Belfast Telegraph

Van Morrison sings praises of Orangefield teachers in tribute to school

By John Grayden

Soul superstar Van Morrison has paid tribute to some of his old school teachers.

The recently knighted musician from east Belfast voices his gratitude in a brief contribution to a new book, Orangefield Remembered, A School in Belfast, 1957 to 1990.

Morrison - one of the first pupils at the then newly built Orangefield Boys Secondary School, close to his Hyndford Street home - recalls several of his teachers.

"Sam Preston the art teacher would say things like, 'think of the smell of an orange', but I didn't really get it until many years later when I picked up a book on meditation in California, and right there, on the page at which I opened the book, there were those very same words," he said.

Mr Preston, a practising hypnotist, was one of an eclectic bunch of young teachers recruited by visionary headmaster John Malone.

He embarked on a path to prove the education authorities of the time wrong in their view that boys who had failed to pass the 11-Plus test were unfit to sit exams later in school life.

Morrison goes on: "I also liked Brian Weston who was a decent man, as we used to say then." Mr Weston went on to become principal of the school.

"There was Mr Fleck who sat on top of the desk at the front of the class and talked philosophically. I connected with his way of thinking outside the box. We also had David Hammond whose guitar playing we should have had more of and Bunter Campbell and his mad rage that had us all 'afeared' of him. And there was Mr Scott who said I was going to be a singer even before I could see it as a reality myself. I had some good mates in school and, all in all, I look upon it as having been a bit hard but mostly happy times and memories."

Morrison may be the school's most famous ex-pupil, but as if to prove John Malone correct, the book name checks scores of men who have made an impression in public life down through the years.

They include the late politician David Ervine, academic and former Lebanese hostage Brian Keenan, international footballers Eric McMordie and Roy Coyle, Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter, rugby stars Joe Miles, Willie and Stuart Duncan, the late actor John Hewitt, academic and poet Gerry Dawes, artists Colin Watson, Ken Hamilton and Sam Mateer and silversmith Billy Steenson.

The book, edited by former teachers at the school, will be launched at Malone Rugby Club on November 10.

Belfast Telegraph


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