Old Xaverians’ Association
1920 saw the establishment of the League of Nations, the publication of the first Agatha Christie murder mystery, the continuation of the war-time Coalition Government led by Lloyd George and an Everton defeat in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup by Wolverhampton Wanderers. Not much else of note took place that year except that Brian Meehan was born. He died last month at the age of 91.
Brianʼs family came from a military background. His mother was the daughter of a major. His father, a former pupil at Preston Catholic College, served as an RSM in the Lancashire Fusiliers during World War I. After the war Brianʼs father trained to teach at St Maryʼs College (Hammersmith) and served as a devoted headmaster at St Patrickʼs Elementary School (Boys). Brian himself has a tenuous link with the army in that as a conscript he served in the Signals as a Desert Rat in the 4th Armoured Brigade. He accompanied the 8th Army from Cairo across North Africa, over to Italy, finally ending up in Germany.
Brian and his younger sister Patsy started together at St Charlesʼ Elementary School in 1926. Brian’s description will sound familiar to some - 45 children to a class, the two classes separated by those wooden and glass sliding partitions that were typical of elementary schools of the day and only ever opened for the Christmas celebrations. St Charlesʼ did not go in for differentiation. There was no particular notice taken of Junior City Scholarships and no streaming by ability. There was not the sort of teaching-for-the- Junior-City-Scholarship to be found at many other schools. Could this have had something to do with background? St Charlesʼ being in Aigburth, its pupils were perhaps from better-off families (at least less poor) and maybe – as in Brian’s case – most parents were not put off by the prospect of £4 guineas a term for secondary education. At least Brian describes the parents of his fellow-pupils, who largely did not mind paying for secondary education, as people of ʻno pretensions – shop-keepers and the likeʼ. Whatever the case, Brian was the only one in his year to take the Junior City Scholarship - which he failed.
Decked out in maroon cap and blazer, Brian started at SFX as a fee-payer in 1932 in 2D; 2D was one of the two classes reserved for fee-payers who were segregated from the scholarship boys. Amazingly this segregation continued right up to the fourth form, it being thought that parents who were paying through the nose - four guineas a term, if you please – would not be happy with the stigma of son in a B form, which was kept for the scholarship boys. In the lower school Brian was taught maths and science by Billy Crook, a friendly teacher who made maths a pleasure. But most of all Brian admired Mr Barber, a scholastic, a decent, well-organised teacher who taught Brian catechism, spelling and poetry in the Second Form. Poems were learnt by heart and Barber would go round the class. Woe betide you if you had not memorized the piece! He introduced the class to Sherlock Holmes - The Speckled Band, Brian remembers. For some reason, he once confiscated Brianʼs watch, which was only returned after the intervention of his mother.
The ferula obviously made a deep impression on Brian in more ways than one.. He can recall 6 ferulas at least twice in second and third forms. Mr Barber gave him a bill for 9 for leaving his theme (homework) book at home. In the fifth form he got bills for 12 three times. Mr (later Fr) Brennan seemed to enjoy giving ferulas. Such beatings were accepted as the “proper thing to do”. Perhaps it was Brianʼs easy-going attitude to life that was not appreciated by some of his teachers. Hence the above average number of beatings.
Other teachers he recalls - Willy Crook with his loose false teeth; “ Fr. Sausage Myerscough”, whose family were butchers renowned for their sausages; Fr Woodlock, the Headmaster, Brian thought a bit of a show-off (but as a more than competent pianist, astronomer, photographer, bridge expert, classical scholar and teacher, perhaps he had much to show-off about). Woodlock is also remembered by Brian for cancelling as unjust a twice nine that some-one had given him; Putty Grace gave him a bill for nine and, when he had not had them by the next day, doubled it. (Putty was never a teacher to get on the wrong side of). In the Fifth Form Brian took his School Certificate (GCSEs). Always in the top five in his class, he matriculated in the Fifth Form – passes in English, Maths, Latin, French and a Science - only matrics could go on to Sixth Form. In Lower Sixth Brian took English, History, Latin and Chemistry. Brian took the Civil Service Exam in 1937, passing out in the top 10%. He joined the Inland Revenue and spent two years in an office in Bangor – a city of which he has fond memories. But he found neither the work nor his colleagues particularly congenial and left to join the army as a conscript.
