My Life – Page 07

Death of my grandmother, 1933  Back in Madras, a dreadful blow struck my family. In April 1933 my grandmother died of smallpox. A lifetime in Madras had made her careless of the need to maintain her vaccinations. It is thought that she probably caught the disease during one of her many visits to minister to the families of her servants and her husband’s constables. My grandfather nursed her alone to the end, with no help from anyone as there was so much fear of the disease. The end came with terrifying swiftness. Sadly the minister of the Kirk which they had regularly attended all their married life felt unable to visit her and refused to preside at her burial.  Burials of people who had smallpox were not allowed in the local churchyard and her funeral had to take place in a god-forsaken suburb called Tondiapet, just behind the Madras Isolation Hospital which had its own cemetery. I doubt if he allowed anyone else to attend the funeral, though I hope his faithful constables did.  But maybe not. It is terrible what fear can do and many must have thought him contaminated, though I suspect, unlike my grandmother he would have automatically had his smallpox vaccinations .   My grandfather, a devout Christian, who always kept a bible within easy reach all his life, never attended church again. As no minister was present at her burial, my grandmother’s death is one of the few unrecorded of the family, in the British Library, India House records.

My grandfather’s heart must have been broken, he was never the same again and I think remained in perpetual mourning the rest of his life. He never spoke of my grandmother, ever; I think it would have been too much for him and no one dared to ask him about those fearful weeks when he had nursed her alone till she died.

The children told.  However, I am sure he did not break under adversity and kept his deepest distress to himself as best he could, and undertook the doleful task of travelling to Lovedale to tell the girls that their mother was dead. Joan was six years old and my mother fifteen. At the time Joan was in the school hospital with chicken-pox and whooping cough. Both were overwhelmed with distress. My grandfather thought it was best for them to stay at school among friends and school work to keep them busy.   I asked my mother, when she knew she herself was dying what she remembered of her mother, she said “Her smile, she was always smiling and laughing.  I remember her as always being very happy”.

Brian and the Edmonds.  What of my uncle Brian, the youngest member of the family, who was fifteen months old at the time of his mother’s death? It was the Edmonds family who came to the rescue. They were a large family and had been very close, ever since Rita’s first glimpse of my grandmother over the garden wall. There were a remarkable family, full of love and kindness. Mrs Edmonds took care of the baby during the day and her daughter Ivy, who was a teacher, took over when she returned from school. Although it may not be possible to replace a mother completely, the care and love which Brian received were as close to the real thing as it is possible to imagine. Every day, when not on duty, my grandfather visited his son. Of course almost everything in the house had more or less to be destroyed. When the girls were at home from school, they visited Brian and the Edmonds as often as possible, This arrangement continued until Brian himself went to Lovedale in February 1937. The relationship with the family remained close for the rest of their lives.

My grandmother’s grave, 1933 (i)

My grandfather erected a fine memorial over my grandmother’s grave. At the head was a black marble cross, faced with white marble carved with leaves and flowers, and, entwined with a scroll inscribed “Thy will be done”.  The cross stood on a plinth composed of three tiers of black marble, each tier having the following legend inscribed in white marble: “ In Loving Memory of (Beryl (Bobby), Dearly Beloved Wife of A Walton, Sergeant M.P.C. Born 2nd December 1896 Died 24 April 1933.  Blessed are the Pure in Heart for they shall see God.” At the four corners were short decorative posts linked by bronze chains. The centre was covered with small white marble chips. Strangely whilst in India, my mother never visited her mother’s grave and only knew it from photographs. I asked her why, and she said it was simply a matter of not having any transport and they could not afford to take a rickshaw for that distance.

My grandmother’s grave, 1988 (ii).  In 1988, my mother with her sister my aunt Joan and her husband Derek Stokoe returned to Madras. They first visited the granddaughter of their old ayah who worked for their parents and later for my mother and father. The ayah’s three grandchildren are all graduates. The irony of it! They then looked for and found the cemetery at Tondiapet, where their mother was buried. A sad sight met them. The back wall to the cemetery had been broken down and squatters were using the cemetery as a grazing ground, dump and toilet. After a long and difficult search in the searing heat, among the weeds, filth and ruined gravestones, most of which had been toppled, they found their mother’s grave. It was a total ruin, the chains and posts gone, and the marble cross and plinths pushed over, but the cross was mercifully undamaged.



My mother subsequently arranged with a local mason for the grave to be restored as much as was possible.

