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A Shout From The Attic: Two Teachers

Ronnie Bray only began to realise what education was all about after he had left school.

To read more of Ronnie's engaging life story please click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page.

A year after leaving school the reason for being there in the first place began to dawn on me. I have slow insight.

Once when I was in morning assembly our headmaster, Mr Riley, spoke to me.

“I hear that you are intelligent, Bray” he said. “Is that true?”

“Yes Sir,” I agreed.

“Who says so?” he asked.

The question was too hard for me and I could not satisfy his enquiry.

“I do, sir,” I stammered none too confidently.

The thrust of the conversation passed over my head though I was pleased to have been called intelligent by someone.

In the year when I was rising fourteen, my class had two teachers. One was Bob Hesford who had played for Huddersfield Town as goalkeeper. The other was Charles Brummitt from Farnley Tyas. Both men seemed tall but Hesford was also broad.

Once, for some reason, I had to sit and work at the teacher’s desk. Hesford reached across the desk and smacked the back of my hand with a ruler, not hard at all. “That’s for nothing, now try something!” he said with a smile. I enjoyed the joke and being noticed, even in mock punishment.
Brummitt once remarked, “When I want some light entertainment I just look over Bray’s shoulder.” More often than not I would be making careless sketches, usually of the Model Lodging House at number 9 Chapel Hill, which for some reason long forgotten was the subject of running jests among us. I was not an able student and seemed unable to get my head around ideas.

In exams I usually came in the lower half of the class, but in my final year I inexplicably came second in class.

I helped myself to a small supply of books on "permanent loan'' from the library cupboard. My jumper served to help me smuggle them out of school. One of these was a book on natural history with a blue hard cover. I read it repeatedly for many years and lost it soon after I painted the cover black during one of my experimental periods.

Art periods became more fun as a sense of impending freedom helped us to give vent to some of our enjoyment of life. Not exactly a celebration of life, but an awakening to the possibilities of what life could mean. It was a feeling, not a verbalised concept, and we enjoyed it. It would be called high spirits in a later time.

Some recall their school days as the happiest days of their life. Mine were not. The heart-singing breast-warming glimmer of life, and its possibilities, did not come to me until I left school.

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