Spirit of Birkenhead Institute

The History and Heritage of Birkenhead Institute


The BIOB is well worth joining if you are an Old Instonian, and the register contains names of over 500 boys.  The details are shown below, and you can directly to the BIOB site via the following link. Keith Dutton has recently set up a new BIOB site, (December 2010), which includes many interesting photographs and information about former pupils and staff. Keith is continuing to add items on a regular basis, and I would also like to thank him for adding a link to this web site. Please go and have a look, as it is well worth a visit!


Link to the BIOB site:-








The BIOB also produce an annual Newsletter, the "Ad-Visor", (See below), full of interesting information about Old Instonians, as well as articles from former pupils and staff. There is also an annual dinner, and this year it was held on October 3rd, 2008 at Caldy Golf Club. Please add your name to the BIOB register if you are an Old Instonian! Here is a sample of what the newsletter looks like, including an article from Keith Dutton, and Harry Burkett is the Editor, who has written the item below regarding articles for the BIOB Newsletter. If you would like to send an article to Harry, the email address is also shown below:




The Newsletter of the Birkenhead Institute Old Boys


Editor I started the Newsletter earlier this week and was wondering from what source or what inspiration I could use to fill it.  The phone alongside my computer rang and it was a call from Ernie Hewitt (49/54). Ernie lives in Victoria Australia and had decided to ring from Oz on a different matter I took the opportunity to bemoan the fact that I was, as I always am, short of copy. He berated me with the fact that he had sent me an article four years ago and I had not used it. This brought home to me the fact that people may be sending messages by email that I am not receiving. If this is the case please will you send a further email with your article. My email address is harry_burkett@btopenworld.com I am repeating this because some parts of the address are not clear on the letterhead. Ernie would love to hear from anyone who remembers him from school. His email address is erniehewitt@iprimus.com.au





(Don't forget the "Underscore"  between Harry and Burkett!)


or telephone Harry on: - 0151 608 8837


The BIOB, in conjunction with the Birkenhead History Society,  is organising a special commemorative event in November, 2008 to remember Wilfred Owen. This celebrates Wilfred's life, and ninety year since his death and the end of World War One.


Here is an article from the Ad-Visor, courtesy of Keith Dutton: 

Doctus in se semper divitias habet

Can any of us forget the school motto? How many times have we written it out, probably many years ago, but  we still remember.

I never studied Latin at School, I joined the Institute in September 1960 on a 13+ scholarship from Woodchurch Secondary School. I joined in 3B, and the “B” form never took Latin. I was quite pleased at the time, but as time has passed I felt that there was a missing piece in my knowledge. Actually quite a lot of missing pieces, but that’s another story.

The motto fascinated me, “A wise man has riches within himself”, as I was always told. I believe that there are many instances of mistranslation in history, but I didn’t know any better, in this case I just believed what I was told, like almost everything at school. It has taken me a long time, but I finally decided to investigate.

Actually, the investigation was nothing more that typing the motto into Google, and seeing what happened. This is probably another foreign language to some people, but it’s the new language of computer speak, the Internet. What happened was very quick, and very interesting. It turns out that our school motto is from a Greek proverb, one of Aesop’s Fables, in fact.

Two things were immediately obvious there had been a possible mistranslation, a change of emphasis, and a missing word. The phrase is more usually translated as “A learned, or educated man always has riches within himself”. The missing word is the first word “Homo”. So, the full proverb is more usually stated as “Homo doctus in se semper divitias habet”


The proverb is associated with Simonides, a legendary wise man of ancient Greece. The proverb itself is a line from a poem by Phaedrus, a Roman poet, who told this story about Simonides:

