Spirit of Birkenhead Institute

The Visor: Magazine of the Birkenhead Institute, Wirral



In the true style of "The Visor", I have created this page called VARIA, which readers of the school magazine will recognise as a regular feature. It is intended that this page will include news items, both old and new,  and other interesting items associated with the Birkenhead Institute and The Visor.


VISORS 1957 to 1963

As you can appreciate, it takes some time to scan the items into the computer and then arrange them on the web site, so please bear with me, and I shall add more material as time permits. Above is the front cover of the special Visor "History of the Birkenhead Institute" from 1889 to 1949, which has many interesting photographs and useful information about the school. Many items  from it are featured in the Spirit of Birkenhead Institute site. A link to the site is shown below:-




Here is a report about an Instonians Rugby match from 1936:-




The Old Instonians coninued their run of successes against Dunlop at aintree on Saturday. The margin would have been greater, had the conditions been more favourable and the good kicking more accurate. Playing with the wind at their backs during the first half, the Old instonians quickly scored throgh Nixon, who went over after some good play by the pack, and safe handling among the backs. Nixon again scored later, and the Old instonians went further ahead through Davies, who cut through to score a good try. Rice converted only one of these tries. However, before half-time, Wilson the visitors' skipper, scored a try from a spirited forward rush.

Nixon's Promise

Having given their threequarters every opportunity in the first half, the Old Instonians pack now wisely changed their tactics, rain was falling heavily, and handling became well nigh impossible, the game soon developing into a forward struggle. In this department, the home team put in some lusty work and scored an unconverted try. Shortly afterwards, however, Robey found a loose ball near the half-way line and dribbled over, in a way which is becoming characteristic. There was no further score. It is now six weeks since the Old Instonians were defeated. They had little chance to show their powers on Saturday, but it seems inevitable that their fixture list will improve next season. The pack played a sound game.

Here is another report from 1936:-





Old Instonians met Oldershaw Old Boys 2nd at Bidston on Saturday, and won in convincing fashion.

The backs showed better combination than in previous games, while the forwards did well, especially in the set scrums. On their showing in this game, the Old Instonians promise extremely well and should go far. Rice opened the scoring with a penalty goal, and following a good combined movement by the threequarters, Nixon added an unconverted try. Smith went over in a forward rush and before half time, Nixon added a further try, without reply from Oldershaw. The Instonians thus had a lead of twelve points at half time, which would have been augmented with better goal-kicking.

Two for Page

A good individual effort by Page brought the first score in the second half, and he added a further try shortly afterwards. Oldershaw replied with an unconverted try before full-time, Rigby and Davies added tries for the Old Instonians, both of which were converted by Wilson.

The Old Instonians appear to be making progress with every game played. Their backs are learning to combine in attack, while the forwards show enterprise in the loose. Here, they heeled well in the scrummages.



 Here is some information about the trees in the Ingleborough Road playing fields, as at 26th May, 2009 courtesy of BIOB:
 Dear Mr Wood,

I have been out and inspected the trees at Ingleborough fields.  The trees consist of mainly cherry, with some Ash , Beech, London Plane and Laburnum.
The Tree Preservation Order (TPO) was served at the request of the Tranmere Hall Residents Association, due to fears of development on the field.  The primary role of a TPO is to preserve the public amenity provided
by trees or woodlands.  These trees have been subject to regular pruning to remove overhanging branches from properties backing onto the field, prior to the order being served.
Although the pruning is not of the highest standard, I do not consider that the amenity provided by the trees has been signifigantly reduced by the pruning.  An application to carry out this pruning would have been granted in this case, to rmove overhanging branches in line with Common Law.  The trees along the frontage of ingleborough road have not been touched.
In view of the above it has been decided that it is not in the public interest to take any further action at this time.  The Residents association has been advised that the TPO is still in force, and that an application is required for future pruning works.  Tranmere Rovers have also been advised of the need for an application to prune or fell any trees on the site.

