Prompted by a feature in the Autumn 2014 edition of The Bugle, Gordon has shared his memories of Sergeant Hickey at Park Road:
Sgt William Hickey had a profound and lasting influence on me. Having been through the rigours of Beech House, I arrived at Park Road believing I know everything about the system. At seven years old I felt superior to these new boys and, as a direct result of this know-it-all attitude, I was constantly in trouble. I’m not sure if Bill Hickey saw me regularly ‘under the clock’ awaiting Bernard Harrison’s ministrations, or was fed up of hearing I’d received the slipper again from Mrs Cook, but he took a close interest in me, with a view to keeping me out of trouble. Perhaps he saw something worth saving.
I became his assistant biscuit seller at break and was given vital tasks at lunchtime – such as burning old exercise books or polishing brass door handles! – and all the time he was giving me words of advice and encouragement. This kept me on the straight and narrow through Park Road, but it didn’t stop there. In the Scouts, he arranged for me to take my Marksman badge at the Loyals Barracks (the first one awarded in the 19th Bolton) and whenever the Rugby Fifteen were playing on the Woodlands pitch, he would slip out of his flat in the big house and come and cheer us on. The ultimate accolade, however, was when he invited me to be one of the Senior boys at the Junior School camp at Grasmere – a responsibility I took very seriously and which I enjoyed doing on two occasions.
I’m convinced that this helping hand influenced my choice of career in the Army, which was rewarded with a modicum of success. From my teachers at Bolton School I received knowledge; from Bill Hickey I received wisdom.