Bolton School Former Pupils
Martin Wadsworth (BD Staff, 1974 - 2015)
Martin Wadsworth’s connection to the Boys’ Division stretches back almost fifty years, during which time he has been involved with a myriad of activities both academic and extracurricular. Here, he share some of his memories from his almost half-century at School with us.
"I joined Bolton School as a callow, long-haired 21-year-old in September 1974 as an Assistant Master - as the phrase then was - teaching Economics; ability to offer Mathematics or Geography and an interest in games or Scouting were also mentioned on the advert. It turned out I would teach Economics for over 30 years, including time as Head of Department, dabbling in Maths and Geography and with regular offerings to the General Studies/Minority Time programmes in their many guises. As a single man, I certainly fulfilled the prescience of a colleague, probably my Head of Department for 20 some years, the iconic Robin Mathieson, who said “watch out, you’ll end up married to the place”. Despite some rocky patches, that union has endured past its Ruby celebrations!
Master i/c Cautley was my first post of responsibility (1978-1982) – Cautley (a former vicarage east of Sedbergh), being our first centre for Outdoor Pursuits, mostly used for form weekend trips - one of many links to boys outside the narrow confines of a minority A level subject. Having a passion for sports without any real skill or ability, after Cautley I nevertheless became Games Master, a Head of Department job responsible for all Games lessons and representative school teams, which I held from 1982 to 1991, remaining as Master i/c Cricket until 2002. This role meant that every boy in school was in my department for his whole career – be it football, cricket, rugby (expanded in my time), or reborn water polo.
Against the background of independent day schools becoming more professional and serious about sport, the amateur non-specialists like me were disappearing. The advent of Business Studies at AS then A level in the 1990s meant I could move from Games to an expanded Economics and Business Studies department, including as Head of Business Studies for a few years. During that time, I introduced a residential Lower Sixth course at Patterdale with the Understanding Industry organisation. Loving word play. I called it Get Out Of That – what can the nascent Sixth Former get out of that ‘sort’ of course?; plus, in cold, dark November, a chance to ‘get out of that’ oppressing School building and its academic confines. Get Out Of That was a flagship in the 1990s for such courses bringing the real world of industry and business into the academic lives of independent school sixth forms, and the BEST courses still run by School today are the offspring of the scheme.
Earlier generations’ hopefully fondest memories of me will be via two goliaths of what was once called the Camps and Journeys programme. Firstly, the Saundersfoot trip, for boys at the end of their second Senior School year, with which I was involved from 1975-2017 and led for around ten of those years. That traditional school camping holiday in the Pembrokeshire countryside at the end of the school year was a joy for the most part, despite the periods of wild Welsh weather that made for several soggy spells! The campfire was always a highlight with monologues, sketches and songs by boys and staff – my favourite being the nominal story in which we worked every boy’s surname into a mad tale of derring do … names like Smith, Moore and Cutler were easy; Gallagher, Skeels-Caldwell and twins Yearsley less so!
The second was, of course, the Trek Camp, where I acted as lieutenant to Alan Prince, who had taken over from the legendary Clifford Ingham. Treks made for new experiences of freedoms and responsibilities, culture and camaraderie, architecture and - it can be said now surely - alcohol. This was largely before teenagers went off abroad adultless, and was the Bolton School version of undergraduate vacation; the staff guided - but loosely! With four or five stops per trek on a rota round Europe and surrounding countries, we saw plenty of local culture, immersed ourselves in local custom and ate and drank the local fare. It was a holiday, but with so many extras.
Over well-nigh three decades, I aided AMP in leading maybe a thousand boys for around three weeks of the summer holidays, camping in Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor. If pushed, this was perhaps where my part in providing Bolton School education was at its richest. Highlights are too many to list but include visits to Prague - from communist capital on the first visit to stag do capital on our last, and Malia - from locals and trekkers on donkeys at first to quad bikes on the last. Trek boxes, trips in trains, boats, planes, coaches, vans, vaporetti, taxis, police vehicles … and sights providing indelible memories: Evora’s Chapel of Bones, the view over the town from the Florentine campsite, arriving and leaving Venice by boat or ferry, Santorini’s volcanic black sand for a bed, Tangiers’ camels, Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, Auschwitz and every visible opening on the Tower of Pisa filled with a Boltonian singing and acting Heads and Shoulders, Knees and Toes!
Yet despite these joys, as with many marriages, things can go sour. In 2002, the increased number of A level students and sets, changing exam demands, and a desire to continue, at 50, to do all these afore-mentioned extra-curricular activities, better suited to a much younger man, brought on the stress and depression which eventually saw me take early retirement from teaching in 2006.
A new chapter opened, however, as school offered me a chance to become a Sergeant. Brian and Barry were retiring and Bob Saunders, a school coach driver, and I both knew school very well in our different ways; so it was that I left teaching on 31 August 2006 and became a Sergeant the following day!
During this period, I was able to develop the role of Sports Host, meeting and greeting on Wednesdays and Saturdays and continuing as House Activities supremo. The Lyde Cup - the prize for the winning House - had been purely sport based from its inception and fell into disrepute by the eighties. I led the introduction of House Days - when all curriculum lessons stopped and every boy could take part in up to four differing events, including competitions in creative subjects such as Art, Technology, Music, as well as in the full range of school sport. This innovation – which brings the whole School together as far as is possible - is one of my proudest contributions to BSBD life, whilst the termly speeches in assembly announcing results and cup winners were a joy to write and present.
Sergeanting changed as new regimes in Central Services emerged, and with the signs showing that stress levels were again rising, I left after five fine years, with a whole generation of boys and parents knowing me as Serge, not Sir. I continued as House Co-ordinator and Sports Host until Summer 2015 although, with the feeling that the dear old place will never rid itself of me, I remain on the books to help on Senior Cricket match days.
I am told all marriages have their ups and downs, and their highs and lows. As I trundle on to a possible Golden anniversary, I see Robin’s early assessment not so much a warning, as a promise of a life-long loving relationship fulfilled."