Salve a tutti from your Edinburgh man in Oxford (Martin Millar 68-72). Aidan, I hope you’ll enjoy this post – hold fast. Eamon, keep it together. Mark keep up the good fight. Degs, thanks for keeping the blog going.
Frankie’s piece (The Start) made me smile as I thought about the people he shared the carriage with – boys that would become my good friends. I thought of the start of my own Mirfield adventure, standing on the platform in Waverley station with my tearful Mum, and wanting to get on the train and leave. I had strong reasons. This was my chance to escape.
What I was escaping is a subject for another occasion. I’m spending a dull afternoon at home getting over a cold and ignoring the pile of scripts I could be marking. One of the things to do when you’re bored and lacking the motivation to do very much else is blog. This website is nice and friendly and so far, troll-free, it would seem. Anyway, here’s a yarn from my days at Mirfield.
I reckon this must have been September, 1971. Russell was in charge. He had arrived in July, and I was living in the college on my own, having been given special permission to do so. (I had got myself a job as a wine waiter in The Three Nuns restaurant). Our paths hardly crossed and I was keen to stay out of his way, as he was known to hate long hair – a privilege that we had won after years of argument with Fraser and Hierons. On my afternoons off, I would sometimes go into the library to play the piano, and one day, a woman came in. She was a librarian and had been hired to sort the place out. After a few minutes of pleasant chat, Russell suddenly barged in and told me to get out and not to come back until I had a short back and sides. I can still remember the embarrassment, not just mine, but hers too. So off I went to the barber’s – a cool dude that we all liked, whose shop was on the edge of Mirfield, down Slipper Lane. So I was the first victim of the Wrath of Russell…..
A few days later, boys came back from the summer hols, and were all given the same message : haircut or expulsion. Ambrose Mulroy arrived very late. We were in the chapel for Mass and he came in, genuflected, and sat down near me. His hair was down to his shoulders. He could see from my face as well as the short hair on my head and everybody else’s, that something was up. As soon as Mass was over, and we were outside in the corridor, Russell’s stentorian voice bellowed out: “Mulroy! Get out and get a haircut or don’t come back”. We filed down to the refectory in stunned silence. Ambrose went off on his own just as it was starting to get dark.
The rest of us were thinking how the hell he was going to get a haircut at 8 o clock at night…
This what Ambrose told us the next day, his long locks gone, and his hands and face covered with scratches.
He had gone to the barber’s, knocked and knocked as loud and as long as it took. The barber emerged as if from what Ambrose read as coitus interruptus, dishevelled and mightily pissed-off. “Piss off!”
“I can’t! You have to give me a haircut or I’ll get kicked out!”.
The barber obliged, and Ambrose set off back to Roehead. Somewhere near the Secondary Modern, he came across a bunch of local yobs out for a bit of bovver. Ambrose fled for his life, jumping and vaulting over fences and putting enough distance between himself and his pursuers to think he was in the clear. He then got into even worse trouble when he ran into the drunks coming out of the Star. He turned tail and fled again praying that the Mirfield yobs had given up. Taking a risk, he dived for cover in the bushes near one of the lanes near the pub. The drunks had split up to search for him, knowing exactly where to block his escape back to the college. He lay there for several minutes and could hear them closing in. “Fookin counts, that lot. Fookin Irish and Scots coonts. A’s’l kick ‘is fookin ‘ead in”. One youth stopped directly over him. Ambrose told us how the drips of the guy’s urine slid down the leaves and how he had to use all of his powers of self-control not to stir, in spite of his revulsion.
Eventually, the yobs got bored and left. Ambrose picked himself up and stealthily made his way back to the college. We were all in bed and I think he had to ring the front door bell to get in. If my memory serves me right, I think It was one of the other fathers who let him in, and not Russell…..
We had already developed strategies to elude yobs, and we would continue to deploy these throughout our time at Mirfield as well as beyond. Russell’s tyranny was a new threat however and would prompt the development of creative resistance strategies….
And to finish, I want to make a request for other yarns.
At the April 2013 re-union, Degs and Mark told amazing stories about taming crows. I really want to see these told here.
With brotherly love to all.
Sent from my iPad
Thanks Martin for your post – an amazing story – fantastic.
Looking back, my taming of a crow was both a fascinating and memorable animal experience, and I am sure Kevin will narrate about his crow experience.
My crow was called Spike, I am not sure of the name of Kevin’s bird. Kevin took his home after Mirfield and it became more of a homing/pigeon crow – he has hilarious stories of his crow living in his house and travelling around with him on the handlebars of his pushbike.
I left left my crow at Mirfield. A couple of weeks before I left the college I trained Spike to forage for food on its own.
Martin will post as soon as I can . Hilarious story. Keep them coming . Frankie