Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 159,623         Comments: 742

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Led by Stuart Bennett (Captain), right, the cross-country team returns from a practice run around the nearby country-side.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959

742 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Steve on 7th April 2017  

I agree at first holding up another lads legs whilst doing handstands wearing baggy shorts was a bit daunting but after a while you came to realise you just had to get on with it. After all working in pairs you would both be doing the handstand at some time and you would not be seeing anything that you would not see in the changing rooms or showers after the lesson.

Comments by Rob on 5th April 2017  

William, I absolutely agree with your first paragraph, and while I was not shy about my body hated doing handstands and having to hold another boy's legs. I also agree with your comments about the British being inhibited compared to other European countries.I discovered the reality of this on a holiday in Austria with my wife some years ago in the hotel sauna which was mixed.It felt very natural and there seemed nothing wrong with being nude in mixed company.A few years later we were in Southern Austria and I went to a sauna in a public leisure centre where I discovered that there were families with teenage children, including brothers and sisters and their friends all enjoying the harmless freedom of being naked together.I thought at the time that if only we could be this relaxed about ourselves in Britain.

Comments by Bradley on 4th April 2017  

Lay, I think a lot of what you'd consider abuse is perfectly accepted in some schools even today. you seem to suggest that not wearing a shirt to go swimming is abuse? Unfortunately, it is not practical to swim with a shirt on. If someone doesn't feel comfortable without a shirt on, then they really need to work on their confidence.

At school (I left just a few years ago), I really liked swimming but was always slightly embarrassed of having to wear just swim trunks/briefs. Did I request to wear a shirt? No, that's ridiculous. People need to work on their fears. I remember being asked to represent my school team at a county-wide gala. It was a huge event and the event I was to take part in was the final one of the day, five hours after we came. We changed at our own school and took the bus wearing swim briefs since there were not enough rooms for everyone to change in, or so we were told. now you might consider that abuse, but it's not. It builds confidence and encourages people to take care of their bodies. What I'm saying is we need to work on our insecurities and we need to stop being shy. Look at the Germans, the Norwegians and their attitudes

Comments by William on 3rd April 2017  

Aly, Don't you think it is sometimes good for children to do things they find a bit uncomfortable? Does it not help them to develop and find out what they can cope with? I did find gym challenging at school. As a shy 11-year old I would have avoided nude showers and I would not have done handstands wearing nothing under my baggy white shorts with another boy holding my legs. But I had no choice and quickly got used to it. I did not think being made to do this was unfair because we were all treated the same. It helped to make me more relaxed and confident about my skinny body.

As it is the British are more inhibited about their bodies than people in Europe. Anyone who spends time on the continent quickly discovers the truth of that - whether on a Spanish beach, in a German sauna or an Icelandic swimming pool (where everyone has to have a supervised soapy shower while naked - that is how they keep their chlorine levels low).

Religious considerations apart, it is sad indeed if men and boys are so inhibited about their bodies that they feel uncomfortable swimming bare-chested. Can this sensitivity about bodies possibly be healthy? In a German sauna no-one pays any attention to the fact that everyone is naked because it is the norm. People don't snigger, stare or misbehave. This seems to me to be a healthier attitude.

Comments by Aly on 1st April 2017  

Yes it's fine but they shouldn't be forced to swim without a shirt. There are wetsuits available for people who don't want to swim without covering their upper body. Likewise, no one should be forced to do PE without a shirt. Some children do not feel comfortable showing that much skin, others might prefer not to for religious reasons. Many of the Muslim boys at my son's school prefer not to.

Comments by Pete on 1st April 2017  

A bit beyond what we were expected to do in school - but they are stripped to the waist!

Comments by Adrian on 31st March 2017  

Aly - do you think it acceptable for a boy to be expected to swim in shorts but no shirt but not do p.e. dressed the same?

At my boys grammar school in the 60s we did all indoor p.e. without shirts and barefoot and some outdoor activities the same including cross country. It was comfortable, practical and most certainly not abusive.

I think there are some people who like to think being made to do something they don't really like is abuse - it isn't! The sooner children learn that they can't always do exactly what they want the easier they will find things later in life.

