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The Old Birkdalians Association (OBA) organises regular reunions and events for former pupils and staff. If you would like to hear about future events and keep up to date with news and developments at Birkdale School please register your details by completing the:
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Celebration of 20 Years of Birkdale in Nepal
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Old Birkdalians Football Match
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Written By Michael Hepworth, Head Master of Birkdale School 1983-1998
Gordon Grayson attended Birkdale Prep School from 1924 to1938 before the school was evacuated to Derbyshire, and he would often recall how he and other senior boys had helped to dig out a site for the new outdoor swimming pool in the summer of 1937, duly filled in by the Fire Brigade in time for the Summer Term 1938. It was on the site of the current sports Hall – something of which he frequently reminded me as the bulldozers moved in …
He graduated in Law and was for many years senior partner in Grayson Bros solicitors until his retirement. On the death of Howard Heeley, who had been Head and Proprietor of Birkdale until his death in 1963, a codicil to Mr Heeley’s will directed that the ownership of Birkdale should be transferred to a charitable trust with John Hall as Headmaster and Trustee, who, together with Gordon Grayson (Chairman) nominated by Scripture Union, Bill Kirkham (Treasurer) nominated by Mr Hall, and the Revd IE Douglas Jones, (Vicar of Fulwood) formed the first Board of Governors in addition to their responsibilities as Trustees.
Gordon Grayson was Chairman from 1963 to 1991. Under John Hall’s headship the school was placed on a more secure financial footing, and the Heeley Hall was built, funded by an appeal. Facilities were continuously upgraded, including new kitchens; PE was no longer provided on the tennis court, but in a well equipped gymnasium within the Hall. New laboratories were added and nine acres of playing fields established in 1975 at the top of Crimicar Lane, when rugby was added to the curriculum in addition to football, athletics and cricket.
At Speech Day in 1976, Gordon Grayson announced that the extension of the school’s educational provision was to be extended to the age of 16, with the addition of the Endcliffe building as its base and two new laboratories and Senior School Assembly Hall built alongside. The addition of the Senior School eventually increased the numbers of boys from 350 to almost 500 in 1982.
By 1983 John Hall and the Revd EM Douglas-Jones had been replaced by Tony Maltby and Elizabeth Swan, joining Gordon Grayson and Bill Kirkham. The total number of governors remained at four until the move towards the eventual doubling of numbers in the school necessitated a wider breadth of skills, and, significantly, the need to satisfy the requirements of HMC for sixth form membership
Gordon Grayson led the other three governors, seeing through the preparation for the new Sixth Form. This included the building of the extended Science Block, the Sports Hall, the acquisition of Clarke House for the 4-11 Prep School, the Grayson Building, the Kirkham Library and new Sports Fields at Castle Dyke, (the pavilion came later!) and an agreement with Sheffield High School for a degree of co-education.
I had come to know Gordon through the 1970s formation of a revived OBA. He was the archetypal Christian gentleman, charming yet firm in his decision making and anxious that others should understand why he had reached the conclusions he made. His integrity showed through in the openness of our discussions, and I always felt I could share with him in complete honesty where I was when times were difficult. He was fearless in doing what was right, however difficult this might have been.
He was wonderfully supportive to me as a Head, not least when numbers in the school went into steep decline soon after my arrival (no comment!), and he was always ready and willing to help me with wise advice when I had difficult decisions to make, particularly in the mid 80s as we inched towards the decision to launch the Sixth Form. Throughout it all, his fierce loyalty to Birkdale and all that it stood for ensured, without resorting to its then inadequate Articles of Association, that we remained faithful to the twin aims of “godliness and good learning” based on a sound biblical foundation in what was then known and understood as the evangelical tradition (sadly no longer possible, due to the wide misuse of the word today).
His chairmanship of the Birkdale governors, from the financially precarious times following Mr Heeley’s death, through the highly successful progress of the school to being one of the largest northern Prep Schools under John Hall’s headship, and finally steering Birkdale through its progress to full maturity to take its place within HMC as a recognised major Yorkshire independent city day school, could not have been achieved without his wise guidance and unfailing Christian leadership of the outstanding governing body he had assembled. At the commemoration evening to mark Michael Hepworth’s years as Head, his last speech at Birkdale bore clear testimony to his broad view of the faithful way that the school was still a living testimony to the best ideals of Christian education, and revealed again the qualities and convictions which undergirded all he did.