My association with the Northern Institute of Massage started in 1981 at the Blackpool premises over William Hills on the corner of Lytham Road and Waterloo Road.

The Principal was a slightly forbidding character, Ken Woodward, who could silence a group of students in the reception area simply by appearing and standing outside the office door. Ken had been Principal since 1955, succeeding Harry Prince who had been in post since 1924 in Manchester.
Ken was assisted by his wife Audrey who was a Beauty Therapist, Mona the tea lady cum cleaner and after a short while Sheila Hardy the secretary.

Tutors at that time included Keith Brimelow, Stan Duncombe, Harry Hawes, Mel Tozer and Beryl Harper.They were carefully monitored by Ken who structured the teaching programme and made sure it was followed by the tutors.

Within five minutes on the first morning at the Northern I got a big surprise; an old friend, Harry Green walked in to the reception area where several of us new students were sitting patiently waiting for the course to start. I had known Harry for about 10 years as Jack Lang, a fellow professional wrestler from Crewe. He was a cheerful character and we became good friends long before this Blackpool re-union in the early ’80s.

Ken Woodward materialised beside us and joined in the conversation about wrestling and instructed us to come with him into the office. We were mystified and a little apprehensive; had we done something wrong, offended the Institute’s etiquette?
Ken went to a cupboard and he produced an old wrestling poster featuring “The British Lion” who, it turned out, was Ken’s father, Tom. We became good friends from then onwards.

Fellow students at this time included several memorable characters as well as my friend Harry Green. Michael Greener from the North-East found himself taken on by Newcastle United as masseur and he was in at the very beginning of the trend that every soccer club in the land adopted – a permanent sports massage therapist. Dave Rodgers who became one of Blackpool’s prominent complementary therapists along with Janet Knight from neighbouring St Anne’s and Stephanie Syson and her lovely guide dog. Siggi Hilltout was one of a number of excellent students from the Gloucestershire area including a “refugee” from Lancashire, Ford Ashworth who is still in touch with us. Eddie Angel (not his real name but his stage name) was a very amusing colleague and, one who shall be nameless, was later in court for allowing her massage premises to be used by prostitutes!

I qualified in 1984 after a most enjoyable course and one which altered my working life significantly. I was currently the External Coordinator (Deputy Head 8S) of the Manchester Hospital Schools and Home Tuition Service which included four centres for Pregnant Schoolgirls and Schoolgirl mothers of which there was a considerable number each year, most of whom would not have had any extra provision upon being excluded from school as was the custom back then. I often went into the office at Booth Hall Hospital as early in the day as I could do to complete the admin, then out on visits to homes, schools, maternity units, social services and other venues all over the city. After that I tried to fit in massage patients from mid-afternoon in to the evening on several days each week.

The practice grew and the weekly numbers of patients increased gradually. I had the fortune to be approached by Ron Hill, the Olympic marathon runner, to offer massage to his clients in the various sports shops which he owned around Greater Manchester, the “Running Wild” shops and to contribute to his monthly magazine for runners. This certainly helped increase my patient base and I’ll be forever grateful to Ron. I was also still a professional wrestler at this time but age and injury were both giving me notice that it was time to retire from the ring after some 2000 bouts over a twenty year career.

I also began to give talks and presentations in my locality. These were to sports clubs and also to other groups like Arthritis Research, WI s, Probus and the like. I eventually ventured further into North Wales, Derbyshire and Cheshire and it was a successful approach to getting known in a wider area and gaining new patients.

Another stroke of good fortune came from a chance meeting with, the editor of a local newspaper, Don Hale, who had chronic leg problems from his time as a Bury FC footballer but who wanted to run local races up to marathon distance. After a couple of treatments, he asked me to write a weekly column for the paper on sports related injuries and he billed me as “Our sports injuries expert” and inserted my phone number! It literally worked like a charm just six months after qualifying at NIM and my diary was filling up rapidly.

One day a guy called Andy Walker phoned for an appointment. He was a Scot and had been recommended by his brother-in-law, Robert Harvey, a former NIM student. Andy played for Bolton Wanderers and was a Scottish international. He commented at that time that the therapy provision at Bolton was not to his liking but he loved massage. He was soon followed by club colleagues including the team captain, Julian Darby and it turned out that his father was also a former NIM student.! This was the start of an “alternative” relationship with several Bolton players including Mark Hilton, a legendary centre half.

Staying with the soccer theme, we have a framed copy of a NIM diploma awarded to Les Hart in 1941. Les actually has a stand named after him at Gigg Lane the home of Bury FC. He served the club for 44 years as player and captain, trainer and manager and as club masseur.

I was approached by a patient, Dave Cartridge (international runner and the then current Fell Running Champion at that time), of Bolton Harriers, my own athletics club), who asked me if I would be interested in becoming the masseur for the Fell Running Association. This involved attending training weekends for the English team and also accompanying the team to national and international events. I jumped at the chance and for the next seven or eight years I was privileged to work with top athletes and officials and to enjoy many trips to venues in France, Italy, Austria and Germany in this capacity.

