Monday, 20 February 2017


The teachers' table sat in front of (and parallel to) the stage

I was rather shy and introverted as a primary school pupil and didn't mix well with my fellows.  Back in my day, it was the practice to pair off with a classmate when en route to anywhere in the school by saying "Take!", and clasping the hand of the favoured (or simply available) choice of partner before making our way (in a double-filed line) to whichever part of the school we were led by the teacher.

One day (in 1966), the bell rang for dinner, and the playground emptied as the throng of kids made its way into the corridor outside the dining hall, pairing off while awaiting permission to enter.  (I'm unsure why we were in the playground at dinnertime, but we were.  Perhaps we were the second wave of hungry diners that day.)

Anyway, I hung back because I didn't have a pupil to pair off with - for two reasons.  Firstly, no one picked me, and secondly, I was just too shy to put myself forward.  My brother found me lurking in the corridor and enquired why I wasn't in the hall filling my face.  I explained my situation and he took me to see Mr. Curry, the janitor.  Wishing to avoid embarrassing me by saying "He's too shy to go into the hall by himself", he just said  "He was at the far end of the playground and didn't hear the dinner-bell."

Mr. Curry took me to the door of the hall, opened it and actually whistled to the teachers sat at the 'top table'.  Mr. Halliburton, the depute head looked over, and Mr. Curry nodded at me in a contemptuous manner.  "Didn't hear the bell," he explained as Mr. Halliburton came over, in a tone which suggested "a likely story".

Without saying a word, Mr. Halliburton grabbed me by the back of my collar and, no exaggeration, my feet barely scuffed the stairs as he ascended to his classroom on the top floor.  There, he administered several strokes of 'the strap', with such severity I had the wind knocked out of me.  Then he dragged me back down to the hall and said to one of the dinner ladies "Give this boy his food!"

Ignore the doorway on your left.  It was the doorway to the side of
it on your right from which Mr. Curry hailed Mr. Halliburton

I'll choose my next words very carefully.

What a nasty, sadistic b*st*rd!  No sympathy, no empathy, no clue about how to deal with kids who were a bit self-conscious or introverted.  How he was ever allowed to be a teacher, never mind a headmaster (as he later became) remains a complete mystery to me.  I met him at various times in my teenage and adult years, and though I was always perfectly polite to him, I never forgot the appalling way he had punished my 7 year-old self for merely being a bit shy and lacking in confidence.  Schoolkids today don't know just how fortunate they are, that's for sure.

One of his two sons was in my class in secondary school, and I always felt a bit sorry for him.  Not that he was a sad individual or anything like that, but I have the impression that he copped a fair bit of grief simply for being his father's son.  Mr. Halliburton hadn't been well-liked by quite a number of pupils, and poor Neville would've had that situation to deal with, unfortunately.  Probably the opposite of his primary school days I imagine, when none of his classmates would've dared touch him for fear of incurring his pater's sadistic and unholy wrath.

I last saw Mr. Halliburton around 9 years or so ago, but he was pretty ancient and I'd be surprised (though undismayed) to learn that he's yet alive.  If it's not already happened, it won't be long until it's Mr. Halliburton's turn to see 'The Headmaster'.  I'm not so bitter over my experience though, that I'd begrudge him being accorded the understanding, insight, and mercy that he seemed incapable of displaying towards his unfortunate pupils.

Hey, maybe I'm a better person than I thought.


Incidentally, there's a subsequent incident involving Mr. Halliburton where I defied his attempt to punish me again.  I'll tell you Criv-ites all about it another time.     


pete doree said...

Another world and another time, thankfully. We had a maths teacher who threw chalk at you if you talked during his lessons. He then escalated to throwing the board rubber ( a weighty, solid lump of wood ) at you if you carried on. One time he actually threw a whole chair at one particularly mouthy kid.
Luckily ( and I'm sure like most comic readers ), I was so quiet he never even noticed me.
Unbelievable when you stop to think about some of the genuine maniacs we were all 'taught' by back then. Hate Maths by the way, never learnt a thing, and recently realised I might actually have discalculia. Can you imagine saying that back then? Oy.

