‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Trouble at School! He’s just a very naughty boy! Harehills County Primary, Stainbeck Preparatory, Roundhay School, and the Astoria Nightmare.

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There were several occasions when I got in trouble at school, but luckily for me, they were not very serious, or my crimes weren’t discovered. I started Harehills the very morning that Mr Harold Wilson, the headmaster, did. 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, 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, without any worries, read the page 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 rest 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 the teachers I had up to high school.

Stainbeck Preparatory School building. I loved to play in the garden and my best friend and I dug little tunnels into the rockery for our toy soldiers.

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, but it showed that I had a bit of a temper. Miss Blackmore was another of my teachers and she sometimes reads these blogs. I was telling my older brother, and he commented she was his favourite teacher as well.

Mr Kelly was strict and he could lose his temper, but we always did interesting things and he seemed to like me. Corporal punishment was meted out at Harehills, but usually, it was a slipper in the classroom. Occasionally, we witnessed boys being caned on the stage during assemblies, but not often. I was only hit once at Harehills and that was for being late lining up after lunch. The teacher was young and new, was struggling to maintain discipline and overreacted 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. After a lifetime in education, I realise he just didn’t have the experience or the skills to deal with his class, which was one of the difficult ones. Maybe I’m just being kind as there were teachers, certainly at high school, who enjoyed inflicting pain.

A gripping, exciting adventure set in Perth Western Australia and Papua New Guinea.

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 before. The caretaker made it clear that he would see us caned for our wickedness. I worried about this all night, and I hardly slept as I was so upset. In the morning I was there, as was my friend, waiting for our appointment with doom. The caretaker arrived and went in to see Mr Wilson. After a short while, 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. With a grin on his face, he told us to go, and have a good day. I couldn’t believe our luck! Life seemed fair, after all.

I wasn’t always guiltless. On the way home, I walked along the Harehills parade of shops and there was a greengrocer’s shop with fruit and vegetables displayed outside the front of the shop. On one occasion, I looked at the succulent apples and I was tempted. I picked one and hurried away. I enjoyed eating it, but there was a pang of guilt. The next day I was considering doing the same when a voice shouted, ‘Oi!’ I almost ran away, terribly worried I had been caught. I certainly learnt from that and never tried it again.

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 detentions. The other, more widely issued punishment, was lines, and again both staff and prefects could give them. Before I started Roundhay, I felt 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.

Me with a Roundhay School cap

One of the main reasons for getting into trouble at Roundhay was the uniform. Not wearing the cap in public, eating in uniform in public, and not wearing your tie in public, were all punishable by school detentions. I fell foul of 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 Fingers’ Office (Headmaster Glover), first thing the next morning for a caning.

The Soldiers’ Field

Once again, I was incensed by the travesty of justice, but I didn’t mention it at home. If I had, my parents would have told me that I deserved it and I would have been been in even more trouble. Another sleepless night followed. All my life I have preferred to deal with unpleasant incidents straight away, rather than 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 of the school outside Mr Glover’s Office. Staff and students would walk past, knowing you were in trouble and what the likely punishment would be. The embarrassment was painful enough, and the wait seemed 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!

When I first started teaching in 1976, schools still had corporal punishment, but it was soon to be outlawed. I was in a very large comprehensive school and caning was done under very strict rules. I was asked by the housemaster to witness one or two canings. The boy would be brought into the office. His offence was described. This was then written into the punishment book, as was the number of whacks. He was asked if he agreed to take the punishment. If he said yes, he signed the book, and I had to countersign and then he received his punishment. If he refused, he was suspended from school and could only return with his parents where he would then be caned. This seemed very cold, and impersonal, and I found it disturbing. My head of house, likewise, didn’t enjoy it, but it was a part of his job. I have slippered a child, but I hated it and was very pleased when it was all outlawed.

There was one incident that I will finish with that illustrates the impact that embarrassment can have, and a more enlightened approach by a member of the Roundhay staff. I had been drinking in pubs from the age of fourteen, so by the time of this story, I was an established pub-goer. This wasn’t unusual during the early 1970s. I only know of two people who were ever charged with underage drinking. They were quite young, and young looking, and were unfortunate to be sitting in a pub in Leeds when there was a raid. I believe they received fines. I have mentioned it before, but I always looked older than I was, so never had any problem. Several of my friends had met 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 and I was in the Lower Sixth. We decided to go for a drink in the Keyhole Bar that was underneath the Astoria Ballroom on Roundhay Road. 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. I was struck by horror. Twenty Roundhay staff were sitting at the tables. I nearly choked on my pint, and I think I spilt some. It must have been a staff night out. I am not sure who was most surprised, me or the teachers. Les Lees, head of the sixth form, was the first to react. He was always a man in control, and he walked over to me and whispered, “When you’ve finished your drink, you should probably leave.” My friends were a bit nonplussed, but I explained the situation and, within a remarkably short time, we finished our drinks and headed for the door.

The Astoria. The Keyhole Bar was underneath on the right. I had forgotten about the old bus shelter.

I can only surmise that as Mr Lees had dealt with the issue, then the other teachers felt the matter was closed. Nothing more was ever said or done. Of course, my friends thought it was hilarious, and it made their night, but I was mortified.

4 Replies to “‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Trouble at School! He’s just a very naughty boy! Harehills County Primary, Stainbeck Preparatory, Roundhay School, and the Astoria Nightmare.”

  1. Very nostalgic. I was absolutely terrified of Mr. Kelly.
    Also quite often went to the Keyhole Bar, thought it very sophisticated.
    Roundhay Girls had no corporal punishment which was good just detentions.
    Thanks for writing your blogs

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I went to Roundhay High School, nee Clemishaw (my elder brother went to Roundhay Boys’ School – where our father had gone years before) and lived near the Astoria so I caught the 31 bus from that bus shelter It saved many a good soaking or being snowed on before school!

    Liked by 1 person

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