That's not what Bob Birrell told us

BBC: Carbon dioxide continues its rise

…And helium continues its sink, presumably.

Note: In case you were wondering, Bob Birrell was my chemistry teacher. He was also North of England Champion 120-yards hurdler (1960—62, 64, 66—69), and reached the quarter finals of the 110 metres hurdles in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, which he ran in 14.82s.

Filed under: Nonsense

By Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. It seems he also won the NoE 220yd hurdles in 1961 too. What a guy.

  2. He never taught me, but he was a very modest man and it was some years after I started at BS that I even found out he'd been in the Olympics. I was just "googling" him when I found your comment.

    Pete Scurfield was the big star, North of England RU scrum half - "Sir" was on telly!!!

    (Yes I know headmaster Gwilliam was Welsh RU captain, but he was so universally detested nobody cared about the sanctimonious p****)

  3. Just found by accident (how else?) this comment relating to Birkenhead School. I suffered 1966-73. I have some reminiscences regarding Pete Scurfield, Jock Austin, Pig Homan, Fat George Gilliland et al. I'll happily send them for your possible amusement.

    Beati mundo corde

  4. Scurfield was before my time, but I remember all the others—although we referred to ‘Fat George Gilliland’ as ‘Big G’.

  5. Likewise I was BS. KDR left and then we suffered Gwilliam. Despite him being a sanctimonious insufferable, he did lead Wales to a famous win over the All Blacks and two Grand Slams. He has recently been added to the Wales Hall of Fame. I expect he was influential in appointing Pete Scurfield, who was best mates with the great Gerald Davies. They played together at Loughborough.

  6. 65-72
    Bob Birrel was a really nice guy and was really good when we had to stay on for the first two terms of the third year sixth before going off to uni (chemistry was my thing back then) - he made two terms of post A-level interesting and was always very kind to me.
    Didn't know that about Pete Scurfield, playing at that level of rugby - I've probably forgotten. But wasn't too unhappy when he left.
    Yep, "Pig" Homan (and the chaplain at that).
    We just called him "Belly" - guess who - got slippered by him for talking in class.
    Jock Austin - decent chap but not very inspiring.
    Fran Ellis was a bit odd but certainly had a sense of humour.
    And Clive Hunt managed to keep his hair longish despite what Gwilliam demanded of us - no doubt some of you know what we called Gwilliam - the worst of the nicknames by far, though Clive's rhyming slang nickname was pretty bad - but he was a good guy and I wrote to him a decade or so ago and received a nice letter back.
    Arthur Green - "four legs good, two legs bad" in chalk at the top of his blackboard, referring to us not swinging back on our chairs.
    Rankin made most of us terrified of science periods in the junior school - not a nice guy.
    Rigby (maths - can't remember his first name) was just out of uni but inspiring and a nice chap too.
    Eddie O'Hara - nice guy who left and became an MP.
    "Squish" (can't remember his real name)
    Dave Haig (Belly's sidekick) - my Dad taught him German at Liverpool Collegiate School - so I guess that's why he took it out on me when I was caught taking a short cut on a cross country run in the middle of winter! Had to write an essay on "Honesty", which he just threw in the bin when I handed it to him.
    And the rest of them - Freddy Wakelin, The Rev Smailes, Tom Jackson, Mike Harrison, etc - what a mixture - and often stressful.

  7. A few named there I don’t remember, and quite a few I’d forgotten. ‘Squish’ was McCready, if memory serves. My favourite Arthur Green memory was his response to some implausible excuse from a boy who hadn’t done his ‘prep’: “Bollocks, lad!” He also used to re-enact shooting machine guns at Germans during the war.

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