Kid said...

When you think about it, PD, we had some right psychos 'teaching' us back then. Would their kind even be allowed near kids nowadays? Funnily enough, I could never get into maths myself, and algebra was Kryptonese to me. If you haven't seen it already, you may enjoy another of my 'Schooltime Scandals' posts (part 8) entitled 'Annexed Algebra'. What do they call the disorder that prevents people from pronouncing 'discalculia'? ('Cos I think I have that.)

pete doree said...

Will do Kid. An' I'm going for Dispernounceipitationism.

Kid said...

That's easy for you to say, DP.

Philip Crawley said...

Takes me back Kid, but not in a good way, to a couple of similar incidents during my school days. These psychos would be in all sorts of trouble were they to behave like that in this day and age! My two most despised classes, Sport (or 'Phys-Ed') and Maths were the scenes of these incidents. Bit of a chicken or the egg - did I hate these subjects before I was assaulted by the teachers or did I incur their unwanted attentions because I did not like the class. Even now I will reach for the calculator should I have to add anything up rather than go the mental arithmetic route, and I have absolutely zero interest or time for anything sport related and competitive in nature. I was likewise a quiet reserved kid and as is often the case was singled out by a couple of bullies back in the old school days. Much more assertive as an adult and I think it's just as well I left the town I grew up in (seeking employment) or I'd be in trouble with the law for thumping on sight any of the bullies were I to see them in adult life.

Kid said...

Yeah, I hated PE (as we called it) too, PC, and the times I 'forgot' my gym kit are almost beyond measure. As for bullies, I don't recall any primary school incidents (for the moment anyway, perhaps something will come back to me), but there were a couple of mild attempts in first year in secondary school. Luckily, I sprouted a bit, and when I stood up to a few potential bullies, the rest started looking at imaginary spots on the wall, floor or ceiling and I never had any trouble during the remainder of my 'academic' years. There were a couple who I never really saw again (either because they moved to other schools or classes) and, like you, I'd be tempted to confront them now. I had the pleasure of seeing most of them decide I wasn't to be tangled with. (That's my view anyway, they'd probably say it was because I wasn't worth the effort.)

Colin Jones said...

Ah, those "good old days" that you love so much, Kid. And Neville Halliburton sounds like a character from the Harry Potter books !

Kid said...

I recognise irony when I see it, CJ. On the whole, they were the good old days. but there were the occasional exceptions which now serve as grist for the mill as far as this blog goes. Neville was all right as far as I can remember, it was only his dad who was the problem. However, who knows - perhaps when corporal punishment was abolished, he 'mellowed out' and became a less angry teacher. I'd like to think so.

TC said...

Never saw the point in teaching higher mathematics (e.g., algebra) in high school or earlier. I've never known anyone who used it, except scientists and engineers. And they could have taken it in freshman year in college, or, maybe, as an elective (optional) course in senior year in HS.

We had a PE/Phys Ed/Gym/whatever coach in 4th and 5th grade who didn't seem to grasp that elementary school is not Army Basic Combat Training. And there was an English teacher in 4th grade who was batsh-t psychotic, constantly flying into a rage and screaming all over the place, for no particular reason. She had gone to Hollywood, tried to get into the movies, failed, and then came back and went into teaching. I can't think of a worse job for someone like that. (Well, except law enforcement, because then she would have been carrying a gun. I shudder to think.) She never got to be an actress, but she sure was a Drama Queen.

Kid said...

It amazes me, TC, when I think back to my schooldays, just how many teachers seem to have been so totally unsuited to being in an environment with kids or teenagers. It's almost as if they were trying (and failing) to conquer a phobia about them by getting a job where they had contact with them. Of course, it's the same in every job, isn't it? There are policemen (and women) who shouldn't be, and hey - I've even known a handful of editors who were utterly ineffective and should have been working in a job where all they had to do is ask "Do you want fries with that?" (Liked the Drama Queen line.)

Dunsade Dave said...

