Hawthorne was a local JP, hence his nickname,
'Judd'. When I started at Prescot Grammar School
in 1957, Judd was head of physics. This small,
black suited chap rarely taught the younger forms
and, only occasionally, did he stray far from
room 7. Even then, the odds were that it was only
to collect an odd piece of equipment from the
other and bigger physics lab. As regular as
clockwork, he headed home each day for his lunch,
his pipe emitting sparks and clouds of smoke as
he strolled purposefully across the playground. I
was in 4b1 before I had him as a teacher and
first became aware of his wicked sense of humour.
"Have you seen
Arthur?", he asked one day.
By then, he
was very hard of hearing and his humour was
sometimes unintentional. One boy had his hand up.
"What is it now?" Judd asked with his
usual feigned impatience. Could the boy be
excused? Judd thought the he was asking if he
could sharpen his pencil. "Do it in the
basket - and don?t drop bits around!"
It was rare
to find him in a bad mood but I remember
Battersby and Spencer being "thrashed"
(his word) with a half metre rule - doubtless
they deserved it. I too overtaxed his patience
but not until I was in the lower sixth.
walking up and down the aisle of room 7 dictating
notes ("Every body shall persevere in its
state of rest or of uniform motion except insofar
as it be compelled to change that state of rest
or of uniform motion......." Funny how you
remember such phrases years later!) Andy Parker
landed the first - a sticky bud right in the
middle of the back of the gown which was hanging
loosely off Judd's shoulders. Within a short
space of time, it had been joined by several
others. My own contribution was already on its
way when Judd turned slightly (or maybe I was
just a rotten shot) and the sticky bud knocked
his hearing aid for six!
I owned up
at once, of course, and was despatched to,
"report myself to the headmaster" who
told me what a silly boy I'd been, announced that
he would be writing to my parents and dismissed
me with a single word, "Go." I should,
of course, have gone, but it was neither the
outcome I had been anticipating nor the
punishment I was mentally prepared for. Halfway
to the door, I turned back. "Please Sir. Can
I have six of the best instead?"
whacked often enough but I'd never had the cane
before and, frankly, I had no desire to rectify
that omission. I had an inkling that it would be
rather more unpleasant than Joe's slipper - but
anything was better than a letter to my parents.
The Old Man reminded me that I was in the lower
sixth - but seemed more favourably inclined when
I pointed out that I'd got there via 5R and was
only really a fifth former. With hindsight, I
reckon it occurred to him that beating me was the
easier option for him too.
was altogether longer and thicker than I had
expected. It bent easily as he flexed it. My
suspicion that it was going to hurt was
heightened by the discovery that the back of the
armchair was just the right height for its
secondary purpose and by the well rehearsed way
in which the tail of my blazer was folded clear
of the tightly stretched seat of my school
trousers. What came next was indeed worse -
considerably worse - than Joe's slipper. It stung
like the devil and it was a relief to escape to
the relative sanctity of the corridor for a spot
of vigorous bottom rubbing before returning to
room 7 trying to appear as nonchalant as I could
and wondering why I'd requested six and not
simply asked to be caned and left the tariff up
to him. I hope nobody noticed the cringe when I
got back to my place and sat on the wooden stool!
After the lesson, Judd got the unrequired and
unexpected apology he richly deserved.
Hawthorne chivvied me through A level Physics
before I went to university and he retired. Not
long after, I heard that he had died. Tom Tyson
and I went to his funeral. We wrote to his widow
and family but fond memories live on. Mr. Briggs
too passed away about the same time. He wasn't
the sort of person you could like as such but he
was universally respected. The mortar board he
wore for assembly exemplified his status.
Otherwise, you rarely saw him unless he was on a
anti-fag mission to the bogs.
came down to Hope Street (in his gown) after
school. Never did the Crosville buses fill so
orderly. On another occasion when I was in the
fifth form, he stood in to cover a French lesson
and it was the best French lesson I can remember
- something about a grammatical football team.
Mr. Briggs never married. He lived in the large
house on the west side of the playing field north
of the school and his garden frequently supplied
the rhubarb and apples which made their way into
the pies and crumbles we consumed with (not
always) lumpy custard in the canteen.
precisely the kind of headmaster a large boys
school needed. He knew how to respond to the
steady stream of detention defaulters, truants,
petty thieves, toilet door artists, smokers and
practical jokers, not to mention those who were
sent out, sneaked out (at lunchtime), upset bus
conductors and the real villains who dared to
come to school not wearing a cap or to interrupt
the Old Man?s assembly ("There's a boy there
laughing - yes you.") - if only they still
made them like that! It was mentors like Messrs.
Hawthorne and Briggs (and others, especially Mr.
Lathom and Mr. Harvey) that lured me into a
career as a teacher.
When I was
appointed head of a grammar school in the
seventies, headmasters were still expected to get
down to the bottom of things when it came to
enforcing good behaviour so I saw both ends of
the proverbial stick! I was only one of countless
hundreds, maybe th ousands, of boys who got their
just desserts in the old man's study - but there
can't have been who were foolish enough to ask
See also Dr.
Willmott's research on J.E.Hawthorne