‘My life changed dramatically when I hit big school’

7 Feb 2013 @ 8.59 pm
| Opinion

Memories are made of this… Allertonshire School
For Steve Bradley, going to “big school” involved dodging ferociously sweaty teachers, tackling future football managers and snogging Jessica Scott

In my last article I reminisced fondly about growing up in the countryside. However, my life was to change dramatically once my father gave up farming and we moved to Northallerton. I was used to the countryside and all the nice things associated with it, like village fetes and starting stubble fires.

I only managed one full year at Bullamoor County Primary School before the time came, in the autumn of 1981, to go to “Big School”, AKA the Allertonshire.

I’d heard lots of stories about the Allertonshire before I got there. I never did find out if some were true or not, including one about Paul Shingles jumping off the steel footbridge that separated East House from West. Others, particularly about an evil maths teacher, turned out to be very true!

The teacher, who will remain nameless, was Scottish, about 4ft tall and weighed about the equivalent of two Wham Bars. What she lacked in physical stature she made up for with cruelty and hysterical behaviour. Her screeching and wailing as she berated yet another first year for failing to memorise Pythagoras’ Theorem could be heard from any classroom in the corridor.

allertonshire-school-badgeHowever, the perverse fascination with other children’s suffering made a welcome distraction from the unwelcome spectacle of Mr H’s armpits. I swear that Duncan Goodhew could have used the pools of sweat for his Olympic training regime. No matter whether it was a scorching June day or a cold final period in November, the viscous syrup would cascade onto Mr H’s shirt with remorseless ferocity. I made a point of never getting close enough to discover if it was accompanied by a complementary odour. In retrospect I think that may have been a wise move.

I quickly decided that I didn’t like the Allertonshire School. It was too big and all my friends from primary school, like Peter Grimes, were on the old West House – complete with a quad and refectory – while I was on the modern East House – comparatively sterile with glitter painted cloakrooms and prefabricated craft rooms.

There was also the Technical Drawing block – a wooden shack on stilts which was to be the scene for my first ever proper snog with a real girl (no tongues!). I wonder what happened to Jessica Scott?

Break times were awful during that first term. It seemed that it was customary for whoever was considered to be the hardest kid in your year from your primary school to have a series of challenge bouts against compatriots from other schools. From memory there was Karl Dawson from Brompton, Sean Cullen from Bullamoor, a variety of kids I’d never heard of and then the enigmatic Richard Wimmer from Mill Hill.

“Wim” was, so it seemed, the coolest kid in our year. He had his hair dyed burgundy, danced a mean jig to Mystura’s Northern Soul classic “The Flasher” at school discos, had a girlfriend in the third year (who was at least two feet taller than him), hung around with older lads and was good at football. The legend preceded him.

I actually liked him and we ended up forging a strike partnership up front in the school football team for a couple of years. In fact looking back I’m not actually sure how good he was at footy. He certainly wasn’t as good as the rocks of our defence, David Girgan and Paul Featherstone. Those two, alongside Kenneth Hughes (cousin of ex-Everton and Wolves player turned media pundit Andy Gray) and Vernon Greaves (brother of top female jockey Alex Greaves), were the backbone of our very successful school team.

The footbridge that separated East and West House
The footbridge that separated East and West House

Other luminaries included Chris Bolland in goal, Johnny Carr on the wing, Chris Thwaites, Colin Goddard (another great player), Paul “I shall not pass” Ellenor, and a certain me – who could run like the wind and never ran out of energy. We had a good side.

We usually beat Bedale, a school that produced the Grayson brothers (yes Simon Grayson, former manager of Leeds United) and Essex batsman Paul. I remember playing against Simon Grayson and fouling him. Though it was more of a late challenge due to him completely skinning me, rather than an intentional foul, and I think it was in a Bullamoor Juniors match rather than representing the school so it will not be recorded anywhere.

The only team we could never seem to beat was Easingwold. I scored twice in the 1981-82 Area Cup Final but we lost 7-3.

I lost interest in playing football towards the end of Year 2. I discovered music and the joys of hitting drums so sport began to take a back seat, though I still played inter-form football and cricket with unlimited failure.

My form had possibly the worst collection of sporting talent on East House. Only Kevin Norfolk had any remote hint of talent on the football pitch and none of us were on the same cricket field as 2PV’s fearsome fast bowler, Paul Willey. Never mind Michael Holding, the great West Indian paceman, the nickname “Whispering Death” was made for Paul.

To a 13-year-old forced into batting for his class, I can’t imagine anything more terrifying than Paul Willey steaming in off a full run up. It was enough to make you take comfort in wearing the communal “box” that had covered so many other undescended testicles over the years.

Going back to the subject of the hardest kids in school, Paul Willey’s name was never mentioned in such conversations but I would have any money that he could have sorted out every single so called hardman that our year could throw up. Paul was quiet, polite, unassuming, and built like a brick outhouse!

It was obvious that while most of us spent our mornings before school making our hair look nice and cunningly putting black socks under our white towelling ones to avoid the morning assembly inspection, Paul Willey went out into the fields of the family farm and single-handedly built haystacks out of heavy bales. It is notable that I don’t recall any of the school “tough guys” ever having a go at Paul Willey. He would have ripped off their heads.