Comments by Steve on 31st March 2017  

I often think that that times have changed so much & not always for the better. Obviously there must be child protection but i never thought I was being abused having to do pe in minimal clothing with communal showers afterwards. Most of the lads in my school were either in Scouts or cadets and going to camp and changing together was just a continuation of changing at school and we were not bothered if a leader was present. Nowadays I am given to understand that teachers or adult leaders cannot put on a plaster or sun cream in case of abuse. Where do we end?

Comments by Sterling on 30th March 2017  

I agree with you it would be classed as abusive today, but Society was very different then!
Back then it was completely normal!
Prince Charles attended Gordonstoun where the character-forming cold shower and shirtless year round early-morning run was part of the rite of passage at the School!

Comments by Crow on 30th March 2017  

About whether or not something is abuse, consider this: I remember being made to swim a mile (many lengths of a large school swimming pool), fully clothed, after the end of the school day. There was just me, and a teacher who watched to see that I completed the business. Was this a case of unusual and abusive punishment? No. It was a required test to see that I was fit to survive a serious accident on a sailing course I was about to start.

'Abuse' isn't so much about the act, as the intent. This is why a judge distinguishes between premeditated murder and unintentional manslaughter, for example. Real abuse seems to have been more common than previously known, or admitted, but that just makes it all the more important that we learn the difference. I didn't see discipline as abuse, it was more likely to prevent abuse (in the form of bullying between pupils), but power corrupts, so discipline that aimed to give power and responsibility to pupils at school was obviously better than that which took it away. Most kids would know the difference, animal instinct takes care of that, but the tragedy is that some could not get out from under. This for many is a painful and complex matter, very different from a superficial assessment of things like the obvious discomfort of being cold while exercising in winter in minimal clothing.

I discovered that running shirtless on a cross country winter run was good for me, extremely so. It let me become tougher rather than weakening me. It was very different from being made to stand in goal for a cold wet hour when ten years younger by the other kids who ran around in a mindless pack after a ball in an unsupervised game of 'football' in which neither 'team' wanted to pick me, the outsider. That wretched game was 'played' with no rules or understanding of the game, and I hate football to this day. If discipline spares a kid from that kind of cold helpless misery, bring it on.

Comments by Tim on 30th March 2017  

I completely agree with Graham, William & Pete ... it was as things were ... no question of abuse.

As William says: Sometimes life was uncomfortable but we learned discipline and to get on with life without making a fuss.

Comments by Graham on 27th March 2017  

Aly, I did p.e. stripped to the waist - nothing disgusting about that, certainly not abuse and if it some sort of child protection issues that mean few boys can enjoy such a sensible approach then things have gone too far. Boys are not being "protected" by wearing shirts for p.e.

Comments by William on 27th March 2017  

Aly, At my boys only grammar school we were always stripped to the waist for gym, never wore anything under our shorts, had corporal punishment, nude showers and endured all weathers. Sometimes life was uncomfortable but we learned discipline and to get on with life without making a fuss. Emphatically, we were not abused.

Comments by Pete on 27th March 2017  

To Aly,

PE stripped to the waist and corporal punishment was just accepted as the way it was then. Swimming without trunks wasn't the practice in my school but if it had been, it would have had to be done.

Comments by Rob on 27th March 2017  

Nick, thank you for your response.Your first point was exactly what I was trying to say; if I had been the only boy stripped to the waist I would have felt the same as you. But attitudes were different when I was a child and boys would take their tops off at home and play outside in the summer. So we didn't have a problem stripping off for pe; in fact it would have felt uncomfortable if we had worn tops as we got very sweaty and looked forward to a good shower afterwards. So yes, if I had been in charge of your PE class I would have made you all wear just shorts and plimsolls! I am glad that your unfortunate experiences in PE did not deter you from enjoying your leisure time in later life.

Comments by Aly on 26th March 2017  

Absolutely disgusting treatment from what I've read here. No child should be told to take off their shirt in a PE lesson, no child should be made to swim without shorts on, no child should be hit or abused in any way by teachers. Thankfully we have child protection laws in this country

Comments by Nick on 25th March 2017  

Rob, thanks for your comment - it's interesting to hear your description of how it was back then. You clearly feel it was ultimately to your benefit having to do PE, cross country etc topless. And presumably if you'd been in charge of my PE class you'd also have made me take my vest off!
Just a couple of things I'd point out... Obviously if you were all used to doing PE stripped to the waist every time then you wouldn't have found it humiliating. It was different for me, I wasn't used to it and being the only boy out of 25 or so who was told to do the lesson topless was clearly intended to make me feel uncomfortable.
Also, you assumed that I'd be reluctant to take my top off later in life... I can assure you that I'm perfectly happy to be in just shorts at the beach or the pool!

