John Dalton Street, Manchester

A Manchester Wireless College recalled

by Roger Bentley

This article was originally published in the September 2004 QSO.

Scanning the list of members I have only found this estab­lishment listed with one other members details and I am grateful to John Royle for some of his recollections which are duly acknowl­edged.

I started at this college in the summer of 1949 a callow youth two months short of my 16th birthday, but having taken and passed the school certificate earlier in the year I was allowed to leave school as my formal education was finished. I had originally hoped to be an apprentice deck officer, and had received application forms from Man­chester Liners and Blue Star Line. However, my eyesight had started to deteriorate, and my father paid for a sight test by a Consultant in John St. (Manchester’s Harley Street). The results showed that I would not be gracing the deck of a ship as a cadet!

I was still keen to go to sea, and as a result my father took me down to Manchester again and up the stairs of a Dickensian type building in John Dalton St, where we met a Mr Moran who was the proprietor. After stressing how hard I would have to work he accepted me as a student. I was duly signed up and the fee for the first term handed over.

I don’t think I ever saw Mr. Moran more than a couple of times after that initial inter­view as he seemed to be in­volved in lots of other busi­ness activities and certainly didn’t do any teaching in the school. John Royle believes that he was a very successful scrap metal dealer and also a bit of a philanthropist in the Manchester area and connected with charitable insti­tutions. Quite how he became the owner of a wireless col­lege is a mystery.

So in late August I arrived for my first day at the ‘college’ complete with sandwiches and an apple! I think there were three storeys in the building, the ground floor seeming to belong to other business enterprises, the purpose of which never be­came clear.

My class of beginners was a real mixed bunch, with one other school leaver like my­self and an even younger chap who seemed to be to­tally bemused and lost. He did not last very long and soon departed. The others were older and included an ex-national service man Alex Fitzpatrick, and a special cer­tificate holder called Simpson who was going to return to sea after taking his second class ticket. He was older than the rest of us and we tended to look up to him in awe, although looking back he probably was still in his early twenties.

Morse training began quickly under the supervision of an­other special certificate holder and temporary in­structor, Fred, who was the scion of a wealthy manufac­turing firm in Accrington, and seemed to be working apparently in an unpaid cate­gory. Supposedly he was there to study for his 2nd Class PMG but never seemed to progress in this endeavour. He hated sharp pencil points and his favourite trick was to bang down on the hand of any student using such an offending piece of equipment. If looks could have killed he would have died many times. After lunch and a few pints at the Sawyers Arms on nearby Deansgate, however, he was much mellower and often re­galed us with tales of his sea­going career. We new boys gaped in admiration.

As we progressed we came into the realm of Paddy the Morse instructor proper. He was a superb sender and al­ways started with the edito­rial in his daily paper the Ex­press. Later in the day and also after a visit to the Saw­yers we heard all about his time on the MATIANA, whose call sign of GDMZ featured in all the practice sessions. Looking back, he had proba­bly only made one trip to sea but he certainly made the most of it. Often in the after­noon he would stick Portishead on the receiver and I well remember the thrill of hearing that superb gruff note of GKG. CW never sounded quite the same as that ripping MCW – 850 c/s modulation note.

For the technical sessions I can only remember the great Frank May oh. Although there were other instructors in this area, but they seemed to be­long to a floating population and apart from a Mr. Lomas, who taught there for a while, their names have been forgot­ten by me.

Frank was an enthusiastic and popular lecturer. He has received several mentions in recent QSO articles, but I be­lieve that it was at 25 John Dalton Street that he started his notable career. I don’t think he was long out of the RAF at that time and had re­cently married. I think his first child was born during that spell, as I seem to re­member another instructor telling us of a great night out with Frank celebrating the birth.

Students were often de­scribed as ‘young slash’ if he couldn’t remember their names. I recall that when he announced that the young chap who had started with my group and who appeared to be having great difficulty in following the instruction was to leave. He said, “We have had words (presumably the We’ included Mr Moran) with his dad and “young slash’ is leaving.”

