Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 686,790         Comments: 2,472

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

2472 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by John on 17th April 2019  

I was more comfortable doing PE shirtless, males donít usually wear a shirt to go swimming so I think that thereís no point in wearing a shirt when youíre doing an activity that makes you hot and sweaty.

Comments by Ross on 16th April 2019  

John, I think ultimately given a choice I'd have worn shirt but it was alright I didn't really mind. I think most boys were more concerned about having bare feet.

Comments by John on 15th April 2019  

Did you mind doing PE in just shorts or would you have preferred to wear a shirt as well?.

Comments by Ross on 14th April 2019  

Looks like a lesson of mine from the 90s! Except we were all barefoot too.

Comments by Paul on 27th March 2019  

I can also remember a PE teacher who drove out to the furthest point of a cross country though it was in his blue Vauxhall Viva and I can still see the number plate on it. He also used to tick a list though how he saw anyone through the thick cloud of cigarette smoke in the car used to amaze me.

He also used to smoke as he ran on the few occasions he ran with us. I do remember on more than one occasion running right behind him and wondering why he would wear a rugby shirt and quite visibly through his white shorts, underpants when we were allowed neither not of course that I or anyone else dared ask.

We were in shorts and plimsolls only regardless of the weather.

On return there was a dose of the plimsoll for anyone who was not ticked off the list and if it was a second offence the plimsoll was replaced with the cane.

We had a second PE teacher too who taught me for about half my time at school. He was far more fit and healthy, he did everything he had us do, I never saw him with a cigarette, he was always stripped to the waist and running behind him he didn't wear underpants. I much preferred him to the other one.

Comments by Philip on 26th March 2019  

To Michael and Rob.

If that teacher thought that the lads were a bunch of softies, he could have set them an example by going out stripped to the waist himself.

Comments by Bernard on 25th March 2019  

Michael - you do seem to have got off quite lightly with the kit you were allowed to wear for cross country. We always ran stripped to the waist and barefoot as others commenting here did. Bare feet were practical as the route took us through muddy parts and I'm sure I wasn't the only one that was glad to not have to clean plimsolls afterwards.
There were a few times each winter when we didn't really warm up but most of the time we would certainly not have wanted to wear more than our shorts.
One p.e. teacher had a little moped and he would sometimes come and check on us though I don't think he ever ticked us off on a list. I wasn't aware of any-one ever trying to cut out part of the route - it wouldn't have been easy. The route took us through woodlands and along the edges of fields all of which surrounded a golf course - there would probably have been complaints to the school if any-one had dared to run across the golf course.

Comments by Rob on 25th March 2019  

Michael, If your PE teacher thought you were all a bunch of softies who needed toughening up he should have sent you out stripped to the waist every time like most of us here.

Comments by Michael on 24th March 2019  

Our PE teacher routinely sent whole classes of us boys out on cross country runs.

The weather made no difference. In fact, the worse the weather, the better he liked it, as he often remarked that we were a bunch of softies who needed toughening up.

In winter, wearing only gym shorts/vests and plimsolls, it was sheer torture, but we had to do it.

Meanwhile he would stay in school, presumably making a mug of coffee before sitting down to read the newspaper.

Occasionally he would venture out in his big Ford Zodiac, and park up at the turning point of the run, to tick off our names as we ran past. We could never predict when he would do this, so the only safe option was to run the entire exhausting distance, every time.

After driving back to school, his oversize gym shoe would be made ready, to welcome back anyone whose name hadn't been ticked off.

Happy days? I didn't think so!

Comments by Frank C on 23rd February 2019  

Thanks for the link Sterling.Always quite fancied Jane Asher!

Comments by Sterling on 22nd February 2019  

Our PE teachers certainly didn't join us in stripping down.

In winter they were wearing layers of clothing, topped off with an overcoat!

It reminds me of the PE clip in the Movie 'Deep End' a 1970 British drama starring Jane Asher and John Moulder Brown.
Although Moulder Brown and his classmates are allowed vests and socks with pumps to protect their feet from the snow covered ground. The teacher is wrapped up warm in a similar overcoat to that of my PE teacher. And possibly leather gloves if my memory serves me right.

