Looking back at Parklands’ former groundsman

Laurence Heaps, former groundsman at Parklands High School
Laurence Heaps, former groundsman at Parklands High School

‘Memories are made of this’.

The words of Arnold Pennington, a former woodwork teacher, as he remembers a groundsman, Laurence Heaps, who served at Parklands High School from 1946-1981.

According to Mr Pennington, Mr Heaps was truly an inspiration, not only for devoting most of his working life tending the lawns and gardens of the school, but also for doing so with determination and strength.

Mr Heaps was struck by a severe disability in his early life, after an horrific accident.

“Laurence was the groundsman with a big difference,” Mr Pennington recalled.

“In the 1930s, as a young man, whilst working in a Chorley Mill, Laurence got his hands caught in rubber rollers and, before his workmate got to the off-switch, the damage was done.

“Laurence had to have his arms amputated just below the elbows.

“Being a very determined man, once healed, he took on the job as groundsman.

“He trained himself and adapted to this tremendous disability.”

Throughout his time at the school, Mr Heaps would maintain machinery, erect and dismantle equipment for games, set out the pitches and tracks, as well as mow and plant.

He also left his mark in the form of a row of small poplar trees along the western side of the playing field, which are still admired by passers-by, pupils and teachers to this day.

“By way of local interest, planted by the first groundsman, are trees running parallel with the Southport Road railings in remembrance of the grammar school lads who lost their lives in the Second World War,” Mr Pennington added.

Despite being limited with his physical impairments, Mr Heaps would always find a way of achieving a job.

“Laurence, over the years as being groundsman, invented his own systems of straps, jigs and sleeve techniques to overcome problems caused by his disability,” Mr Pennington said.

“He would tackle any job given to him - not just managing but achieving excellence, for nothing else would satisfy him.”

Mr Pennington met Mr Heaps back in 1980, when he first started teaching at the school.

He remembers him being an ‘interesting’ character, who would often come into his rooms at lunchtimes to see if there were any offcuts he could use to make himself a pipe or some other device.

Mr Heaps retired in 1981 at the age of 65, despite being ‘fit as a fiddle’, leaving all the people that knew and loved him keen to give him a send off that he would remember for the rest of his life.

“The headmaster Ray Landless arranged a leaving do at the Cobblers Restaurant in Euxton, and asked me if I could secretly arrange and put together a ‘This Is Your Life’ presentation album using a selection of the several hundred photos I’d taken of him,” Mr Pennington said.

“The leaving do went well, with a few tears here and there, and the album brought some emotion amongst Laurence and the many guests.

“After a week or two I received a letter of thanks from Laurence, written by him in superb writing, an achievement in itself.”

In his final words about his friend and colleague, Mr Pennington paid tribute to a man who has clearly had a very strong impact on his life.

“Laurence will be remembered by thousands of Grammar and Parklands pupils who had the opportunity and privilege to have met such a marvellous man.”