Comments by Rob on 25th March 2017  

Nick, making boys strip to the waist was certainly part of discipline for many years. In the late 50's when I was at an all boys school we were told by our PE teacher at the start of of our first lesson, aged 11, to strip off completely, including pants and socks,and that we were to wear just gym shorts and plimsolls.I never heard anyone say they were embarrassed, let alone humiliated; we just did as we were told.After every PE lesson we all had go naked in the communal showers and this continued until we left at age 18. We also wore the same outside when we did athletics and for cross country running. This was the norm for most boys for a number of decades until child protection laws were introduced and resulted in the situation you experienced where many boys became shy about their bodies and were made to strip to the waist only as a form of punishment and therefore feeling unable to strip off later in life to enjoy the pleasure and benefits which the warm summer sunshine brings.

Comments by Roy on 25th March 2017  

I agree that a caning was better than a punishment run for at least with a caning-painful though it was-it was over and done with and unless your parents actually saw marks on your backside they need never know.
If you had a punishment run after school hours arriving home late your parents would know why and would often punish you as well

Comments by Steve on 23rd March 2017  

With regards to punishments. In the mid 60's in our all boys school it was usually corporal punishment either the cane or for pe and swimming the slipper. On most occasion justice was dispensed by the teacher there & then which a lot of lads preferred.
Occasionally the teacher gave the choice slipper/cane or detention, most opted for cane/slipper

Admittedly a slipper across the backside wearing only thin shorts and no pants was painful (even worse in swimming trunks) but it was done & out of the way.

If one had detention which was always after school your parents got to know and of course you were in more trouble when you got home.
Instant punishment meant parents did not know about "the crime"

Comments by Nick on 22nd March 2017  

Reading the last two posts confirmed my own experiences at school in the 1990s, for teachers of an earlier era there was definitely a belief that making boys strip to the waist was part of discipline and punishment.
I first experienced that at 13 when my PE teacher, who was very old school, bawled me out for misbehaving and told me to take my vest off and do press ups. That was embarrassing enough with the other lads sniggering but then when I'd finished, I went to put my vest back on and was ordered to leave it and rejoin the class wearing just shorts. So I was the only boy topless for the rest of the lesson and it felt like that was part of my punishment.
There was a similar kind of feeling when a group of us were given detention and made to run laps of the football pitch. We were told to leave our vests behind in the changing room, so we had to be topless not just for the actual run but also going to and from the football pitch. Again it felt humiliating but at least this time there were other boys in the same boat as me!

Comments by Simon on 22nd March 2017  

We had to do punishments runs as well, as part of a detention.

Normally our usual cross country course (tracks/fields/woodland), always just shorts/plimsolls (no shirt). If you were slow during other parts of the detention, like the workout, you had to run barefoot. Often the last boys back from the run had to take a cold shower or were caned/slippered.

I think many boarding schools had a similar regime in the 60/70's, and early morning runs stripped to the waist were universal.

Comments by Steve on 21st March 2017  

My first experience of being stripped to the waist when I was sent to a Detention Centre in the 60's.
We had thirty minutes of topless PE every morning and again after school lessons in the afternoon - whatever the weather.
It was the same when I received a sentence of Borstal Training a couple of years later only this time instead of school lessons we had to work outside all day stripped to the waist in all conditions.
It certainly toughened me up and when I left Borstal and worked as a Builders' Labourer I was always stripped to the waist on site whatever the weather as were all the other workers.

Comments by Mick on 21st March 2017  

When I was at school in the 60's although caning did exist normally "Punishment runs" were the normal form of discipline.
If you had committed some offence a notice would appear on the notice board requiring you to report after school hours outside the gym.
You then had to strip to the waist and go to the athletic track and start running around the track.
Each lap was 400 metres/440 yards and you had to carrying on running round the track stripped to the waist and often barefoot as well until told to stop. this was at least half an hour sometimes longer.
When told to stop you normally had a cold shower as well.
It happened to some lad many times so it begs the question as to how effective it was!!!