Fortunately none of the graves had been dug up, even the locals must have realised that the only people buried there had died of terrible diseases. My mother and her sister Joan said their goodbyes left some flowers and fled that hot derelict wasteland in some distress.  I suspect no member of the family will ever visit the grave. And it is terrible to think that the grave is probably broken again, sitting in that awful place with no trees or vegetation under the stench and unforgiving heat, amidst such fearful squalor; it would have broken my grandfather’s heart again.

My grandfather, Joan and Brian.  And what of my grandfather, he decided that he would retire from the Madras City Police had return home to England. My mother pleaded with him to stay till I was born, so he did. I was born on 9th December 1938. My father was sent to Lovedale to pick them up Joan and Brian and bring them back to Madras.




Joan in her school uniform in the gardens in Ooty



Brian in his day uniform and Sunday parade uniform



Brian in Ooty.  Just released from Lovedale. Father must have taken one of our dogs with him.


Joan and Brian in Ooty, just having been released from Lovedale. Joan was to return for a visit but Brian never saw Lovedale again.  Little did they realise what a terrible life awaited them. 


On the 29 May 1938 my grandfather took Joan and Brian to have all their passports photographs taken at the Stylograph Studio in Madras.





Little did any of them know how unhappy and awful their lives would be the moment they got to England

My grandfather was due a considerable amount of leave from the Police so he decided to go to England and end his service there.



Before my grandfather left he had to pose with his constables and fellow policemen all with garlands

My grandfather, Joan and Brian  leave India for England.  When my grandfather, his daughter Joan and son Brian left India, they went by train and ship to Colombo, Ceylon, and sailed for England on the SS Jervis Bay named after a bay in Australia. She was part of the Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line and was largely used to transport emigrants between Australia and England. Jervis Bay carried 732 third-class passengers but only 12 first-class passengers.  The ship was later converted into an armed merchant cruiser and was sunk by the Germans in 1940.   Joan said they had a wonderful voyage I wonder if my grandfather went 1st class, I somehow doubt it.  It was going to make the shock of ‘England’ all the more horrible.


The SS Jervis Bay

Salford, Lancashire.  The three of them went to Salford to Scholes Street to stay with my grandfather’s sister Martha Johnson and her family. Manchester and Salford were like Siamese twins linked so closely that it was not always possible to know where one started and the other ended. It was believed that half of Scholes Street was in Manchester and half in Salford.  They were both typical northern industrial towns and it showed. Scholes Street was one of a row upon row of slum terraced houses, black with soot, which were built in the second half of the nineteenth century to accommodate workers moving from the country to man the burgeoning industries of the north. Some of the great names of British industry were located in and around Manchester and Salford. Scholes Street came straight out of a Gustav Doré slum nightmare.

Life with Martha.  In this environment life was not easy. Gas lighting still prevailed.  Hot water was not immediately available; it had to be boiled up over the fire when required.  Doing the family washing was hard work and the drying, particularly, in a damp sooty climate was a great and ever present worry. The exterior of the houses were black with soot, had no bathrooms, though a few homes had a bath in one of the bedrooms. Toilets were in the back yard which was small and where nothing would grow.  Every home burned coal or coke, and cooking was done in an oven situated next to the fire and heated by it.  It requiring great skill to control its temperature.  In winter there were stinking, yellow fogs which left a sticky layer of grime everywhere; the brickwork of the houses was black which I think I have mentioned but needs repeating. It was into this kind of home that Granddad, Joan and Brian arrived.


Martha and Roland on their wedding day.

Martha Johnston, my grandfather’s sister was a product of her time and place.  She was a house-proud woman, unlike the majority of her neighbours, and unlike them she was consumed with washing, ironing, cleaning, cooking, shopping and whatever other tasks were required for the running of her family of five. Her husband, Roland, was not a great help.  He was overly fond of his beer, and was frequently drunk.  He was also frequently, roundly and loudly scolded by his wife.  His conversation was often rambling and inconsequential. However, he had served in the trenches in the Great War, with the Manchester Regiment and one can only imagine what he had suffered and what after-effects it had on him. He gave Martha ‘housekeeping’ money each week and drank the rest. She never discovered how much he was paid. There were three children, Marjorie (later Muckle), the eldest, Herbert and Stanley the youngest. Marjorie’s husband became a wealthy man, Herbert who would be able to sell anything to anyone and rose through his company ranks to also become wealthy, and Stanley who studied, I think electronics also rose to the top of his profession.