Erik Bowman

Tree Preservation Officer
Technical services



Many thanks to Stephen Abbott, a former pupil, for providing me with the above pages from the 1967 Visor. More of the  pages can be seen in the 1967 Visor page on this site.

JOHN ROBINS, 1926 - 2007

Here is the article about John Robins, courtesy of "The Independent":- 

John Robins obituary:

John Robins

Revered rugby player and coach

John Denning Robins, rugby player and coach: born Cardiff 17 May 1926; married 1952 Barbara Fryer

(died 2003; one daughter); died Cardiff 21 February 2007.

John Robins was one of the hidden gems of Welsh rugby. As a player, he scaled the heights of the international game as a member of the 1950 Welsh Grand Slam side and as a Test player for the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand and Australia later that year. He also went on to become the first coach to the British Lions in 1966 and was one of those who first began to take seriously the theory of coaching in rugby union in the UK.

Yet he was a man whose name never really sprang to mind when the debate turned to the greatest of players or coaches. Nevertheless, his record both on and off the field bears comparison to many of the Welsh greats and he made a lasting impact on many future players and coaches through his work at Loughborough College, Sheffield University and the University of Wales, Cardiff.

Born in Cardiff, Robins attended Llandaff Cathedral School and Wellington School, Somerset, before joining the Royal Navy. His rugby prowess was good enough to earn him a place in the Anglo-Welsh Public Schools side that played the Wales Secondary Schools at Cardiff Arms Park in 1940, when the team was led by his future Wales and Lions team mate Bleddyn Williams, and in 1943 Robins was the Welsh junior long-jump, shot and discus champion.

As an ordinary seaman Robins played for the England Services against their Welsh and Scottish counterparts as a teenager. The same Williams scored three tries in the Welsh Services' 28-11 win at Swansea in November 1944 and the Scots triumphed 18-11 at Leicester in February 1945.

Robins was based in Glasgow for a short time with the Navy and actually played for the Scottish Services on one occasion. He also turned out for Glasgow Academicals - one of many clubs he represented that included Coventry, Birkenhead Park, Bradford, Sale, London Welsh, Cardiff, Leicester and the Barbarians. He also played county rugby for Cheshire and Yorkshire and for the North Western Counties against both South Africa and Australia.

After the Second World War, he went to Carnegie College, Leeds, and then Loughborough College to qualify as a teacher majoring in physical education and geography. His first teaching post was at Birkenhead Institute, where he was one of three successive Welshmen in the PE department, ahead of Ray Williams and Cadfan Davies.

He joined Birkenhead Park and was given an England trial in 1948, but opted to play for Wales when the opportunity arose in 1950. Although not a large man - he was once described as having "the build of a bulldog and the mind of a mathematician" - he was extremely fit, fast and powerful. He was also an excellent goalkicker.

His Wales début came at Twickenham in January 1950 when he was one of six new caps. Wales won at the home of English rugby for only the second time, and the first since 1933. Having made an immediate impact with that 11-5 win over England in front of a record 75,000 crowd, the new-look Welsh side beat Scotland in Swansea and then Ireland in Belfast. The latter earned them the Triple Crown for the first time in 39 years and set up a tilt at a first Grand Slam since 1911, against the French in Cardiff.

Victory was something of a formality and Wales duly ran out 21-0 victors. Their unbeaten championship campaign led to 14 Welsh players touring Australasia with the Lions. The 23-year-old Robins was  among them and was forced to take unpaid leave from his new teaching post at Liverpool College between Easter and September. It was a trip that saw him play in 16 of the 23 games and five of the six Tests.

The tour left a lasting impression on him. He helped to train the Lions during their three-week voyage to Auckland and was gratly impressed by the way in which the New Zealand teams prepared for their rugby. Their creed of "getting fit to play rugby, rather than playing rugby to get fit" became a major theme in his coaching and he became renowned as a hard but fair taskmaster.