He also had a wealth of RAF stories and these could break up the monotony of a lecture. When in flying mode the sub­jects ranged across a wide field, and I well remember his answer to one ‘young slash’ who enquired what toilet ar­rangements there were in a Lancaster.

“Pee tubes and an Elsan,” was his succinct answer and on his saying the latter was sometimes emptied in flight, one chap obviously a budding health and safety inspector was most concerned and wondered what happened to the contents and couldn’t people below suffer!

“Don’t worry ‘Slash’, even the stiffest turd disintegrates in a 260 mph slipstream” – then it was back to the Auto Alarm circuit diagram. Thus did my further education proceed.

There was a small canteen near the Morse room and this was run by a Mrs Webb who served tea and coffee during the breaks, and then made a lunch for a very reasonable price. Her hotpots preceded those of Betty in the Rovers Return in Coronation Street, Lunchtime was another occa­sion when ‘sea stories’ were bandied about, but on one occasion I remember a very bitter argument developing between two students both of whom had been at sea previ­ously, one having served on tramp ships the other on big ships. The big ship man was accused of being a crawler and toadying around the de­pot manager to get a cushy number.

This gave us innocents the first inkling that perhaps the big employers of radio officers were not quite so friendly to­wards staff. The atmosphere got so heated that even Mrs Webb joined in, ordering them to cut it out and shake hands – which was grudg­ingly done.

One of the older students who was trying for a 1st Class was a chap called Jimmy Keogh, who was on leave from the Bibby Line. For a lot of the older students, time at John Dalton St seemed to be more of a rest and recreation period. The Sawyers Arms seemed to do a roaring trade at lunch time, and it would seem by the reports bandied about next day in the can­teen, on several evenings as well. Jim seemed to have great success with the ladies as well, discovering (as he told us) the erogenous zones of his latest girl friend’s up­per arms! Apparently strok­ing them brought great re­sults.

I had to catch the train home each afternoon so was never privy to these goings on, at least until I returned to the college in 1952 to take my 1st Class, but that is another story.

Having passed my 2nd Class in the summer of 1950, I de­cided to try my luck and go to sea first instead of staying on. Frank Mayoh had en­couraged several of us to take City and Guilds Telecomms 1 and Radio 1, and my results in these didn’t bode well for taking the 1st Class without more experience.

I accordingly applied to Mar­coni and sat back to wait for a ship, although still attend­ing the school. One morning Jimmy Keogh came in and told me that a vacancy had suddenly occurred in Bibbys – the 3rd R/O of the LAN­CASHIRE had been injured in a fracas in Malta when going to the aid of a shipmate and had his jaw broken by a Mal­tese policeman’s truncheon. Jim said he would call the Radio Superintendent George Nutter and see if I had a chance.

A trip to the Bibby Line of­fices followed where I was ac­cepted, and started to go through the process of get­ting a medical and discharge book etc. I did ask Mr Nutter where the ship was going but in true ‘wartime secrecy’ fashion he merely said, “The Far East.” Since the Korean War had started in June of that year, even I could put two and two together.

The day I returned from this visit, my father was waiting at home with a telegram from Marconi offering me the GOLFITO in Avonmouth sub­ject to my medical etc.

Having listened to all the lunchtime canteen gossip I had no compunction in send­ing my regrets to Marconi, and the end of September saw me joining the LANCA­SHIRE as 4th RO.

Entering the radio room with its rich aroma of Best Bruno pipe tobacco (the Chief R/O as I found out soon enough was an ardent pipesmoker), I found not a single piece of fa­miliar equipment apart from the ¼kW emergency spark transmitter. No Ocean Span, no CR 300; instead, the dark panelled interior housed a 381 Tx for MF, a 376 Tx for HF, and a 352A receiver for LF and MF with an Eddystone Rx for HF. However, I did recognise the 579 DF when I visited the chart room.

The learning curve was at the bottom again!

The comment below was copied over when the free standing Training Schools section was created.

