Donor impact report

Memories of former staff: Bill Purkis

Bill Purkis (former staff 1975-2009)

Bill Purkis was a teacher at Emanuel for 34 years and Head of Geography and Clyde House for over twenty years. Bill was known for his ‘laconic sarcasm and wit’ as noted in his Portcullis Valete in 2009. We think the photo below was taken by OE David Bowles who referred to it as ‘Bill’s 1970s hippy phase’.

Bill’s great love was football and he was the staff team’s most reliable full-back for many years. He is also a lifelong Manchester City fan and supported them through the thick and thin of the lower reaches of the English Football League in those days.

After an Emanuel Alumni Facebook post attracted lots of comments, we caught up with Bill during lockdown to ask him a few questions:

What can you remember about your first day at Emanuel? 

Nothing but I do remember my interview with Don Brittain, the head of geography at the time. Having finished the interview, we spent about an hour trying to find the headmaster. Eventually we found him (Mr Kuper) on the rugby field. It was the only time I saw him.

What was Emanuel like when you joined in 1975?

Very old fashioned.

What are your memories of room 11? Were you aware that it was referred to as the ‘Man Cave’?

I was in room 13 first which became part of Music. Room 11 had an old drinking fountain which became a dumping ground for unwanted food. This attracted pigeons who wandered into room 11 and then, unable to find a way out, flew around the room defecating on the pupils below. We developed a technique of closing all curtains and leaving the door as the only exit.

A few pupils have mentioned Geology. Was that taught as a separate subject?

Geology was my main subject. It had its own lab with a collection far better than most. Numbers fluctuated but at one point I taught more periods than were available on the timetable. The set was divided into shifts as they could not all get in at the same time.

Can you relate any funny stories from teaching?

The lab had a dodgy light which failed to come on at first. I told the boys to raise their hands until it came on. “Ah, many hands make light work.”

Are you aware of any nicknames you had at school?

I dread to think.

Were you aware that you had a reputation for being ‘scary’?

No, I was a softie.

Did pupils enjoy ribbing you about the lack of success of Manchester City over the period you taught here? 

It has all changed now! I do remember giving a RE lesson putting forth the idea that MCFC was a valid religion.

How have you been spending your time since you left Emanuel?

I had a stroke and three grandsons. My wife and I are Special Guardians of one of our grandsons who lives with us. Our dream of travelling outside school holidays and getting cheaper prices at last vanished. Still, we have not done so badly – some of the places we have visited are Mauritius, South Africa, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. One thing I have learnt is do not try to push a buggy on Bondi beach.

At the time of writing, we are in lockdown with our two grandsons.

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