LOCAL people look back over their lives to capture fond memories and anecdotes in this special ‘Saddleworth Voices’ feature.
Here, Martin Plant looks at the life of Kevin Cryer.
Kevin was born in Halifax in 1963. His father worked for Seddon Atkinson, the manufacturer of large goods vehicles in Oldham, and his mother was a sewing machinist in the mills.
At one time, both his parents worked at the Cape Asbestos factory in Old Town, Hebden Bridge.
His mother and all five of her sisters suffered with asbestosis and his mother died with traces of it aged 60.
Kevin’s primary school in Old Town was across the road from the mill and he remembers bits of asbestos blowing about in the playground.
Whilst Kevin was a pupil there, the headteacher asked him to draw a picture of the school which was then framed and is still hanging on the wall.
Later, Kevin attended St John’s Primary School in Wardle, Rochdale, followed by Kingsway Middle School. He joined the choir at both schools and became leader of the choir at Kingsway when it won the choral competition at Rochdale Music Festival.
After completing A-levels at High School, Kevin studied French and Latin at The University of Wales at Cardiff.
Part of the course included his spending a year as an assistant in a school in Avignon, France. He made plenty of friends and is still in touch with them. He also was able to do some private teaching which included, on occasion, receiving payment in bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine!
After a gap year working on archaeological digs on Roman sites above Wardle, Kevin studied for a PGCE at Hull University. A teaching post in Failsworth was followed by 25 years’ teaching French at Bury Boys’ Grammar School before retiring in 2016 to take up a support staff role at Hopwood Hall College in Middleton.
Early on at Bury Grammar, Kevin (singer) and a PE teacher (accordion) formed a musical duo and “began to get gigs at local pubs”. The duo became a group of eight, including three students from the school’s Sixth Form, called “The Right Stuff”.
Kevin recalls: “In 1998, we opened Wigan Jazz Festival, playing at Wigan Pier in the same line-up as Dave Brubeck.
“Now there are five of us, including one of the students I used to teach and who’s now in his forties and we are called The Majestics. We play all over Greater Manchester.”
Kevin has travelled extensively, including trips to India and Sri Lanka where he became very interested in Buddhism. He joined a meditation class in Uppermill and there met his future partne, Olwen, who, at that time, taught chemistry at Saddleworth School.
They have been together now for more than 20 years, living in Diggle. Frequently, they attend the Zen Centre in London in St John’s Wood.
Also, Olwen and Kevin run a Zen meditation group in Oldham on Tuesday nights at the Unitarian Chapel, King Street, and once a month, every third Thursday, at the Civic Hall in Uppermill.
“The idea of mindfulness has become very popular recently as a way of dealing with stress,” explained Kevin. “Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism but, for us, Buddhism is a religion and there are aspects of it that we have to put into practice in our daily life.”
He added: “I love living in Saddleworth. What I really enjoy, and couldn’t live without, is getting on my bike on a Saturday or Sunday morning and going, say, from Diggle up to the Standedge cutting and across to Marsden Moor and looking back at the moors and the hills. It makes me so happy.
It’s a wonderful thing to do.”