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Patrick Birdsall OM

posted 23 minutes ago by Tim Birdsall   [ updated 3 minutes ago ]

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Patrick Birdsall. I arrived at Malsis in September 1944 aged  six and a half with my two older brothers, James (9) and Timothy (8). They both showed academic promise from the start,  eventually reaching the sixth form and winning scholarships to Sedbergh, while I admit I was inclined to sit back, bask in their combined achievement and enjoy the spoiling I got for the first couple of years as the‘Youngest Boy in the School (Ever!)’.

I continued to take life at my own pace, particularly on sports days when I was placed right at the front of all the runners for the start of the traditional ‘whole school race’ - then trotting happily round the circuit, allowing all the other boys to thunder past me, finally plodding up to the finishing post well and truly last to receiving spontaneous enthusiastic applause from spectators,  my compensation being a sort of celebrity status all of my own which I thrived on. I also paced myself in the classroom, so that most of my end-of-term  reports were in the ‘could do better’ class, with the notable exception of English, mainly  because I had the good fortune to be taught by Miss Lee for my entire time at Malsis.  After seven years I just managed to scrape through Common Entrance to follow my brothers up to Sedbergh.

Since leaving school my career has taken different directions: first working on a farm between  Wetherby and York, then another farm in Sussex, then two years of National Service as a private soldier in Cyprus, then two years selling advertising space on the “Daily Herald” in London. In 1960 I travelled by sea to Australia where I spent the first year on a newspaper in Victoria, followed by a 2000 mile hitch-hiking trip  up the coast to Northern Queensland. Returning to Melbourne I was lucky to secure a job as a general field hand, driving a land-rover  on a government seismic oil survey taking us into the centre of the Australian outback, starting out from Alice Springs to cross the Gibson Desert. No roads and life under canvas until we arrived on the coast of Western Australia just under one year later. I had saved up enough to buy a ticket on a boat home to England.

As soon as I got back I travelled up to Malsis to see my brother James who was teaching there and living in Campion House. I met Bernard Gadney who was overjoyed when I told him, like the prodigal son, that I was now planning to settle down and try my hand at teaching. James didn’t exactly kill the fatted calf, but we spent some good evenings with his colleagues down at the “Dog and Gun”.After one term as a prep’school master, while waiting to go to Culham College Teacher Training College, I wrote to Sedbergh’s headmaster Michael Thornley to ask him for a reference. He replied in his inimitable, whimsical style “My dear Patrick, welcome to this dishonourable profession. I shall of course be delighted to perjure myself on your behalf!” He did, and I was accepted at Culham.

Teaching Career: 3 years at Culham College, Oxfordshire: 2 years teaching English and Drama at a grammar  school in Abingdon, Berkshire: 2 years doing a similar job at a British army boarding school in Germany: 2 years at Sussex University to take a B.Ed degree: 27 years as lecturer at a Further Education College in Sussex: 4 years Supply Teaching in and around London’s primary and secondary schools, ending up providing English tuition for asylum-seeking & refugee children at a large comprehensive school in Tottenham. In recent years I have acted as director of a summer camp in Russia and Italy for youngsters from a Moscow school, taking out there with me a dozen British language teachers to deliver the programmes..  Today my wife Pauline and I run a small company offering summer courses  for students from Europe and overseas with StudyLink Europe I also act as guardian to one or two children at independent schools in England.