I went to Mary Hare from 1970 until 1976. There I experienced boarding school life Askew to
Pearce: Mr. Raymond Askew (until 1973), and Mr. Kenneth Pearce from 1973. I am now 48 years
old, yet I in all my years this was the only time I felt I really belonged in a group. Its
rather difficult for me to fit in with hearing people, even well meaning ones, as I get left
out of group conversations.
So much for oralism. Having perfect speech does not mean that I have hearing to match. I
remain severely deaf, and however amplified my residual hearing be, I cannot hear normal
I joined in 1970, in my second year. The first year I was at a local grammar school called
Langley Park School, Beckenham, Kent. Unfortunately I was bullied at Langley Park, being
picked on, surrounded by gangs of boys and called names. So it was arranged for me to be
educated at Mary Hare. Being highly intelligent and capable of hearing and speaking English
In those days every teenage boys wore their hair long, I had hair to my shoulders then.
Under Mr. Askew’s regime, two barbers were hired from Newbury, who cut the boys hair every three weeks!
The TV room was turned into a barber’s room, with two queues of boys lining up for a quick short back and sides. I was ushered to the front of the queue and the other boys crammed in to watch my flowing locks get shorn off! Argh, I was not very happy that Saturday!
Let me tell you about life at Mary Hare under Mr. Askew. For those who live at Mary Hare
today under Mr. Shaw the current principal, living under Mr. Askew is totally different,
under a different, medieval age. Mr. Askew was very strict, we called him "Old Man", and he was a believer in corporal punishment. The belt.
Today, there are laws in the UK (and in many other states) protecting children from
corporal punishment at school, and that must be a good thing, for I do not believe that
caning would change anything.
There were 6 bed in each dormitory. The walls were bare, as school rules forbade us from
hanging any posters on the walls. We were allowed one drawer and a little wardrobe space to
keep our clothes.
We had to go to bed early. Here were the bedtimes under Mr.Askew:
Year 7 8.00 pm
Year 8 8.15 pm
Year 9 8.30 pm
Year 10 8.45 pm
Year 11 9.00 pm
6th Form 9.30 pm
This meant that most of us weren’t tired yet, so those who could hear well enough talked to the pupil who lay in the next bed. The boys talked about football, pop music, and girls, and let me guess the girls talked about pop music, and boys. The more profoundly deaf pupils, simply went to sleep.
We had to wear our school uniforms every day, including Saturday and Sunday. Saturday
mornings we changed into "dungarees" and did weeding for 3 hours. Sunday afternoon we had to go on a Sunday walk for 2 hours. Most of us just went into Snelsmore Commons, and those who were couples did their bit of hanky-panky. We didn’t have a bicycle shed, we had a whole common!
Mary Hare being an oral school, there was a speech competition in those days. It was
compulsory for all pupils to speak clearly. The rules of the speech competition were:
Clear speech: gain 1 speech mark.
Speaking without voice: lose 1 speech mark.
Signing: lose 1 speech mark.
Each teacher carried a small book, in which they recorded the speech marks. If a teacher
saw a pupil speak well, the teacher would say to the pupil, "Good speech, 1 speech mark", and record name and +1. On the other hand, if they were seen signing, "Signing, you lose 1 speech mark". The competition was a mixture of an oralist police state and farce. Farcial, because pupils lost speech marks for swearing. I never lost a speech mark for swearing, especially when I said that swore in perfect speech! I once saw a pupil lose a speech mark for signing to himself. There was this great big graph in the school hall with the points that each pupil have accumulated. The one who got the most speech point was awarded a school prize for best speech. I hope that Mary Hare, though an oral school, have at some point in time abolished the speech competition. Of course, when no teachers were around, the more deaf pupils signed away. Then, look out, here’s a teacher coming towards us, use your speech!
