Above all - it's the people that made Birley


There really isn't enough room on this site to tell the story of Birley and its people, but as this site celebrates all that we set out to do and be, we cannot ignore those early leaders.

Ernest McDonnell was the first Head, appointed in 1967 he believed that "The standards we achieve, are those we are willing to accept" and that every student should have the chance to fulfil their potential and build self esteem. Leading from the front with standards, values and vision, Ernie was awarded the OBE in 1973 for his services to Education. Sadly, following a long illness, he lost his fight against cancer and died in 1974.



Ernie McDonnell came to Birley from his past headship at Barlow Hall in Chorlton. He was Mancunian through and through, born in Gorton and educated at St Bede's. He served his country as a Warrant Officer. He was a great sportsman and loved music. He also had great faith.


Ernie brought with him to Birley a magnificent team to manage and develop his school: Margaret Steele - Deputy Head and teacher of French & history (Margaret sadly died having suffered a brain tumor just days before Ernest McDonnell). There was Bernard Barry, teacher of French and Geography and Hillary House Master. Glynn Young - house master and teacher of French (later to become Head), Mr Rennie, House Master and ken Hallsall (art), Nellie Moore (librarian), D.G Richardson (PE), Mr Robinson (Maths), Mr Farr (Science) and Mr Poole (woodwork). They were joined later by others: Kath Simpson (English); Ian Jayes (French), Brian Greenwood (metalwork), Steve Hazzleby and Mr Arnold, Mssrs Pat & Stewart Wood (all PE), the infamous Mr Moggeridge (history), Mr Karim (maths), Miss Woodcock, Mrs Billsboro, Miss Isherwood, Mr Howarth, Mrs Sykes, Mr Williams and so many more...


I can't finish this section however without mentioning Isabelle Gleave. Keller House Master and teacher of science, loyal throughout and my greatest inspiration. Isabelle knew the school and eduaction in Manchester like no other. She came to Birley with Ernie, from Barlow Hall in 1967 and following her retirement was completing a pHD (largely about Birley) at Manchester University just prior to her untimely death in June 2003. Isabelle has provided much of the information contained on this site and I hope to complete a summary of the school's story for the next reunion - in her name and with her family's permission. I was priviliged to speak at Isabelle's funeral in 2003 and hope I can emulate her standards and loyalty in all I do.

Pete Bradshaw MSc

below: Isabella Gleave, Keller Housemaster (c1973)

1975 upper and lower VI Form and the staff football team c 1970

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