This came to Ken Woodward’s notice and he asked me to prepare and present a diploma course in Sports Therapy for the Northern. This served as an entree to become a regular tutor at NIM on the Remedial Massage course and then the Advanced Remedial Diploma course. Combining private practice with tutoring at NIM (which could be quite challenging on occasions) served to greatly enhance my theoretical knowledge and manual skills.

I encountered some remarkable students. People of the calibre of Michael Kerr who travelled from Londonderry to attend practical weekends at Blackpool. Micky developed and progressed, qualified as an Osteopath eventually and opened his own school in his home town, The Northern Ireland School of Massage in Londonderry.

David Crossley of Birmingham was another outstanding student with a big personality and he became a tutor with us as well as developing a very successful practice in Birmingham.

Alan Elliott, too, was an extraordinary character. For many years he ran the Forest Fitness Centre at Cinderford in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. He was an expert in his field of exercise therapy and coached many weightlifters including a squad of special needs lifters, some of whom he employed in the Centre. Alan’s influence in the health sphere was so immense that he was eventually honoured with an MBE by the Queen.

There were, of course, many exceptional people who attended NIM, for example, Kieran Corcoran who successfully completed all our courses and went on to qualify as an osteopath, too. He also founded the IIPT at Cork. Barry and Shirley Williams from Rhyl ran an exceptional practice for many years and were followed by Barry’s son, Neil. A perennial student was (and is to the present day) Will McBride from the Isle of Man who has made countless trips to us from the island over the years and Jim McAllister, the oil rig diver and masseur at Buckie Thistle when on land.

Michael Greener of Newcastle United fame was one of the most successful masseurs in soccer, closely followed by David French at Middlesbrough FC. Others followed different paths like the current Principal, Chris Caldwell, who became the masseur at the Liverpool School of Dance and Drama followed by a stint at Manchester City in the Maine Road days when Kevin Keegan was the manager.

Students travelled great distances to NIM. Jim Bradley, an American Footballer based in Sweden did the Sports Therapy course and Tony Richards based in Switzerland spring to mind but there were others from Spain and Portugal, France Belgium and Holland, Italy and Austria, Cyprus and Malta and not forgetting our old friend from Athens, Alex Adamidis, who presented us with a bust of Hippocrates which graced the students’ room for some 20 years. Tony Richards from Switzerland is still in touch with us via Facebook.

Later, David, Alan, Micky and Chris all became much loved and respected tutors at the Northern Institute with Chris eventually becoming the Principal in 2005.

NIM had a long association with the development of massage in Canada and our last remaining link is Randy Ellingson who visited us last year to attend one of Micky Kerr’s expert manipulative courses. We also had Franz Brown in the West Indies until his death. An outstanding presence in New Zealand was the legendary “One Legged Acrobat”, Bill Whareham. In Greece there was Alex Adamidis and there were several other occasional former NIM students who acted as occasional tutors in their own countries.

The Woodwards decided to retire in 1995 and we were offered the opportunity to buy the Northern Institute. After several years the landlords declined to renew the lease pending plans for a super casino development in which NIM would be demolished and a giant car park was planned for that area of Waterloo Road. We decided to re- locate and eventually found the St Mary’s Place building in which we opened on January 1st 2000 with classes starting a few weeks later.

The National Association of Massage & Manipulative Therapists was founded at NIM in 2004 -05 as the result of a disagreement with our then professional association. (I even ran the Dublin Marathon in 2005 to raise setting -up funds for NAMMT).

I was greatly helped by Derek Turner in the very early days and he remained with us on the committee which was formed under the chairmanship of Mac Thacker of the Belper Back Pain Clinic assisted by Tracey Kay and I remained on the committee as Organising Secretary. I would also express my appreciation for the support and help in the early days to colleagues like Paul Gill, Stan Duncombe and George Sowerbutts.

NAMMT grew quickly and I was able to take a back seat accompanied by a Fellowship award. The Association continues to thrive under the watchful eyes of the present committee chaired by Joe Lloyd with Dianne Richardson as Organising Secretary.

Along with our own tutors we had some remarkable visiting presenters who contributed so much to our students and to the Northern Institute’s reputation:

Dr Myk Hungerford (PhD) who promoted Sports Massage so effectively in America and taught her classes at Blackpool with expertise and drive.
Dr Thomas Janes (DC) who taught us so much about therapy and about patients, with his laconic humour and wit.
Professor Graham Smith a great organiser and a very good friend and responsible for the high status of Sports Therapists in the UK and in many countries abroad.
Professor Lawrie Hartman, an icon in the sphere of manual therapy and former NIM student many years ago who taught with kindness and ingenuity.
Professor Len Goldstone another former NIM student who gave us insight and help in the areas of history and research.
Grace Halliday an outstanding therapist from South Australia who specialised in her version of deep lymphatic therapy and kept us informed and entertained for many years. She was the very first presenter at the St Mary’s Place premises and every time I go into the room in which she worked I can still hear her rich Australian accent booming out!
Phil Sheridan lost a leg in a road accident and contributed immensely in this area, that of amputees, to help our students and practitioners understand the problems both physical and mental of such patients.
Tomo Kohno a frequent visitor and energetic presenter from Japan.
Mary Sanderson who presented “Soft Tissue Release” and who captivated her audiences and also published her books on the subject.