On my first day in secondary school, our maths teacher introduced himself by brandishing a battered looking chair leg and saying 'My name is Mr Swan (not his real name) and this is the Child Educator'.

Also had a PE teacher who would carry one of those old MouldMaster footballs everywhere, the ones covered in raised dots. If he thought anyone wasn't listening to him, he'd hurl it straight at their face and then say 'If you were paying attention you'd have caught that'.

Looking back, I think these teachers actually realised they didn't have enough charisma or skill to manage a class and resorted to psychologically terrorising pupils instead.

I should point out that I had some teachers who were pretty good too, including an English teacher who was quite happy to talk about Jack Kirby's Thor stories (he also lent me a book of reprints of Simonson Thor issues too!)

paul Mcscotty said...

Whilst we were never mamby-pambied my teachers were pretty ok although there certainly were a few of them that seemed to hate either kids or being a teacher (or both) in the way they spoke down to us.

My 2 Primary schools (from memory) were pretty idyllic for me, secondary was less so. I recall one little git - a pupil - (5ft 3, face like a melted welly boot) bullied me for a full term. I remember it was his pal I was wary off as he had been in borstal and said he would “cut me” if I hit his pal – so that gave the wee git carte blanch to humiliate me . As it turned out his pal got put away not long after that so he calmed down on picking on me until one day , showing off to his new pal, he kicked me really heavily (he had this Doc Martin steel cap boots) in the legs as we entered the front doors of the school (2 very large wooden doors) and kicked me again as I fell. I recall just seeing” red” and just grabbed him and slammed him into the door and was going to trap his head between the doors when a teacher got me by the scruff of the neck and said “you boys my room..... NOW!!!” .

The teacher gave the usual speech “I don’t know what you 2 were doing but it stops here…. hands out boys..” (for the strap/belt) now I was a pretty quiet guy at school and never spoke back to a teacher but this time I went for my teacher and said (something like ) “no way am I taking the belt, this little “???” has bullied my for a full term and not one of you (teachers) helped me you just let it happen– call my parents if you want they’d love to hear how you police the school!” (– no doubt all delivered in a broken half crying snot filled voice, accompanied by a bout of err wind) but it worked and we were told to head to class and no more fighting. The really great thing was that by the next term (14 years old) he stayed at 5ft 3 and I shot up to 5ft 7 ish”…. he never got in my way again. I saw a picture on him a few years ago on “Friends Reunited” he was still about 5ft 3 and is as round as he is tall. Sadly I have only added 2 inches to my height since then!

Regarding specific teachers not fit for the job, we had a Religious Education (RE) teacher (think he just stood in for classes like that) called Ernie Blower (his real name) and during teaching the bibl, if you were not paying attention he would hurl chalk or a duster at you at a rate on knots accompanied by the dulcet tones of "you boy pay attention" (girls never got into trouble). In addition to that he constantly sucked away on his front set of false teeth and picked his nose (rumour had it that this was also thrown at kids that particularly hacked him off – talk about turning the other nostril !). Saying that he was actually an ok guy (believe it or not). I also had 3 teachers that were amazing Mr Tulloch, Miss Green and at Primary Ms Simpson - lovely people and great educators.

Kid said...

The trouble with some teachers, DD, is that they had no sense of what was appropriate for the situation. If they'd had a bad experience with some cheeky kids they'd had to reprimand or punish, they treated all kids in the exact same way - even if some situations required a more delicate response. There was a PE teacher at my secondary school called MacDougal (the teacher, not the school), and he used to tweak pupil's nipples. He'd be locked up today for doing that. Hey, do you think we could chase down those teachers and prosecute them for 'school crimes' in the way that Nazis are still hunted down for war crimes? That'd be something, eh? (A guy can dream.)


Had a good laugh at your comment, PM, you've definitely got a blog in you. We had an RE teacher called Bertie Auld (no relation to Jenny as far as I know), and he cycled everywhere, resulting in him being called...well, I'm sure you can imagine. (Don't want to type it as some people might consider it blasphemy.) The decent teachers I remember were Dougie Smith (Maths), Mr. Hill (who we called Hector - can't remember what he taught), Mr. Bell (Art), and doubtless there were others, but I'd have to search my memory banks to recall them. 'Turn the other nostril' - brilliant.