There was a "no kissing" rule, which is that boys and girls were not allowed to kiss each other. Mary Hare accepted both boys and girls, who lived at separate boarding houses, girls at Arlington Manor, and the boys at Mansell House. Mr Askew being strict, felt that that pupils were too young to get involved in romantic relationships. If you kissed, you were in a relationship, and that’s against school rules. This was one rule that the prefects didn’t enforce, as they had boys and girl friends themselves. Once, in November 1971, a teacher (Miss Child) discovered six couples "snogging" in the woodwork lobby (the small room that led into the woodwork class). Perhaps she heard a noise, of some sort, and opened the door. This was reported to Mr. Askew. Severe discipline resulted. The boys were strapped. Then they were more or less grounded, by being banned from going out shopping, and being escorted by staff on their Sunday walk (this was described as being "paraded in a group with the first formers"). And worse, they were banned from the Christmas party. The head boy, Lewis Watts, organised a petition which we all signed, asked Mr. Askew to at least allow these boys and girls to attend the christmas party. To no avail. To bed at 7.30 pm, while the rest of us went to the christmas party. I smuggled some party food for them.
In 1973, Mr. Askew retired, he had been principal since 1950.
I was good at science. Chemistry especially. I was looking forwards to being taught
chemistry under Mr. Larkins in 1971. When we returned to begin the school year, we were
told that, sadly, Mr. Larkins had died in a road traffic accident. To replace him, was Dr.
Brownhill. He taught very badly, and not giving prep (homework), and when the internal
school exam took place in December, it turned out that I was the only pupil in the entire
4th year (year 10) to pass in chemistry. Everyone else failed with less than 33%. Dr.
He was replaced by Mr. Ward, very good chemistry teacher and soon got the pupils back on
track with the subject. He was a spiritualist, and once taught spiritualism in a classroom
after school. He was nicknamed "Von Vierd". Once it was arranged to do an experiment one Saturday morning, Mr. Ward, myself, and two other pupils. We wanted to set up an oxy-acetylene torch, to do some welding!! So we set up two conical flasks, one to generate aceylene, and the other to produce oxygen, and tubes rigged to join up at a metal nozzle, to produce a gas mix to hopefully produce a very hot flame. We didn’t understand such safety features such as one-way valves. We got both flasks going, issuing the gases. I volunteered to light the nozzle, but as I placed the flame against the nozzle, I saw a flash and heard a loud BANG! The glass flask that generated oxygen, thick walls and all, had shattered and there was glass all over the lab! It seems there was a pressure
difference between the two tubes, and the flame had sucked into the apparatus and ignited
the oxy mix, and thereby BANG! Fortunately none of us were cut!
The same year, I knew a pupil who had the key to the physics lab, We went in, and proceeded
to make gunpowder! Some charcoal, some sulphur, some potassium nitrate, mix it together.
There’s a formula but I am not putting it here! We put it into an empty battery case (SAFETY WARNING: EXTREMELY DANGEROUS: DONT TRY THIS AT HOME!). With hindsight we should have tamped into a cardboard tube, as you would get shrapnel from a metal case. On one of our sunday walks, we also took some magnesium strips to use as a fuse. We light this at a secluded place, and stood a good distance. Just a feeble sputter, as off a "Roman candle". Which is just as well, for if it did explode there would’ve be shrapnel everywhere.
Mr. Pearce the new principal, had acquired a nickname, "Peanut". His initials is KP, get it? With it went a name sign, indicating his large nose. His regime was much more relaxed than Askew. Out went gardening, out went the "no kissing" rule, to be replaced by the more sensible "no sex" rule. Out went the barbers, we had to get our own hair done, it may be "long" (over the ears) but not over the collars. We were allowed to go to bed 30 minutes later. The speech competition continued, but was relaxed a little.
Out went singing from the Scouts songbook, and in went playing music - recorder, piano,
guitar. Soon we had two bands, "Lumpy Custard", and "Dad". Lumpy Custard was pop: guitar=Boney, Mark Shaw=Drums, Also Robert Nolan featured in the group. Dad was a gospel band (David Nelson, Albert Thompson, and Richard Cole). I hope today, school bands are playing better quality music, with both both skill and verve.
We were allowed to organise discos. Martin William ("Boney") was DJ, and I collected the 5p admission charge from those who wished to attend.
The Summer Ball began in 1974. The school with their own money, hired this band, called
"Trouble at Mills", to play for 4 hours from 7pm to 11pm. Lots of music, drinking
(including beer!) and dancing. Wiggle those hips!
