used to negotiate secret alliances with each other and scribble down army and navy fleet moves on pieces of paper during classes, moves which were then read out and executed at break times. Games could last for weeks at a time. I actually still have the board game at home in Texas.
What made you return to WGS recently?
While I have always been quietly proud of my time at WGS and always managed a smile as I drove along Compton Road past the school, I did not actually return to the school after leaving in 1978 until a few weeks ago during a visit back to Wolverhampton to see friends and family. I really don’t know what made me go back, it started with me searching the web for WGS memorabilia, but I am so glad that I did. Walking through the doors of Big School after all these years and strolling around the school grounds with Katie Guest brought back so many happy memories. It is really only now at 54 years of age that I have a proper appreciation of how lucky I was to attend the school and the quality of education I received. As the saying goes, “you can’t put an old head on young shoulders.”
Much of the buildings, classrooms and the school grounds have remained unchanged and the buildings that have been added and other changes that have been made over the years have been completed in keeping with maintaining the proud history and traditions of the school.
In particular, and back to sport, I was so happy to see that the school still possesses Fives courts which I thought had been demolished, never to return, a few years ago. Some of my best and happiest memories of WGS was playing Fives and traveling long distances on a Saturday afternoon after football to play against the old public schools in England such as Eton, Harrow and City of London.
Looking back would you change anything?
Looking back, I don’t think I would change anything, my decision to leave school after sitting my O Levels, together with my meeting and marrying my wife Julie, proved the right one for me but I was probably lucky. I would certainly encourage all current students to make the most of their time at WGS and enjoy every minute because you while you don’t think it now, time flies, you will be my age before you know it and I hope you will look back at your time at the school as fondly as I do. I would also encourage parents considering sending their children to WGS to waste no more time, you could not be giving them a better start.
I could go on and on… So many happy memories and so many student and teacher names I remember, too many to list here, and even more names that I don’t recall. I would love to reconnect with anyone who remembers me and be reminded of the things I have forgotten.