Comments by Matthew on 22nd February 2019  

If a teacher's policy was that his classes did PE stripped to the waist, then he should have applied the same policy to himself. It's good to read that some did.

Comments by NickK on 22nd February 2019  

Andy. Our history/PE teacher would wear black shorts (we wore white) and white plimsolls (we were barefoot). I don't ever remember him coming on XC. He coached rugby at the senior level in the school but was in kit/tracksuit for that. He wasn't slow to resort to the strap (we had strap rather than cane) and you could very quickly end up bending over feet apart for a really hard three or four whacks. Even junior boys who usually got the slipper for minor infractions of gym rules. But he was very popular with boys.

Comments by Rob on 21st February 2019  

NickK,Frank C,John
When I started at grammar school in 1955 two of our PE teachers looked elderly,although probably only in their fifties and the other one was younger, but much stricter. When I was in the sixth form a very young looking teacher arrived to teach geography. Like your teacher, NickK, he occasionally substituted in the gym when our PE master was called away.We had already seen him doing athletics on the playing field wearing a brief pair of running shorts and vest, but when he took our PE class he stripped to PE shorts, the same as us, and joined in as though he was one of the boys.In fact, although he was probably about five years older than us, some of the lads were bigger built than him. He came on a cross country run with us a couple of times and always joined us in the showers afterwards to freshen up before going off to take a geography class.

Comments by Andy on 21st February 2019  


Did your history/PE teacher strip to only his shorts - so no shirt, bare feet, no boxers/briefs. I assume you wore white PE shorts, so did his match ?

What about when you ran xc, did he take it, did he strip, did he run ?

Comments by NickK on 20th February 2019  

Matthew. We had a young history teacher who very occasionally substituted in the gym when a PE master was away. He would always strip to shorts (just like we were). He was a very popular teacher but was a ferocious strapper. On the hands in the classroom and on the backside in the gym. You certainly didnt want to cross him!

Comments by Angus on 20th February 2019  

Andy, just to clarify - initially we didn't have to strip to the waist for cross country. By the time that happened (in the summer term) we'd had two terms of doing indoor PE in shorts only. So it was probably less of a shock than at the outset, when it first dawned on us we'd have to do the lesson with bare chests and bare feet. I remember standing there feeling quite exposed and vulnerable at first and I know many of the other boys did too.

Comments by Frank C on 20th February 2019  

Our P.E. Master was the first adult I saw with a tattoo when he removed his top joining in with gymnastic exercises.He was also ex military and always had his hair cropped short like a soldier.I think he was a good role model for the boys and was like Action Man come to life!

Comments by John on 19th February 2019  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

Replying to Matthew, 17th February.

Yes, Our PE Teacher quite often stripped to the waist to take lessons, to demonstrate the muscle groups in the upper body, and would often join in any team games - if he was stripped to the waist he would join the "skins" team , and if he had his tracksuit top on, then he'd play for the "vests".

He was ex-army (PTI) and a former Police officer , so he was used to it , and a strict disciplinarian.

Comments by Andy on 19th February 2019  


How did boys react when they had got used to wearing a nice warm sweatshirt for cross country, then to be made to strip to the waist ?

Comments by Angus on 18th February 2019  

Andy and NickK, that's pretty much the way it was at my school (all boys) in the early 90s. First two years we wore the full PE kit as set out in the school handbook - vest or t-shirt, shorts, socks and trainers. In fact for cross country there was even the option of adding a sweatshirt! Well, it all changed the following year, when we did PE in sets rather than form groups. My set got a different teacher who was new to the school, so none of us lads knew what to expect. We soon discovered he was old-school and big on discipline. Our first PE lesson of the year was in the gym and straight away he made us strip to the waist and go barefoot. Initially vests (not T-shirts and certainly not sweatshirts!) were still permitted for cross country, as were socks and trainers. However, in the summer term, we had to take our vests off as well. This was the way it stayed right through until I did GCSEs and eventually I got used to it.