Next year ball featured a band called "Liar" - a rock band of some sort, and there were rumours about complaints about the band, perhaps the lyrics were too "adult". They were never hired again.
1976’s band the name I have forgotten, it was a "well-behaved" band.
Those days some of us were fans of the 1970’s rock groups. Status Quo, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bay City Rollers, Donny Osmond, Slade, Gary Glitter (this was long before he got 6 months jail for downloading indecent images of children).
I myself was a character. When I was 15, in 1973, my parents divorced, and this affected my
self-esteem as a male youth. The same year, I became a proper christian, and armed with
Chick tracts, had a mission to convert the whole school to Christ. I had some moderate
success, though I suspect some "humoured" me!
At that time I didn't believe in sex before marriage, and I didn't have any steady relationships. Pupils talked about the seven grades as a measure of intimacy:--
Grade 1: Peck on the cheek.
Grade 2: French kiss.
Grade 3: Hands on breasts over clothes.
Grade 4: Hands on breasts underneath clothes.
Grade 5: Hands over clothes "down below".
Grade 6: Hands underneath clothes "down below".
Grade 7: Sexual intercourse.
A teacher I remember is Dr Manley, who replaced Mr Jenkins in 1993. Unfortunately as soon
as school term began he went off sick with stomach ulcer for two months. Aw, no physics!
But when he returned, he was quite a character. Extremely intelligent, well off, and always
talking about his radios and gadgets, and about speeding in his Jaguar at 120 mph.
Apparently he gained his PhD by writing a thesis in microbubble detection. He invented a
device that made heart-lung machines possible, and he got some money from that. One evening
he booked the school swimming pool to measure the speed of sound in water. He enrolled
myself and another pupil Martin Tomiak ("Tummyache") on a amateur radio course (which we both failed). But the high point of this was, he once took Neil Dunlop, Martin Tomiak, and myself in a spin in his Jag, along the M4 at up to 125 mph! Vroom!
However, most of his physics pupils failed the internal exams, and only 2 of passed Physics
‘O’ levels that year in 1973. He was quietly given the sack, and was replaced by Mrs. Barlow, a fresh 22 year old, who gained a BSc in Physics, and just passed a teacher of the deaf course. Good teacher, attractive but married.
We discovered some large scale maps of the school grounds in the Geography room. We copied
parts of the maps (by tracing) and put to good use by sorties to the woods north of the
Principal’s house. I also blacked my face with shoe polish and walked at 23.30 hrs to Manor House, but did not enter.
When we were 18 we were allowed to go the pub on Friday nights, the Fox and Hounds were
conveniently located near the bottom of the school grounds. Boney and I were regulars. He
was soon quaffing beer, and I took well to whiskey! Mr Kell (biology teacher) drank there
as well, presumably to keep an eye on us, making sure we didn't get drunk. Mr Kell later
went on to become principal of Burwood Park School, this was before it closed down in 1995.
Mr Christopher Gwynn joined the school, as a teacher in 1975. The first ex-pupil to return
to teach. Just before leaving, staffs and prefects voted as to who would be next year's
prefects. It turned out that Steven Curry went into the Upper 6th Form not as prefect, and
David Galbraith would enter 5th Year as prefect (which is extremely rare, a once in a
decade sort of thing). Somehow this upset us, as no pupils voted for David Galbraith, it
seemed a lot of teachers voted for him.
In the end of it all I passed with 9 O levels, 2 A levels (Biology and Chemistry), and went
into Sussex University to study Chemistry. I failed my A level Physics, having got a bit
bogged down with formulae, and not studying as hard as I ought.
We ate in those days in our houses, Manor or Mansell. In long tables 14 per table, with
prefect dividing a tray of food snicker snacker with the knife into 2 by 7 for us to eat.
Despite the poor quality of the food, we devoured with a voracious appetite, wolfing it all
down. Piles of white bread with fruit jelly, fish fingers. When Mrs Newman (very fat cook,
capable of turning food into something runny) left, standard of cooking greatly increased,
with regular applauds meted out to especially well made dishes.
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