Joan and Brian.  Suddenly there were eight people in 14 Scholes Street, a modest three-bedroomed terraced house (since demolished). The culture shock was traumatic for Joan, with her memory of a refined, loving mother, and for Brian, a small boy who had been much cosseted under the gentle influence of the Edmonds family. Even at Lovedale, Joan and Brian though housed in different parts of the school, had remained very close. Now they found themselves in a new and not very pleasant world where people and the very air around was the stuff of nightmares.

Both my Aunt Joan and Uncle Brian had come with a very cultured speech pattern. Bluntly, in Salford, this was regarded with deep suspicion and contempt as ‘posh’. Sadly Brian was bullied unmercifully by his cousins to such an extent that, as an adult, he would have nothing to do with them and removed himself from any room they occupied in order not to speak to them. They in turn possibly resented this intrusion in their already difficult lives and cramped living space. Sadly, too, Brian was unable to resist the worst elements of the environment around him. His quality of speech deteriorated till he sounded more Salfordian than a Salfordian and he took on the attitudes of the least suitable of his local contemporaries. My aunt Joan always regretted that she allowed this to happen and was not more protective of him, a regret that remained with her all her life. She too had moments which she had never forgotten, On the first morning of their arrival she came downstairs in her dressing-gown and learned in no uncertain terms that this and other rules laid down by Martha, for whatever reason, would not be tolerated in Martha’s home.  However, Joan was made of sterner stuff and always lived by the motto of Lovedale, Never Give In. One curious custom at No.14 was that when the bedrooms had been cleaned and the beds made, a white drugget was placed on the staircase and no one was allowed to go upstairs until the drugget was removed in the evening before bedtime. The Waltons had brought a few personal decorative mementoes from India which were duly unpacked and hung on the empty walls and placed around ‘the front room’ the holy of holies which was only used on special occasions. All these were appropriated by their daughter Marjorie when she married. We were all sitting in the ‘front room’ on the day of the wedding and watched with horror as Margery went around the room gathering up all the items from India, placed them in a suitcase and they were never seen again by the family, thus erasing the few physical memories of India that they had had.  Whatever happened to them? The Muckle family never put them on display and whenever the subject was brought up rather tentatively by the family on visits, they talked about a trunk with the ‘Indian’  things in it in their storeroom, but no one ever attempted to return them and I expect they have been disposed of long ago. It really hurt Joan to see them go and even my mother recognised them, from her parents home in Madras as she watched Marjorie appropriate them all.

My grandfather’s pension.  In January 1941 my grandfather was informed by the Commissioner of Police in Madras that they had calculated that my grandfather’s pension was 100 rupees per month and warning that if at some time in the future they had miscalculated the amount of his pension, he would have to repay the excess.  I suspect 100 rupees was absolute peanuts.

Wickersley, Yorkshire.  For reasons long forgotten but probably to get away from Salford, my grandfather decided to move to Wickersley in Yorkshire to stay with his sister, Mary Boyd and her family who lived at the delightful sounding Rookery Cottage.


Joan and Brian with the Boyd family at Wickersley


These are the only photographs which were sent to us from England and of course this is what we thought we were coming to.

Mary Boyd was a kind hearted soul much burdened like Martha, with the trials of bringing up a family in those times. And on many occasions she had a weep over her problems. Her husband George had a limp, was fond of ale and was the local sexton. She had three sons and a daughter Mavis. The arrival of my grandfather and his children led to another case of overcrowding and, very soon, my grandfather rented or bought, no one can remember, a small cottage nearby. At least now they had a home of their own, with a kitchen, a small sitting-room downstairs and one room upstairs divided by a blanket. At least it had a flush toilet, something that was missing from Rookery Cottage. These are a few photographs my mother had of her family in England during this period, and I think we all thought that Scholes Street was going be something like this, with roses around the door, a delightful place in the countryside.  Nobody dared to confess otherwise.






My grandfather with Joan, Brian and the Boyd family.

These were the only photographs that were ever sent to us in India and I think my parents presumed that Salford was also a pretty Yorkshire village with cottages.  Were we in for a shock!

Joan attended Wickersley Modern School. She always compared it unfavourably with Lovedale and dearly wished to be back there with her friends.  Two of the staff she remembers with kind thoughts was Mr Bott, who taught history and was killed during the war and Miss Treadwell, who taught English. Although Joan and her cousins were of a similar age, they never became close friends.

