Tom Pilkington shares his memories of being a pupil at Ruskin Road

Tom Pilkington sent us recently some picture taken in the 60's when Crewe families were hosting young people from Crewe's new twin town of Mâcon.
On retirement from his career in the English and French educational systems he has now settled in a village near Mâcon and made contact with the town's twinning association. We are sure he will be of great assistance in promoting twinning activity.
He is in the process of writing his memoirs. This extract describes his experience of French and of France whilst a pupil at Ruskin Road.

Day one at Ruskin Road was not easy with the traditional ragging (I gave a black eye to first boy who came anywhere near me) and learning that I was not in the top class. I had to make do with 1B for a year before moving into 2A. I talked too much and teachers seemed to disapprove of my brylcreamed black hair. My French teacher Dennis Plackett once threw me out when I was in the second year. "Get out, you greasy-haired lout," he said. He had no idea that French was my favourite subject. Once in the corridor I pressed my nose against the window of the door and took notes from the blackboard. I was of course forgiven. Dennis, who taught me for six years, always insisted that France really did exist. However, we gradually learned that this reality had only a vague connection with the classical and modern French literature Dennis was obliged to force-feed us with on our way to 'A' level and university. Against all the odds, he managed to persuade us that somewhere there was a bridge between past and present and even between England and the continent. We poor souls in Crewe had long perceived the world at a distance. France was a far-away exotic location well beyond our English capital and Paris seemed light-years from Dover. Our readings of Racine, Corneille and Molière had magnified a sense of inaccessibility, and even our familiarity with the works of poets such as Verlaine and Baudelaire only nourished our doubts as to the possibility of such a nation really existing. What finally helped us to accept a dawning reality was the fact that we somehow got to know people who actually claimed to be French. They were so real that when we finally met them they insisted on shaking hands with us every morning. This physical contact reassured us. They even talked some kind of French we had yet to decipher.
During one summer holiday we had set foot in Burgundy in our twin-town of Mâcon. Our French 'correspondants' made us so welcome! God knows why they had chosen Crewe! After a three-week stay in the Mâconnais with sunshine, gastronomic experiments in vineyards such as Pouilly and Fuissé and sincere attempts to understand and even speak the language, we plunged back after the holidays into a bleary Cheshire autumn followed by November fog, end-of-term exams and the daily mind-crushing morning assembly of Crewe County Grammar School. France, yet again, became chimerical.

If you want to delve further into Tom's life story 'Channel Crossings- a schoolmaster's folly' he has kindly sent us his unfinished draft.

Tom has sent us another picture of Mâcon students arriving at Crewe Station in July 1961. It was supplied by Charles Protat, Graham Chesters' twinning partner. He is middle right in the photo sporting a tie!

Jacky Barday has supplied Tom with two more pictures.

Arrival ceremony at Crewe Town Hall 1960

A Llandudno to Anglesea day trip down the Menai Straits 1961