Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 687,432         Comments: 2,473

Burnley Grammar School

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There's pleny of room in the modern-styled gymnasium for muscle developing, where the boys are supervised by Mr. R. Parry, the physical education instruction.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959

2473 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Phil on 21st October 2012  

Of course in the fifties and sixties and into the seventies my mother did not have an automatic washing machine. Clothes were worn for several days before changing and that included vests and underpants. In the current time it's unthinkable that underpants would not be changed at least once a day but just as there was then the cane in school, times have changed. Taking off underpants for PE when there was often copious sweating and dirt if playing rugby made perfect sense. The fact that it was, it would seem a universal practice demonstrates the sense of it.

All these years later, I still sweat in the gym and like most men, I dont' wear underpants now either. Old habits die hard!

Comments by Nick on 21st October 2012  

I was at school in the late 60s / early 70s and like many others we had a no pants rule for games. Like Rob we were told it was for hygene reasons and a complete change of clothes was required. Younger boys wore nothing under the shorts but from about age 13 a Litesome jockstrap was worn.
I remember occasionally doing gym in skins at junior school, but at the senior school we had shirts in house colours so there was no need for skins to distinguish teams.
The reason for not wearing underwear for sport is just as valid today as it was then so I don't see why schools don't keep the same rules.

Comments by Rob on 20th October 2012  

Of course in the immediate post-war years(the forties fifties and early sixties)there was more discipline in the schools and generally in society.If you were told you had to go about at school in particular for games etc while stripped to the waist you just got on with it.In fact after a while most lads rather enjoyed the freedom of going around while bare-chested.

Comments by Eastender on 19th October 2012  

The last person to comment confirms what I wrote a long time ago. Back in the era of the 60's no one seemed concerned about the "no pants rule" that was it & we were told it was for hygiene reasons . I suppose in the modern day it would not be "correct" to ask boys to particiopate in pe without underwear. I have also mentioned previously that our tight pe shorts gave us support. Whereas the modern day trend for wearing boxers if worn under shorts would seem to give no protection or support unless lads are compelled to wear some form of athletic support for protection. About time ladds were encouraged to be manly again.

Comments by Rob on 18th October 2012  

Paul and Ben are absolutely correct. There was nothing remotely strange or suspicious about doing PE in shorts with no underpants and no shirt. It was explained in our very first lesson that the body sweats much more during strenuous exercise and therefore a complete change of clothing was required. That made perfect sense to me, and still does. We had the option of bringing another pair of pants to change into but nobody ever did. It felt a bit odd at first but after a few minutes, I found running around just wearing a pair of shorts with nothing underneath gave me a sense of freedom and was quite exhilerating, and became something I looked forward to every week.

Twenty years on, I was really quite shocked to find out in a chance conversation with my son that he and all his peers wore their PE shorts on top of their pants. How can that be healthy or hygenic?

I, too, am glad I grew up then and not now when some people have been brainwashed into viewing everything - including things they know nothing about or have no experience of - with suspicion and paranoia.

Comments by Jon on 18th October 2012  

If you look at photos and videos about school life you can see that from about the late 1930's early 40's (especially in the UK but in other countries as well) most schools in Europe changed boys PE kit into shorts and no shirts.In the UK it lasted as far as the late 80's-early 90's, in other european countries till about the 70's I think. I wonder how it had become so widespread. A school isn't in connect with every other schools. So was it a federal recomnmendation from a health establishment?

Comments by Ben on 13th October 2012  

Paul's point is correct, yesteryear should not be judged by today's norms. Where would we be if it was - would a judge and hangman be tried for murder? Would a police officer carrying out a judicial birching be tried for assault alongside teachers who quite correctly caned misbehaving schoolboys?

I think life was good growing up in the fifties and sixties. I was never aware of anything that might remotely have constituted abuse unless getting the cane for misbehaviour or being instructed to take off underpants before rolling round on a muddy rugby field was abuse but actually it was common sense. I'd rather have grown up in that age than the current one with all the sensitivities and paranoia.

Comments by MARK on 11th October 2012  

I agree with Paul that what is acceptable in one age may not be at another time.In the fifties the country had just come through a major war and there was still conscription.Boys accepted that you did PE stripped to the waist and just got on with it

Comments by Paul on 10th October 2012  

I don't think that it is possible to judge another age by the norms of the current time. I never had the slightest sense that I was being abused at school whether it was taking my underpants off for PE or getting the cane on my bare bottom.

