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Brother Cyril was born on 3 June 1925 on the Anson Estate in Manchester, and went to Xaverian College where he decided to join the Xaverian Brothers. He studied English at Manchester University and returned to the school to teach Maths. In 1962 he became headmaster, He sought to foster a caring atmosphere in which examination success would follow without the need for 'cramming'.
In 1977 he presided over the transition from boys grammar school to mixed sixth form college and remained headmaster until 1989. He was on the board of governors until 2002 when the brothers gave the school to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford. He now lives with the Xaverian Brothers in Massachussetts USA, and returns to Manchester from time to time to stay with his sister and visit the college.
When, in my final year at Our Lady's RC primary school, Edgeley, Stockport, I passed my Eleven Plus examination, my teacher Sister Esther recommended I only put down Xaverian College on the application form and no other. This was because Xaverian College was known to be a school with a more liberal atmosphere where a creative mind like mine could prosper. Fortunately I got my place and went there from 1969 to 1976.
It's difficult to measure the effect of a the ethos of a school, but a number of people who went to Xaverian have achieved success in the creative arena:
Martin Hannett producer of Buzzcocks, Joy Division, New Order, Durutti Column, the Stone Roses and others, went to Xaverian College
Tim Willocks, who was in the same year as me, is an internationally successful novelist and famously was a companion of pop singer Madonna.
Len Grant, in the year above me, has become one of the leading photographers in Manchester. Like me he did a career change.
Jan Chlebik, who was in the same class as me, has achieved success and recognition as a leading photographer in Manchester.
Mike Frisbee, another contemporary of mine, is a highly successful commercial photographer based in south Manchester.
Chris Ofili, who won the Turner Prize in 1998 for his paintings which included elephant dung, is a graduate of Xaverian Sixth Form College
Andrew Newton, the controversial stage hypnotist, was a contemporary of mine, and was in the same A Level music class as me with teacher Mr Challinger
Julian Evans the concert pianist was born in Romiley, attended Xaverian College and went on to study at the Royal Northern College of Music
Anthony Burgess, author of 'A Clockwork Orange', was a student at Xaverian College during the 1930s.
Bernard Hill actor famous for role of Yosser Hughes in 'Boys from the Blackstuff' went to Xaverian in the mid-50s
Gary Mounfield (b.1962) of the Stone Roses and Primal Scream is an ex-Xaverian grammar school boy
Mark Collins of the Charlatans was a student at Xaverian College
Rick Turner musician and producer was in the year below me at Xavs
The mere sight of Brother Cyril approaching was enough to subdue even the most raucous class. I remember one day in my third year, the teacher had not arrived, and we were all chatting boisterously. I was in the corner with my back to the door, at which Brother Cyril appeared silently, as was his way. Suddenly a hush descended, but as I hadn't seen him, I continued to blurt out my sentence, shouting at the top of my voice, now to a silent room. I thought my days of 'getting away with it' had come to an end, but Brother Cyril simply gestured to us to sit down and be silent. On another occasion I remember him covering a maths lesson, a rare privilege as he didn't teach very often as headmaster. There were no fiery sermons, no bulging veins, no shouting or histrionics with Brother Cyril, just a quiet, authoritative, calming presence.
To anyone who attended Xaverian College from the early 60s to the late 80s, the name Brother Cyril will engender a sense of awe and respect. Few people can have had such a lasting effect, or leave so indelible a mark.
Visit the Xaverian College websitewww.xaverian.ac.uk
Website of the Xaverian brothers www.xaverianbrothers.org
BBC website article on Martin Hannett
Wikipedia Tim Willocks
Len Grant official website www.lengrant.co.uk
Mike Frisbee photographer www.fris.co.uk
Julian Evans www.julian-evans.com
Wikipedia entries on Bernard Hill, Gary Mounfield, The Charlatans.