In 1946 Brian came out of the Army and for the next five years he studied Architecture at Liverpool University. He qualified in 1951 and spent the rest of his working life as an architect. Although Brian worked at times for established architectural companies in Liverpool and London - including a spell with the Inner London Authority - for most of the time he ran his own practice in South London, based in Wimbledon. He is survived by Gabriele, a Viennese girl he married in 1956, by six children - four girls and two boys - and many grandchildren.
From his youngest daughter Patricia
I remember Dad as a great music lover: Often after Sunday lunch he would stand in the middle of the sitting room + air conduct along to the record player. He did a few taps to gather together his virtual Liverpool Phil and went through a vast array of quirky arm movements and facial gestures - completely lost and engrossed - till Mum would charge in "turn that noise down, Brian".He used to hear me playing my violin while he was working in his office below. I could hear him whistling along (he was always a keen whistler around the house). Sometimes he would come in + offer criticism in his usual irritating way, but he usually had a point or was right. I'd continue playing + his whistling continued back downstairs - how could you keep a straight face!
From daughter Louisa
Here's a few things that i am reminded of...if we had been out for the day, and we got back to the house and it smelled a bit stale/unaired he would say "poof! what's that stench? Bishop Butler's been to tea!" i assume, (not as a child of course, but now), he was referring to Christopher Butler, the vocal bishop associated with the second vatican council, which seemed to be a constant niggle for dad!
He used to say every now and again, “Just remember, you have to decide are you a Christian body, or part of a body of Christians" and a soldiering reference, "Fall in three ranks by the front door!" which I always thought was, "Fall in three planks by the front door"
His sister Patsy writes
After his first few weeks in the Infant School Brian demanded to know “When are we going to learn something?” Typical.
Brian's family came from a military background. His mother was the daughter of a major. (She was born in barracks!) His father, a former pupil at Preston Catholic College, served as an RSM in the Lancashire Fusiliers during World War I. After the war Brian's father trained to teach at St Mary's College (then in Hammersmith), teaching first at Sacred Heart in Liverpool and later as a devoted headmaster at St Patrick's Elementary School (Boys). Brian continued the military tradition perforce when he was called up in 1940 with all 20-year olds. He spent the next 6 years inn the army. He served in the Royal Signals throughout the war, travelling by troopship via Halifax and Cape Town to join the 8th Army (the Desert Rats) in 4t Armoured Brigade. He was with them from North Africa, through Italy and finally Germany. These were his "glory days" and he loved talking about them - and indeed he was very interesting.
Patsy has added to the paragraph on Brian’s Primary Schooling:-
It was a small parochial school - only 4 teachers. He always remembered two great influential teachers: The large and exuberant Miss Gibney ('Gibbo'? and the stern headmistress, Mother Monica (FCJ). It was said in the family that after a few weeks in the Infants He demanded:' "When are we going to learn something?" One memory I have is of celebration of Empire Day. Little Scousers in ranks on the playground tarmac waving Union Jacks and singing "Hearts of Oak are our ships, Hearts of oak are our men, We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again.”
And….One milestone in our lives at that time was attending - with other schools - the laying of the foundation stone of the Metropolitan Cathedral on Brownlow Hill. It was Whitsun and very hot. I remember tar oozing down Mount Pleasant as we all marched up it! It was a very formal occasion. My father wore morning dress, My mother suddenly got into a panic that she had left the iron on at home. She grabbed a Boy Scout, gave him a shilling (and presumably the key!) and sent him off to check. This was the foundation stone for the original grandiose concept of Archbishop Downey which of course had to be abandoned.
At SFX school caps were the rule those days and I remember the rows at home as Brian was always losing his!
After the War Brian returned to the university after demob and had to take the first year again. Like so many young ex-service men he graduated at a mature age. Having "lost" six years, he qualified in 1951 and spent the rest of his working life as an architect.
Footnote : Two of Brian’s sons and three grandsons followed him into a Jesuit education at Wimbledon College.
Thought you may like a few pics of where Dad's remains are laid to rest. We had a decent Saturday in April and chose a spot at Putney Vale Crem in the Garden of Remembrance by the Lavender Walk. The warden was very good - he showed us the area and let us choose a spot in our own time, started the procedure and left us to it. It's nice to know Dad's remains were left in such pleasant and restful place. A plaque will be placed in due course - Jane suggested the inscription to be in Latin which I think is apt, so I hope they'll go ahead with that. Should it be wrong, I could just imagine him looking down criticising and pointing at it with his umbrella, followed by a long lecture on the joys of Latin..........
Brian at 20
Brian at 90
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