Bolton School Former Pupils

Ivan Leigh (1954-1962)

An enjoyable day at the Grand Reunion in September evoked many memories and a variety of emotions in Ivan.  Here he recalls an event which occurred on the last day of term in the Summer of 1955.

As a first year pupil on the last day of my first year in Shell A1 at Bolton School in 1955, I was excited at the prospect of the long summer holiday ahead, the prelude of which was to be the End of Term Service in the Great Hall at about mid-day.

Morning break came as normal, when suddenly and totally unexpectedly, several senior leaving boys appeared in the upper quadrangle intent on creating mayhem.  Two boys were dragging a tin bath, in which another boy sat holding a fire extinguisher and proceeded to squirt anyone else in close proximity.  Very soon a large audience of inquisitive pupils gathered trying to understand what was happening.  It did not take long for the mischief to accelerate.  Rumours spread rapidly that the senior boys had locked the staff in their common room, that the gates to the School main entrance had been locked with a heavy garden roller and that the three-wheel car of the geography teacher (Eggy P) had been lifted onto the lawns between the Boys’ and Girls’ Divisions.  I cannot vouch that these details were true, but the information was sufficient to embolden, what was now a very large gathering of exited boys, to take on the role of St Trinians.

Some senior boys started to pile up their caps and attempted to set fire to them in the quadrangle, presumably as a demonstration that they would no longer be required to wear them.  It wasn’t a huge conflagration, but was sufficient to fuel the excitement of us junior chaps, who had never seen nor anticipated such happenings.  We began to think that this must be an end of term tradition at Bolton School.  The antics now accelerated as mob rule appeared to take over, secure as we thought, that the staff were all locked in!  Pupils were running through the Great Hall (absolutely taboo in those days), opening windows and showering the contents of waste paper baskets on to the mob below.  Similar activity started from both the first and second floor corridors.  For a twelve-year-old, this was an amazing sight and very exciting.  Until, that was, Mr Haigh (Kenny), the French master, appeared in the centre of the quadrangle to remonstrate.  Clearly not all staff were incarcerated!

Bravely standing in the centre of the mob, which had gathered respectfully around him at a safe distance, he firmly and with authority denounced the activities and demanded a return to our classrooms.  That was until someone in the crowd shouted “CHARGE!”

Poor Kenny was immediately enveloped within the body of the rabble and left struggling to extricate himself.  He was saved by someone then shouting “TO THE LEVELS!”

The mob descended en masse onto the top level, and, after much laughter and running about, proceeded to push the cricket sight screens over the slope onto the first eleven football pitch.  However, at the sight of Mr Green (Freddy), marching purposely across the top level accompanied by another member of staff, the mobsters finally dispersed, leaving just a few of us sprogs to take his wrath.  I remember feeling a real sense of injustice, in that, as I had only been an excited bystander, I was now being made, along with a few other juniors, to push these heavy sight screens up the steep slope back to the top level.  My first experience of Collective Responsibility!

Somehow, things then settled down and we finally made our way to the Great Hall for the End of Term Service.  That was where FRP (Joe Boss) made his entrance, sweeping into the hall with gown flowing.  There was total silence.  His presence was always awe-inspiring.  He proceeded, in clear unequivocal terms, to denounce all the mischief that had taken place and the whole School was summarily dispatched back to respective classrooms, to await his pleasure as to when the actual service, and hence the summer holiday, would commence.  For my part, I remember waiting in subdued mood for the instruction to go to the delayed assembly.  Authority had been established once again and I never in future years at School witnessed another revolt.

It may be that my aged memory has got some of the detail wrong, but the event left an indelible impression on me.  I wonder whether others also remember it?