Comments by Roy on 10th October 2012  

Leo is probably right and it was not confined to boys as witness the revelations about Sir Jimmy Savile and other so-called celebrities.

Comments by Leo - a Survivor on 9th October 2012  

Just read this thread. Naked swimming, no underpants under shorts, no tops, members of staff peaking down the fronts of boys' shorts. Penises shrivelling in the winter cold. Staff 'supervising' queues for the shower.

Don't you think this adds up to something just a little more sinister than training for a 'stiff upper lip'?

It's called paedophilia, which was, and may still be, deeply embedded in the British education system.

Comments by Jon on 7th October 2012  

If you type the word "gymnastics" ,"gym", "physical education"..etc. you can see that on most of the pictures boys are barechested for PE and gym clubs even in the presence of girls.


Comments by Roger on 29th September 2012  

When I srarted at secondary school in the late fifties our official PE uniform was vest and shorts.
We had come from two different primary schools.At one the boys had done PE bare-chested while at the other one the boys wore singlets.
The bare-chested group started to remove their vests for PE and go stripped to the waist and soon afterwards the other lads started to go topless as well and eventually the games master made us all go stripped to the waist both in the gym and on cross-country runs as well.

Comments by Malcolm on 19th September 2012  

I remember Ron Parry!!!! The only person ever to send me off in any Team Sport (I retired from playing Rugby aged 43). Mind you, I did call him a c**t!! (Aged about 15 during a house soccer match Brun vs Ribblesdale)

Comments by IAIN on 19th September 2012  

We also did PE stripped to the waist.We seemed to be divided into three groups-those who enjoyed being bare-chested,those who hated it and the majority who put up with it.
I certainly toughened us up being stripped to the waist outdoors in all weathers.

Comments by Michael on 12th September 2012  

There was a marked contrast in the way our PE master treated his select group of favourites, as opposed to the less adept pupils, including myself.

After experiencing an accident in the gym, which left me winded, fighting for breath and barely conscious, he did nothing except order a group of boys to carry me back into the changing room. This they did - dumping me on the floor and leaving me alone to recover in my own good time.

But, on those occasions when one of his favourites had suffered a mishap, he was most attentive and sympathetic.

He spoke quite civilly to his select group and I never saw him punish any of them physically, but he just barked orders at the less able group and regularly used his gym shoe on us.

It was not a good way to encourage youngsters to enjoy sport - but things were very different in the 1950s and 1960s.

Comments by paul on 10th September 2012  

It was the same, two PE teachers, both different. The other was biased towards the sporty, fit boys. God forbid if there was a fat/useless boy, as would be humiliated in-front of the class. Example on the horse, you were supposed to jump it. He was made to jump it, but ran into the side instead, moving it a little(couldn't jump on the spring-board), with everyone laughing, and repeated it until he got bored.
However the "elite" group would be in the same 'dorm. Normally 8-10 of us ate, trained and slept together. Apart from classes, where we were split.

Comments by Rob on 9th September 2012  

Interesting comments about PE teachers being ex-military or police. We had two teachers - both were very strict but completely different. The younger of the two had always been a teacher and everyone hated him - he was a real bully. The older one was ex-Army, affectionately known as 'Sarge', and was liked and respected by all. Once he'd established the regime for his lessons - the rules about kit, all instructions (orders!!) to be obeyed immediately and without question, etc (and it didn't take long with us newly arrived 11-year-olds to comply!) and everybody knew where they stood with him and that he was not to be messed with, then he relaxed a little bit with us. It didn't matter if you were not one of the real 'sporty' types (unlike the other guy who wasn't interested in you if you weren't in a school team) - you still got praise if he could see you were putting 100% effort in, and would find ways to reassure you and boost your confidence. He seemed to really understand boys our age - you could go and talk to him about anything and he was the one who let those of us who liked the rough stuff play Killerball and have wrestling tournaments at the end of term - the perfect PE teacher as far as I was concerned.

