Brooks Bar, Manchester


College of International Marine Radiotelegraphic Communication's Overseas House Brooks Bar Manchester 16. The frontage has changed since its demise, and the flag pole has gone. Apparently now used as a Mosque!!
College of International Marine Radio Telegraphic Communication’s Overseas House Brooks Bar Manchester 16.
The frontage has changed since its demise, and the flag pole has gone. Apparently now used as a Mosque!!

Extracts from article written for QSO – Geoff Valentine…

Affectionately known as Alf’s academy – attended from September 1972 until December 1975 upon leaving signed articles on the Bibby Line OBO Ocean Bridge/GYKA. I can still envisage the lay out of the three story Victorian Building in the photograph above, flanked on one side by the offices of the ‘Union of Boiler makers’ and a rather seedy cinema next door to the union office, which was used by the Asian community.

There used to be a blue notice board in the front garden with the college address and starting dates for courses, and also a flag pole. there was a rumour that there used to be daily flag break!! The college staff of course headed by Alf Wood’s who as well as being principle also took various lectures. He had a dedicated staff, Mr Mike Southern, who eventually took over from ALf on his retirement, who took us for the MRGC lectures and also took CIty and Guilds courses for those students who wanted to undertake extra studies.

Mr Harry Burgoine he could make a morse key sing, and it was always a pleasure to attend his lectures. He also took us for operating procedures and it was with his help that many of us managed to get through the Post Office examinations. There were of course other lecturers there, but unfortunately I cannot remember there names. The secretary was a Mrs Sparks, honest, she used to drive the same type of vehicle as Alf, a DAF variomatic, powered by the equivalent of a large rubber band.

Then there was Mrs Griffiths who used to run the canteen at lunch time – the Lancashire hotpot was really welcomed during the winter months, as with it being an old building suffered from damp and draughts.

Oh happy days – ones which I would like to go back to!

Brooks Bar Radio College
The above photograph of the College of IMR at Brooks Bar Manchester was taken in 1989, and permission for inclusion in the ROA web site has been granted by Manchester Libraries Information and Archives (m40676) for which we are grateful.

Note the Bellini-Tosi  DF aerial on top of the second story bay window. From memory, this also was a lecture room, the ground floor directly below was the set room, and the room above being utilised for the radar equipment, which in 1975 when I did my BOT radar ticket comprised of the Escort 651 valve radar, and the infamous Raymarc 12.

To the left of the AUEW union building was the Asian cinema, now a builders supply venue, next door to that was a small building which also belonged to the college, this is were most of the theory lessons were under taken. Further towards the Whalley Hotel, the usual Friday afternoon watering hole, and on the opposite corner is a rounded building which was the main office for the principle Mr Mike Southern. These buildings can be viewed by downloading ‘Google Earth’, and entering into street view.

Mike Southern ~ 1968


  1. Do members who attended Brooks Bar Manchester remember the ‘Whalley Hotel’ just
    down the road – it has now been turned into 14 luxury flats – another famous
    watering hole gone!!!!

  2. We have recently received an e-mail from John Filer who attended Wray Castle between 1978 – 1981 who advise that the RMS stood for ‘Royal Mail Ship’ an honourary title bestowed by the Post Office under whose auspices the Wray Castle was set up. The RMS title was taken up by the founders of the college and so various parts were named after the equivalent parts of a ship ie Ward-Room ‘A’ Deck Heads etc.

  3. RMS Wray Castle, the RMS was said to mean Radio Maritime (or Marine) School, and indeed there were daily parades in full uniform! I remember that in 1961 (September) the new intake were supplied with Royal Navy ratings uniforms which had to be worn for at least the first term, being allowed to wear Fore & Aft rig only after having passed certain tests.

    In later college terms, the punishment for major a demeanour was to revert to square rig & gating!

    I know I was one of the guilty!

    • Hello Anthony and welcome to the site. Perhaps you could rustle an article for QSO and/or the website about Wray Castle. I think in general it is one of the training establishments that we know least about and, of course, one of only a couple that boarded.

  4. Geoff
    Good to see a recollection of Brooks Bar College as it is rarely mentioned in QSO.I was a student there in1954/6 and can add a little detail to the staffing personnel. Co Principle was “Tommy Tomlinson” who now and then took rather basic lectures.He left to run RMS(!) Wray Castle on Lake Windermere with students in uniform and a daily parade complete with Red Ensign.This was told to me by a morris dancer in a pub in Worcester a good few years ago so best to take with a pinch of salt.
    As I recall Alf drove in daily from Whaley Bridge in a Citroen Traction Avant.
    The senior lecturer was a softly spoke chap named Walker who also took practical sessions which were everyone’s favourite.
    Morse instruction was provided by ex GPO telegraphist Betteridge.
    I returned for the 1st.class ticket in 1959.As I recall that was not as much fun,maybe because we were more serious and needed to resume seafaring ASAP as we had rather got used to being paid.
    As you say “Happy Days”
    Patrick Brown ex Brocks.

    • Hi Patrick

      Oh yes happy days at Brooks Bar indeed. Thoroughly enjoyed my time there, completing
      the MRGC and Radar ticket before joining Bibby Line. Although the building was a
      converted three story house, in a notorious area of Manchester, we all had a very
      interesting time there. In order to ensure that we were in fact learning anything,
      every other Friday we were given a written theory test, with the remainder of the day
      off. A couple of pints in the local pub opposite ‘The Whalley’, then into town for a
      few more bevvies at as many pubs as possible before making your way home. The time
      there past so quickly, luckily all the shipping companies were crying out for R/O’s
      at the time so we all managed to find employment in 1975.

      Would I do it again, oh yes and this time stay at sea until they dragged me off screaming!!

      Geoff Valentine

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