There were a number of occasions when I got in trouble at school, but luckily for me they were either not very serious or I just wasn’t found out. I started Harehills the very morning that Mr Harold Wilson, the headmaster, started. He seemed a very kind man to me and I only had to visit his office once after my initial interview. His office was disorganised that first morning and he wasn’t sure which class to put me in. Classes at Harehills were streamed and he asked my mother about my academic ability. She was naturally a modest lady who would downplay her and her children’s abilities, but she felt my older brother had missed out because she wasn’t pushy enough and so she answered that I was a very capable boy. Now, at the time when I was aged seven, I had no idea about being bright or not so I was pleased to hear that she thought so. Mr Wilson was impressed, but wily enough not to take my mother’s word for it. He got me to read to him and the only book he could find in his office mess was his Bible. He passed it to me and asked me to read a passage. I was a good reader and just read to him. This and my mother’s evaluation convinced him to try me in the top class in the year. As it was, I fitted in and spent the remainder of my time until eleven in the top class. I loved primary school and the teachers I had. I was in Mr Kelly’s class for two years and I know some found him intimidating, but I loved his teaching and was very happy. I feel the same about all of the teachers I had up to high school.
I’ve just remembered that prior to starting Harehills I was in trouble at Stainbeck Preparatory School. This was for throwing my pump at Miss Cowling, my teacher. We had to change from indoor to outdoor shoes and she told me I had someone else’s pumps on. I said I hadn’t and eventually threw one of them at her. I was about five at the time and as I was right and had my own pumps, nothing really came of it. Miss Blackmore was another of my teachers and she now reads these blogs. I was telling my older brother and he commented that she was his favourite teacher as well.
A new song and a video that shows some of the City of Perth
Mr Kelly was strict and did lose his temper, but we always did interesting things and he seemed to like me. Corporal punishment was meted out, but usually it was a slipper in the classroom. Occasionally we witnessed boys caned on the stage during assemblies. I was only hit once and that was for being late lining up after lunch. The teacher was young, and was struggling to maintain discipline and over reacted to our not being lined up in class groups on time. There was a long line of miscreants after his duty and we had to bend over in turn and he struck us a hard blow with the blackboard ruler on our bottoms. I seem to remember there were boys and girls. I don’t think it was excessively painful and it didn’t scar me for life.
The only other occasion I was in trouble at Harehills was when a friend and I were chasing each other around the cloakroom after school and the caretaker caught us. He was very angry and told us to be in school at 8.00am and outside Mr Wilson’s office. I was mortified. I had never really been in trouble and the implication from the caretaker was that he would see us caned for our wickedness. I worried about this all night. I hardly slept as I was so upset, but in the morning I was there, as was my friend, waiting for our meeting with doom. The caretaker arrived and went in to see Mr Wilson and then he came back out and Mr Wilson said as he left, “Leave it with me. I’ll sort it!” We were called in and stood there, heads down and lips trembling. Mr Wilson addressed us with a smile on his face. He said that the caretaker had told him what had happened and that we shouldn’t play in the cloakrooms. He had a grin on his face and told us to go and have a good day. I couldn’t believe our luck! Life was fair after all.
At Roundhay, though, there was a wider range of punishments for the breaking of school rules and a wider range of people who could inflict these upon you. There was widespread corporal punishment, slipper and caning, but there were also detentions. These could be school detentions issued by teachers or prefects’ detention and these were given and supervised by the prefects. School detention was originally on Saturday mornings, but that changed, I think after my first year, to after school. The other more widely issued punishment was lines and again both staff and prefects could give lines. I had thought, just before I started Roundhay, that Prefects giving punishments was unfair and I am still of the same mind. There were many students who loved the power over the younger boys and gave lines and detentions with very little rationale apart from the fact that they could and they enjoyed it.
One of the main reasons for getting into trouble was the uniform. Not wearing the hat in public, eating in uniform in public, not wearing your tie in public, were all punishable by school detentions. I fell foul to one rule that I am not sure even existed. I was on the Soldiers Fields after school and was full of energy and was swinging on the branch of a tree. That was a crime most terrible, apparently. I can’t remember which teacher saw me, but I was accused of vandalism and bringing the school into disrepute. I professed my innocence, but to no avail. I was to report to Finger’s Office first thing the next morning for a caning.
Once again I was incensed by the travesty of justice, but I didn’t mention it at home. I would only have been told that I deserved it from my parents and been in even more trouble. Another sleepless night followed. All my life I have preferred to deal with incidents straight away, when I know they will be unpleasant, rather than have to wait. The delay is agony. Even as a headmaster I would rather see the parents straight away if there was a problem, than make the appointment a day or two later.
The next morning I was waiting in full view outside Mr Glover’s Office. Staff and students would walk past, know that you were in trouble and know what the likely punishment would be. The embarrassment was painful enough and the wait seemed like an eternity. I saw Mr Morris, the deputy head, go into the office and a few minutes later out he came. He spoke to me there and then. Apparently Fingers, Mr Glover, was too busy to deal with me and Mr Morris had been given the task. He asked what I had done and I told him honestly. I think his words were, “Not the biggest crime in the book! Don’t do it again.” He smiled and with that I was dismissed. Never had a day seemed better than that one did!
Now there are other more serious examples of misbehaviour that I will tell in the future, but there was one incident that I will finish with. I had been drinking in pubs from the age of fourteen, so by the time of this story I was an established pub-goer. I was sixteen and I had met up with friends at Pete’s cellar in Harehills. There were about four of us, Peter, John, Roger and me. They were all a year or so older than me and I was the only one from Roundhay School. We decided to go for a drink in the bar that was underneath the Astoria Ballroom on Roundhay Road. The name of it slips my memory, but I am sure that someone will know. Anyway, we were kitted out in our trench coats, flared jeans, T shirts, long hair and whatever else was the fashion of the day. We walked in, stood at the bar and ordered our pints. I had just taken a sip when I turned around to look at the tables for a place to sit when I was struck by horror. The room had about twenty Roundhay staff sitting at the tables. I nearly choked on my drink. It must have been a staff night out. I am not sure who was most surprised, me or the teachers. Les Lees was the first to react. He was always a man in control. He walked over to me and whispered that when I had finished my drink that would be a wise time to leave. My friends were a bit nonplussed, but I explained the situation and, within a remarkably short time, we finished our pints and headed for the door.
I can only surmise that as Mr Lees had dealt with the issue then the other teachers felt the matter closed, but nothing more was ever said or done. Of course my friends thought it was hilarious and it made their night, but I was mortified.
The audiobook version of The Moonchild can be played in 9 parts on the Soundcloud player below. It is Book 1 of the Moondial series.