Richard Pomeroy

Richard on the 1963 School Photo
Checking the criteria for a contribution for this section I find that living anywhere beyond Wellingborough qualifies so I reckon I stand a chance. I have toyed with writing a piece since discovering the website a couple of years ago.  Attending my first reunion this year made it a definite.  It was great to see many of my old school friends after almost 50 years – where did it go?
 
They tell me I was a bit of a character at school (read that as you will) and from my perspective my main characteristic was being a high underachiever.  I had no clue what I wanted to do until I went to a primary school for a work experience week in the lower sixth.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, probably because it was a week off school, and decided that my direction in life was at last forged.  The other great bonus was that I discovered that I did not need to obtain any A-levels to go to college so my sixth form was spent almost entirely over the snooker tables in the YMCA on Cheyne Walk.  I experienced some considerable success here, both in terms of my snooker scores and, as intended, failing my A-levels.  I fear my college career was just as distinguished.  The study side of my college period was merely a necessary adjunct to social life and was treated accordingly.  I discovered that running around the games field, bouncing around the gym and paying the odd visit to Walsall swimming baths was an infinitely preferable way to spend 3 years than bending over books in a lecture room and so I became a PE student.  Gary Grimshaw would have been proud of me!
 
Fortunately one thing I discovered I could do successfully was teaching.  I enjoyed work in schools on teaching practices and attachments.  In the West Midlands was a population quite unlike that of the small market town of Northampton.  My recollection of Walsall in those days is grey, wet and grubby but it afforded all that a bacchanalian student sought and, through my time in schools, a real broadening of my perspectives.  I cannot now imagine a much dingier place to spend a significant portion of your life than in the heart of the West Midlands but that is where fate placed me.  My family had moved to Scotland so going home to Northampton to teach just didn’t happen.  In my later college years I met Jane who became my wife and together we lived in Cannock and brought up our family, Rachel and David, of whom more later.
 
Being presented with the medal for winning the half mile - Sports Day 1963
Presenting is the Lady Mayoress of Northampton watched by the Mayor and Buzzer Howard (seated).  Standing is Gunner Wright and just behind them Taffy Newell making the announcements.
Primary school teaching in those early years was a joy.  I worked in one of the poorest areas of the West Bromwich, affectionately nicknamed “God’s little acre”.  Say this with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek and you might get the gist of just how socially deprived this area was.  But the kids just ate out of your hand if you had anything to offer them.  We did art work, went on visits, went on camps, played sport and music as well as all the bread and butter stuff and I think we probably all learned together, if that doesn’t sound too twee.  One thing I learned was that I probably should make up a little for lost ground in my own education, which insight fortunately coincided with the establishment of the Open University.  To cut the long story short I was in the first cohort of graduates and believe it or not had a thirst to go on.  So the following year I gained my MSc in education and psychology from the University of Aston in Birmingham and a whole new set of doors opened.  I wasn’t ambitious for ‘greater things’ but I didn’t want to take the Deputy Head - Head track through primary education.  I applied for several associated jobs in administration and one job, very speculatively, back in my old training college as an education lecturer.  Apparently my application caused more than a stir of disbelief in the Senior Common Room and I reckon they called me for interview purely on that basis.  Well, I got the job!
 
The learning curve was rapid.  Life as a lecturer turned out to be exciting, challenging and all that a career should be.  I particularly enjoyed working in schools with the students.  I did an exchange to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where I was accorded the title of ‘Professor’ as are all their faculty members.  Now guys, remember ‘Pom’?  A professor! What a hoot.

As the College was amalgamated with Wolverhampton Polytechnic, later to become the University of Wolverhampton in John Major’s great university creating days, I became the head of the School Experience Section in the Faculty of Education, managing the teaching practice and school placement programmes both logistically and academically.
 
Meanwhile my young family were growing fast, as they do.  Jane stopped work to be a full time mother for a while and Rachel and David did rather better at school than did their father going on to University to read Physics and American Studies respectively.  A blow in their young lives was the sad death of their mum, the big C of course, so new pathways had to be forged.  They graduated at a time when the world was becoming smaller.  From spending all of their lives in Cannock and then Leeds and Leicester they tracked globally to Australia, New Zealand and the Far East on student working visas.  I think the furthest afield I went whilst in my school and college years was Butlins in Clacton.
 
From living with a bustling family of four to coming home each day to an empty house was a bit of a culture shock – time to think about what I was to do for the next bit of my life.  Another exchange opportunity came up, this time to New Zealand, so I took it.  It was after all only for a year.  I was placed with the teaching practice division in Palmerston North College of Education, which became the Faculty of Education of Massey University.  If ever you have a chance to go on an exchange year, take it.  It was a blast!  Sobriety hit me part way through, though.  The University of Wolverhampton Faculty of Education reorganised that year and offered me a job which I didn’t want.  So I resigned, which was probably what they wanted anyway.
 
What next?  Enjoy the rest of the year I suppose, which I did.  But my year turned into three as Massey University wanted to set up a Post Graduate Teacher Training course for Primary students at their new campus in Auckland.  This was a first for New Zealand and, as there was no previous experience of such courses in the country, I thought I might as well apply for the two year contract to run the programme.  I was offered the job, so goodbye Wolverhampton (phew!) and hello New Zealand.  Those were an exciting two years and just what I needed after 25 years in Walsall – did I really do that?  Without too much trumpet blowing we were inspected by the NZ Ministry of Education and received the highest accolades for the way in which the course was structured and taught and the way in which we worked with our partner schools.  I would have been disappointed with anything less.  If after 25 years of teaching and managing such courses in the UK I couldn’t make a success of this venture then I would certainly not have been worth my salt.  The contract ended and so did my career in Education.  I felt I had nothing left to achieve in that field, so time for a break.
 