Comments by Andrea on 19th March 2017 

I went to an all girls Secondary school, so I don't have a direct comparison with boys punishments. However we did have physical punishments, generally in the form of a rap across the hand with a ruler or across the top of the legs with a plimsoll.

Comments by Willy on 10th March 2017  

It was certainly a different era when we were at school when discipline was much more stricter and physical punishment was the norm.
I also remember, as someone else mentioned, the punishment runs around our large schoolyard in secondary school in just our PE shorts. This was a standard detention punishment.

I also wanted to ask the girls posting here if they got the same physical punishments as the boys at their school.

Comments by Crow on 3rd March 2017  

Well, I imagine there was an outcry even then. :) Isn't that why corporal punishment stopped? By the time I was running shirtless in an icy Ipswich winter in early 1980 it was voluntary. The showers weren't, and I didn't like those, even when they were warm (they usually weren't), but the last time I remember an object impacting with someone's nethers, they weren't mine, the object was a dap (plimsoll), and reports of business said it wasn't very painful, just embarrassing. To end a moment of bullying, I once punched a hole in a changing room window, and I still never saw that dap. Just as well, it was allegedly a size 12, same size as my age. I have to wonder how those who earnt it did so. This was 1979, I think corporal punishment was definitely on its way out, used with increasing reluctance. School physical eductaion was definiely spartan at the time, but I went to several schools across the south of England and it varied a bit, but was getting more lenient as years went by. Teachers were unrelentingly strict about turning up with right kit, on time, but apart from a detention on failing to do so, nothing beyond a thousand written lines ensued. Boring as hell.. A kid I knew learned to do it with five pens in one hand! Nice bit of skill that I never learned, but he was great, he stayed to keep me company even though he could have left, lots of funny talking to do, even though he finished long before I did on at least three occasions. Someone here mentioned having to file into a gym or changing room with hands on head. I totally forgot that, but it did remind me that I'd heard of this, long ago, at a time when the only way to know would have been having been made to do it. I can't remember either the school, or the context. I think I was very young though, likely under 10 years old. I probably forgot that because it wasn't fun. Shirts-and-skins games in a cold gym were fun though, I remember those. Basketball was something I might actually have been good at, but I wasn't at that school in Ipswich long enough to find out.

Comments by Ryan on 2nd March 2017  

You can imagine the outcry if schools tried to re-introduce Pe kit as we experienced with no underwear. no tops and caning as a punishment.

Comments by Stuart on 1st March 2017 


To answer your questions.

It was a boys only private school.

PE teachers ran the whole detention sessions, and caned boys.

I wonder how different we were from many schools at the time, caning was universal in the 60's/early 70's, a lot of schools did indoor PE in just shorts, many schools made boys run cross country in all weathers with no shirt or vest, a lot of schools used punishment runs as a means of discipline, or had an early morning run every day (again often stripped to the waist).


Comments by Crow on 28th February 2017  

I like the comment by Mark on 16th March 2013 about being a builders' labourer, always stripped to the waist on site. I do that too, and I got the taste for it when running at school in winter, I always run shirtless now, whatever the weather, and when I can, I extend that to working shirtless as well. I hated contact sports at school, but running shirtless made me feel a toughness and enthusiasm for sports that was on my terms, no-one else's, and I found that daring to do it sometimes made others do it too.

Working shirtless in winter extended that feeling, and it made me work much harder than people around me too. I got strong enough to make a 25 kilo mix by hand and carry it several yards then throw the bucket up onto an awkward 7 foot high platform with enough control not to spill any, and then haul myself up to stand on it in view of the street to build a wall. I got dirty doing this work, but being strong and hard enough to do it routinely shirtless in winter, washing off at the end of the day with a cold hose and a stiff brush, felt good. It taught me that turning up for work shirtless even in icy weather, or wind and rain, immediately set the right attitude for a good day's work because toughness was the only way to keep warm.

Comments by Rob on 21st February 2017  

Will,good to hear you had to work hard and build up a sweat in gym.I remember how good that felt and glad that we were only wearing shorts;pants would have got sweaty and we weren't allowed to wear anything underneath anyway.It was as well you had compulsory showers afterwards.Everyone was always naked in the showers afterwards as you need to be.
Nowadays,pe is completely different beyond recognition.