The Boyds.  During this time Joan reached school leaving age and Allan paid for her to take shorthand and typing lessons. At the mention of money, it must be recorded that my grandfather bought his brother-in-law, George Boyd, a motor bike with a sidecar.  He always paid his sisters generously too, probably clearing many of their debts.  Unfortunately he was generous to a fault. George Boyd was responsible for grave-digging, but most of these graves were dug by my grandfather while his brother-in-law was incapably drunk.  For some reason Brian never forgave his father for what he saw as squandering his savings and was the cause of much bitterness and was many times referred to by Brian when he quarrelled with his father as sadly he often did.  I don’t think Brian ever got over the shock of losing his mother’s love and the Edmonds love and care and finding himself with an undemonstrative father, who likewise never got over the same shock and was I think a broken man from then on. In fact I think they were both in their own ways broken by my grandmother’s death, and neither really recovered.  Brian of course had to face bullying at home from his cousins and his class mates at school for his ‘posh’ accent. He must have thought he had gone to hell. The only love he managed to get in the end and then it was too late was from my mother, but by then he was damaged and apart from her, put on a face of ‘to hell with the lot of you’.  Because of my mother he held me in some affection, and because we sometimes shared a bedroom would talk well into the night about how unhappy he had been all his life and how contemptuous he had become of his friends all of whom had burdened themselves with wives, children and mortgages, something he scorned.  I think he had hardened himself so much that he become incapable of love.  He was one of the most handsome men I have ever met.

Since arriving in England Joan had continually urged her father to return to India, but that was not really a feasible option, particularly as war had now broken out. Looking back I realise that my parents should have come to England with my grandfather, my father’s later illnesses may not have developed in the way they did and my mother would have taken the role of head of the family with my father and grandfather and cared for Joan and Brian.  Instead of which Joan, at far too young an age, was left to cope by herself.   It must have been a daunting, and at many times a lonely life for her and she should not have had to cope with being mother and housewife at her age.

Return to Scholes Street.  Again for reasons long forgotten, but probably because my grandfather felt he should do something for the war effort, he took his family back to the slums of Salford, to Number 39 Scholes Street, a rented two-bedroom terrace, further up the road from his sister Martha which had just become vacant (since demolished). The term ‘39 Scholes Street’ still brings a shudder to my Aunt Joan not to mention me. A survey in 1931 concluded “that parts of Salford contained some of the worst slums in the country. Many houses were infested by rats and lacked elementary amenities. Inspectors found that of 950 houses surveyed, 257 were in a state of bad repair with leaking roofs, broken flooring and rotten woodwork. The inspectors were “struck by the courage and perseverance with which the greater number of tenants kept their houses clean and respectable under most adverse conditions”.


I have tried to find images of Salford slums and these are the only two that do the place justice.  Why do I remember that it was always foggy? A yellow black fog which left wisps of soot in your hair and clothes, and turned your handkerchief black. 

No.39 was lit by gas downstairs, had no lighting upstairs, a cold tap in the scullery and no running hot water. Much later, electricity was installed and a wonderful gadget called a gas geyser was fitted over the sink in the scullery; this gave instant running hot water. The flush toilet was situated outside in a small paved back yard.  Bathing took place in a tin bath in front of the fire or at the public baths which were attached to the local swimming baths. To use the public baths, you went armed with your soap and towel, sat in a queue on a long wooden bench, which you slowly moved up till it was your turn.  You were then escorted to a cubicle with a bath, which was filled to your liking, by the attendant.  He used a spanner to turn the taps on and off and left with the spanner and you were left to bathe. One extraordinary daily ritual which took place in Scholes Street and many like it was the cleaning of the front step, which was only undertaken by the few house-proud denizens of each street.  In the centre of the step was a large manhole, down which the coal for the fire was tipped each week and which fell into the cellar below. The step had to be ‘stoned’ each morning.  It was a mark of pride to have your step washed and rubbed with a special stone which left a powdery residue when dry. It looked very handsome for a short while, till everyone had walked over and left it covered with sooty footprints.


My grandfather and Brian in Blackpool

The war. Joan started work in Manchester as a typist with a firm called Harding’s Ltd. export packers in Blackfriars Street, Manchester. And finally some more income was forthcoming to supplement her father’s meagre police pension. Alan meanwhile became a War Reserve Constable and was always on call when the air-raid sounded.  He also did security duties at an RAF store near Wilmslow. Her father’s duties and her care of Brian led to Joan being excused call-up. Gradually Joan became completely involved with running her spotless little home and became a more than competent housewife, learning how to look after the house, shop and cook and manage their meagre finances, but remained lonely and without friends having nothing in common with her neighbours who probably regarded her as too posh for their company. Through a neighbour of Martha’s she entered the milieu of Crumpsall Park Methodist Church. It was very active, in a stable and pleasant suburb. It has scouts, guides, a youth forum and a badminton club. At long last she acquired a circle of friends and met her future husband Derek Stokoe.