He played for Wales throughout the 1951 championship and then won three more caps in 1953. Work took him from Liverpool to Bingley Grammar School, and a switch of clubs to Bradford. His goalkicking had proved usefulfor the Lions, for whom he kicked 36 points, although he notably missed four long-range kicks at goal for Wales in their defeat by the French in 1951. But it was his unerring boot that helped the North Western Counties beat the Australians 6-3 at Blundellsands in February 1958.

A year later, he joined the PE department at Loughborough College and took control of their rugby coaching. He remained there until 1968 before moving to Sheffield University to become director of physical education and recreation. He spent a decade in the post before returning to his hometown to take up the post of director of physical eduation at the University of Wales, Cardiff. He retired in 1988.

His success at Loughborough, where he influenced players such as Gerald Davies, John Taylor, Alun Pask, Keith Fielding, Colin Macfadyean, John Mantle and Dave Rollitt, earned him the chance to become the first coach to the British Lions in 1966.

"John was very much my mentor and was responsible for changing me from centre to the back row," the former Wales and Lions player John Taylor said:

He was revered by all the students and changed all our horizons. His attention to detail in preparation was fantastic and he could be an absolute

slave driver in training. He was hard and tough without ever being a bully and every student he taught had the utmost respect for him.

Although nominally the assistant manager of the 1966 tour party, Robins was given the task of coaching the team. Highly successful in Australia, the Lions ran headlong into one of the greatest All Blacks sides of all-time and were completely outplayed in New Zealand.

Robins ruptured his Achilles tendon early in the tour and then had a battle with the skipper, Mike Campbell-Lamerton, over coaching duties. If it was a revolutionary move to appoint him, the results were not what hadbeen hoped for.

He coached the UAU (Universities Athletics Union) side for many years and was instrumental in setting up the England Students rugby team.














            Philip Ronald-Price in 1967                                 The B.I. Crest
Here is an article, kindly published by the "Wirral Champion" in September, 2009, regarding the 80th anniversary of "The Visor":- 
"2009 marks the 80th anniversary of the launch of The Visor in 1929. Although Birkenhead Institute opened in 1889, it was 40 years later that "The Visor" first appeared, and continued to provide pupils and staff with news, articles and pictures up to the closure of the school in 1994. The front cover always showed the school motto "Doctus in se semper divitias habet", with the characteristic knight's visor. The motto means "The wise man always has riches within".
In its early days, the magazine used many Latin references and headings. As a Grammar School, Latin was an integral part of the education at the B.I., and regular features included "Salvete" to welcome new pupils to the school, and "Valete" to say goodbye to those leaving. Similarly, the terms "Libraria" and "Scientia" were used to discuss information relating to books and science issues.  A regular news feature was called "Varia", and contained recent school event news. Such items would typically include Speech Day and Sports Day events, school excursions, as well as staff changes.
Apart from a short break during World War II, the Visor appeared regularly, with often three editions being produced each year in Spring, Summer and Winter. Two special history editions appeared, with comprehensive history and pictures of the school from 1889 - 1949 and 1889 - 1959.  These editions provided a wide range of information and pictures about the early days of Birkenhead Institute, when it first opened, and the staff who were there at the time. A Golden Jubilee edition was produced in 1985, (With a gold cover, rather than the regular red cover), dedicated to the Old Instonians, and in this edition, the B.I. was able to boast many successes in their rugby fixtures over the years.
In celebrating 120 years since the B.I. opened in 1889, "The Visor" played a key role in school life, and from its first edition in 1929, was an extremely accurate reflection of life at the Birkenhead Institute, which operated for most of its life as an excellent local Grammar School, with prestigious sporting and academic achievements." 
Many thanks to the Wirral Champion, who have published several articles about Birkenhead Institute which I have submitted over the last two years.





Below is a copy of the article, courtesy of "Peninsula" magazine:-