The years have rolled by very quickly and I have received massive help from people along the way:
Marie Caldwell & Rachel Pennington (daughter) and of course, Chris Caldwell and Shaun Pennington

Dawn Bennett (tutor and examiner), a delightful presence for almost 20 years
Dave Heslop our longest serving tutor (First Aid) from the Blackpool days to the present who has always been so straight forward, uncomplicated and loyal and blessed with a “Not Right” sense of humour.
Sheila Hardy, our capable administrator at Blackpool 1995-2000.
Lesley Ashworth, a loyal secretary for nearly 20 years
Pauline Matthews (UCLAN), research and professional development
Stan Duncombe, a great and valued tutor and supporter of NIM through the years and founder of The Tiny Tim Centre at Coventry
George Sowerbutts, a mentor, tutor, colleague and supporter for many years
Alan Elliott MBE, The Forest Fitness Centre and his wife Barbara.
Kieran Corcoran The Irish Institute for Physical Therapies in Cork.
Micky and Gina Kerr, the Northern Ireland School of Massage, Londonderry
Mosley & Co, my accountants then NIM’s for some 30 years
Anton Gysbers tutor, examiner and fishing companion
Colin Pearson and Hull influences like Paul Bradford, Dennis Sunman, Kevin Nolan, Steve Sherwood and several others from this area who have flourished in our profession.
Oliver McAtamney from Northern Ireland for his personalised and highly successful approach to his patients
Jon Hutchins our expert and very accomplished publisher
Chris Brogan, our legal advisor
IRAX for all their guidance with computers, websites and equipment
Peter Dale and Gary Miller for their repair and maintenance work, often at short notice

…. and to any one else for help and encouragement over the years.

Jim Briggs, Nick Dinsdale, Jerry Cowie-Shaw, Susan Bailey, Linda McChesney, who followed her husband, Ian, as our “A&P” tutor, Susi Merrills, Dawn Bennett, Caroline Arnold who presented so many superb Baby Massage & Massage for pregnancy days at NIM, Keith Brimelow, John Kirkham, Merhdad Elmieh (Ellie), J Amanda Heading (who ran the Marathon Des Sables), Alan Stewart (so forthright, efficient and expert), Val Smith, Anne Littler who had two spheres of expertise: The Law and Yoga and other tutors who contributed to our seminars and classes over the last twenty-plus years and helped so many students on to successful careers.
Not forgetting our associate tutors at Cork, Londonderry, and more recently, the Highland Institute at Inverness under the leadership of Lisa Welsh.

Dianne Richardson, Pauline Matthews, Joe Lloyd, Michael Berry (Mr Super Clarets), Sharon Chillingworth, Aidrian Blears & all the members the committee of NAMMT who worked tirelessly for the members since its inception.

Members of the Northern Institute team and former students have made written contributions to our profession by publishing books and magazine contributions: these include Professors Hartman and Goldstone. Chris Caldwell, James Briggs, Margaret McCarthy, Robert Harvey who volunteered his services and wrote of his experiences in Sarajevo. There was also Mary Sanderson, Freda Butlin, Adrian Seager, Paul Blakey, Ian McChesney, Grace Halliday, Val Barber, Mac Thacker, Adam Jackson, John Wedlake-Griffiths, and my own books and Skill Bulletin : all considerable contributions to our profession.

We decided to close St Mary’s Place and sell the premises; a collective decision taken during 2017. Marie was eighty in August 2017 but still full of energy and good health. She has two replacement hips but is back running and completed the Bury 10K in September. Eddie is only a couple of years younger.
Chris and Rachel have young families and prefer not to work at weekends and both Chris and Shaun have started and developed their own practices in the Bury area.
We are hoping to establish NIM presences in Northern Ireland, Scotland and in England and we have several interested parties in discussion with us.
The last remaining students will complete their courses at the Greenmount Remedial Massage Clinic in Bury under Shaun and Eddie’s supervision.

The premises at St Mary’sPlace will be vacated shortly and you my contatc us via our e-mail address <information@nim.co.uk>. We thank you for your messages and cards and for the visitors who have called to wish us well the likes of Carol Browne and Steve Sherwood and his wife, Kathy, who popped in en route from Hull to Cumbria.


Eddie and Marie, Chris, Rachel and Shaun. (April 2018)