Writing on the Wall Commissions:

Tony O'Leary  


Life has been a litter of multi-new directions for the mixed-race boy. School-wise, job-wise, business-wise, perhaps wise is not the best way to describe the directions along my life winding road.


Infant school in the war years of the 1940s was a very happy time, we called Notre Dame.. infants Mary Lanny; it was in Maryland Street. Miss Phillips, my favourite teacher, accused me of shouting out in class while her back was turned. Which I denied. I was nevertheless made to stand facing on to the playground with a notice hanging from my neck reading ‘I must not shout out in class’. My big sister Marie’s class, in due course, came out past our classroom window and were horrified to see me paraded there. Richey remained my best friend but I always, over the years, reminded him of me taking his punishment. 


St. Nicholas R.C. School was a fairly long way to walk from our house in the street behind the Philharmonic Hall for a 7-year-old schoolboy, but we found new directions to walk and it was probably a good part of our education. I recall St. Nick’s, as we called it, having a very mixed lot of children from ‘downtown Liverpool’ right in the center of Liverpool city center. Most of my class were from the Bully; a pretty unique designed tenement, which still exists today. Perhaps, inspired by the Bull Rings of Spains? St. Andrews Gardens and the surrounding ‘social housing’ area was a ‘working-class’ area. The Bully and the housing have been modernised; now a great place to own or rent there.


A scholarship to TTI, The Toxteth Technical institute was an educational new direction. Engineering was the special skills we were to be taught there. My brother Chance, who’s Christian name was Francis, Chance was a nick-name I called him that became stuck with him for life, decided he did not know why he had to walk to st.Nicholas when there was a school just a five minute walk from Sugnall Street in Hope Place. My mother explained it was a jewish school and we were a Catholic family. He claimed his pal from around the corner, Gowdy.B went there, so he could. He actually enrolled himself at the Liverpool Hebrew School.


The parish Priest was horrified and made loads of calls to confront my mother, we had five steps leading to the front and as the main room we used was in the basement one the family could warn mother who was knocking on the door. She would dispatch one us to shout through the letterbox “me mother’s not in”. We kids all though it was a good laugh. 


Chance and Phillip decided to eventually go to Catholic schools, Mervyn did not and insisted he loved the Jewish School’ After Mervyn left the Liverpool Hebrew school, he recieved beautiful birthday cards from the Jewish Parent Teacher Association, addressed to Michael Mervyn O’Leary. Until the day he died, he refused to eat pork. He claimed it upset his stomach. Little did he know his wife Kathy told him it was lamb, not pork, in the curry she would make for her family.