John Pitt said...

Here's a little anecdote, proving that school dinners could indeed be dangerous - for the teachers!
My first primary school had this policy that the children HAD to eat everything! Well, at that time, I didn't like peas ( or anything with them in!'), so when faced with a stew, I just wouldn't eat it and no matter what any teacher said I would not give in and so was forced to sit in a corner for ages until I did what I was told. But I still refused. Finally they tried to force feed me with it, but when that cold, pea stew hit my mouth it caused a gag reaction and I vomited everywhere, including over my plate.
Well, they couldn't insist that I ate THAT and finally admitted defeat and let me go!
I had won!
That's one for the kids!

Kid said...

Well, they had your dinner money, but you didn't get any dinner, so they won in a way too, JP. Just not in a very nice way. Some cynics might think your dinner would be served up the next day to unsuspecting pupils. Remember the old saying they had - "waste not, want not".

Warren JB said...

Blimey, Kid. I did not see the way that story was going. For not going into the dinner hall. Makes my blood run cold.

I remember in primary school, being brought up to the front of the class by an old guy who was a substitute teacher (crime: picked a couple of splinters off an old desk that was already falling apart), made to face wall and touch my toes. Had no idea what was going on, until I felt the long ruler across my backside.
This was late eighties, IIRC. I'm not sure if it was after the caning abolition date, but that kind of thing never went on at that school anyway, which is why it was a shock to me. It was years before I realised it might've been illegal, but by that time I'd almost forgotten what the guy looked like, let alone his name. (It might've been a coincidence that I never saw him again at that school; and thinking about it, some of the regular female substitute teachers stung almost as badly with their tongues, with the added delight that you knew they'd be back in a week or two)

The Headmaster, who taught P6 and P7 (small country school) was one of the best teachers I had, not a pushover but almost always friendly and supportive, ready with a joke. The joint class was once loaned copies of The Hobbit and we read along as he read chapters aloud, doing great performances as the different characters. I can blame him for setting me on the path from shy kid to full-blown nerd! I heard he died a few days ago, and to be honest I cried more for that than for some relatives.

On bullying... is it too extreme to say that developing leukaemia was one of the best things to happen to me because it got me out of high school? After recovery and some home tutoring, I went to do my GCSEs at a technical college, and was honestly surprised to find that fellow students there acted like human beings.

Kid said...

Well, for being late going into the dinner hall I suppose, WJB. Why the jannie (Mr. Curry) simply couldn't have taken me over to the dinner ladies and had a quiet word, I just don't know. Incidentally, I have an idea that caning had been long-abolished well before the late '80s, so that old teacher you speak of was clearly living in a vanished era in his own mind.

As for leukaemia, as it was you who had it and as you recovered, then I wouldn't say it's too extreme to say it was one of the best things to happen to you - it's your own experience after all. I hope you weren't in any pain, but, as you suggest, your memories could've been a lot worse had things been different.

Matthew said...

Kid this apples to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

Kid said...

This 'apples' to me? Gimme a red one then. And why do you pretend your name is Matthew? Just to try and make a cheap point? Which, incidentally, applies at least just as much to you as you seem to think it does to me. However, I think belting a 7 year old child with such severity for merely being a few minutes late for dinner because of shyness, can hardly be called a 'speck' now, can it? Unless you're an @rsehole, that is. Are you?

Arfon Jones said...

It's interesting how polite they are when you are older, they pretend as if nothing happened- much the same with school buillies only they seem to think that you are in someway freinds! Whenever I bump into any 'rough' teachers or pupils I am reminded of that episode of 'I'm Alan Partrage' when he goes back to his old school! (havent seen it? check it out!)

Kid said...

Will do, AJ. I'll try YouTube when I get a spare moment.

Arfon Jones said...

Here you go sir! Enjoy!

Kid said...

Ta, AJ. I'll let you know my reaction once I've watched it.

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