Wednesday, November 23, 2005

My Life: Schooldays

Dunard Street Primary School

Dunard Street Primary SchoolPrimary school for me was Dunard Street Primary in Dunard Street, Maryhill and I can remember my first day as a four-and-a-half year old, betrayed when my mum tried to get me to go into this ominous looking building surrounded by metal bars with the horrible intention of leaving me there! It took her a while but she finally managed it, regardless of my screams and tantrums, and so I embarked on my journey through Scottish education.

I remember using a little slate and a piece of chalk to start with but it must have been just at the end of that era as I don't think we did it for very long. Pity as it's much cheaper option than using paper and pencils but a bit limiting having only one surface to work on.

I only have a few memories of my time there but they were mostly happy ones and I graduated as Dux in my final year so it can't have been that bad. I didn't get the usual medal for some reason as that year the prize was a whopping great encyclopedia, which was almost certainly more useful and my mum still uses it to help solve crossword puzzles.

About mid-morning we'd all get a break during which we'd be issued with a little bottle of milk, about a third of a pint I think. This was the government's scheme to make sure all us kids got something in the way of nourishment, and a bit of calcium, in the morning. Everyone got this free, so even the really poor kids got something, until education secretary Thatcher the snatcher abolished it in the 1970's for children over seven. Quite often, if it was really cold during the winter, the bottles would be frozen solid and we'd bring the crates into the classroom early and stack them besides the radiators to thaw them out.

The only negatives that come to mind were the school dinners and learning that I needed to wear glasses. Bit of a bummer finding out at age seven that I'd be being called "speccy four-eyes" for years but I've been wearing them ever since.

As for the dinners, let me clarify the nomenclature a bit. We had dinner at what is now called lunchtime and we had our tea when most of you lot now have dinner so we had breakfast, dinner, tea and supper (still do really). Anyway, that aside, there was no such thing as a menu back then so there was always a bit of anticipation of what was going to be served. Memories of horrid little balls of mashed potato that never tasted anything like what I got at home, carrots boiled to buggary and tasteless gravy still linger to this day. Every now and then they'd inflict a wee variation on us like cheese potatoes, where the colour of the balls changed to yellow but the taste never quite resembled any cheese I was familiar with.

I hated fat as a child, still do mostly, and I remember a teacher insisting I eat eat some really fatty Irish Stew and to clear the plate. Of course I promptly threw it up over the table - revenge is sweet (or at least a bit stewy).

Not a bad school really and I think I only got the belt once and that was for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. "Wusnae me Sir!" but we all got it. The belt I mean or the Tawse as it was really called. See the section at the end of this post on Corporal Punishment for a better explanation of this.

North Kelvinside Senior Secondary School

I was only 11 when I started secondary school in 1966 and I think being six months or so younger than most of the year's intake made me a bit of an outsider. On top of that, friends from primary were either in different classes or had gone to Garrioch Road Junior Secondary as we had a two tier system in those days.

I wasn't great at sports and didn't follow football much so it wasn't too long before a couple of swines called Ranstead and Gillespie decided to make to make my life there as miserable as possible. Being bullied isn't any fun at all and I wasn't the only one they picked on so here's hoping they've had their comeuppance by now.

One other memory I have is of the panic that ensued when it was rumoured that the Mummies were going to be round at four to sort out one of the teachers. Glasgow had a fairly unhealthy gang culture at the time, nothing like it had been some years before, but they wear still pretty rife and the Mummies were one of the local gangs along with the Fleet, Tongs and the Toi. Such was the reputation of this gang, we were sent home early and the police were were called in to fend off any impending attack. Needless to say that nothing transpired and the streets were quite. I suspect now that the rumour was just that and was probably started as a joke by some schoolkid. The gangs then mostly fought among themselves and rarely bothered anyone else.

Got the belt a lot more here but then almost everyone did. Our maths teacher belted anyone for anything but she was so useless at it that no one was that bothered. However, there were a few teachers there that were good at it and had seriously nasty belts and you behaved in their class I can tell you.

I have to say that I hated my time at this school and was so glad when we moved from Maryhill to Knightswood in 1968. The school was closed in 2001 and has since been demolished.

Knightswood Secondary School

We moved to Knightswood just after the great storm of 1968 and it felt like a new page had been turned - a new house and a new school. To a kid from Maryhill, Knightswood was like moving out to the country. The streets were wider and had much less traffic and almost every house round about had a garden - amazing.

Knightwood Secondary was pretty good and I enjoyed it far more and made some new friends as well and it even had a decent dinner hall. Can't say as anything momentous ever happened to me there but the teachers were a reasonable lot and most everyone got on fine. From there it was off into the grown up world of 1972. I didn't fancy going to university or college (and probably didn't have the qualifications anyway) so it was time to look for a job but I'll cover that later.

Corporal Punishment

Just to explain about the belt or Tawse, which was the official form of corporal punishment dished out in Scottish schools when I was a boy. Basically it was a leather strap of varying length and thickness and some even had three tails. The "Lochgelly" was the model to have as well as that was where the best ones were made. Depending on the model and the teacher dishing it out, the effects ranged from a mild slap to extremely serious pain.

To receive it, you could stand with one hand out to the front or side or with both hands crossed in front. Some teachers had a preference on how they liked you to stand and either way could cause problems. Too close to the side attack and the belt could wrap around the hand and arm and too close in front and you could get it all the way up the wrist and arm. Too far away from either angle and the ends of your fingers could get a bad hit.

Of course a miss was always your fault as it got a laugh from the class at the teacher's expense. Deliberately dodging the belt by moving your hand or hands out of the way was a risky move as it almost always added a stroke to the sentence. Refusing the belt outright meant a trip to the headmaster's office and invariably a stronger sentence from him or your parents were called in.


Nick said...

A school education in England wasnt much different in many ways.

Anonymous said...

Without going into too much detail and putting a dampener on things my memories of Dunard St and N.K. were pretty horrendous. Bullying for me started at Dunard St. because I focused more on the subjects than football. One day there was a match in the playground between the two classes and my teacher insisted that I was in the team. It was a horrific experience.
Another memory that was particularly disturbing was after the Christmas church service in Wilton Street. Back in the class we were packing up to go home. Kids were leaving and one boy (the only one who ended up at Garrioch) asked me to slip two cartons of milk into my schoolbag. This kid was poor btw. He put them in and the teacher came over and looked in my schoolbag.
After all the kids were gone she took me into the cloakroom and I was pleading with her. But I got strapped about six times. What a horrible memory.
NK it continued. But I didn't do too badly.
I'm in Florida and have to say that I have so many mixed memories of that time. But I'm married now with a couple of kids so I'm grateful in many ways. But Dunard Street. Funny how it never leaves you. Hopefully it's a wee bit better now.