Comments by paul on 7th September 2012  

At my school, we were always topless, except for football and rugby. In the gymnasium, our PE Teacher was ex army and although hard was a great instructor. I was at boarding school and every morning would start with a 6-mile run around the grounds - topless, in all weathers. In the gym, all events were conducted with just shorts - no trainers, because of the floor.
The gym was cold - even in summer, the excuse is to keep moving, not getting cold. We got used to it, all sports were done this way, but even when freezing outside running was still topless. In the gym, we saw how our bodies looked during drills. For example during the rings I had to stop and hold my arms until I couldn't hold it. The whole body shaking as I held it. My team mates urging me to suck it in whilst each of us were pushed, seeing each other push themselves- resulting in really sweaty skinny boys.
Also when we worked out, it kept us cool as well as confidence in our bodies. Most of us were rake thin and really fit, as a result of limited food and daily runs, both in the morning and cross country race once a week.
Gymnastics required stamina and strength and seeing your class-mates work out, competing with one another helped team spirit and body conditioning.

Comments by John Lavender on 24th August 2012  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

@ Barrie (Comment No. 300)
At our Grammar school we had plimmies, white Shorts and white Tees as PE Kit but one or two guys started to turn out Barechested, and indeed we tried several times to get our PE Master to change our kit to just Plimsoles and Shorts, coloured to differentiate between the two 'houses' at the school, but to no avail.
That was a shame, because I, and several others enjoyed going barechested, and took any opportunity to do gym as such. No one had any hang-ups about it and I think we were all the better for it. I run Barechested whenever I can, it's a great feeling.

Comments by Barrie on 23rd August 2012  

I was at secondary school in England in the sixties and the official PE unifrom was vest shorts and plimsolls.However one boy started going bare-chested and more and more boys followed suit so that very soon we were all stripped to the waist.This started off indoors but eventually all of us were stripped to the waist for cross-country as well with some lads even going barefoot as well.

Comments by Jimscot on 5th August 2012  

I attended a boys only senior secondary school in Scotland netween 1965 and 1971. The pe kit was white cotton shorts and white gym shoes (pumps to some!) No top or underwear. The pe teacher gave us these rules on day 1-I had been top less at primary, so no change there. He also undertook "underpant checks" which to the modern reader may seem horrific but were the order of the day. We lined up at the start of the lesson and he would walk along and pull out your waistband and have a look. It was all over in a second but looking back it was terrifying. I cannot remember any boy being caught but the punishment was "the belt"- tawse applied with vigour to the hands- so boys just did not go there. There was also a swimming pool at the school, so later we were allowed to wear our school swimming speedos under our shorts. Some boys chose to wear a "Litesome athletic supporter" which you could buy from pe dept.

The gym was a cold, musty place but you soon warmed up after a few circuits, benchlifting, press ups star jumps etc. Any boy who was deemed not to be working hard enough would be warned and if his work rate did not improve, he was belted.

It was tough but those were the rules!

Comments by Tim H on 3rd August 2012  

Two years since I last posted on this!

Briefly - yes, we were naive back in the 60s, but possibly for 11 -12 year olds that was no bad thing. The 'no underpants' rule - remember that 'working class' boys often went without underwear into the 50s (or later) and those of us who did possibly only changed it twice a week (yuck!) - so the smelly, sweaty comments are real. Our fathers wouldn't have complained about 'no underpants, no tops' - you didn't complain about rules in those days (certainly minor things like this); remember that they would almost certainly have served their 'time' in the Forces - no complaining allowed there (and National Service only ended in 1963, so this could have been regarded as 'toughening us up' for that).

For what its worth I still prefer shorter shorts, and running on some common land this morning it felt mild enough to strip my vest off - a great feeling.

Just random thoughts from a grumpy old soul ...

Ah, Happy Days!

Comments by Eastender on 2nd August 2012  

To Nevin I agree & have always thought that perhaps we were naive & had no thought about homosexuality. Teachers checked us to see if we wore pants perhaps pulling out the back of our shorts or somewtimes the front. Yep no one complained & after all we were all naked toghther in the communal showers so who cared?

Comments by Nevin on 1st August 2012  

Underwear was strictly forbidden under our gym shorts. It seems to have been a common rule in the UK, pre-1970. At the same time coaches in the US insisted on jockstraps or supporters being worn, while as strapping teenagers we had nothing in the way of support.
One PE teacher would carry out checks by pulling the front off our shorts right out and having a good look. It sounds Creepy now but back then we had communal showers and were often queuing up naked to shower. We never considered homosexuality then, we were so naive.

