Stuart Taylor Letter

From: Stuart Letter (1981 -Fire).
To: COBA Webmaster
Subject: Memories and the FIRE.

Dear Webby,

Good afternoon,

I attended LCC from 1981 until its demise. I honestly can't say I look back on those days with any sort of fondness and for the most part I have tried my best to rid myself of all memory. The school was not the great institution it once was. There was an element present at the school, who were hell bent on making other boys lives a misery, simply because they could string a sentence together, or read a passage from a book without need to run your finger along the text and "sound out" the words. Sad days indeed. That element, would destroy school property for no reason other than to be destructive. The fire doors at the ends of the ground floor corridors, and the ones at the bottom of the end stairs would often be padlocked an chained, to stop the unruly boy from escaping. Which did not work, because they would simply stride out of the front door, two finger salute and all.

Leonard Rossiter visited the school when i was in my second year. I was summoned to the principals study by the vice principal (Mr. Morris), where I was instructed (by Mr. Ellis Clarke) that I would be presenting Leonard Rossiter with a bunch of flowers, on stage in the great hall, before he addressed the school. There was to be much pomp and circumstance, including singing of the school song, for which we practised every morning in the leading weeks. On the day, the school was assembled in the hall, and Iwas prompted to walk up on stage and hand over the bunch of flowers that was almost as big as me. Leonard Rossiter looked me straight in the eyes and said, "what am I supposed to do with those?". He didn't even stretch out an arm to receive them. Before I could mumble anything, I was shuffled off stage, and hissed at by the VP to "just put them over there". I was never a fan of 'Rising Damp', I was too young. However that encounter left me with no doubt about the character of the man.

The Fire.


Little has been written about the fire, however I have read stories that suggest the fire was due to an electrical fault. The school underwent a complete electric rewire from 1981, that seemed to last 3 years. With hindsight and industrial experience, i'm sure it was a pig of a job and it probably cost at least £100,000 back then. Every classroom, hallway, stairwell was rewired. Accomplished by running large trunking high up on the wall, and dropping down to new steel clad sockets, light fittings and light switches all via steel conduit. As an aside, the electricians would often leave clippings of 2.5mm insulated "singles" that were U shaped, from the wires having to be drawn through the conduit. These U shaped clippings were collected by a small number of boys, who used them, coupled with an elastic band as high speed projectiles.

Not only was the school now electrically safe. It was also fitted with a new electronic fire alarm, with smoke and heat sensors, as well as "break glass" call points placed at strategic points by the fire doors at the end of each corridor by the fire doors. This was further bolstered by new fire extinguishes also being placed by the call points.

Sadly it was not uncommon to walk past a fire extinguisher to see it was squirting its contents all over the floor. It was too easy for a boy to strike the big red knob with his fist as he went past. It almost became a sport.

The new break glass points, were constantly being smashed, and the alarm being set off. I could not tell you how many times we would have to evacuate in a week. The alarm would sound at least once a day. Usually as boys were moving from one class to another, but increasingly during lessons, even during assembly. By the time the whole school had evacuated and assembled in the yard and been accounted for, then led back in (and if you were lucky, your classroom was on the ground floor) a lesson would be pretty much over. Rain or shine, morning or afternoon, the alarm would sound. Slowly the number of working break glass call points reduced, as the glass wasn't replaced. Some teachers became ambivalent to the alarms, and we would be told to "stay seated" until another teacher would come along a few minutes later and say we must evacuate. Often the fire brigade would attend and find nothing, which I believe resulted in a charge.

The Blaze:

On the day of the fire itself, I was off sick. A fellow classmate phoned me at home, he was ecstatic with the news that the school was on fire, and he had witnessed firefighters being pushed back by the heat and smoke. Sure enough pictures of the school well ablaze were shown on the local news that night.

He recalled what had happened. He had been in class, and one boy was being disruptive, so he was sent out of the class, and told to stand outside in the corridor (a common practice at the time).

The fire alarm sounded, and the teacher in question told everyone to ignore it. The alarm was silenced. A few moments later the boy outside could be heard shouting to someone down the corridor. The boy then knocked on the door, and popped his head round and said "excuse me sir, i think the schools on fire". The class erupted and the teacher shouted everyone to settle down, while he went to investigate. While the teacher went away, the boy who had been outside told the class how he had seen smoke coming through the fire doors from the central stairs, and he and another boy who had also been sent out of class at the opposite end of the corridor, thought it might be serious.
The teacher returned and confirmed the school was on fire, and that everyone should leave. The boy who had been outside the class asked if the teacher if he could set off the fire alarm and the teacher said yes. Try as he might, the alarm would not sound. The teacher grabbed two fire extinguishers and ran towards the central staircase and the fire. Neither extinguisher worked.

The fact that nobody in particular Taffy Edwards, who risked his life by checking the central stairs, because boys were being direct towards the fire, died in that fire is, frankly a miracle.

The alarm had been abused and misused so often, it became an electronic "boy who cried wolf". The extinguishers were empty, and the call points disabled, fire doors damaged and or padlocked.

The idea that the fire that started under the stage in the hall was due to an electrical fault, is preposterous. Having surveyed the damage myself in the following days, I didn't see any evidence to suggest that the fire had been electrical. I remember clearly the room underneath the stage, being completely crammed with old props, lighting, scenery and drop cloths. A reminder of the days when there was an active theatrical company within the school. All of that detritus, including the completely knackered piano was launched off the fire escape and into the large metal "wheelie" bins. I know, as I helped launch much of it. Therefore there was nothing under the stage to catch fire, it was clean. There was nothing electrical under the stage to cause the fire, that hadn't been

But, if the fire was the result of an electrical fault, then the company that was responsible for the electrical installation would have been liable. I don't believe any case was ever brought against the company involved.

The school was open for a short period of time, before being shuttered. During that time pupils and staff alike took hacksaws from the metal work classrooms and removed the dogs and lions from the handrails to keep as souvenirs. I know this because I visited a friend once, and on his mantle piece was one of the dogs.

And finally.

My geography teacher was Mr John Windever. A very large gentleman, who had a kettle in class, which he kept to make tea or coffee for himself during the lesson. He wouldn't tolerate any nonsense, and shouted a fair amount. I found geography to be really quite dull. The lessons just required us to be quiet, not ask questions and copy text and diagrams out of a textbook into our own exercise books. A fantastic teaching style, i'm sure.

After the fire I moved to Quarry Bank (or Calderstones Comprehensive as it had been renamed). It was very, very different, and it had girls! Life was great.

One day I heard a voice shout "you boy!" and I looked up to see Mr Windever coming towards me! He too had transferred to Quarry Bank, post fire. I remember he asked me "what do you think of the place" and i told him i was really enjoying it (the facilities were much better). His response was an eye opener for me. He gushed about the new school for 5 minutes, he loved the place. There was this shouty, grumpy guy, who made our lives a misery, now seemingly revitalised by the transfer, and I realised, there and then, that is was not just been pupils who had been having a miserable time of it, the staff had been suffering too.



Hi Stuart,

Well! Here is a letter that started with a bang and gave us quite an insight into conditions at the old school, towards the end.

We would be very interested to see some replies to your letter; possible rebutting some of your statements or reinforcing them ???

As far as "Rigsby" is concerned, we do have a tiny piece reporting on his visit, of which yours does give a different slant. Can anyone else remember Rossiter's visit.

The main information was that he was "Captain of Cricket and Football" bu NOT "School Captain"

Regards - Webmaster.