A learned man always has rich inner resources. Simonides, that extraordinary author of lyric poems, had found an excellent remedy for his straitened circumstances by travelling around the most famous cities of Asia, singing the praises of victorious athletes in exchange for a fee. When he had grown wealthy in this venture, he was ready to take a sea voyage and go back to his native land (he was born, so they say, on the island of Ceos). He boarded a ship, but a terrible storm (plus the sheer age of the ship) caused it to sink in the middle of the sea. Some of the passengers grabbed their money belts, while others held onto their valuables and any possible means of subsistence. A passenger who was more curious than the rest asked the poet, 'Simonides, why aren't you taking along any of your own stuff?' He replied, 'All that is mine is right here with me.' It turned out that only a few were able to swim ashore, while the majority drowned, weighed down by what they were carrying. Then bandits arrived and took from the survivors whatever they had brought ashore, stripping them naked. As it happened, the ancient city of Clazomenae was not far off, which is where the shipwrecked people then turned. In this city there lived a man inclined to literary pursuits who had often read Simonides's compositions and who was his great admirer from afar. He recognized Simonides simply from his manner of speaking and eagerly invited him to his house, regaling him with clothes and money and servants. Meanwhile, the rest of the survivors carried around placards, begging for food. When Simonides happened to run into them, he took one look and exclaimed, As I said: all that is mine is right here with me, but everything that you took with you has now vanished.'

This now raises even more questions, when was the motto adopted? Who was instrumental in selecting it? Why was the first word dropped? Why was “wise” man used in the translation when “educated” man would have made more sense? If anyone can enlighten me, I would be grateful for the information.

If you have any more information about the school motto, please let me know and I will forward it to Keith Dutton.


 Here is another article from the BIOB magazine, courtesy of Ernie Hewitt. This article has many memories of the Birkenhead Institute. If you are an Old Instonian, it is well worth joining the BIOB to receive their annual Newsletter with fascinating articles such as this:


Ernie Hewitt (1949-54)


early 60 years ago (59 to be exact) I and about 60 other boys attended the Birkenhead Institute in Whetstone lane for the first day of schooling in the big school.

My recollections of the school may have dimmed over the years but in issue 8 (Ray Binion1938-46) they seem to tally with some of his well remembered facts.

Whilst I was at the B.I. from 1949 to 1954 I endured 3 (three) headmasters-The Klon, Biddy Harris and Bummy Jones.

The Klon was the most frightening man I had ever seen in my life and for that matter he still holds a prime position in my memory. Then came Biddy Harris who perhaps was not so frightening but his discipline was no less strong than the Klon. Thirdly Bummy Jones didn't seem as bad as the other two but maybe that was because I was a little older and hopefully a little wiser.

Having lived in Australia since 1966 I missed out on the closure of Whetstone Lane and the transfer to Tollemache Road and also the closing of that school and had it not been for the formation of the Old Boys register I would still be ignorant to these facts, when I did find out I was very surprised and disappointed at the loss of all the history.

Another memory I have is playing rugby at Ingelborough Road and being so muddy that we went into the communal bath with our togs on and then getting out undressing and going back into the dirty muddy water (I wonder what the cleanliness police would say about that today?) It also has come to my attention that Tranmere Rovers are thinking of selling the land to developers this must not happen and anything I can do to help just call on me.

As I said before, I emigrated to Australia in 1966 and did not visit the U.K. until 1997 and my time was fully occupied with relatives and trips etc, however I visited in 2000 and was going to attend the dinner but I couldn't fit it into my schedule so I missed out. However on the trip in 2000 I did contact Howard Jones in Devon where he lives in a small village and his home is the old Post Office. It is a wonderful house.

The B.I.O.B. listings was a good idea but I note that not very many of the boys from my years (1949/1954) are listed. Sadly I heard about the death of Tom Ellis-Jones in 2002 and I extend my belated sympathies to the family.

My time at the B.I. was mostly happy and I left the school with many fond memories especially of playing rugby for 5 years.

I hope that I have stirred some people’s memories.


Here is an article from Tom Norton, courtesy of the BIOB:





Here are some more memories of Birkenhead Institute:




Please see above an image of the B.I. Old Boys' Tie, which was requested recently via the Visitors' Book.


Please see below a link to the photographs from the BIOB Annual Dinner 2008. There are some excellent photographs:




The 2009 BIOB Reunion dinner was held on Friday, 2nd October, at Caldy Golf Club.

Please contact Harry as per the above information for more details of the Annual Dinners, and Harry can arrange for you to attend, and the event is very well organised and is well worth attending. Both former teachers and pupils normally go to this excellent annual dinner, and there are some fascinating anecdotes to be told about the school, and it is also an opportunity to meet former colleagues, and also to re-live your time at the B.I. !

Here is a link to the excellent photographs of the evening:-



The Annual BIOB Dinner takes place every year in October.

For more details about attending the BIOB Annual dinner, please contact Harry Burkett or Keith Dutton via the email address above.