Comments by Daniel on 26th July 2012  

As many have commented in the fities boys were stripped to the waist as a matter of course and as has been said it made us concerned to keep our bodies in good shape.

Comments by MARK on 23rd July 2012  

Being stripped to the waist for games did indeed make us concerned about our bodies and our physiques.By the time I was eighteen I was quite well built and muscular with a hairy chest to match and I certaily was not ashamed of my body.

Comments by L. Baird on 21st July 2012  

Despite the inclement Scottish weather we wore only shorts and pumps (slip-on sneakers) on the playing fields and during cross country running.
Today my Grandson wears a tracksuit on the playing field to shield his legs from the elements, despite the fact they are only permitted outside on a fine day. They use the gym at any hint off rain. In my day we used the field whatever the weather, the Games Master being the only person in a tracksuit, the boys stripped to waist. The spartan regime toughened us up. Being shirtless made us care more about our appearance and physique.

Comments by Mark on 17th July 2012  

If you were doing PE in the gym going bare-chested was not too bad as I suppose you didn't get too cold.But it was a different matter having to do outside games and cross-country etc stripped to the waist in the cold winters we seemed to have in the fifties and sixties.

Comments by Oldschoolboy on 16th July 2012  

Fascinating discussion here. Like some of you here I was at a prep school in the mid sixties, our gym was just a wooden shed with very little equipment but we still had to work hard. As for p.e we were dressed much as in the photo and the no underwear rule applied as it did for field sports.
It seems unbelievable today that we had absolutely no protection particularly in cricket when all we had were some ropey pads and cotton gloves with bits of spikey rubber strips on the fingers and knuckles - absolutely useless; hockey was similar, I think we were allowed shinpads for that and that was it.
The miraculous thing is that I cannot recall any serious injury. I am sure that no-one today is allowed on the same field as a cricket or hockey ball without the array of armour such as helmets, boxes, thigh pads etc. And quite right too!

Comments by Eastender on 16th July 2012  

Noting the comments re running & pe in winter outdoors, there was also the opposite participating outdoors in what were hot summers!!! with no thought of covering up or knowledge of possible skin cancer. But then you were out in the sun to do you good. In response to Dominic & others despite running etc in the cold & wet we all survived & I think were healthier or is that looking back at life through rose tinted spectacles in the knowledge that we had no other option

Comments by Dominic on 16th July 2012  

At our Boarding School, in North Yorkshire, we had to do cross-country every morning in just shorts, socks and trainers. This was the case right through winter, vests were never permitted. Even in upper sixth at 18, with many hairy chests on show, we ran shirtless. Other outdoor sports were vests versus skins. This was despite temperatures well below freezing, with added wind chill and snow or driving rain. The was still the case when my younger brother left in 1975.

Comments by Harry on 15th July 2012  

James pointed out that some boys were picked to be skins much more often than others and I remember it being very similar at my school. We usually had four teams in PE, two wearing different coloured bibs, one wearing vests and one with their vests off. So in theory there was only a one in four chance of being on the skins team, but I remember having to take my vest off in our first PE lesson and thinking I’d probably be on a different team next time. I was quite surprised when I was picked for the skins team again and automatically protested ‘Sir, I was skins last time’. Looking back that was probably a mistake as the teacher took it the wrong way, ordered me to take my vest off, stop complaining and get on with the game (in that order). From then on he probably had me down as a whinger and for the rest of the year my PE vest was more often in a pile at the side of the gym than on my back!

Comments by James T on 14th July 2012  

John's comment is interesting. Our PE teacher (ex army) occasionally stripped to the waist during track and field sessions in the summer term every year until I left at 18. This chap was a really good teacher who encouraged you rather than put you down. As a 11 year old I started at my new school a couple of months into the autumn term and was told he'd pick the two teams, vests and skins at the start of each PE lesson which unfortunately, for me anyway, was to be a cold Novembers morning. Probably because I was new I was made to stand in front of the class and take off my vest first. I'd soon discovered that certain boys, myself included, were picked to strip down a lot more often than others regardless of weather or time of year both indoors and outside. I remember the girls finding it amusing watching boys take their vests off to join the skins teams and there was good natured banter in the classroom especially when it came to the tutor picking inter house teams. For inter house competitions like basketball,it was skins and vests so if you wore a vest for the first half, you'd take it off for the second. Fitness competitions were done with all the boys barechested and distinguished by different coloured shorts and cross country competitions were skins and vests which made a change from everyone being made to run barechested....if your team was lucky enough to be picked to wear a vest!!

