Tag Archives: john sweeney

September 26th 1975

“Did speech in assembly with John – quite a grin. Wore suit – another grin. Had to see Reg dinnertime. PM Lawrie McMenemy – good talk”

As I have written elsewhere “John Sweeney went on to present programmes for the BBC… I went on to watch them”

His broadcasting success can probably all be traced back to the onstage bantering he did weekly with yours truly in 1975/76. To be honest, we didn’t so much ‘banter’ as ‘spar’ with one another, a general misunderstanding of each other’s motives always evident. John played it – as he did in later years presenting his own terrific in-depth investigative journalism – very straight-laced and serious, whilst I approached it purely and utterly for laughs. I wrote ‘scripts’ which basically ripped apart several tutors, fellow students and the Barton Peveril ‘establishment’, scripts which even the weakest Monty Python team would have done little more than blown their noses with.

Looks like this morning, for extra giggle value, I wore my 3-piece blue suit (presumably with collar and tie). Can we say ‘pretentious’?

I can’t be sure why I had to see Reg at lunchtime. Reg was the esteemed headmaster of the college and a man known for his firm hand and bursts of unexpected anger at students. He did not suffer fools gladly but was having to deal with the building’s transition from grammar school to college, so presumably had to change his tact in dealing with older students and the whole seventies ‘hippy’ ethic thereof. To be honest I was initially scared stiff of the bloke as his demeanour could be very intimidating indeed. I don’t know what happened to me when I got into the sixth form but for whatever reason I became somewhat more fearless, hence my onstage ‘perfomances’.

If I was a betting man I would say I was possibly being questioned over my weekly speeches to the college community and perhaps reprimanded for being a little too ‘adult’ with my comments. I will say that if this was the case it – sadly perhaps – only spurred me on further to ‘get away’ with increasingly outrageous remarks. Call it my contribution to ‘student anarchy’.

One of the (many) successes of the College Coffee Club committee was getting Southampton Football Club’s then manager, Lawrie McMenemy, in for a speech and Q&A session with students.

Lawrie was born in 1936 and started his football career with Newcastle United, but never appeared in their first team. An injury ended his playing career but he was keen to then get into management, which is where he found his forte. His first management job was with non-league Bishop Auckland but by the early 70’s he was in charge of more prestigious clubs, Doncaster Rover and Grimsby both of which won the (then) Fourth Division Championship under his command.

He was chosen to replace Southampton’s long-term manager Ted Bates in December 1973 when the team were struggling in the First Division (which is now known as the Premiership). Sadly his first 5 months in charge could not prevent the club from being relegated into the Second Division at the end of the season. (If there can be solace in this, let it be known that one of Southampton’s fellow relegated teams was none other than the so-called ‘mighty’ Manchester United!).

Southampton would linger in the Second Division for a few more years under McMenemy’s tutelage, but he would enjoy massive success with the team in 1976… more of which I shall write about when my diaries roll around to May 1st of that year!

As I recall he was quite the engaging speaker this night in 1975 and it is something he has continued to pursue into his retirement years. We paid him nothing for his services that evening. I suspect he demands a little more these days?


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July 1st 1975

“INDUCTION – Cum-c-us great! Had to do speech – Q.Funny. New birds ain’t bad”

I should start by saying that “political correctness” was nothing but a twinkle in most people’s eyes in 1975.

I should continue by pointing out that I was a hormonal 17-year-old boy.

Furthermore there were some very attractive young birds ladies amongst the prospective new students for the following school year.

John Sweeney - still angry at being far less funny all those years ago

Looks like my unrequited stand-up career took further root, as I doubtless undermined all the good work that John Sweeney – Coffee Club President-elect if you remember – had done on stage before me. That would generally be the tone of things: John would stand up at the lectern and be all serious and grown-up about what Barton Peveril would be offering its students for the next few months, whilst I would follow him, generally being juvenile, taking the piss and mocking my peers, the tutors and (occasionally) the headmaster.

It goes without saying that the apparent coffee club promotional tagline of “cum-c-usis somewhat embarrassing and indefensible 35 years later.

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March 11th 1975

“Got elected onto committee. Passed Economics O-Level. packed up Vivienne”

What a day……..

Barton Peveril had a Sixth Form society – colloquially known as the “Coffee Club” – responsible for arranging the entertainment aspects of the students.

With the year-end exams looming – well 3 months distant – I suppose it felt prudent for the college to induct the new organising committee in advance of the 2nd year 6th students hunkering down to their (supposedly more important) educational matters?

I originally ran for President of the society, drawing up ‘vote for me’ posters based on famous album sleeves (one was based on David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” cover, with the tagline “A Lad Insane Enough to be running for President“) and gave a speech on stage during which time I tried to bribe the audience (voters) by tossing blackjacks and fruit salads (popular 4-for-a-penny sweets of the time made by Bassetts) into the crowd.

My competitor was a certain John Sweeney, a name who media fanatics may recognise as someone who worked for the Guardian newspaper before becoming one of the BBC’s top investigative journalists.

Other people may recognise him as the unfortunate reporter who – somewhat fired up – went apeshit ballistic on Tommy Davis, a representative of the Church of Scientology during a BBC “Panorama” documentary about the odious religious cult.

A piece of television history that went ‘viral’ (as they say in internet speak) attracting squillions of online hits.

John Sweeney, trying to look happier

Anyway, back to the election…. John was blessed with an ‘actor’s voice’ and thus gave a pleasing oratory to the hundreds of students hanging on his every word. I then followed him in my ‘Ampshire ‘Og accent with a speech packed with jokes rather than any substance. (I was, if you like, the Palin to his Obama)

Votes were duly cast…. and as I state somewhere else on the internet, “John Sweeney prevailed. He went on to present programmes for the BBC, and I went on to watch them

By way of a runners-up prize I was offered a place on the organising committee. My good friends Nobby, Niles, Tony & Nigel all ended up with representative nods too, so it looked like a fun time was ahead…

However, it appears it’s all over for me and the illustrious Vivienne? I have “packed her up” apparently. Maybe it became the case that I got glandular fever from her, but precious little else? Ouch!!

Oh, and there’s confirmation that I nabbed another GCE O-Level.

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