Friday, 21 December 2012


A photo of my old school from about a year ago

As previously stated on this blog, Christmas tends to make me sentimental for the past - to an even greater degree than usual, if such a thing is possible.  This may well be the last Christmas my old primary school will see, being due for demolition when a new one is completed to house the pupils who temporarily inhabit it.  That perhaps requires further explanation, so allow me to indulge myself by elucidating.  (If you're a regular reader, you can skip the next two paragraphs.)

A brand-new school has already been built to replace the old one, and the pupils are presently ensconced within its gleaming interiors.  However, another school in a nearby neighbourhood needed to be demolished before the new one could be built (due to limited space), so the pupils from that school moved into the vacated premises of my old one, which has been rechristened in the process.  When their new building is completed, the pupils will vacate my old school - which will then, sadly, be wiped from the face of the earth.

Luckily, I was able to arrange access to the old school just before it was 'pressed into temporary service' and managed to take loads of photos for posterity.  I was looking at them the other night (once more retracing the steps of my past) when, as I gazed at the corridors along which I once so casually cavorted, an incident from the long-vanished days of my childhood resurfaced in the tranquil waters of my recollection. Allow me to share it with you now.


In a far more innocent age than the one we now inhabit, it was once the custom (and may yet be) for primary pupils to pair up with a partner when the class was in transit to another part of the school.  So, if a class was going to the dinner hall, pupils were instructed to form a double column, clasp the hand of the person next to them, and proceed in an orderly fashion to their destination.

This practice was so ingrained in us from our earliest days that, eventually, whenever we were required to form an orderly line to or from any point in the building, we'd automatically 'pair-off' with another pupil by saying "Take" (as if staking a claim), and then grasp their hand in our own.  Sometimes this choice was made purely from whoever was in closest proximity, and sometimes it would be a particular pal who was accorded the accolade.  (And vice versa.)

With that in mind (just in case it's no longer the practice these days), you're now equipped to understand my motivation in the tale I am about to (finally) relate.

The first floor corridor in which the following incident occurred

One fine day, our class was on its way to the gym hall at the other end of the building. As was my habit (being a rather shy, introverted boy, believe it or not), I hung back and waited for the rest of the class to leave the room before joining the trail at the tail-end.  Being without a partner, I skirted along the outside of the line of pupils, looking for someone in a similar position, when I noticed something ahead of me. The fire doors in the middle of the corridor were open, giving the top of the door frame the appearance of a roof beam.

A peculiarity of introverted children is that they sometimes over-compensate with uncharacteristic displays of extrovertedness, and this day was one such occasion.  As I made my way along the outside of the line, I said "Watch this" to two boys on the left of me, took a couple of hops and a jump, and hit the top of the door 'beam' on the way through.  Having 'shown off' (for the year), my attention was diverted by the boy ahead of me - BILLY McCLUSKEY - likewise being without a partner, so I automatically said "Take" and clasped his hand in line with then-current custom.
Un-noticed by me, however, Billy held a LEE'S 'Snowball' from the tuckshop in his hand, which I inadvertently squashed within its clear cellophane wrapper, much to his annoyance and my surprise.  I'm sure you can see what's coming;  Billy hailed the teacher's attention, proclaiming:  "Please, Miss - Gordon Robson's squashed my Snowball!" (behave - it wasn't a euphemism) and proceeded to kick up a fuss about it.  I, of course, protested my innocence (of intent, if not result), but the two lads I had passed were having none of it.

View from the first floor corridor window

You see, to them, it seemed as if I'd invited them to witness my crime by saying "Watch this", and that my tagging the door 'beam' was merely a casual display of exuberance on my way to commit the dastardly deed, not the actual act I'd invited them to observe.  A few years ago, I could still remember the names of my two accusers, but the passage of time has diminished my ability to recall them now.  I've got a vague idea that it may have been BILLY MONTGOMERY and ROSS CAMPBELL (who had a history of 'cliping' in order to curry teacher's favour), but I'm not 100% certain.  Apologies if it wasn't them, but I probably owe them for other misdemeanours anyway so I'm not about to lose any sleep over it. (H'mm, maybe IAN MORRIS was one of them - if only I could remember.)

The result?  I had to reimburse Billy for the cost of his confectionery, but that didn't bother me so much as the teacher not quite believing it was an accident (or she'd have replaced Billy's Snowball with another one from the tuckshop for free), and the alacrity with which my accusers had leapt to 'put the boot in'.  In all truthfulness, I can honestly state that I never knew Billy was holding anything, and that my account of events is exactly what transpired.  I can see why things looked as they did to the two boys, but it's a perfect example of a situation not being as it seemed, despite appearances to the contrary.

So, let that be a lesson to you (and me).  Sometimes, even when you're certain, you may still be wrong.  Funny the things that stick in your memory 45 years-plus after the fact, eh?  I wonder how (or even if) Billy and the two over-enthusiastic 'witnesses' recall the event.

Anyway, that's killed some time (and perhaps even your will to live).  If you don't behave, I may regale you with a similar-type tale from my secondary school days. You can't say you haven't been warned.

A photo of Billy from secondary school


For more Schooltime Scandals, click here.


TwoHeadedBoy said...

Ah, the injustices of primary school justice... I remember one lunchtime I was sitting on the playground (like you do), daydreaming or something when one of the dinnerladies called me over. Apparently I'd bit someone.

I hadn't, obviously, and I knew that, but when she put me in front of the teacher after lunch to be told off, somehow I couldn't find my way to denying it. I made up stories about how this guy's arm had ended up in my mouth (such as walking forward biting the air and so on), and eventually confessed to something I didn't do.

