As Big Brother, I Was Ready to Take the Rap; PETERBOROUGH

Article excerpt

WHEN I was 14 in 1954 and the eldest of five children, we all attended a school near Wigan. Every morning before assembly, we played football in the schoolyard. Assembly was also held in the yard, and when it was time, Mr Blackledge, my teacher, blew a whistle for silence before saying a few words to his captive audience. Suddenly he shouted: 'Taylor, come out!' He'd spotted someone talking. I stepped forward.

'Not you,' he said. My brothers Michael and Philip stepped forward in turn and he sent them back. It was my eightyear-old brother James who was the culprit.

The teacher then called me out and said: 'Take him to the classroom and cane him.' The cane, in this instance, was a 10in-long, 2in-thick board duster made of wood, and you didn't go back for seconds once he had hit you with that.

Our classroom was 50 yards away, separate from the main school building, but in full view of the whole school -- and Mr Blackledge. James asked: 'What are you going to do?' 'Leave it to me,' I replied. I knew if I got this wrong, I was for it, so I asked James to put his hands low so that only our upper bodies could be seen through the window. I brought the cane down hard three times on each hand -- only I was missing them by an inch.

'You'd better put on a good act or we are both for it', I told him. He went back holding his hands, and tears were coming from his eyes -- what an actor. Blackledge's face was white and he looked aghast; he obviously thought I wouldn't do it. My name was mud with the whole school, but I couldn't tell them the truth or I would have been caned.

Years later, I went to a parentteacher meeting at my son's school. Lo and behold, Mr Blackledge was there. I bitterly regret not telling him the truth then as I'm sure it would have amused him.

JACK TAYLOR, Wigan, Lancs.

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