• Keith Dersley

Four of Us Got Through

Updated: Nov 10, 2019

Along with two boys and one girl I was found eligible to attend Northgate Grammar School, amongst the 1961 intake.


Ron, Dave, and I got the school bus to Sidegate Lane one day in our black blazers, with new satchels, running shorts with name labels, and white plimsolls in our black slipper bags embroidered in red.


Yes, we went on to Northgate with the other pupils from the area round about, some new recruits, like us, some ‘old hands’. I don’t know about Ron or Dave but I was scared. I didn’t really want to go. My best friend, Chickie, was going to Landseer Road. (We drifted apart, briefly reuniting for chats four or five years later, when #BobDylan was the rage.)


Ron, who came top in practically every test at primary school, soon proved not to be particularly interested in studying. He ended up leaving school at sixteen to do accountancy. He was the only one of us who made it. He is now a millionaire, albeit not out of acting or music, which is where his aspirations lay early on. Ron was a fantastic guitarist, out of the fast-picking, notation-reading school of #BertWeedon and the Shadows. (#Hendrix, when he came along, was regarded by Ron as shite.)


Ron left school early to take up accountancy. He started a couple of small businesses and could of course do his own bookkeeping. The result: he made a fortune out of refrigerators and other 'white goods'.


Dave was also usually marked low in exams at Northgate. He didn't make it into the sixth form either. I lost track of him and met him some years later. Dave had been a timid soul at school and when I met him thirty years later I was surprised to be confronted by a towering shaven-headed fellow. I think though he was still as shy as ever. Under the tough exterior beat the heart of that fair-haired schoolmate with glasses.


I met him at a newly-started singles club. His wife had just left him and he had custody of the kids. He was upset because on top of everything else he had just lost his job. I told him that Ron Keeley was now a millionaire.


'He might be able to do something for you,' I said, jokingly.


I heard later that he had contacted Ron, who offered him a job on the spot. Whether he took it, I never found out.


Of the four of us who qualified for Northgate that year, the girl, Rosemary Sharpe, was the one with real academic ability. Rosemary was a plump, quiet earth mother of eleven. You were hardly aware that she was in the class but she turned out clever stories and essays that were often read out to the rest of us. She talked to the teachers almost as if she were one of them.


She passed, of course she passed, but she wasn't particularly interested in going to Northgate. Our teacher and the headmaster tried to intervene with Rosemary and her parents to get her to go. But it didn't seem to matter to Rosemary. Besides, her parents were worried about having to provide a uniform for her. If she went to the Secondary Modern school she could just wear her normal clothes.


All of the other 26-odd pupils in our class who 'failed' the Eleven Plus I lost track of over the years.


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