Dinnerladies/teachers could be VERY persuasive, it seems.

Kid said...

And what was your punishment, o mental one?

Billy McCluskey said...

I'm amazed to find my name has cropped up twice on your blog over the years. You've got some memory! I have absolutely no recollection of any of the two incidents; your Thor pic and the case of the squashed snowball! Belated apologies for being a 'wee clipe' and for the subsequent miscarriage of justice against you in the snowball incident. I'd completely forgotten bout Lee's snowballs, takes me back, remember buying them from the 'icey' in an ice cream cup with raspberry sauce.

I wish I could say I recognise you from the profile pic but, 40 years away from the EK and no contact with old mates to prompt memories of Canberra days, have left only a few memories of times probably best forgotten.

Sorry to read your blogs closed down, I wish I'd discovered it years ago, it's a great read and I love your work.

If our path's ever cross, I'll buy you a Lee's snowball (if they still make them)!

All the best, Billy McCluskey

Kid said...

Great to hear from you, Billy. Do you remember drawing your own picture of the boxers fighting though, or has that slipped into limbo as well? If you jump over to the 'Belmont On Boxing Day' post, there's a photo of the class outside the huts in 1967, and I'm standing in the near middle between Ian Robbie and David Drummond. (I've got a blue jumper on.) Maybe you'll remember me from that. Canberra has now been demolished, but I took loads of photos both inside and out - let me know if you'd like copies. And I'm holding you to that offer of the Lee's snowball - I have to get that thru'pence back somehow. Thanks for commenting.

Billy McCluskey said...

Great to hear from you too Gordon. Love the photo but don't remember too many people. I think Ross Campbell might be second on left, back row and maybe Alex Law, or is it Alan Mackenzie second from left, second to back row. I'm afraid the brains are mush, and I don't remember drawing the boxers, I'm not even a boxing fan. I was probably inspired by my older cousin Arthur MaCinally who was a bit of a part-time artist and folk musician around Hamilton. I remember he did a great painting of the boxer Walter MacGowan and also did the life size (so fairly short) painting of Jinky Johnson that hung in the Double JJ bar in Hamilton. Your right, I was distantly related to a boxer, John McCluskey but, I never met him. By coincidence though, a few months back a Scouse mate of mine was talking about Scottish boxers and remembered John McCluskey. We dug up an old photo of him on the internet and there was no denying he had the McCluskey bottom 'pet' lip, even my wife could see it.
Anyway, thank's for getting back to me and sending me 'down the rabbit hole' reading all your old blogs of EK. Cheers, Billy

Kid said...

Yeah, that's Ross Campbell, and the name of the other guy you allude to is Alex Lowe. I remember either you or another pupil telling me at the time that you drew the picture because of your (distant) relative - though the 'distant' part is new to me. I have a little booklet with old school photos from first year in Duncanrig, yours included (we weren't in the same class, Ross Campbell gave me it to copy years ago), so I might add your pic to this post. Where did you move to 40 years ago, and when was the last time you were in EK? Incidentally, there are a few old photos of how the town used to be in the '60s and '70s on the blog (including the town centre fountain), so feel free to refresh your memory if you so wish. Cheers, Billy - all the best.

Kid said...

Photo now added.

Billy McCluskey said...

Love the photo, dodgy hair but I'd be glad of it now. I've got a copy of the photo in a little card Duncanrig album too. My sister passed it on to me a few years ago when she was clearing out my Dad's place. From memory, it's got photos of Ross Campbell, Robert Baird (must have been a neighbour of yours on Belmont), Ian 'Borry' Morris, Alan 'Nizzie' Nisbet, Alan 'Turry' Mackenzie, Phil McNee, Stevie Edmondson and maybe Pete Mason. If a find it I'll scan them and pass them on to you. I left EK in '77, and after a few months of wandering around settled in Leeds. I've spent the subsequent years in various parts of Yorkshire and I'm now living in North Yorkshire near Helmsley about 20 miles N.E. of York. I was in E.K. just before Christmas. I was up for the Mogwai gig at the Hydro and took in Hubby at the Hug & Pint the night after. I arranged to meet my sister in E.K. and had an hour to kill so took a good drive around all the old haunts. I wasn't too surprised to see just about every school in E.K. had been rebuilt, including Canberra and Duncanrig, they were falling down in our day. I'll check out your other E.K. blogs, be good to see old pics of the town as it's virtually unrecognisable from how it was when we were kids. Cheers Gordon, Billy

Kid said...

The one I have includes Ian McFarlane, Robert Baird (who was my next door neighbour), Brian Adam, Alistair Liddell, Ross Campbell, yourself, Phillip McNee, and William Roulston. (All spellings as on the card.) That one was given to me by Peter Mason to copy. The one that Ross Campbell gave me had a pic of Peter in it, and Alan Nisbet - obviously at the expense of a couple of the photos on Peter's card. It's amazing to learn that you left EK 41 years ago - I imagined you'd still be kicking around somewhere not too far distant. As regards the schools, Billy, actually most (if not all) were still structurally sound, but they hadn't been maintained properly since the prospect of new schools was first proposed. Window frames weren't painted, etc., and Canberra looked a bit shabby (though Heathery Knowe, my first primary, was practically pristine), but it was one of the demolition team who told me that, apart from 'cosmetically', there was nothing wrong with Canberra. They were only demolished as part of the 'Lend/Lease' policy, and to free up land for housing. The view from the top of Belmont Drive (where I lived) has vanished behind a sea of roofs. Good to hear from you again. (P.S. Do you remember Miss Dale? If you haven't read the post already, type her name into my blog's search box.)

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