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Forty Years On

In the summer of 1970, I was in my last year at Commercial Road Junior School in Sunderland. Like this year, it was a World Cup summer and we were convinced that England would go on to triumph just as they did in 1966: and just like every four years since, we were wrong!

In those days, I had an angelic soprano voice and sang in the school choir. That year one of the pieces was called ‘forty years on’ and I had a one line solo that included the highest note I have ever sung. I now know that the song is the Harrow School song, but back then, I’d never even heard of Harrow.

However, even at such a young age, I did find the words rather haunting and evocative, and I still do.

Forty years on, when afar and asunder

Parted are those who are singing today,

When you look back, and forgetfully wonder

What you were like in your work and your play,

Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you,

Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song –

Visions of boyhood shall float them before you,

Echoes of dreamland shall bear them along,

It’s almost exactly forty years since I sung those high notes and it is rather difficult to imagine the boy that became me. I do remember that one of my friends complained that my dirty knees (due to playing football at playtime before the photograph) had spoiled the picture for the whole class!

Within a year from this picture being taken, I had discovered rock and roll music and rugby union and my brother had taken me on my first short walking holiday; these are things that have stayed with me over the succeeding years (though my enjoyment of rugby is has been confined to watching for a long time now). More importantly by the time the summer of 1971 came around, my dad had died of cancer, and the secure family world that I had grown up in was changed for ever.

Looking back; the summer of 1970 was the year that my childhood ended.

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