Memories of a Kings School Kipper Leeds United Fan – by Rob Atkinson


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The Kings School, Pontefract – this blogger’s alma mater from 1972-78

For some reason, an inner voice is telling me it’s high time for a nostalgic trawl through some school memories. Mine take me back to the seventies, when I attended a school of mellow, weathered brick atop Mill Hill in Pontefract. For I was, in local parlance, a “Kings School Kipper” – and the teachers I met there were a mixed assortment of individuals, the like of which I suspect you do not encounter these days. It was in these years that my passion for Leeds United flowered and bloomed – sometimes I think it was my nascent love for football that saved me from despairing about the dusty and cheerless environment of a soon-to-be ex-grammar school. It was all boys, of course, no feminine distractions apart from some dragon-like dinner ladies with moustaches that outdid anything in the sixth form as well as most of the whiskery efforts among the hairier masters.

In order to protect the not-quite innocent, I’ll refer to the following erratic examples of the teacher’s art by their commonly-used nicknames. That should be enough for my contemporaries, those lucky enough to go through the KSP experience at around the same time. But, even without nicknames, many of the masters are recognisable by their individual quirks of personality. The teaching staff at Kings School were remote and forbidding figures for the most part, who used to prowl the corridors cloaked academically, like a horde of demented bats. They were as motley and weird a bunch as you’ll find outside the walls of Billy Bunter’s Greyfriars.

My own favourite remains the man with the unforgettable drawling delivery; a French master and perennial form teacher known to us all as “Jack”, because his surname rhymed with that of the bandleader Jack Parnell. Jack was notorious for a series of stock phrases delivered in a characteristic nasal drawl. We’d dread the sound of “Get a move on, get some work done!”, or the doom-laden “Right, lad; fifty lines.” Jack was fanatical about his Chess Club and also his support for the gruelling coast-to-coast Lyke Wake Walk. His finest hour, for me, came when he was delivering sentence on a classmate with the surname Grace. Jack’s nickname for him was “Amazin’”, and when Grace annoyed him this one time, Jack came out with “Right lad. Fifty times in French, backwards: it’s amazin’ what raisins can do”. As the youngsters are wont to say: how random is that?

There was another Jack too, a scary character in the maths department, whose party-trick was to make his voice grow deceptively gentle, lulling a drowsy class off to sleep. Then, when he could see heads nodding, he’d give the blackboard an almighty clout with a board ruler, making a sound they must have heard down at Carleton Secondary Boys’ School. The shock effect of this ensured our wakeful attention and our sadistic teacher was plainly delighted each time he thus traumatised us.

Among the many other odd characters on the staff, there was a music teacher commonly referred to as “Tramp”, for his lack of sartorial elegance; an English master known for some obscure reason as “Bungee” – and a fearsome character whom we dubbed “Chopper”, for the swinging axe-like nature of his disciplinary methods. When another, younger teacher of the same surname joined the staff, he was immediately christened “Chipper”, in a neat tribute to a couple of popular Raleigh bikes of the day. Another English master was a man of rotund aspect, who spoke with an accent straight out of Golders Green, and was also an enthusiastic spare-time football coach. One day, an inspired member of our form looked out of the window and saw “Fat Ron” wheezing up and down as he reffed a game on the pitch just in front of the main building. “Oh look, sir,” he piped up. “There’s a heavy dew on the grass”. It took a moment only to catch his double meaning, and then the lesson dissolved into fairly malicious but honestly not anti-Semitic laughter. As a memorable bon mot, this one passed straight into Kings School legend and was much admired for years afterwards. I remember it more fondly than perhaps I should, as it was “Fat Ron”, the interfering git, who later grassed me up for being an underage member of a local club where I’d often pleasantly wasted time drinking lager and playing snooker or pool.

In the science department, we had a tall, thin physics master of amiable disposition who, although afflicted with a speech impediment, was often called upon to read the lesson in assembly. This seemed harsh enough, but the cruelty of us boys went a stage further; we called the poor bloke “Splut”, often to his face. Then there was another physics teacher, of Lancastrian origin, known as “Mad Brad”. He used to say to me, “Atkinson lad, this homework is di-A-bolical” (as it invariably was). His colleague in the chemistry lab, nicknamed Taff in tribute to his origins in the valleys, would doubtless have agreed – when he wasn’t lifting us by our sideburns, that is, to an anguished protest of “Sir, sir, sir, gerroff, it kills!” And don’t even get me started on the nasty little punishment habits of the games masters…

Given the suffering occasionally inflicted upon us by these out-dated brutes, it’s surprising how almost-fondly I now look back on my time as a Kipper. Distance lends enchantment, of course, to those dear old golden rule days – but my only truly positive memories are of the jam roly-poly in the dinner hall and playing football with a tennis ball on the basketball court. Most of us were Leeds fans, but there were a few renegade scummers and one lad who insisted on supporting Arsenal or Derby for no apparent reason. The teachers, meanwhile, were diverse in their football affiliations. One of the English masters was a Burnley fan who I remember engaged me in a serious discussion about the pros and cons of Ray Hankin – and there was a Coventry fan in the Sports department whose chief disciplinary trick was to hand out impositions of ten lines at a time – trouble was, the lines were about three pages long. I honestly can’t recall any Leeds-supporting teachers; perhaps life would have been more pleasant for some of us, if there had just been that little bit of common ground.

