Saturday lessons- and sports, which I hated - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

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Saturday lessons- and sports, which I hated

One facet of the routine at QEGS which I especially did not like was Saturday morning lessons. I always assumed that we had to go to school on Saturdays because otherwise the boarding pupils would have been at a loose end and someone would have had to supervise them. To make up for the loss of our Saturday mornings, we had sports on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. I found that a bit of a nuisance because all my other friends went to other schools and didn't have Saturday morning lessons. That meant that we couldn't do anything together on three half days every week.

Saturday 7 February was clearly an interesting day at school. I wrote in my diary, "I could write a lot about what happened at school this morning - lots of noise, running around the corridors, etc, but I had better not." Sadly, I didn't expand on that. According to the timetable it should have been Latin, English, French and Maths, just what 12-year old boys needed on a Saturday morning.

The sports changing rooms were next to the gymnasium in the main school area but the grounds were over a mile away along a main road and then up a long hill through a residential area. I am sure it cannot have been good for our feet having to tramp all that way in rugby boots. My feet and ankles used to get very sore on the way to the fields and they got worse on the way back. We were never supervised en route and we rarely seemed to be checked on arrival and so, being at best lukewarm towards sports, I started bunking off. I don't remember ever being caught out.

The main reason for my lack of interest in sport was undoubtedly the lack of interest in me shown by the masters. As far as I could tell, the sports staff were not qualified as they are these days. They were simply members of staff who 'did sport' as a second or third subject and they were possibly as disinterested as I was. The boys from Prep Schools, and the boarders who had already been at QEGS for a couple of years, already knew the rules of Rugby League, or was it Rugby Union? - I don't think I ever found out. No-one bothered to give me encouragement or any lessons about the game. I, along with one or two others in the same situation, assumed none of the sports staff was interested in us - and we were probably correct. Nevertheless, I had become very fit following my appendicitis operation, mainly because I did a great deal of cycling in all weathers - on a few occasions 100 miles in a day.

My world started to collapse around me on 16 February 1948 when we got a telegram from Dad out of the blue to say that his 'temporary duty' was finally at an end and that he would be coming home from Leyhill the very next day. That was the good news, but then came the bombshell. Instead of returning to continue serving at either Wakefield or the open prison at New Hall Camp, as we had all expected, he was being posted to Armley Prison in Leeds. It was inevitable that we would have to move home to Leeds as soon as we could find a house. That turn of events absolutely devastated me.

As far as I can recall there was never any suggestion that I might be able to commute daily from Leeds so that I could remain at QEGS. Youngsters these days commute far greater distances every day but, apart from the cost and inconvenience of late-1940s travel, there may well have been some proviso that winners of the Storie Scholarship had to be residents of the City of Wakefield. My second, and final, end of term report from QEGS made no reference to my move away from QEGS because at the time it was prepared neither Dad nor I had told the school that I wouldn't be returning after the Easter holidays.

In the end of term examinations, out of the 30 boys in Form 3A, I had come 1st in order of merit in Latin and French; 2nd in Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Geography; 3rd in General Science, History and English. I was deemed only fair at Divinity and Physical Training. I was very upset about the PT grade; had the staff taken any real interest in me they would have known how truly fit I was. I had no absences and on no occasion was I late. My Form Master wrote that I was "Eager and intelligent; shows great promise". The Head Master's comment was "Very good work". School term ended on 24 March and that turned out to be my final day at QEGS.


I was secretly hoping, right up until the last minute, that something would crop up to cancel the move to Leeds so that I could remain at QEGS. My parents knew this and probably simply put off the day when they would have to inform the school. In the middle of the Easter holiday Dad wrote a letter to the Headmaster to say that I would not be returning. My diary records that I was summoned, by letter, to the virtually empty school to talk to the Headmaster, Mr W A Grace, MA (Oxon) - the first time he had ever spoken to me.

Below: This is how my diary for 19 and 20 April 1948 recorded my first and only interview with the QEGS Headmaster, and how we moved to Leeds the very next day.


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