At the helm of ‘Ted Ashby’ – one of the Maritime Museum’s heritage sailing vessels
For someone who has lived all his life inland it might seem surprising that I used to do a lot of sailing.  With friends I cruised, raced and delivered yachts across the English Channel from time to time.  Having done about 20 years of this by the time I arrived in New Zealand I thought I might do something different.  I discovered the Spirit of New Zealand, a youth development ship that runs 10-day voyages for 14-19 year olds.  The ship needed volunteer crew.  I volunteered and was hooked.   The management and sailing of a tall ship is interesting and exciting and the youth development programme on board is intense and rewarding.  My interest together with my sailing background enabled me to develop many skills as a tall ship sailor.  When my contract at Massey finished I worked as a crew member on Spirit of New Zealand hosting wealthy businessmen for ‘corporate days’ on the water viewing the Americas Cup Races.  That contract finished with the Cup and the brigantine Søren Larsen invited me to be a crew member on their Millennium voyage across the Pacific.  What an opportunity!  Twenty four of us set off from Auckland to Panama along the old tall ships route.  The passage took two and a half months and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  Not seeing any evidence of man whatsoever – no aeroplane tracers; no flotsam; no other vessels; no mobile phones; no emails – in the middle of one of the world’s great wildernesses puts things in perspective.  For those who can remember ‘The Onedin Line’ Søren Larsen was ‘Charlotte Rose’, the ship that starred in the series.  I travelled through Central America living in backpackers’ hostels with young things on their gap year who didn’t seem to mind this geyser in his mid 50s enjoying his mid-life crisis.  I went back to the UK and spent time with Rachel and David who were now in London starting out on their work lives and then wondered what to do again.
 
Break over I decided I was too young to retire, I was out of Education and I didn’t want to be an insurance salesman.  So I went back to New Zealand and was offered a position in the New Zealand National Maritime Museum in Auckland.  Throughout my eight years there I managed their 120-strong volunteer corps, worked with their education programmes, looked after and maintained their traditional vessels and trained new volunteers to crew them on public sailing says.  It was a varied and interesting job using a whole variety of skills that I had picked up.

Life then took another turn.  Whist working on Spirit of New Zealand I had met Karyn and after a couple of years or so back in New Zealand we got married.   She has two children who joined the great New Zealand brain drain to Australia.  With Rachel in the UK and David in New York our travels are quite extensive keeping up with family alone.  The South Pacific islands are on our doorstep and we have enjoyed some of the more remote parts of Tonga and Samoa as well as more commercial Fiji and, with friends, some Caribbean sailing.  Now we live both in the UK and New Zealand, having a home in Market Harborough and one in Auckland.
 
People often ask me about New Zealand.  It is a beautiful country with many remote unspoiled areas It has an area roughly the size of the UK but with only about four and a half million people.  Apart from the areas around the main cities driving is reminiscent of the 1960s in England. New Zealand has branded itself as a major big time activity centre.  As the home of the bungy jump it is organised to live up to it.  You name it, you can do it: paragliding; skiing; white water rafting; kitesurfing; sky diving; jet-skiing etc. etc.  It attracts many young people seeking adventure in their gap year and people of all ages who are curious about this small ex-colony on the other side of the world.  Its Maori heritage is unique as are the kiwi, the kea, the tuatara and many other forms of life now in danger of extinction.  Visitors rave about it, so much so that I once challenged one tourist in the museum to tell me something bad about New Zealand.   After a while she said she had found something. “It’s too far away from England”, she said.
 
Auckland – City of Sails. The view from our living room of the upper Waitemata harbour
She is right. They do say: “You can take the Englishman out of England but you can’t take England out of the Englishman”.  There is something in that.  After 17 years living away I appreciate what it is to be English and thoroughly enjoy coming back to Market Harborough where I live when in the UK.  I have converted my many years of boating experience into qualification and now work as a Boat Safety Scheme Examiner and Small Craft Surveyor, which trades I ply on the gentler waters of the Inland Waterways of the Midlands.  Rachel and her family of 3, including a set of twins, are just around the corner and I revel in immersing myself in grandparenting when I am with them.  I drive through and into Northampton sometimes and enjoy recognising the roads I used to cycle daily to school and many of my old haunts despite the massive changes that have taken place since those heady schooldays at THS.  I was never a scholar but have always held fond memories of the old place. The Tower Revisited website provides a real indulgence of nostalgia from time to time.  I even include Gunner Wright in that, despite his fierce reputation amongst risk-taking schoolboys.  Though I must have been caned as many times as anyone I was always ‘asking for it’ by pushing the boundaries just a little way over the safety line.  The trick was to pad your trousers well between the classroom and his office.  My belated thanks to all those whose scarves I borrowed from cloakroom pegs en route to my destiny.  I always put them back.   

The Tower Revisited  - The website for former Pupils of the Technical High School, Trinity High School & Trinity Grammar School, Northampton