Unexpectedly I met up with John Grayshon, an old school friend, yesterday. Although we have been in contact with each other on Facebook this was the first time we had met physically for 51 years. Spending some time together brought back many memories and I thought I'd share them with you. The school in question is Batley Grammar School and John was part of a quartet of good friends who shared the experience all those years ago. We were John (Grash), David Walker (Whacker), Raymond Gray (known inexplicably as Raymondo) and I was "Mash". I suppose John was always the leader of our little gang. He as just a little older than the rest of us and we more or less followed his lead. Thanks to social media I have also talked to David and another old mate Richard Parkin. Raymondo has disappeared from our radar but who knows one day we might have a reunion.Back in 1961 it was quite an achievement for a young lad from a council estate to go to grammar school. Although right in the middle of the 11+ period I never actually sat the exam. In one of the interminable experiments by the Ministry of Education as then was, our school was part of a project where overall school work would be used to decide if you worthy of a grammar school place rather than place the emphasis on a single exam. Anyway be that may I was invited to apply for a place in a grammar school for my secondary education. I remember how proud my mum was when I was offered a place. There was a local grammar school nearby in Morley but Batley GS had a much better reputation for its level of education so that was the one I (or mum!) chose. Things were very different then. I would have to have a school uniform of course but this was very expensive as only a few shops stocked them in those days. Luckily mum got some kind of grant so, together with my dear old nan, off we went to Rawcliffe's in Dewsbury and when we returned home I was fully equipped ready to begin my new school career. Nan had even bought me a brand new shiny leather satchel for my books bless her. Uniforms were compulsory and had to be worn throughout your time at BGS. School caps were mandatory right up to the day I left and woe betide if you were ever caught without it. I think I had the just the one throughout my school days and inevitably it became a bit shall we say well worn. Not of course that we ever wore it all the time despite the penalties for not. You just put it on when you got off the bus and walked into school. That was the one and only brand new uniform I ever had and for my last year I was conspicuous by my bright blue blazer that my mother must have accquired from a jumble sale. Many enquiries were made as to whether I was thinking of taking up a career at Butlins (if you know what this is all about you may just be showing your age).
For our first year we had to wear short trousers. As succinctly put by the headmaster "Young boys fall over - cut knees mend by themselves but not trousers!" On my first day we were shown round the facilities and one young lad plucked up the courage to ask where the woodwork room was. "Over the hill boy" was the terse reply " at the high school. You have come here to work not play." Despite that rather forbidding start I soon settled into my new class and school routine. The school had three streams catering for different levels of pupils - A, Alpha and B. I was put in the A stream for the brightest (Merice - please don't comment!) and there of course first met the boys who would be my closest friends throughout our time there.
Batley GS was founded in 1665 and was very proud of its traditions built up over the years. Teachers wore black gowns and were always "Sir" - none of this first name malarkey. We were always addressed by our surnames though we quickly got used to this. Even talking amongst ourselves we would use this mode of address to each other though usually in the form of nicknames we all got. In addition to ours shown above there were some memorable ones. Gatenby became "Gate'hole'", Paul Gelder was "Redleg" (work it out for yourself), Richard Parkin was "Piggy" and our Polish pupil whose name began with a 'W' became "Whiz" even by the teachers. There were many more but you get the picture.
Things were a 'little' different in those days. For example on our first P.E. lesson there we all were lined up dressed in our P.E. kit. This comprised a pair of white shorts and white pumps. Nothing else. The teacher, one W.A.R Smith walked down the line and give us all a sharp crack on the backside with his ruler and the information that this what was in store if we didn't do as told. He finished up "I'm one in front now boys!" Corporal punishment was a way of life. The most common punishment was lines which could be 25, 50 or 100 written repetitions of a sentence decided by a teacher usually beginning with "I will not........" though a whack with a ruler was not uncommon. Some teachers had a preference for chucking the blackboard rubber at you and they had many years of practice behind them so you had to be quick to get out of the way. In extreme cases it was the Headmaster's Office for the cane and for the very worst offenders there was a public flogging in front of the whole assembly. These were very rare and of course, the recipients quickly acquired a certain amount of awe and respect from the rest of us. Probably the worst form of punishment was Saturday morning detention. That's right you would have to get up early on a Saturday morning and report to School for a two hour detention where you would be assigned menial tasks. This detention was awarded for a variety of reasons. Yes you've already guessed one which would be caught without your cap. But being late three times a week would also incur this imposition. I didn't have many because I wanted to spend my Saturday mornings playing football for the School 2nd XI.
In our third year the world changed.Yes it did. A certain four lads from Liverpool burst on the scene - the Swinging Sixties were born. Suddenly it was OK to be cheeky to authority, to do your own thing, wear what you wanted, get rid of the short back and sides and grow your hair. Not so at Batley Grammar School. My I.B. Fallows, our formidable headmaster, saw to that. To be fair we didn't have all that much contact with him apart from morning assemblies but he did take a class in Latin with us every week. His speciality was Aeneid's Odyssey, the Roman's reply to Greek mythology. Basically we were assigned a section of this baloney, "Sorry Sir masterpiece", to be studied for our Latin GCE exam. Each week we had a passage of the book to translate into English or as a special treat, translate a passage of English back into Latin. Very exciting indeed. Mr Fallows would solemnly walk up and down our row of desks and if he saw a stray hair peeking over the collar it was "Haircut by Monday boy" That was all it took and the blossoming Beatle cut was gone. Yes you are reading this right. Yours truly did indeed learn a bit of Latin in fact believe it or not I've got an 'O'level in the subject. Like generations before and since the first Latin verb we were taught has stayed irrevocably in my head - "amo, amas,amat......" I'll let you finish the rest if you can but if you can't - don't worry you haven't missed anything! The title of this blog is our school Latin motto but I can't remember what it means...but if anyone does..let me know.
I could go on and on and maybe will do later with tales of smoking in the toilets, chemistry teacher blowing himself up, two full terms in the school lavatories in stead of the geography class and many other thrilling tales of school life in the sixties. However no blog about school days would be complete without a mention of school dinners. We had a simple choice. Eat it or leave it. All meals were prepared and cooked each morning in the school kitchen every day. I loved 'em. We always wanted to be a 'server' on our table because then we were in charge of portion control. Four days a week me and the gang took it in turns to occupy these favoured positions and I apologise unreservedly for the way we treated our tablemates on those days. But on Fridays for some reason I can't recall, they got there first. If you happen to be reading this I hope your revenge was sweet and filling!
If there are any old boys from BGS reading this I'd love to hear from you and any comments too on what I've written. Glenn