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U3A Writing: Not In The Curriculum

John Ricketts tells of grim situations he had to face as the head of a city primary school.

One Friday morning two young people turned up at St. Matthew’s School in Allerton asking for their small daughter to be admitted to the reception class. The woman was a brassy blond and her husband was a huge fellow, six foot two and broad with it. He looked even taller because he was wearing high-heeled cowboy boots.

She was a bight young woman who did most of the talking while he looked stolid and just nodded his head at the right places. I later found out that he was a bouncer at one of the town’s nightclubs. Their daughter Mary was a beautiful, fair haired, blue eyed creature, friendly to everyone. I took the details and showed them the class to which she would be admitted on the following Monday morning.

On the Monday I saw them both arrive with the little girl, give her a hug and see her run off into the classroom. I reminded them that the infants were to be collected at three thirty and saw them off.

At a quarter to four the reception teacher brought little Mary to my office saying that she had not been collected. She stayed with me until well after four o’clock when I decided that I had better see what had happened. When we arrived at the block of flats, Mary showed me where she lived. The door was open and she ran in with me, calling out, close behind.

The first thing I saw was a smashed up living room, the second was Mary’s father lying on the settee holding Mary in his arms, the third was blood streaming from his slashed wrists. Seeing the phone on the floor amidst the wreckage, I grabbed it and dialled 999, getting first the police to whom I told what had happened and asking them to notify Social Services and then the Ambulance Services to take the fellow to the hospital.

I tried to get Mary away from her father but he wouldn’t let go and as he was twice my size there was nothing I could do about it. Next I tried to stop the bleeding. I asked what had happened and he said that the hard boys from Bradford had come for his wife whom they had been running as a prostitute to take her back to work. There had been a fight which he had lost blaming this on the fact that the high heel on one of his boots had broken off and that he had been unbalanced. When he came to he had decided to end it all and had cut his wrists which I had noticed also had old scars on them.

The police came and, after a struggle, managed to hand Mary over to me. The ambulance came and carted him away to hospital, and last of all came a woman from Social Services who took care of Mary.

On the Wednesday morning who should turn up but Mary and her bandaged father. She went into class and I took dad into my office where we had a long talk. It turned out that he was known to both the police and the hospital. The child had been released into his care and Social Services were going to help him to get his wife back. They had realised that the slashing of wrists had just been a cry for help and that they were prepared to give that help. I breathed a sigh of relief … A satisfactory end to a bad situation. I would mention the family to the local nuns and they would also help. A good solution all round.

At a quarter to four the reception class teacher brought Mary to my office again. She had not been collected. Again I waited a while letting Mary chatter on about how her mother would be coming back to be with daddy again, and then with a heavy heart I made the journey to the flats again. Holding Mary tight by the hand I opened the door, called out again and then went into the living room. The first thing I saw was a man lying back in a pool of blood on the settee with his hand to his side. His shirt was crimson from his shoulder to his waist and he had passed out. I dragged Mary out and knocked on the nearest door and handed her over to the startled woman who opened the door to my knock.

I went through the same sequence of calling police and ambulance and then turned to the fellow who I thought was dying. With difficulty I rolled him to the floor, made certain he was bleeding and held a towel over the wound on his side. I think he must have fainted from loss of blood for after a minute or two he recovered consciousness. He told me that when he had come back from shopping he had found his wife in the house collecting her things. They had had a row and in the excitement she had stabbed him with a kitchen knife.

I never saw Mary again and have often wondered what happened to her. She would be in her twenties now.

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