Monday, 30 October 2017


The incident described occurred just to the left
(and out of sight) beyond the closed fire door

When I was a young lad at primary school, there was a boy in my class by the name of Ewan Shepherd, who giggled like a girl and was slightly effete. I never realised it back then, but looking back many years later, it struck me that such was the case.  Ewan may well be a big manly man now, but it would come as no great surprise to me to learn that he made the journey to Denmark at the earliest opportunity after leaving school.

But Ewan isn't the star of this post - his is nothing more than a cameo role in this true tale from the dim and distant days of my childhood, when I was only about 8 years old.  Ewan and myself were part of the double line of pupils waiting at the foot of the stairs one day, ready to ascend to the rooms above.  One of us (Ewan I think) accidentally tripped as the line started to move, placing us slightly out-of-step with our fellows, and Ewan emitted a giggle.  Suddenly, Mr. Halliburton, descended upon us and violently yanked us from the ranks.

Pushing us against a wall, he started to shout at us, and was either going to belt us or give us 'lines'.  (Can't recall with certainty after so many years - it was one or the other.)  I'd had an encounter with Halliburton before (see here) and was determined not to let him intimidate me.  "I'm going to tell my dad about you!" I declared, and started to move towards the door leading to the playground.  (I lived at the top of the road, so my house was nearby.)  He grabbed me by the lapels and pushed me back against the wall, glaring at me menacingly.

At this point Ewan burst into tears, eliciting a look of contempt from Mr. Halliburton, who then eyed us while he deliberated his next move.  An internal struggle seemed to be taking place - then he ordered "Get to your class!" As Ewan moved off, Halliburton pulled me back, lowered his voice and muttered "Don't ever threaten me with your father again."  Yeah, that'd be right - adults wouldn't put up with his p*sh, but kids could be easily intimidated.  Except for me that is.

I caught up with Ewan as he dabbed his tears away with the back of his hands. He forced out a giggle - "Hee hee - that always works" he whimpered, sheepishly and unconvincingly.  Yeah, sure - but even so it was no excuse to abandon dignity and self-respect.  However, Mr. Halliburton never tried to bully me or lay his hands on me again in all my remaining time at primary.  That's what I call a result!

Soon:  Another tale about the tears of Ewan.


The teachers' table sat in front of (and parallel) to the stage

I was rather shy and introverted as a primary school pupil and didn't mix well with my fellows.  Back in my day, it was the practice to pair off with a classmate when en route to anywhere in the school by saying "Take!", and clasping the hand of the favoured (or simply available) choice of partner before making our way (in a double-filed line) to whichever part of the school we were led by the teacher.

One day (in 1966), the bell rang for dinner, and the playground emptied as the throng of kids made its way into the corridor outside the dining hall, pairing off while awaiting permission to enter.  (I'm unsure why we were in the playground at dinnertime, but we were.  Perhaps we were the second wave of hungry diners that day.)

Anyway, I hung back because I didn't have a pupil to pair off with - for two reasons.  Firstly, no one picked me, and secondly, I was just too shy to put myself forward.  My brother found me lurking in the corridor and enquired why I wasn't in the hall filling my face.  I explained my situation and he took me to see Mr. Curry, the janitor.  Wishing to avoid embarrassing me by saying "He's too shy to go into the hall by himself", he just said "He was at the far end of the playground and didn't hear the dinner-bell." 

Mr. Curry took me to the door of the hall, opened it and actually whistled to the teachers sat at the 'top table'.  Mr. Halliburton, the depute head looked over, and Mr. Curry nodded at me in a contemptuous manner. "Didn't hear the bell," he explained as Mr. Halliburton came over, in a tone which suggested "a likely story".

Without saying a word, Mr. Halliburton grabbed me by the back of my collar and, no exaggeration, my feet barely scuffed the stairs as he ascended to his classroom on the top floor.  There, he administered several strokes of 'the strap', with such severity I had the wind knocked out of me.  Then he dragged me back down to the hall and said to one of the dinner ladies "Give this boy his food!"

Ignore the doorway on your left.  It was the doorway to the side
of it on your right from which Mr. Curry hailed Mr. Halliburton

I'll choose my next words very carefully.

What a nasty, sadistic b*st*rd!  No sympathy, no empathy, no clue about how to deal with kids who were a bit self-conscious or introverted.  How he was ever allowed to be a teacher, never mind a headmaster (as he later became) remains a complete mystery to me.  I met him at various times in my teenage and adult years, and though I was always perfectly polite to him, I never forgot the appalling way he had punished my 7 year-old self for merely being a bit shy and lacking in confidence.  Schoolkids today don't know just how fortunate they are, that's for sure.

One of his two sons was in my class in secondary school, and I always felt a bit sorry for him. Not that he was a sad individual or anything like that, but I have the impression that he copped a fair bit of grief simply for being his father's son. Mr. Halliburton hadn't been well-liked by quite a number of pupils, and poor Neville would've had that situation to deal with, unfortunately. Probably the opposite of his primary school days I imagine, when none of his classmates would've dared touch him for fear of incurring his pater's sadistic and unholy wrath.

I last saw Mr. Halliburton around 9 years or so ago, but he was pretty ancient and I'd be surprised (though undismayed) to learn that he's yet alive. If it's not already happened, it won't be long until it's Mr. Halliburton's turn to see 'The Headmaster'. I'm not so bitter over my experience though, that I'd begrudge him being accorded the understanding, insight, and mercy that he seemed incapable of displaying towards his unfortunate pupils.

Hey, maybe I'm a better person than I thought.


Incidentally, there's a subsequent incident involving Mr. Halliburton where I defied his attempt to punish me again.  I'll tell you all about it another time.
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