A while ago I wrote here about a Walton headmaster, Mr. Coulson. Today I received an interesting insight into the way this man worked (or should that be ‘whacked’?) his students.
Martin Evans sent me these memories of Walton Secondary School in the 1950s
I attended Walton County Secondary School from the autumn of 1953 until July 1957 and during the whole of that time Mr B. M. Coulson was the headmaster. Other teachers included Jock Hadden (Technical Drawing), Mr Barrel – called Joe (Science), Miss Ensor – nicknamed Hack (English and History), Mr Pennycate (English and Literature), Mr Broom (Art), Harry Martin (Physical Education) and Mr Langmaid (Woodwork). I also recall a Miss Tordoff but I am unsure wich subjects she taught. Although I was placed in class 1A where the from master was Mr Barrel, Coulson always took the class for mathematics. Coulson was always called Tip. Tip gained his nickname from his habit of caning pupils on the tips of their fingers. Tip’s motivation derived from a book on mathematics he was writing and he used his pupils as guinea pigs to test his ideas. He was not content with average performances in mathematics but demanded excellence in as many of his pupils as possible. For him to achieve some success, or even eminence, in his chosen field, he bullied the pupils, often screaming at them at the top of his voice. The pupils were then aged from twelve to sixteen years and to have a huge man screaming at them and slamming his desk lid down so often or to crash a stick down on their desk was a major ordeal. On many occasions pupils came away from his lessons crying their eyes out. Lessons on mathematics were something to dread. There is no doubt that Tip’s bullying was the cause of distress in the staff as well as the pupils as there were incidents when the staff were bullied in front of the pupils.
Tip often gave us tests on mathematics and I can recall him on one occasion looking at each pupils’ paper where the answer that 4 x 0 = 4 was written and completely losing any vestige of self control. He stormed down the rows of desks screaming at any child who had written that 4 x 0 = 4, picking up their paper and screwing it up and throwing it away. Almost the whole class was at fault and the test was started again.
A year or so later he gave my class another test and in which we were required to answer ten questions. I looked at the paper and saw to my horror that I could only answer one out of the ten. I knew perfectly well that if I managed to answer only a single question I would be subjected to intense bullying so I did what I had never done before and copied the answers from the boy next to me. I knew that he wouldn’t get them all correct so I was secure in the knowledge that if five or more were correct then I would escape bullying. Tip marked the papers at his desk in front of the class and after marking mine he called me out to his desk. There I saw to my horror that every question was correct and Tip did not believe that I could have answered them all by myself. He did not say anything but just pointed to one of my answers and asked me to explain how I arrived at the result. By some unbelievable piece of luck the question he asked me to explain was the only one I had worked out myself. I explained how I had arrived at the answer and Tip then quietly asked me to return to my place in the class. The feelings of relief I experienced was palpable and even today I can relive it.
He did teach my class quite advanced mathematics for pupils at a Secondary Modern School. We learn how to use logarithms, simple indices and the concept of brackets. In 1956 Tip decided to segregate a number of his more promising pupils and afford them special treatment. In effect this meant that he would take these pupils himself for additional subjects and more and more mathematics. Presumably this was to provide him with detailed assessment of their progress in conformance with his views on education. I was one of those who were selected. The others were John Harvey, John Gates, Caroline Bide, Peter Townsend and a few others whose names I have forgotten. For subjects such as science, history, art and craft, woodwork, religious instruction, geography and music, there would be little change in teacher but there were occasions when Tip would gather our small group in his own office and take them for such subjects as reading extracts from Shakespeare. On one such occasion I was asked to read an extract from a Shakespeare play about the kings of France and promptly read it using the word “dolphin” instead of dauphin. On hearing this word a number of times and thinking that I was being deliberately awkward, Tip started shouting at the top of his voice; ‘WHAT DID YOU SAY?’ Trembling I then repeated the same passage using the word “dolphin” again. Thinking that he was being mocked Tip drew himself up and was about to launch into a blistering attack on me when with great aplomb Peter Townsend looked into the copy of the book that I held and saw that the printed word really was ‘dolphin’. ‘It does say that, sir,’ Peter said. Tip snatched the book from me and when he saw the word “dolphin” had indeed been printed, he subsided like a deflated balloon. There was never an apology but an explanation was given and the class then continued as before.
On another much later occasion Tip had asked some official of the education system to attend a class of his selected few. During the lesson Tip asked Peter Townsend how to derive the roots of the equation ax2 + bx + c = 0 from first principles. Unfortunately Peter had forgotten how to do it. Tip was getting ready to commence bullying (restrained as there a witness present) when one of the others did the required calculation. Tip was mollified and justified at the same time.
In those days extra tuition during the evenings was a formality and although not compulsory many of the children attended these lessons. Mathematics (taught by Tip, of course) was one of the subjects offered in the evenings and Tip expected his “selected” students to attend these lessons. Thus, my friends and I were required to suffer the bullying tactics of Tip during the day and during the evenings as well. On one occasion I decided that I was not going to the evening mathematics lesson but on the next day at school Tip called for me and asked why I hadn’t attended. With incredible and surprising bravery I found himself saying: ‘I didn’t feel like it, sir.’ However, instead of the expected explosion and hectoring Tip merely said: ‘I shall remember that when you come to me for a reference.’ Luckily that eventuality never came to pass.
In 1956 and 1957 the form master for 3A and 4A was Harry Martin who was a very popular man. Some pupils took examinations from an organisation called the Union of Educational Institutions. Some of class 3A took examinations in various subjects including English, Mathematics and Technical Drawing (taught by Jock Hadden – another popular teacher) in both these years. In 1957 some of us took the mathematics examination. Both John Harvey and I managed to get every question correct but whereas John was awarded 100% I was only awarded 97%. The reduction of 3% was because I had dropped a large blot of ink on my examination paper. For this achievement I was not praised but thoroughly berated by Tip.
I left Walton County Secondary School in July 1957.There were no regrets at not having to see Tip, Hack and Broom ever again but considerable regrets at leaving Harry Martin, Jock Hadden and Joe Barrel. These latter three were the complete antithesis of the former three. I and the others who had also suffered four years of endless bullying could not believe that their treatment by Tip had been for any other reason than for Tip’s pleasure and self gratification. Unknown to us all we were wrong, completely wrong, as the general comments in my last report showed. Tip himself wrote “ A splendid effort – very high standard reached in most subjects.” This was to be Tip’s last year as headmaster of Walton County Secondary School. Why he left and where he went to are unknown but there can be no doubt that the staff and pupils were delighted to be free from the tyranny that had been such a feature of his management. Tip was replaced by Mr S. E. Rhodes as headmaster.
There is no doubt in my mind that Tip did have the interests in the education of his pupils at heart but the means he adopted for implementing those interests were based upon appalling bullying and he should undoubtedly have been prosecuted. I feel that he did far more damage to his pupils than good.
I have often wondered why there were no complaints by the pupils about Tip’s appalling behaviour either to the staff or to our parents. I never considered doing either and can only think that to complain was to court ever more, and perhaps worse, bullying and that was something that none of us could contemplate.
Martin tells me that he never retained contact with any of his former colleagues from the Secondary Modern at Walton, which is shame. Do you remember him?
I was at the primary school with his brother, Andrew.