Comments by Ross on 18th February 2019  

Andy, I had two different teachers with different attitude towards footwear. In year 9 we had A more lenient teacher that didn't care what you had on your feet as lo g as they were white and clean. From year 10 onwards we had a stricter teacher that insisted on us being barefoot for all PE in or out.

Comments by Jono on 18th February 2019  

Our kit was supposed to be a vest, shorts, plimmies too. However we quickly discovered otherwise and were quickly told to strip off. If those lads in the photo had our teacher they'd start to sweat up early on in the session. Being at a mixed school it was a very common sight for girls to see lads stripped off and visibly sweating.

Comments by Andy on 18th February 2019  


Did you have the same situation with cross country - different teachers, different kit.

Did your classmates "worry" about stripping to only shorts having been used to full kit ?


Comments by NickK on 17th February 2019  

Andy. The PE teacher we had in first form insisted on shorts only in the gym even though socks, plimsolls and vest were on the kit list and bought by all our parents. A different PE teacher in second form expected us to wear the full kit. And when we had the same chap as in first form when we were in fifth form it was back to shorts only!

Comments by John on 17th February 2019  

Sometimes our male PE teachers did conduct lessons stripped to the waist.

Comments by Matthew on 17th February 2019  

I think Mr. Parry should have conducted his lessons stripped to the waist

Comments by Andy on 17th February 2019  

Did anyone have different kit rules depending on the PE teacher ?

So, were some more strict that others, and thus did different classes wear more kit for PE and cross country than others.

Comments by Rob on 13th February 2019  

NickK, The photo all looks very staged. Next time they had PE perhaps they would have been a lot more attentive to what Mr.Parry what was instructing them if they all had to sit on the floor as we did, in regular lines with our legs straight out in front and our arms resting behind us. In addition we would have felt the sweat running down. These boys don't look as if they have been worked as hard as we were.

Comments by NickK on 11th February 2019  

Rob. He does look happy enough doesn't he. Maybe nothing has happened yet as the photographer was expected and everyone needs to look happy and positive. Perhaps when the photographer left to visit other rooms in the school Mr Parry set about restoring normality and the lad was bent over that horse and given a good slippering. It would be interesting to see a picture of the next time that class had PE - I wonder if the shorts were all white!

Comments by Rob on 11th February 2019  

NickK, he looks happy enough and not crouched down like some of them; maybe he just got a detention.

Steve,I don't recall anyone at our state school being made to strip naked to be caned. At the end of our first PE lesson we were told to go back to the changing rooms and take our shorts off and get in the open communal showers. I stood and hesitated for a few seconds but seeing other boys already naked realised I had no option but to join them. As you say, Steve, that was how life was.

Comments by Jamie R on 10th February 2019  

"groans". @ Frank. I too wore those wired glasses at school and endured unending taunts such as "speccy four eyes" and sometimes much worse, so much so that I ditched them and I was 45 until I had another pair for reading only.

Comments by Steve on 9th February 2019  stu151@hotmail.com 

Thanks for the comments - I'm just very shortsighted, but fine with glasses or contact lenses. If I had been made to take my glasses off for PE at school, everthing would have ben a blur !

At my school if we forget PE kit, we did it in just our pants - white y fronts for almost every boy - and got a detention (first time). If you forget kit again, it was still strip to briefs, but caned as well.

We were never made to strip naked, I'm sure no one was at state school, but if a teacher had told us to strip totally to be caned, there would immediately have been a line of naked boys all hands on heads, that was how life was.

Comments by NickK on 9th February 2019  

Rob. Well spotted that one of the boys sitting on the floor on the left is in black shorts. If these came out of the spare kit box I wonder if he is sitting on a rather sore bottom after a good slippering for not bring his kit.

Comments by Frank C on 8th February 2019  

Obviously the student with the NHS glasses wasn't afraid of making a spectacle of himself!