Comments by Mark on 20th February 2017  

Showers were compulsory at comp. Obviously we had to be naked. The teacher watched us to make sure we didnt just run through. Anyone got caught running through got whacked and made to take a cold shower
Showers should still be compulsory at school after PE. Its so unhygienic not to shower after working out

Comments by Will on 19th February 2017  

To Rob - no offence taken! I suppose we just had rather different perspectives but it sounds as if your early experiences may have been more beneficial in the long term.
Yes, we did have compulsory showers after PE - and you're right, the teacher who made us take our vests off did work us hard, so we were often fairly sweaty by the end of the lesson. Officially showers were meant to be taken naked but some boys did sneak in wearing shorts or underwear.

Comments by Matthew on 19th February 2017  

To Stuart

It sounds like an awful school with punishments right, left and centre. The "crimes" were obviously endorsed by the headmaster who should have realised that these punishments were not working. You and your colleagues were either extremely unruly or - what seems more likely to me - the headmaster regarded "punishment" as an essential part of education.

Comments by Don on 19th February 2017  

Stuart, who did the caning during detention, was it the Head or an ordinary or PE teacher?

Was it a mixed school or boys only?

Comments by Rob on 18th February 2017  

Stuart, thanks for that, I obviously seriously underestimated the level of discipline that operated at your school.

Comments by Stuart on 18th February 2017 


Thanks for your interesting comment.

I agree that allowing boys to wear (or skip) items, might reduce the teachers authority.

In terms of discipline, we could be caned directly by the Head, or caned in detention.

Detentions were used for a range of things, from the relatively minor, to the much more serious. For the more serious things you might get a detention and x strokes of the cane. Your name went on a list on the notice board, and you had to report to the gym immediately after school on the specified day.

Names were checked off, and you were told the number of strokes if you were to be caned. We got changed and into the gym; structure was workout, run, then cane (3rd detention in a school year got you caned, then every detention).

Thus say for fighting you were told 3 strokes of the cane; if it was your 3rd detention, you got 3 for the detention, plus 3 for fighting, 6 in all. 4th detention equalled 4 strokes, and so on.

For the detention we were allowed to wear just shorts inside, (no shirt, bare feet), shorts and plimsolls for the run (no shirt), and just shorts for the caning. After the run, we all had to go back into the gym, hands on head. All the boys to be caned were called forward, made to line up; when their turn came they went over a gym horse for the caning. Afterwards back in line.

As the year progressed more boys had previous detentions, thus the percentage caned increased. By the year end almost all the boys in a particular detention received a caning.

In a way it was a good system, as you got a couple of warnings (1 st and 2 nd detentions), thereafter you got a pretty hard punishment.


Comments by Rob on 17th February 2017  

Will,yes my comment was slightly tongue in cheek, but no offence intended.I was brought up in a different era when from primary school age parents encouraged their boys to take off their shirts at home in the summer and run around outside in their shorts and get the sun and fresh air.So it wasn't a problem from the start at grammar school having to do gym in just shorts.I can only compare your sense of shock at being ordered to take your vests off and having to run outdoors bare chested for the first time to when I was faced with having to take my shorts off after gym before going naked in the communal showers the first time.I certainly wasn't used to that! By the 1980's did you still have showers?

Comments by Will on 17th February 2017  

Rob, I'm guessing your comment may have been slightly tongue in cheek - I don't think it makes me soft because I found it something of a shock being ordered to do an outdoor run bare chested for the first time! I admit that as a 14 year-old boy I was perhaps self conscious about my body, but you have to bear in mind that I wasn't used to this, whereas you clearly were.
With that said, I do take your point that we would have been used to running bare chested if our standard PE kit had been just shorts in any case. And you're right, there was certainly a strong sense of discipline when we did gym classes with that teacher. He did work us hard and I suppose having to strip to the waist did enhance that feeling of discipline as well.