It strikes me that there must be readers of this blog out there who were Kings School Kippers, just as I was in the seventies. Please feel free to share your memories of the place and its barmy inhabitants – I’d be really interested to read the recollections of others who went through that particular institution and emerged more or less unscathed. Or just recount your own school memories – all contributions welcome subject to the usual moderation…

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16 responses to “Memories of a Kings School Kipper Leeds United Fan – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Yes i remember you posh kippers in the seventies who we used love to take you on at Football, Rugby & Cricket. Best memory was playing cricket for my Cas Vegas school and coming out to bat at KSP, your stumper commented as i took my mark that i ‘was a useless fat twat’ to which i responded ‘i heard that lord snooty’ to which he retorted ‘you were supposed to you fat twat’. Obviously i wanted to twat him with my bat but decided to instead knock his bowler straight to the boundary, after 3 wildly failed attempts i was bowled out, and so that day i learned that the art of sledging.

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  2. Well, Young Atkinson you astonish! In the early ‘7Os I was a teacher. After five years at uni, with no idea of what I wanted to do for a living and wanting to give something back, I took a teaching post in Greater Scumchester. I recall the first time I entered the teachers’ common room – as a school pupil this was a place of wonder that I’d never seen. I expected to find great minds debating serious issues but only encountered dull people talking about their mortgages. All had their own chairs and mine was the most remote from the coffee. I sat next to a lonely German teacher who taught me to say “Ich bin dein Freund” (I am your friend)… I found I had more in common with the students than with the teachers and before I quit teaching, after two years, I used my classroom as a lunchtime debating club. I like to think that there are a few free minds in the Scumchester area, probably about your age, who support Leeds.

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  3. Steve clowes

    Memories they are definitely not always pleasant ones but your musings took me back instantly to those days when we were supposed to be the cream but perhaps slightly curdled.
    What about Holy Joe who for a vicar had some interesting views on the sexual side of life, The magisterial headmaster Mr peck and his sidekick Cavo.
    The nicknames for teachers were in part brilliant and in part cruel but you can bet they all knew what they were called. We formed part of an end of an era as the school turned into comprehensive and girls appeared one of which was known as thunderthighs for reasons sadly unbeknown to me !!
    Thanks Rob what we wouldn’t give for another game of tennis ball soccer !!

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    • Ah, Clowesy. So good to hear from a true contemporary! And there’s so much more I could have said. Speaking of the transition from grammar to comp, I remember Mick Marsh, the Richard Stilgoe of KSP, writing a song to the tune of “Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow”, with the new lyric “They’re digging holes for the girls’ ablutions”. It’s strange what sticks in your mind. I was looking at some old school photos before writing this, and I’m sure I saw your face, along with a few others. Nostalgia is one of those few things which are just as good as they ever were.

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  4. Mark Taylor

    Rob, I went with you to my very first Leeds match v QPR in 1977 resulting in a 3-0 win to Leeds with Brian Flynn scoring one, a Dave Needham own
    goal and possibly Tony Currie getting the third.
    I really enjoyed those games and I still occasionally go with my son.
    Regards

    Mark Taylor

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    • I certainly remember you – Spud, wasn’t it? And I remember going to Elland Rd with you a few times, including one unhappy League Cup semi, I think. Didn’t we also have the company of one of Hilary Robinson’s sisters at one game?? How the time flies – glad to hear your son has an interest in LUFC. My daughter was not susceptible to conversion to the cause :-/

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  5. Mick Hickling

    I remember it like it was yesterday. I too am a life long Leeds fan and can remember being humiliated in assembly because I missed 1st XV rugby practice to watch Leeds United at Elland Road one Wednesday night. Next morning Gregory called me out after assembly and the rugby teacher, mr porter I think his name was gave me detention fir missing the training session. Anyway Leeds won so all was good. Happy days. Mick Hickling

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  6. Going off the subject slightly , I will always remember thumbing a lift in my youth to a away game at Ipswich (not the easiest place to thumb it to ) anyway me and my mate were picked up on route by two fellow leeds fans who lived 5 miles from pontefract town centre,, the reason I know it was 5 miles is because as we went along the front passenger knew that from his house to ponte town centre was exactly 5 mile , so every time we went past a sign post saying Ipswich 90 mile he would mouth out ponte back ponte back until he’d hit the 90 mile mark !!! This at first we thought was quite funny , but after a while of ponte back ponte back I couldn’t wait to get out haha …

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    • AND we didn’t win – I bet!