Comments by Joshua on 3rd July 2012  

I was at school in the sixties and there was no way that PE teachers would strip off to lead lessons. We boys however were stripped to the waist for all lessons both inside and out of doors whatever the weather.Again it was no good objecting.This only resulted in doing press ups outside for up to a hour while still stripped to the waist.This was if you were lucky!!!!If you drew the short straw you were canedon your bare backside before being sent out to do the press ups stripped to the waist

Comments by west country man. on 1st July 2012  

I attended a boys only prep/public school in southern England in the late 40s/early fifties. Regarding PE kit, no underpants were allowed for PE. Rugby, or Cricket, at pain of a beating; later on older boys would wear jock straps. No bare chests here either, apart from sometimes in midwinter on the Rugby field ! The Headmaster announced 'no boys will wear bathing slips in future' - thereafter swimming was nude, followed by communal showers. It did not seem to bother anyone. Genitals, rather disconcertingly, tended to float upon entering the water. I also remember standing in line waiting for permission to enter the pool. I learnt to swim on the poolside naked, balancing upon a wooden trestle to practice breast strokes - a somewhat humiliating and uncomfortable experience. Trunks would only be worn for competitive events, and for the annual medical inspection, when they would be removed in the presence of the doc. Corporal punishment was carried out by house prefects, usually in the changing rooms, with boys attired in PE kit, then shorts dropped for hits on the bare backside with a gym shoe.

Comments by Nick on 29th June 2012  

Interesting recollections from John Lavender – I would imagine your PE master was something of a rarity in stripping down to lead the lessons. I went to school about 15 years later and there was no way you’d ever see any of our PE masters in trunks or even bare-chested. In a way I suppose it symbolised their authority, they were the ones who always wore shirts in lessons, we boys had to bare our chests if we were told to do so, which we frequently were as most team sports involved Shirts against Skins. No-one was ever forced to swim naked, if you forgot your trunks you were given the option of swimming without them or joining another class in the gym wearing just your underpants. As far as I can remember every boy in that situation opted for the latter, even though that wasn’t a great deal of fun!

Comments by Eastender on 28th June 2012  

In reply to John Lavender. I agree we had no worries or cares in the pre P/C days. Our pe teacher wore full track suit. but we had no worries about shorts only & no pants or changing & showering together. My problem is these days if I go to a public swimming pool to check & see whether it is (as is becoming the norm) mixed family changing so I do not forget & start getting changed in a mixed area.The cubicles are so small Not like at the gym & pool where changing facilities are separated by gender & you can just go in strip off & change without a worry. At school our swimming lessons were held at a public pool,although the session was exclusive to our school however, we never had the opportunity to experience the freedom of swiming naked. Kid today talk about freedom but I do not think they are as free of worries as we were.

Comments by John Lavender on 27th June 2012  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

Our PE master was a Police Sergeant. He often led our lessons stripped to the waist with either tracksuit bottoms or nylon PE shorts on, always going Commando.
He regularly played for the 'Skins' Team when we played Killerball in gym lessons and refereed our wrestling bouts when we had those. Sometimes in swim trunks only if he didn't have his trackie bottoms or shorts with him. Those were the only time we saw swimwear at school as we swam naked in lessons, which he also took ( also naked) when the regular swim teacher was not available. We did see more of his physique occasionally as he was a big guy and the shorts were sometimes a bit of , as they say these days, a 'wardrobe malfunction' but that was just looked on as a bit of harmless fun... Attended Grammar school in the N-E 1963-68, well before the P.C. era. Happy, innocent days..

Comments by TIMOTHY on 26th June 2012  

This photo brings back memories of the fifties and sixties.In all the schools I attended there was a strict policy of being stripped to the waist for all games lessons.This was both in and out of doors.Also for cross-country runs many lads were also barefoot.One boy normally wore a medallion and chain around his neck.Some masters allowed him to keep it on but normally he had to remove it.We had to be striped to the waist outdoors even in the winter of '62/3 with lying snow on the ground!!!