The Waltons and Holdaways in Scholes Street (i).  Into 39 Scholes Street we went. As I have described we were met with this nightmare of a sooty, blackened brick, slum terrace in the back streets of darkest Salford.   No. 39 was up a steep cobbled street lit by gas lamps and was quite unlike the look of any house in England that any of the family from India had imagined. At the top of the street was a dump where rubbish was tipped and was infested with rats which took the occasional trip down Scholes Street. It was roughly a two-up-and-two-down, with a large cellar, in part of which the coal was stored. It still retained its outside flush lavatory which was situated in a small back yard with a back door in the high wall, leading into a ginnel or passageway. The house still had no hot water, one cold water tap in the scullery and downstairs was lit by dull gas wick lights. There was still no lighting upstairs and you had to ascend the steep staircase holding a lit candlestick and a potty. The sole source of heating and cooking was the fire in a large black iron grate in the living/dining/sitting room which heated an oven over which there was a hob.  The ‘front room’, was never used.  The house was kept gleaming, spotless and warm by Joan.  She set about working, hard and long hours to make the family welcome and keep everyone fed and well looked after. To this day, no one in the family can imagine how she coped.  My mother was at that time totally helpless, never having done a stroke of housework or cooking in her life. I for one, and indeed so were my parents, eternally grateful to my aunt Joan for her all the work she did.  That she did not crack is remarkable, how she looked after seven people in those conditions, everything governed by what our ration books could yield.  How did she cook and manage the house in the frightful conditions everyone had to live in during those years after the war? Somehow she remained sane and kept at it, and I am sure that, dreaded to me, motto of Lovedale – Never Give in – is graven on her heart.  She never did give in.

Rationing.  Everyone was deeply unhappy, my mother wished she could return to India and could not see how we were going to manage as a family or what the future held. Every letter from my father, spelled out his terrible state of health and poor Joan was near breakdown at the responsibility for us which had fallen on her; Brian was the only one in the family happy, or was he, with his lot, and had, unfortunately, gone native. While his local friends all eventually tried to better themselves Brian had no such ideal but was going to be the roughest and toughest of them all and as Salfordian as he could possibly be . Rationing was in full force and everything had to be bought using your coupons, if you did not have the coupons, you could not buy. Long queues formed outside shops; the butcher’ shop being the most notorious. You registered with a butcher nearest to you and you could go to him once a week, brandishing your ration coupons and hope for the best.  No meat was on view in the shop, and having handed over your coupons he went into a back room and returned with a parcel wrapped in newspaper with whatever the butcher considered you should get. Many of the shopkeepers in the area were Jewish.  It was a sad fact and needs to be recorded because it caused such a great deal of ill feeling in the locality, and I witnessed it many time waiting for hours in queues, that some members of the Jewish community felt that they did not need to queue and would go straight into, say, the butcher’s shop and be quickly handed their parcel of meat, which to everyone’s eyes seemed to be much bigger than theirs ever was. Martha, who on the whole, in public, was quiet and self-effacing, having witnessed one of these regular queue hoppers in action, announced to the world in general and the butcher in particular, that once rationing was over, she would not be bringing her custom to this butcher.  She probably suffered with rubbish meat for some time thereafter.

TB.  I had an x-ray at school and was found to have contacted TB. My mother must have been horrified. At the time, I did not seem to worry about it as I had no idea what it was.   Strange, knowing what it had done to my father.  Anyway I was hauled off to hospital, but was soon home and had to regularly attend our local hospital to have a course of streptomycin.  After some time, I was pronounced to be clear, but was left with scars on my lungs which have been a cause of trouble all my life. My mother could not take time off work to take me on these regular visits to hospital, so Aunt Martha accompanied me.

The Waltons and Holdaways in Scholes Street (ii).  The ‘front’ room was rarely if ever used even though it was furnished and had a comfortable ‘three-piece-suite’, consisting of a sofa and two armchairs. It was probably too expensive to keep heated in the winter and for some reason was never ever used in the summer, though it would have been a perfectly comfortable room to sit in. All the best things were kept in the front room and such few ornaments as there were, were placed in the window sill facing the street.  Even the front of the curtains faced the street and backs or lining faced into the room such was the traditional way of doing things in Scholes Street.

