School Days Recalled

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Colin Fisher (1954 – 1960) starts off this new page remembering the day Eric Munton had to stand in for Joe Godsil…


Comedic Timing   
(as taught by Mr. Munton)

Looking back on it, Mr. Munton was probably a small man. It was difficult for third-formers in 1957 to tell. What was certain was that Mr. Baxter, the headmaster, was a giant – in physique, presence and metaphor – and we knew that Mr. Munton was his deputy. Therefore Mr. Munton seemed quite large as well, although he probably wasn’t.

And we did know that we saw Mr. Munton around and about the school. He always wore a very hairy – tweed, I suppose - suit and didn’t seem to have any specific function as far as the third form was concerned. So, apart from touching the peaks of our caps and saying ‘sir’ if we encountered him in Morley Road, he was ignored. But we did know that his school nickname was ‘Muff’. And that was about it.

One day, ‘Joe’ Godsil our maths teacher was indisposed for reasons which were, quite inexplicably we thought, not communicated to the third form. The usual mayhem preceding the entry of the master into a geometry class was in full swing when the classroom door swung open and in walked Muff.

Silence descended. We hadn’t quite realised, until this moment, that Muff was a master. We’d just seen him around the place. As is usual with third forms the world over, an immediate challenge was set. A classic challenge. A new master and an instantly belligerent third form. A struggle for dominance which would be decided in the first five minutes of this, the first encounter.


Muff, taking his time and sweeping his gown over his right shoulder, sketched a triangle on the blackboard. Muff looked at us. We looked at Muff. Silence. Muff pointed at the sketched triangle and spoke:

‘This angle is forty-five degrees. The next angle here is also forty-five degrees. So. The remaining angle is…’ Muff waited for just a fraction. Then continued:

‘…a righ…’

Third formers simply cannot resist a sanctioned opportunity of shouting in class. Sanctioned by the master, no less. The ultimate permission.

‘ANGLE’, we all yelled at the tops of our voices.

‘No’, said Muff.

A baffled silence reigned. Then a few of the keen types bleated: ‘But sir…’, at this apparent disregard of Euclidian certainty. Muff waved his hands and tutted to quieten the protests. Then he spoke in commanding tones.

‘Now pay attention.’

We sat listening in puzzlement. This had better be good.

‘I said ‘righ…’ If I’d have said ‘right’, you could have said ‘angle’. But I didn’t say ‘right’. I said ‘righ…’’

‘So class. The correct response to the question is…’

With, I now realise, exquisite comic timing, Muff waited for three beats and then, raising his arms in the air yelled:


We laughed but were completely captured by this masterly display of crowd control.

‘Now…’, said Muff, ‘…let’s try it again.’ He became serious, eyed us challengingly and pointed once more to the blackboard.

‘If this angle is forty-five degrees and this angle is forty-five degrees, then the remaining angle is a righ…’

Muff circled his right hand in a ‘wind-up’ motion and then raised it to the ceiling as a signal for us to yell:


From that moment on, the third form was completely under control and in Muff’s thrall.

And thinking about it now, fifty-plus years later, it still brings a smile to my face.

Posted Monday, 11 July, 2011



Another from Colin Fisher…


Mr. Nicholson and the Coleopteran


I just had to use some Latin in the title of this short essay (and had to look it up on Wikipedia - hope I got it right). The use of this language is in honour of Mr. Nicholson’s position as our Latin master. And, to us twelve year old pupils of form IIp in 1956, Mr. Nicholson was known as ‘Nick’, always seemed to exude a serious demeanour and was our form master. The position of form master meant that Nick would always see us first thing in the morning to take the register.

It so happened that, on this particular morning, one of the members of Form IIp had brought an insect into school with him - a maybug. The said pupil had found the insect on the way to school. Try as I might, I can’t remember the pupil’s name, but the somewhat ugly and large insect excited considerable interest amongst us young boys. An interest that veered between fascination, horror and downright evil intent: ‘Does it bite? Is it poisonous? Put it on your hand and see if it bites you…’ That sort of thing.

Then somebody had the completely brilliant idea of putting the maybug into the form master’s desk. A desk which stood at the head of the classroom on a small dais. The desk from which Nick would retrieve the register before conducting the morning roll call.

As we watched and waited, hardly breathing with anticipation, Nick strode into the room, walked to the form master’s desk and opened it. Immediately, seeing daylight and sensing freedom from the depredations of Form IIp, the insect fluttered out of the desk in the curiously ungainly way of maybugs and spiralled haphazardly towards the ceiling. Nick, completely unruffled and seeming not to have seen the maybug at all, opened the register. The atmosphere, amongst us pupils, was tense with suppressed laughter.

Nick calmly called out the first name in the register: ‘Allcock?’  Hardly able to speak, Allcock hissed quietly: ‘Here sir.’

Then, seeming to notice the hesitant sibilance in Allcock’s reply, Nick looked up in apparent suspicion. His eye roved around the class, peering hard at each of us. I have to say that we were all trying to look normal and composed in a tight-lipped sort of way, but juddering on the limit of holding in our mirth.

Suddenly, in a commanding tone, Nick said: ‘Watkins’. This was strange. Watkins wasn’t the next name in the register. We all waited agog. Something was going to happen.

‘Yes sir…’ replied Watkins, in a puzzled voice.

‘Detention Watkins…’, barked Nick.

‘But sir…’ Watkins answered in injured innocence, completely taken aback, ‘…why sir?’

‘A detention Watkins…’ Nick peered searchingly at Watkins’s hairline. ‘…for having a maybug on your head’.

We all immediately looked at Watkins. It was true. Watkins had a maybug on his head. Form IIp held its breath, watching and listening to this unfolding drama – hardly daring to move a muscle.

‘But sir…’, pleaded a disconsolate Watkins, ‘I…’

‘Another detention Watkins. For arguing. With a maybug on your head.’

This was just too much. The pent up comedy of the situation exploded and the whole class burst into uproarious laughter. Even Nick couldn’t help laughing, although he tried hard not to. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much. Before or since. You know the kind of laughter? When it’s really painful and you can’t catch your breath? And your face hurts? Agony. A sort of delicious agony. But agony all the same.

Eventually, Nick made calming down gestures with his hands and, when the laughter had subsided to a reasonably moderate level said: ‘Now Watkins. Take that insect outside and leave it there. If you do it quickly enough, you’re excused the two detentions. Quickly now. Before I change my mind.’

Seeing his chance, Watkins ran like an ungainly dervish from the room and within fifteen seconds was back at his desk, puffing and slightly pink.

‘Very good Watkins…’ said Nick, looking back at the register, ‘…now. Brown?’

‘Here sir’.

Posted Saturday, 16 July, 2011



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