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      • Mr orange

        I think we drew 1-1 rob , but what I do remember is getting a lift back from a transit van full of fans from somewhere in leeds ,, they stopped off on the way back and got tanked up in a village pub somewhere in Lincolnshire, they kindly bought me and my mate a couple of drinks , we were skint hence the thumbing lifts , they eventually called it a night and we set off back up the A1 , about an hour later one of the threw up and I was in the way !!! Oh the joys of following leeds united

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      • Such golden memories 😆

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  7. Don Crossley

    Rob – excellent blog. When I introduce friends to people, I generally begin with, ” This is my mate **** – we went to different schools together.” I do this for two reasons – firstly it puts folk on the back foot as they try to work out what I’ve actually just said and secondly……well I just like to annoy people. So it appears from the photo caption that you and I went to the same school…..just not together…..Anyway our incarceration at KSP must have been separated by the extent of the school holidays in 1972 as that was the year I left after an heroic if forlorn attempt at A-levels. The teachers you speak of and their nicknames strike an ever-present chord in my memory. I’m sure the Spluts, Choppers, Tojos, Taffs and Holy Joes of the rarefied KSP world breathed a collective sigh of relief when I finally hung my satchel up that year. They had I am sure, done their very best to instil wisdom into Crossley DA 6Sc1B but I must have appeared a reluctant recipient….though to be fair, I had just discovered girls and I was catastrophically distracted in my last two formative years (I was a late developer – it was an all-boys’ school then and I felt compelled to make up for lost time). Oh Lord – have I put the apostrophe in the right place in that last sentence….!?
    I have posted quite a few of my musings on the school facebook page so I won’t repeat too many of them here. Discipline was strict when I first started there in September 1965 – I recall a boy being sent home for having yellow socks on; punishment for particularly heinous crimes was detention on a Saturday morning and lines were handed out profusely. Both woodwork/metalwork teachers were psychopaths and would hit you repeatedly on the head with a piece of 2 by 4 for the slightest misdemeanour – in my case, I referred to one of the tools as a knife; apparently it was a ‘cutting’ knife. Such violence in a school environment these days would result in arrest. Pupils up to the 4th year were required to wear their caps outdoors and doff them on seeing the Headmaster (Mr Alan Aldous at that time). Notable events….. Ken, the lab assistant’s cacophonous scream when he inadvertently drilled through his thumb half way through an A-level physic’s exam springs to mind. Mr Dunn, the Deputy Head stalking the corridors with smoke perpetually billowing from his gown – the result of forgetfully stowing his still-burning pipe there. A fifth year biology test which required every participating pupil to bring something to dissect. Most brought a frog or a rat. I brought a worm. Peter Tune brought a swan! His Dad had allegedly run over it the previous day – the entire school stank for days as Mr Skire the biology teacher boiled it to get the feathers off.
    I harbour fond memories of my years as a King’s School Kipper (rose-tinted glasses notwithstanding) and it undoubtedly had a positive influence in shaping my future self though I do still live in constant dread of ‘being asked questions later….’ And of course, I often wake up in the early hours anxiously trying to remember if I handed my physics homework in.
    I am amazed and more than a little disappointed that I have never seen even one of my contemporaries make the on-line effort to be accessible via the KSP facebook site or in any other way for that matter. With the exception of two and a half ex-classmates, everyone I knew there seems to have vanished from the face of the Earth (the half relates to Jeff Clarke who much to the Headmaster’s chagrin, left half way through his A-levels to play football for Manchester City – Jeff is now ‘somewhere in Scotland’ seemingly without internet access so doesn’t rate as a full friend any more.) Perhaps it’s just me they are avoiding……..
    I do have other recollections – some even printable……and I will follow your blog with interest. Good luck with it Rob.

    Don Crossley BSc (Hon) in Frustrating Simple Enquiries, City & Guilds in Grinning.

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  8. Fantastic, Don – exactly the sort of feedback I was hoping for. Thanks so much.

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  9. To balance the impression of reaction mention must be made of a young Economics teacher from the North East who was already a member of the SWP when we renewed our acquaintance in1977. At least those old Grammars didn’t go in for the vetting young teachers have to go through nowadays. In retrospect the abolition of Grammars was an error of historic proportions – with their passing went the chance to create a middle class and republican culture in this country. A combination of (middle class) snobbery and misguided (working class) egalitarianism did for them.

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