Comments by Rob on 16th February 2017  

At the late 50's grammar school, our 'official' pe kit was shorts,T Shirt and plimsolls, but at the the beginning of the first lesson our master told us to get changed into just shorts and plimsolls, no pants or socks to be worn, and no mention of T.shirts.This was our kit for every pe lesson, including cross country until we left at age 18. We had no choice in what we wore and after every lesson we all had to go naked in the communal showers.I was therefore surprised at the unusual arrangement at your school and believe that this was not the right way way to discipline boys.Although many of you chose to wear just shorts you should have all had to wear the same from the start, and in this respect your XC master did the right thing. Progressive softening up on discipline has led to the present position where pe as we knew it has disappeared and youngsters have become unfit and overweight with other health issues.

You are admitting that you were all a lot of softies! After the XC run did did you not have showers to warm you up? Although, it seems, you may not have experienced the pleasure of running XC in the summer stripped to the waist this 'strict' teacher did take you for gym.He sounds like the type who would have made you do it wearing literally just shorts, and worked you hard so that you were running with sweat and couldn't wait to get in the showers for a thorough wash.

Comments by Roy on 14th February 2017  

When I was at school in the sixties the rule for PE-indoors and outside- was you had to be stripped to the waist and barefoot. There was no choice in the matter.

Comments by Will on 14th February 2017  

Stuart's post reminded me of the time we had a strict teacher substituting for the master who regularly took us for cross country. This was early 80s. Our kit was exactly the same as well (white vest, shorts, socks and plimsolls).
We were all changed when this new guy came in and barked at us to stand up, then he picked on one boy at random and told him to take his vest off. Then he announced that the rest of us had better do the same unless we wanted detention. We were all somewhat shell-shocked but nobody dared to disobey and within seconds every boy was stripped to the waist.
It was cold outside but we all had to do the run shivering in our shorts. Anyone the teacher felt hadn't been putting in enough effort - which was quite a few of us - was then kept back to do press ups as a punishment.
It probably doesn't sound like a big deal to those of you who had to do this kind of thing regularly but it certainly was for us! I was thankful that he never took my class for cross country again, although he did for gym and always made us do it with our vests off.

Comments by Bradley on 14th February 2017  

Toby ,
No we did not. We rarely ever did any other sports (except swimming) shirtless.

Comments by Stuart on 13th February 2017  

Our "official" indoor pe kit was white shorts, vest, socks & plimsolls (early 70's grammar).

It was up to us if we wished to wear less than this. At the start of year 1 almost everyone wore all the items, but soon boys started going bare foot or stripped to the waist. Soon around half the class just wore shorts, and most of the rest went either bare foot or shirtless. Only 1 or 2 wore full kit.

In theory cross country kit was the same, but we had a much stricter master for xc, and socks and vests were banned, meaning we had to run shirtless, even in winter.

Comments by Toby on 12th February 2017  


Good to hear the majority of your class stripped to the waist. Did you do any other sports as skins?

Comments by Bradley on 9th February 2017  

It was really just a way to get more of us to take off shirts and save the school from any trouble if our shirts kept getting muddy. As I said, the vast majority of us went shirtless because we knew that, in reality, keeping your shirt on wasn't really an option unless you were prepared to do some push ups after in the cold weather.

Comments by Rob on 7th February 2017  

In the late 1950's when we got changed for pe our kit was strictly shorts and plimsolls, nothing else to be worn.When we were sent out for a cross country run therefore we were always stripped to the waist.This didn't bother me or any of the other boys as we were used to it and felt no embarrassment.Everyone seemed to enjoy running, even those who perhaps were not so good at it, and I would say that as a result it made us all more confident about ourselves.

Comments by Matthew on 6th February 2017  

To Bradley

Since it wasn't compulsory to run stripped to the waist, what right did the teacher have to punish any boy who got mud on his shirt?

Comments by Bradley on 3rd February 2017  

Some did keep them on, yes, but the vast majority of us went without shirts. It was heavily discouraged and the guys with shirts on were warned to "not get any mud on there" or else they will have to do push ups after the race.
The course was full of puddles, mud and generally it was quite a workout. It's worth nothing that the boys who wore shirts tended to be the ones who were not very good at cross country!

Its definitely strange, especially since I only left school a couple of years ago. We were lucky in the sense that our cross country grounds were in an enclosed area and only teachers were there apart from us.

Comments by Steve on 1st February 2017  

By no guidance re outdoor kit, there was no "uniform" or house colours to be worn just a t shirt, and we were not allowed to wear pants under our shorts when outdoors either