Joan had no washing machine, no vacuum cleaner, no hot water until my grandfather bought a large metal boiler shaped like a large barrel, which heated up the water to boiling point by gas, and then Joan would spend ages stirring the clothes, back and forth, before taking them out and scrubbing them on a wooded scrubbing board, she would then rinse them in cold water and put them through a mangle, which had to be manipulated by turning a handle in large circular motions until the clothes moved between the rollers. If you were not careful, buttons, precious buttons, were crushed and would have to be replaced. The sheer physical energy required for this was enormous. How she managed it virtually singlehandedly is beyond comprehension. For a short while, till my father left to return to India, she was looking after five adults and two children.  And for most of the time she also kept down a secretarial job from 9-5.

Roland.  Regular as clockwork, each evening Roland, Martha’s husband, very short and very round, would turn up at No 39 (the front door was never locked). Before coming up, Roland would leave the factory where he worked, have a few beers, return home, take off his working clothes, put on his suit, and have his ‘tea’ (evening meal). He would then walk up the hill from No.14 to No.39 and stand with his back to the fire, say a few pleasantries to whoever was in the house, mostly about the weather, or whatever caught his eye, which he considered worthy of note, and would then go off to the pub for the remainder of the evening and remain there till it closed.  He never told his wife what he was paid, simply handed her what he considered was sufficient for the housekeeping for the week. The remainder, he spent on alcohol and betting, like almost every male in the streets in and around Scholes Street.  He once came up to tell the family that he had just been to a recently deceased relative’s house and with other members of the family had helped himself to whatever he fancied, he chose two bronze horses with figures, probably a copy of the famous Marly horses.  These he had instantly taken to the pawn shop and sold them for what he considered was a quite tidy sum.  No thought of taking them home to see if he wife would like them or indeed whether she could make use of the extra money.  A thoroughly unpleasant man but a carbon copy of almost every adult male on Scholes Street with the exception of my grandfather. One thing to his credit was that Roland did not beat his wife or land up in jail, unlike some of the citizens of Scholes Street.

Our first Christmas in England.  At Christmas, our first in England was wonderful. Somehow my grandfather, goodness knows how, managed to get a goose, and Joan made a magnificent spread, there were small presents for everyone, and I hope, I think, my mother was by then getting used to cooking and helping with some of the chores.

School in Crumpsall, Manchester.  Joan refusing to let me go to the nearby school in Salford, had managed to get me a place in a school in Crumpsall which was in Manchester by pretending that the part of Scholes Street in which we lived was in Manchester. The headmaster, for whatever reason, took an instant dislike to me. I realise that this man and this man alone was the root cause of my failure to pass the 11+ and my consequent abysmal education. A pivotal figure in my life.  He had a very strong Manchester accent and I suspect he disliked the way I talked.  I can see no other reason, as I was a self-effacing shy child, who would not have given offence to anyone; but I caught his eye a couple of times and saw in them something I did not like and indeed quite shocked me. He placed me in the bottom of the ‘B’ stream. By the end of the year I came top of the class. The pupil with the lowest performance marks was placed in the front row of the class near the window and as your marks improved during the term, you moved up the classroom till you attained the seat at the back of the class, furthest from the window.  I was placed in the lowest and finished up in the highest seat at the end of the term. When the school had an open day at the end of the term, the headmaster, without checking his facts, made some withering comments about my poor  academic abilities and had to make a quick apology when mother, without comment, put my class report under his nose.  I got that look again, before he rushed away.  Only pupils in the ‘A’ stream were nurtured for passing the 11+ examination. Unfortunately I had not been so nurtured and I suppose my whole life was affected by the fact that the Headmaster placed me in the B stream.  I remember going to the local library and asking if I could see the papers from past examinations, as I knew some of the boys at the school had them but the Library did not stock them and I did not know anyone who would let me see them. No one in the school thought that anyone in the ‘B’ stream was even worth encouraging, though I knew they were being studied by the ‘A’ stream. I failed the examination. And failing the 11+ was one of the gravest disappointments of my life. Because from that moment on my education virtually stopped as I was consigned to the rubbish heap of the education system called Tootal Road Secondary Modern School Salford.  The education authority did not even consider it worthwhile to give the school a name so named it after the road on which it stood. I felt doomed, rejected and deeply depressed.


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