The Key To It All

I was in the Sixth Form at Wyndham School, Egremont, Cumbria. Family committments had necessitated a move from my beloved Rochdale to the dormitory town of Seascale, next door to the British Nuclear Fuels Ltd Sellafield/Windscale plant, which is where I lived for 2 years.

Because so many scientists lived in the area it was dubbed by one of  the tabloids ‘The Brainiest place in Britain’. I don’t know  about that, but when  the students subverted authority they did it with style, as this little tale from 1977 shows.

I hadn’t been at the school long when I was asked if I wanted to take part  in a little ‘make over’ of the Head of Sixth Form’s office one lunchtime. The furniture was removed and replaced with exotic cushions and drapes some of which people had brought in from home in order to dress  the room as an opium smoking den. Some weeks  later we removed all the furniture, again from his room, and wheeled a motor bike from out of the car park and left it on its stand in the middle.

We had a key you see!

A rumour began circulating among the student body that some person or persons unknown had access to their own master key – which enabled passage to all areas of the Sixth form block, including classrooms and offices. But who?

No smoke without fire. In this instance, the Swan Vestas proved to be Smisch and Duane. These two reprobates had ‘borrowed’ a staff master key, then in a gripping race against time, made a mould, returned it, then cast a copy in the metalwork rooms! An alloy copy of a Chubb masterkey. Genius!

Duane 'Butter wouldn't melt!' Pete, Jonathon, Miles.

Duane ‘Butter wouldn’t melt!’ Pete, Jonathon, Miles.

It made life so convenient. Let’s say you wanted to make an amendment on your ‘UCCA’ form – no tiresome wait until the Head of Sixth Form returned from lunch.You simply got the key, let yourself in, got what you wanted, tidied his desk a bit if you felt inclined, and locked up again on your way out. The staff had no idea.

One afternoon, Duane used the key to access the ropes and crabs from the summer camp gear store. He then strung up all the bags belonging to the students at a History class on the top floor on to a guy rope then hoisted  it up. When those in the class turned to look out of the window, they saw their bags dancing up and down in the wind, some 40 feet up.

We even had access at night (remember this was before the advent of CCTV) One occasion, drunk and tired of trying to hitch hike home, we let ourselves in and slept on cushions on the common room floor.

With much ceremony, the key was ritually handed down to the incoming Upper 6th (year 13) But it couldn’t last. People had become, so blasé about using it, that it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened and a year or so after I had left, someone was caught in possession.

And that was that.

© Andy Daly 2016


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