Comments by Rob on 8th February 2019  

Michael, when I was at school at the time of this photo, any boy who wore glasses had to take them off for safety when we did PE and put them on a table just inside the gym door until the end of the lesson. There is another boy on the left of the picture also wearing glasses and and next but one to him on his left a boy is wearing black shorts, Did he forget to bring his kit and did they come out of the spares box? You can't see whether or not he he has bare feet.
Steve, I remember the sort of glasses that you had to wear and I'm sorry that your eyesight was so bad. I hope that you have since been able to get help.

Comments by Steve on 8th February 2019  stu151@hotmail.com 

I wore glasses at school, like the lad in the picture.

We wore simialr kit, but bare feet, thus all we were allowed was shorts - same applied to cross country, all year around.

It's true my glasses did slip sometimes, but they tended to have wire sides that went right around your ears, so were reasonably secure; anyway I couldn't see at all without them.

If you were lined up, waiting to be caned, hands on head, which we had to, you soon had other things on your mind other than glasses slipping, especially when you heard your surname and "6 strokes lad", get over the horse.

Comments by Michael on 7th February 2019  

In the header photo a boy wearing glasses can be seen at the back.

I hope he removed them before attempting activities such as the one shown.

He would have been well advised to do so, as back in the day, broken NHS glasses (sometimes unkindly referred to as 'clinic specs'), took quite some time to replace.

Any breakage could also have endangered his eyes and left pieces of broken glass on the floor; a hazard for bare feet.

Comments by John on 5th February 2019  

I think that the lads that got to swim naked at school were lucky. My cousin was made to swim naked at Senior School and enjoyed it and I know that I would have done too.

Comments by Stuart on 4th February 2019  

Paul et all re nude swim at prep school.

Our pool like others didnt relaly have a lot of room for spectators but at the annual swim gala some parnets usually mothers did attend, and i thik porbaby the most embarassing for the older boys was the diving competition as there was high and spring boards from which naked boys would perfrom, everythng on show.

At other tiems there were a few females members of staff who occasionally popped in and I always remember on saturday mornings when I was about 12 (year 8 today)our classwas the last one of the compulsory saturday mroning school.

The head was often showing rouund parents with their offspring who oftne included sisters of the boy who was a prospective pupil. No one batted an eyelid of th naked boys swimming (this was early - mid 1970s)

I remember specifically one instance when ofr soem reason I was standing out of thhe pool and this family of mum dad boy aged about 8 and a sister my age. The parnets wree talking to he Head and the chidlren walked further in and stood next to me and the girl said something like "youll be swimming nude" to her brother, a big grin on her face as she stared at me, he blushed. Im sure though once he started he got used to it.

Comments by Jamie R on 22nd January 2019  

Ben, How I agree with you, my 13 year old grandson comes to my house from school as its a 10 minute walk or so, until his dad picks him up after work, he is often in his football/rugby kit and thick in mud, I ask him why he doesn't shower after at school and he says he isn't bothered, I do suspect he is shy though about exposing his nude body in the showers to the other boys, and having my place near is a better alternative, though he does moan about having to clean out the shower after though.

Comments by Ben on 21st January 2019  

Jamie, you are right about the tracksuit bottoms. I can tell which days the kids in my neighbourhood have PE because I see them going to school in the morning and also coming back wearing tracksuit bottoms, so they don't even have to change at school for PE.
I think it is ridiculous making kids and teens wear tracksuit bottoms for PE, a far cry from when we were at school.
It is probably the result of our liberal 'diversity' society.

Comments by Jamie R on 21st January 2019  

Ben, We were supervised, the school had 3 PE teachers and 2 were accredited swimming instructors if my memory serves me right, doors were closed and locked so no-one else could get in, my son's old school had a swimming pool and they wore trunks and I remember telling them that I was nude at their age when doing swimming, I got rolled eyes and giggles in response.

So I guess the practice stopped maybe in the 70/80s as they were in junior/senior school early to mid 80s and their PE was done in tee shirt and shorts and now their children do it in tracksuit bottoms mainly, only shorts for football/rugby.

