MEMORY IS A VERY STRANGE THING
ADDED 22 AUGUST 2007
Memory is a very strange thing; on one hand I can
remember insignificant conversations I had over 70 years ago, but if
asked, I often forget what I did or where I went, yesterday. Two or more
people can experience certain events and yet have completely different
memories of what happened. This fact was brought home to me when I read
William Wood’s very informative article about Pontefract Northgate
Senior Boys. Four of us went from Carleton School to Northgate in the
period 1942 to 1945; David Mercer, Ronnie Senior, Colin Hawlor and
myself. It seems to have been the policy of the school to ‘Divide and
Conquer’ when it came to House selection. David went into ‘Fairfax’,
Ronnie into ‘Cromwell’, Colin into ‘Morris’, whilst I went into ‘Gaunt’.
This policy changed us from the ‘Carleton Gang’ into four adverseries
when it came to House competitions. What a shame that this policy is not
carried on by many schools today.
When we were at Northgate there was no kitchen and dining hall. Each day
at lunchtime we were marched in crocodile fashion to the Town Hall, the
entrance being, I believe, just past the old Fire Station, where
Gillygate and Market Place met. We went upstairs into a large room
filled with trestle tables.
As to the teachers, Mrs Dalgleish took 1A, Mr (Tojo) Smith took 2A, Mr (Wilky)
Wilkinson took 3A. These were the three forms that I was in during my
time there. The other teachers were Mrs Murray or Morrell, who was Mrs
Dalgleish’s sister, and both of them being Scots, they each wore Tartan
Tweed skirts. Then there was Mr Heath, Mrs Hunt, Mrs Wilkinson (Wilky’s
wife) and Mr Wood the music teacher who left to go into the British Film
Industry I believe. ‘Daddy’ Howells was the Headmaster of the school.
Contrary to William Wood’s experinece, I found Mrs Dalgleish to be a
lovely lady. One day she asked me to stay behind after school and
confidentially asked me if I found the body odour of the boy sitting
next to me, offensive. The lad was of rather untidy and grubby
appearance and I doubt that his hair had even seen a comb, but in those
days most boys smelt of one thing or another. I used to help out on a
farm and I was used to bad smells, so I said that it didn’t bother me.
‘Tojo’ Smith was a different kettle of fish when I was in his form 2A.
People will find it hard to believe now, but there was some kind of
underground intelligence service operating among some of the pupils at
that time. Older brothers, and friends of some of the Ponty lads, had
paased their experiences on to some of the lads in our class. Not only
was Tojo our form master, he was also the Geography teacher and I well
remember one lesson in particular.
Several of the lads knew about Tojo’s weakness and decided to exploit
it. We were supposed to be learning about the effect of wind on the
climate and Tojo mentioned that the prevailing winds blew across the
Atlantic from west to east. That was the only bit of geography we
learned that day, after one of the lads asked how this would affect the
efficiency of Flying Fortresses on their way to bomb Germany. The lesson
then degenerated into a discussion about the merits of the various
bombers in operation at that time; Halifax bombers, Wellingtons,
Fortresses, Lancasters etc. By the time the bell rang for the end of
lessons we had learned no Geography, very little about bombing, but
quite a lot about deviating Tojo from his subject.
One day we were up in the laboratory where Tojo was going to allow us to
do the experiment of the effect of magnetism on iron filings. He passed
around some sheets of waste paper on which we were to place the iron
filings. I was down at the far end of the room and whilst waiting for
the monitor to bring round the filings, I noticed that my sheet of paper
had two words printed on it; ‘Geography’ and ‘Games’. I picked up my
pencil and idly crossed out the word ‘Geography’ and ticked the word
‘Games’. I must have been almost thirty yards away from Tojo, but he was
watching me. “Come here Lambert, and bring your paper with you”, he
said. The whole room went deathly quiet and I walked towards him and
handed him the paper. “Now you can go down to my room, give Mrs
Dalgleish my compliments, and ask for my pointer”, he said.
I went down to Mr Smith’s classroom, knocked on the door and waited. I
heard Mrs Dalgleish call for me to enter and went in to pass my message.
“Mr Smith sends his compliments and may he have his pointer?” Mrs
Dalgleish looked at me, handed me the heavy black pointer which was
about an inch in diameter and said sadly, “Oh dear, have you been
naughty?”. The whole class in unison said, “Oooooh”, which didn’t make
me feel any better.
I went back to Tojo, handed him the pointer, and held out my right hand.
He brought the pointer down so hard on my hand that I thought my fingers
must be broken. I then held out my left hand and Tojo hesitated for a
moment before bringing the pointer down hard once more. I bit my lips
and tried to hide the fact that I was in agony. “Wasn’t one stroke
enough for you?”, asked Tojo, and I realised then that I could have got
away with just one stroke, but I was so used to seeing other lads get
two strokes of the stick; that was why I had held my left hand out also.
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