The full name and address of the Manchester Brookes Bar college was:-

The College of International Marine Radiotelegraphic Communications
Overseas House
Brookes Bar
Manchester 16

8 thoughts on “John Dalton Street, Manchester

  1. Yes I think there is sometimes confusion about the two colleges. It might arise from the fact that Msrs Wood and Tomlinson both studied at John Dalton before starting Brookes Bar.
    Regards = John

  2. It takes a little time to remember at 81 years although my Morse is still passable!

    On the top floor in 1951 we had a games room of which the centre was our table tennis table.
    We played a game where you hit the ball put down the bat and moved to the other side of the net.

    One hot day the window was open and we always gave a cracked ball a fond farewell.

    It was set alight and drooped out of the window.

    5 mins later PC plod and Frank came into the common room . The PC’s helmet was slightly burnt and marked by the passing of the TT ball.

    It also marked the closing of the common room for a while.

    Just a little sea tale.

    Early days like many I was with Marconi and didn’t stay long – the way the staff clerk at Eastham Dept used your Marconi pay book number and sent this in Morse. If you didn’t react. it was repeated at about 5 W P M . I recall a very senior R/O from P & O telling me a better go and report. In the end some young lady came for me.

    I was on a tramp ship ss Clonlee of the Shamrock Shipping Company from Larne.

    We were trying to get to a fishing boat in distress in the bay but she was drifting way from us. 4 knots at best with a stern wind.

    I was the only officer with running hot water in my cabin, due to the regs in place when they fitted radio to her.

    One major benefit was if I called GLD with traffic one of the Queens would QSP my spark main tx took over the whole band.

      • Sorry John, Autumn of the years take over. I was at John Dalton St 1950/51.

        I was too young to get my 2nd class ticket and had to stay until after my 16th birthday., In the class was Fred Duffy and a guy that ended up with the BBC and did not go to sea.
        I went to AST Southampton where they taught all the real operating systems and also made gentlemen officers out of pigs ears!!!!!!!

        Hope that helps. PS I now live near Preston, Lancashire.

        • I worked on the Linear Accelerator project in the University of Manchester in the late 60’s with an ex R/O of the same name, he was also ex John Dalton. There were at least three or four of us plus one RN and one or two RAF, just thought it might have been you. One of the people there had a Phd in Nuclear Physics and when he was called up the army said he could count maybe, so they put him in the QM stores for eighteen months counting hats! I was at Brooks Bar early 60’s I think John Dalton was no longer open. I now live in South West France.
          Regards = John

  3. Frank Mayoh moved from Manchester to Norwood College (Knights Hill, London) and then, when the college moved to Greenhithe (Kent) and combined with HMS Worcester he became Vice Principal of the newly combined college which was known as Merchant Navy College. Frank Mayoh was still VP when I joined as a lecturer in January 1984 (my first teaching appointment). I vividly recall his greeting (he had never met me before) “Are you the **** from Hastings? If I were you I’d f*** off back there”.
    I didn’t! I got the job and so started a 33 year career in education which is still going. Frank retired in the summer of 1984 and moved to Bexhill where he was involved with the RAF association until his death (not sure of the year).

  4. I also attended the Wireless Telegraph college, John Dalton Street, Manchester, in 1954, for my 2nd class ticket. The Principal at that time was Frank Mayoh and he may have been the owner. He covered all subjects, and sent excellent Morse. There was also a radar training section which seemed to me to conduct all its activities in a darkened room. We radio students were never invited to visit the radar section which I think was a lost marketing opportunity for the college.

    The memorable part of the training room view was that the windows looked directly into offices across the road which were inhabited by dozens of attractive typists. It was rumoured that some of them had learned Morse so that messages could be flashed across but I never saw this happen.

    There was also a story that a blazing ping pong ball had previously been thrown out of a window and this had set alight some cotton on the back of a lorry below.

    I agree that the canteen was very much appreciated and it smelled reassuringly of strong disinfectant.

    The W.T.C had nothing to do with the Brooks Bar College where I attended later for my 1st class ticket.

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