Comments by Ben on 19th January 2019  

Jamie, were you supervised by teachers during the swim lessons, or just a swim coach giving instructions?

I don't think this would happen today with boys taking swim classes in the nude in a public swimming bath, although this seems to have been not uncommon till the 60s.
I also presume that there are no schools left which mandate boys to be nude during swim classes even in schools that still have pools, or are there?

Comments by Jamie R on 18th January 2019  

Ben. It was a closed pool when we were there, like most municipal pools those days the windows were high up and the changing cubicles all around the pool in two tiers, where we stripped off. I was at that school until I was 15, then left to start work in 1963 and all that time the lessons were nude.

Comments by Ben on 18th January 2019  

Jamie R
Were your nude swimming classes at the local swimming baths reserved just for your classes or were there other people using the pool at the same time?

Also did you have to be naked for these swim classes throughout Secondary school or just in junior classes?

Comments by Jamie R on 17th January 2019  

Hi Guys, Reading the posts here about schooldays I thought I would weigh in with mine, I went to a village primary school never more than around 15 to 20 pupils mixed of course, PE was just basic in exercise, a run round the small playground and stretching and bending exercises and running on the spot type of stuff, we only had two teachers and both were women.

My dad was an estate manager, but when I was 11 he left the estate and got a job as a farm manager near Swindon, so we had to move, I went to an all boys C of E secondary school, now to me this was a culture shock from a small village school, I was an overweight boy, not obese but definitely had what my dad called a "tummy" this was pointed out at my first school medical not long after I started there, also having to queue up stripped to the waist waiting to be examined behind a curtained off area in the gym, scared me stiff.

We did PE Like some have said here dressed just in shorts and white plimsolls and showered after. The PE lesson was always the last of the day and I was given extra tuition on the advice of my parents to help me lose weight and instead of catching the bus to school I biked. Twice a month we were bussed to a local swimming baths and we had swimming lessons in the nude. Through all this at first I was mortified but soon got used to it and I think I really benefitted as a teenager with lots of confidence, I have encouraged my boys when they were young to not be ashamed of their bodies and they were always bare chested in the garden and around the house.

Comments by Rob on 17th January 2019  

TimH & Pipin, My maternal grandmother had rickets in the very early part of the C20th and although I wasn't told this until I was in my teens, I remember when I must have been aged about 7 and my mother asking me when we were outside in the sunshine if I wanted to take my shirt off. She was probably thinking that it would benefit me and help prevent me from getting rickets.I can still remember how good it felt outdoors wearing nothing on top. When I went to grammar school in the mid fifties I had no problem when we had to strip to the waist for P.E.lessons in the gym and outside, including cross country. My parents kept me in short trousers until the January after my 14th birthday, probably so that I could get as much vitamin D. The fashion nowadays, however, is to dress boys in long trousers from a very early age. After I started wearing long trousers to school and my mother saw me wearing them in the garden in the summer she used to tell me to come in and put my shorts on and get the sun and fresh air to my body. So I used to spend a lot of time stripped off soaking up plenty of vitamin D. I do believe that getting us exposed to the sunshine when we were young helped to reduce/eradicate rickets from children and nowadays I try to get out in the sunshine to build up my vitamin D to protect me from winter colds and other ailments.

Comments by TimH on 16th January 2019  

Replying to Pipin - yes - in the early part of the C20th the state of the 'national health' was not good - there was a conscious move (from all parts of society) to get the country fitter - think of the rambling movement, the start of the YHA, 'Women's League of Health & Beauty', scouting, etc. Rickets was widespread - my father had it in the 1920s - it is caused by a lack of Vitamin D, which you get from an exposure to the sun ... so stripping off on the sun and letting nature do its bit.

Comments by Edward on 16th January 2019  

Paul - Frank C.
At my school the pool had no space for spectators.Sometimes though the Headmaster's wife and family would be swimming in their costumes whilst we boys were naked. After a short time I became used to not wearing trunks which continued throughout my schooldays.