Some Bolton School memories:
Of Mr Dawson, taking a Lostock House morning assembly (was it in the Miniature Theatre on Thursday mornings?) in his trademark, decidedly non-spiritual, more sergeant-majorish style announcing 'We have a reader, we have a reading, read it lad'.
In the wake of Colin Chambers’ demonstration to the class of the power of the extractor fans on the then new fume cupboards in our chemistry lab (by showing that the weight of a wooden shelf could be supported by the negative pressure generated at the duct mouth), an attempted re-run by one of the boys during lunch failed badly, resulting later in a line-up of suspects with arms outstretched to enable examination of blazer cuffs (blue) for red spots indicative of acid splash!
Of our entire form installing itself in 'Pip' Porter’s geography classroom well in advance of his arrival, pulling down all the blinds, turning off the lights and sitting in sepulchral silence as he entered the room and took a short while to conquer his confusion and realise quite what was going on! As I recall he was not amused!
Of 'Butch' Ingham collecting bins of swill from outside the school kitchens in his Hillman Minx (?) estate for the sustenance of (his?) pigs.
Of a French master, a fiery individual and cricket player, demonstrating his fast and accurate chalk throwing skills as a means of registering his displeasure with any boy in class. On one occasion it was the board duster to hand, which took a chunk of plaster out of the back wall!
Of an illicit, out-of-bounds, lunchtime rendezvous with a hoped-for girlfriend from the Girls' Division on the levels – as I ascended the banking towards this vision of loveliness I slipped and slid all the way back down. She turned round and retraced her steps into School while I made my way back to the Boys' Division in an irretrievably dishevelled state. There was no happy ending!
Dr ('consequently, therefore, in that sort of way') Eckott (sic?) taught us chemistry one year. He was a great favourite with us not least because of his tolerance of our unmerciful trickery. On one occasion we enacted a plan to arrive for his lesson in a prearranged order, one boy every thirty seconds or so starting from the commencement of the period, which understandably drove the poor man to distraction! Despite this we had a great relationship with him and at the end of the year we clubbed together and bought him a recording of some of Mahler's work – one of his favourite composers – he was really pleased!
A low spot in life came one Saturday when the Junior Cross Country team, of which I was a not very enthusiastic member, undertook what seemed to be an endless coach trip for an away run against Stonyhurst College. The weather was abysmal, cold, snowy and wet, and I was of all boys most miserable. I didn't run for the team again!
Mr Gallagher started our Physics education with metre rules, weights and a practical elucidation of the meaning of the moment of a force. The sound of a weight hitting the benchtop or floor, accompanied by an apologetic 'Sorry sir, it dropped' was greeted by him with derision and the testy rejoinder that the weight did not drop of itself but that some incompetent had dropped it! And we were all called Claud for some reason!
Of the unrefrigerated free milk allocation in crates outside the dining hall at morning break – excellent in winter but insufferable in summer for those of us who would only tolerate it cold!
On one occasion I trespassed into a chemistry lab to practice my inorganic chemistry skills in element identification by flame colouration. In a pair of tongs I held my pencil sharpener in the Bunsen burner flame whereupon the whole thing caught light burning with a blindingly intense, white flame and generating vast quantities of white smoke peppered with snowflakes which filled the entire room. In panic I dropped the conflagration onto the benchtop where it continued burning until finally spent, leaving a deep crater in the wood which was present for years afterwards. I flung open the windows and having ascertained that the lab was not going to burn down I beat a hasty retreat. The answer? Significant magnesium content!
On another occasion I impressively displayed the reason why benzene should not be distilled over a naked flame by doing just that. From an intact text book I had painstakingly to copy out every page burnt from my own!
It was no hardship at all in the Sixth Form to undertake General Studies A Level in addition to one's chosen subjects because this meant that there were legitimate occasions for rapturous entry into the Girls' Division! Though afterwards, sitting on the bus home clutching one's Victoria sponge, it always seemed something of an anti-climax, of promise yet unfulfilled ...