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News > Memories > Post-war schooldays

Post-war schooldays

Ian Carmichael, who attended Dame Allan's from 1947-53, recorded his memories of his schooldays before he passed away in 2021.
21 Nov 2022
Written by Katherine Leonard

After a slow start at primary school, I found my way in academia and managed to get a place at a local grammar school – Dame Allan’s Boys School. It was five miles from our home at 16 Gowan Terrace, with  the Town Moor in between. The Town Moor is a vast expanse  of land – one thousand acres, in fact – bigger than Central Park in New York. I used to have to cycle across it to get to school and back, come rain or shine.

My tricky commute aside, I enjoyed school. I found learning interesting, and I was lucky enough to have plenty of interesting teachers (known as ‘masters’ at Dame Allan’s). I recall that my maths  master, Mr Mallinson, had fought in the war, and now found  his right hand was fixed in the position of holding a bayonet. He would jab it into your bicep if you got things very wrong: a very painful deterrent! I thoroughly enjoyed maths, finding particular satisfaction in the fact that there was always a right answer. I preferred physics to chemistry, being more intrigued about why things work the way they do rather than just what things do. Of course, it’s often difficult to untangle the subject matter from the passion and enthusiasm that the teacher brings to the equation. For instance, as much as I leaned towards the sciences rather than the arts, perhaps my most memorable lesson came from my English master, Mr Turnbull, who once waxed lyrical about the poem In Memoriam A.H.H. by Alfred Tennyson, musing earnestly on the significance of the idea that “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Something about the sincerity of that lesson – and the bravery of speaking with such sentimentality to a group of teenage boys – touched me deeply, and I remember it well to this day.

I was less keen on sports: I enjoyed rugby for a while but, like many boys, soon became too skinny for it. Perhaps I might have had more of an interest in football if the facilities had been better. We did have a space for what was supposed to be a football pitch, but the war had put paid to that development. Instead, we had a rough patch of land dotted with small mounds which some of the lads would stand on, heading a ball between them. This was very popular as a competitive game between classes: a testament to the ingenuity of young people and their determination to have fun!

As for friendships, I was always more comfortable one-to-one than in groups, so I was never part of a big gang. In fact, I had two  close friends throughout school and that was enough for me. There   was Neil Hepple, who was very similar to me, and Alex Hardcastle, who was a big, rambunctious lad and responsible for teaching me most of the rude jokes I learned in childhood. In all though, the three of us weren’t rebellious. Rebellion wasn’t, in fact, in evidence  anywhere in the school, other than the occasional header after the teacher’s whistle had been blown.

The overarching lessons that I learned from school were good ones which set me up well for ‘real life’: I learned to work hard – particularly at things I found difficult – and to enjoy the feeling of success.  I won only one prize at school – for ‘Best Overall Achievement’. I’d come a long way from the little boy who struggled to read, and it’s a fact that continues to make me proud, decades later. 

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