Spike has died. Anthony Martin, a teacher who gave his life to teaching at St Bede’s College died yesterday in Wythenshawe Hospital after a long fight with a failing heart. My heartfelt condolences to his wife, Veronica, who has suffered unbelievably over these last months as Tony’s life dwindled away.
Spike as we knew him as been part of my life for59 years. He started at Bede’s in 1957 as a master whilst I started as a pupil. He was from St Robert’s parish in Longsight, the same as myself but he was from the posh end, up towards West Point, whereas I was from the rough end in Duncan Road. Later on we met up again when we were in St Catherine’s parish in Didsbury together under the stern eye of Dave McGarry, Parish Priest extraordinaire.
From the age of twelve to sixteen he filled our heads with the power of literature. He expanded our young minds to bursting, giving us reading lists to fill a library and it was never a chore. Whatever he recommended worked and it was a pleasure returning after holidays to tell him of the pleasure we had in carrying out his tasks.
In my mind St Bede’s was a black period in my life, taught by teachers stuck in the 1930s or hell bent on punishment, discipline seeming more important than learning. Spike’s softly softly gentle approach held the class in rapture, many taking the thug approach failed. He was a shining light in a dark age. As the years slipped away at Bede’s my performance went from good to poor, faced with the negativity of the staff in education and also sport.
He commiserated with me in the nets when faced by clerical sneers, he gave me extra-tuition for my GCE examinations in various subjects, the only one we did not touch on, Greek, was the one I failed. I am what he made me.
In later years he could not agree with my hard approach on Duggan, he was too decent a man to be outspoken on the subject but he did say once to my friend Dave Smith that once he found out about boy’s trips to the Rector’s study, he never sent boys there. He told me in a letter that Duggan nearly drove him to a nervous breakdown but he would say no more. His love of Bede’s overpowered everything else.
Farewell gentle, kind and honourable man. As I said this morning when talking of him, I can count on the fingers of one hand the truly good men I have ever met in my nearly seventy years and Spike is definitely one of those digits.
I would also at this point pass on my kind regards to Dave Smith in New Zealand, fellow pupil with me, who kept us all up to date with the highs and lows of Spike’s last few years and especially for organising the party we had in West Didsbury on the occasion of Spike’s 80th birthday. Spike was in top form that night as we revelled in his unquenchable humour. Certainly something has been removed from my soul today but at least I had the honour and pleasure of knowing him.
PS: Stuck out here in the west of Ireland news of arrangements for Spike is hard to get. So would any reader who reads this and knows any detail please let me know.