Comments by Roy on 24th June 2012  

To Eastender:-Actually Dickie Bird(cricket umpire)said much the same thing only yesterday.

Comments by Eastender on 24th June 2012  

Without wnating to digress too much from the topic in the picture of PE, but picking up the thread of the latest comments. Dare I say the words bring back some form of National Service for both male & female. Not neccessarily armed forces as such becuae these days the services need people with qualifications, but some form of discipline & use the Corps perhaps to assist in times of flood or other national emergency.

Comments by Bill on 23rd June 2012  

I agree that modern day youths need toughening up.In my school career we had to do PE stripped to the waist as a matter of course and we didn't dare complain.It would certainly do the youths we see hanging around street corners in hoodies good to do tough physical exercise while stripped to the waist.

Comments by Andy on 21st June 2012  

Stuart, we didn't have morning runs but had too endure a cold shower every morning with matrons or prefects ensuring we stayed under the ice cold water. We had cross country and orienteering 3-4 times a week. The uniform was vast, shorts and slippers. This was year round. I remember running in quite deep snow and driving wind and rain.
I attended a military academy, mainly for the offspring of forces personnel. We had vests but teams were shirts vs skins. We had daily PT so went shirtless a lot. I had no problem with that. There was emphasis on toughening boys up for future military service. This included the use of CP, but only occasionally, and cold showers every morning, which I hated. One rather quirky uniform requirement was year round short trousers in the first three years. At the beginning of our fourth year we got long trousers with our uniform but no longer got a pajamas top, only bottoms. We had to sleep bare chest in Senior dormitories. This rule was enforced and any boy caught wearing a PT vest to bed would be slippered or caned. The pajama bottom were lowered for this. The Dormitories were very cold in winter. The condensation would often freeze up on the inside.
We were being conditioned to succeed during times of war. Today in South Korea teens receive much harsher treatment at military boot-camps. Teens, who spend too much time playing computer games and not studying or playing sport, are sent to camps during school holidays.
The teenagers complete grueling physical training without shirts for hours on end. This is often done in sub zero temperatures and in driving rain & snow.
Instead of rioting or stealing,like their UK counterparts, these lads are being conditioned to succeed.
We could do with boot camps for gangs of teenage 'chavs' who intimidate residents with their hoods up and faces obscured and their hands plunged inside their tracksuit pants, fondling their bits in public.



Comments by Paul on 21st June 2012  

I went to boarding school in Yorkshire in the 1960s/70s. We had to run six mornings a week at 6.30am in shorts and plimsolls whatever the weather. I cannot remember the run ever being cancelled. There were always duty masters assigned to the run but others ran too, masters being bare chested was not at all unusual and for many it was the norm.

As with others, underpants were not allowed with shorts and there was a painful penalty for being caught wearing them. The master who was head of athletics and gym was also the master of discipline so in addition to a collection of plimsolls he had a collection of canes which he was not slow to use. He was both a golfer and a squash player so the swing of his right arm packed a lot of power as I and many other boys discovered, in fact that was probably all other boys as I don't remember anyone who didn't get the cane fairly regularly.

Comments by Julian on 18th June 2012  

Peter you are so right.No bare-chested teaher went on the runs with us.

Comments by Neil on 17th June 2012  

Like Julian I was at a southern boarding school and experienced early morning runs while stripped to the waist.I did not enjoy it but it was no use complaining.You simply had to get on with it.

Comments by Peter on 17th June 2012  

To Julian and Ronny. Did a teacher accompany you - stripped to the waist - on these morning runs? No? I thought not!!!!

Comments by Tyrone on 16th June 2012  

Having read your comments Andy, I wonder whar would be said today if such a harsh punishment regime was used. Also I agree with your points about no sex education, & like you there was not alkk from my dad about puberty. We did not seem to worry about the changes in our bodies & I wonder if too much is made these days about growing up & growing into sexual maturity is jsut an excuse for bad behaviour. We were more diciplined by our teachers and better for it.

Comments by JULIAN on 16th June 2012  

Ronny:- I take your point as we were in the south of England