Tuesday, September 02, 2008
FIRST DAY BLUES
Few things to an 11-year-old quite match facing that very first day at a new school. Or that's how it seemed in the 1960s for those of us who passed the 11-plus to go from Glebe Road 'Juniors' to Brigg Grammar.
They lined us up in the quad (small playground), as masters in flowing gowns, reading from lists, fussed about, sorting out which boys were going where.
We then moved to our classrooms - in our case temporary buildings (long demolished) adjoining the back gardens of homes in Glebe Road, which played host to 3A and 3 Alpha.
There was a chilly, autumnal feel to the weather (or was that just our nervousness?), and about all I can remember of those initial hours is watching a few swallows, or house martins, gathering on nearby telephone wires, in readiness to fly off to warmer climes for the winter.
Although most definitely the lowest of the low in the BGS pecking order, within seven years we were to rise through the ranks, and grow in stature, to become prefects, and top of the pile (except for the teaching staff, of course).
Our first academic year (1967-8) was the last to endure Saturday morning school (we got Wednesday afternoon off), and we were the final first years to be initiated into the unheated, outdoor swimming bath - well into September!
We also wore short trousers and the official school cap at all times when in uniform (and that included while outside the hallowed premises, founded in 1669 by Sir John Nelthorpe).
The masters were a very dedicated bunch - French and maths specialists Vernon Atkin and Harold Stinson are pictured here - but, in some cases, they did not have a lot of talent with which to work.
During that first year, devoted English master Mike Walker put almost our entire class into Wednesday afternoon detention after we declined en masse to give up part of our morning break to listen to a Dylan Thomas reading on the radio.
Perhaps these days it would be viewed as an infringement of pupils' rights, but in the late 1960s at BGS the master's word was law. And there was no chance at all of the 'sentence' being reviewed by the Head, H B Williams, who read each and every name on Mr Walker's list of shame to the entire school during assembly, just to make sure the 'resistance is futile' message got home to all.
Fortunately, at the annual dinner of the Briggensians' Association, former pupils and staff find plenty of Happy Days to look back on from their years spent at Brigg Grammar, although I can't recall anyone nicknamed Fonz!
If you want to find out more about the former pupils' association, visit www.briggensians.net