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December 14, 2007


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I went to Leeds Boys Grammar school (juniors) and the thrashings were carried out with what was called The Bat although it looked more like a wooden paddle and had been specially made for the task.

I remember the first time I got six of the best (I flicked a piece of paper at the boy in front of me - crime of the century!) and the first whack didn't really register. I guess the body was in shock but by the third whack the pain started to roll across me in waves.

And the pain continued for quite a while afterwards. I didn't cry though.

I passed my 11 plus but we moved south and I ended up as a scholarship boy in a public school. Now that place was brutal: POWs in Germany were better off.

I don't think being beaten made me a better person. I think the whole thing is barbaric.

Quick joke:

"Have you ever hit your children?"

"Only in self defence."

Bill Taylor

I lasted at King James until I failed O Levels in everything but English Language and Literature and my parents were recommended to "try and find him a job somewhere." (Doggarts department store for two years before I blagged my way into a three-month trial at the Evening Gazette on Teesside.)
Grammar school was a place of sanctioned but often ad-hoc savagery. Among the teachers I remember are a woman who taught music and was known as the Scalper, for her habit of seizing you by the hair with one hand and slapping your face with the other; Cosher, of course; and Lez Rawe; who once gym-slippered our whole class because he heard someone swear and no one would own up to it. The younger gym teacher can only have been "Nixie" Guy, who had the "humorous" habit of throwing from close range a basketball at your midriff. When it hit you and doubled you over, he would say, "You should have caught that." On one occasion I saw it coming, did catch it and threw it back. It hit him but, given that he had rather better stomach muscles than mine, he wasn't much doubled up. Nor did he see the funny or just side of it. He walloped me soundly with a gym shoe. And, finally, there was the Latin master who carried -- and used -- an officer's swagger stick. Someone stole it and hid it behind the sliding blackboard. Alas, they also wrote a taunting message on that same board. In a rage, he wrenched a chair apart. After two of us had been clobbered with a chair leg, his swagger stick was restored to him. We knew when we were well off.
The worst part of it was if you happened to admit to your parents that you'd been beaten. Chances were you'd get another dose to encourage you to behave better at school.
Did it teach me anything? Nothing more than certain evasive tactics such as, when I hadn't done my math homework, the desirability of sitting at the front with the swots. The teacher was in the habit of belting miscreants across the head with the exercise books he'd collected. He had more of an armful by the time he got to the back and a well-aimed swing could knock you off your chair.

Pete Sixsmith

Ah, Bishop Auckland Grammar School, the old alma mater. One of those schools that we look back on with nostalgia and fond memories at the quality of teaching, the kindness and sparkling wit of the teachers and the opportunities it gave us boys what had dragged themselves out of the working class gutter to become proud members of the middle classes.
What a dump. Poor teaching - if you couldn't do it they wouldn't/couldn't teach you how.We had a maths teacher who stuck a couple of examples on the board, told us to do Exercise whatever and then spent the rest of the lesson reading a racy novel behind his teachers version of aforementioned text book. Some were OK and some were even Sunderland supporters but others were just whiling away the time to retirement and an early grave.
Some were savage. The Music/French teacher would have been turned down by Wackford Squeers on the grounds that he beat the boys too much.
Unpleasant sarcasm substituted for wit and humour and was often more hurtful than the cane.
Too many boys and girls (I was the first of the mixed school)were forgotten about and ignored at the expense of those who would achieve anyway. You could see some of the teachers looking down their noses at those whose parents weren't the sons and daughters of clothing factory managers or petrol company sales managers.
For every good grammar school (and there were more bad ones than good ones)there were 4 awful Sec Mods. The Comprehensive movement came late to Labour controlled Durham County Council but anyone who looks back to the Grammar Schools as halcyon days needs to look again very carefully.

Bill Taylor

I'd almost forgotten the snobbery and the sarcasm. And the guy who "taught" us German for five years and somehow managed almost totally to avoid having us actually speak the language out loud. It made the oral segment of the O-Level exam... interesting.
I did have one brilliant English teacher -- Keith (I think) Adams, who had me reading Kerouac at 13. He gave me a bad mark on a homework essay once and I was so appalled, I did it over. That would never have happened with any of the other teachers.

Bob Scarlett

I was at KJ in the 1960s. I remember the rude and sarcastic manner that some of the teachers adopted towards their charges. I also remember how lazy and incompetent some of the teachers were. Although there were a few good teachers and no small number were both polite and caring.

As regards the music/french teacher that Peter Sixsmith refers to, he was an odball character given the nickname 'Bongo'. He was mercilessly taunted by the boys. The 'savagery' he responded with was just desperation on his part. He couldn't last even at a school like ours. I recall that he left KJ in 1965.

Stuart Watkins

How things have changed over the years. I was at the Grammar School from 1946 to 1954. I remember "Clues" Mr Wells who was called Clues because his brother was a detective. "Inky" Stan Ince, "Bunny" Mr Hare, "Beefy" Mr Hoggett. "Doc Willy" Dr Wilson."Danny" Robinson and many more. Some of these teachers were sadistic. The beating they handed out would have landed them in jail today. Danny and Maurice Hare did not use the cane. They used four by two planks of wood. Doc Willey had a case with four canes in it and because he was the Latin teacher he named them all with Latin names. When we were due for a whacking we had to choose a cane to be whacked with. There are so many horrible memories of these teachers but there are also many memories I will never forget. I played rugby and cricket for the school. I played rugby and cricket with the Old Leos when I left. I now live in Brisbane, Australia and have done for the past 30 years. I kept in contact with a few friends but sadly most of them have gone.

Judith Mallin

I thought it was just me! It’s amazing that,at the age of 70, I’ve found out … it wasn’t just me…
The teachers were so so so discriminatory because my dad was just a ‘machinists Shildon Shops’ I spent my whole time there wishing I was ‘dead’ - left at 15
Wouldn’t go back and went to tech… now can finally set the nightmare free… cos it wasn’t just me!!! Thank you

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