Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 153,734         Comments: 724

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

724 user comment(s) below:-

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

Comments by Rob on 31st January 2017  

Steve,our pe kit was the same as yours in the gym, but we wore nothing extra for cross country and athletics.We played football, not in pe lessons but seperate double lessons when our pe shorts doubled up as football shorts, but still without underwear, and football shirts, boots and socks.So you must have received some guidance on tops for outdoor sports activities if you usually wore a T shirt.

Like most boys,I certainly wasn't bothered about wearing just shorts and plimsolls for pe and soon got used to having to go in the communal showers in the nude after pe and games. We did as were told without questioning it.

Comments by Steve on 26th January 2017  

When our class had it's first pe lesson in secondary school which was an all boys school, I knew in a advance that we would not be wearing underwear or tops for pe. Our parents had been told at a parents evening held some months before we went to secondary school that pe was strictly shorts,plimsolls and that was it.
So they told me when we were buying uniform that I only needed shorts and plimsolls for pe. When outdoors there was no guidance on tops and we usually wore a t shirt. However, in summer most of us were bare topped.

So we turned up for pe and the teacher a big imposing man said "remember no pants or socks shorts only". He did say he might check ( the punishment was the slipper)but as far as I remember he never did.

I do not think only being allowed the minimum of clothing bothered me. It was the rules and that was that.

Comments by Terry on 25th January 2017  

Bradley, did some boys keep their shirts on for cross country then? You said nobody was forced to run shirtless so I wasn't clear. Either way, the logic does seem a bit strange.
I left school in 2003 and, while we always wore tops for cross country, shirts and skins was commonplace for other aspects of PE. Like others here, I was one of those selected to play skins more often than not, maybe because I was on the school football team and the teacher in charge also took my class for PE. In football training it was usually shirts v skins as well so I got used to being a skin right the way through school.

Comments by Bradley on 23rd January 2017  

The reasoning that was given was that some parents constantly complained of having to wash muddy shirts after cross country since our track had some very slippery parts to it, especially after it rained. We weren't forced to go without a shirt- it was just a recommendation- but most of our parents agreed. After all, our fathers probably all did their XC shirtless.

Our XC was done by everyone. We had competitions between different houses so everyone had to take part.

Comments by Warren on 22nd January 2017  

'Falling in mud and ruining your t shirt'
Strange excuse. With that argument who would ever wear a shirt during strenuous activity!
I don't believe a reason was ever given to us to us when we had XC. And the team trained shirtless during my time at School. The region has the lowest temperatures in the UK.
I'm sure the shirtless regime put many off joining the XC teams!

Comments by Bradley on 22nd January 2017  

Warren, i agree that cross country in the winter is harsh, especially if you have to run without a shirt on.I certainly felt it was quite unfair to have to run in cold weather, sometimes freezing, without my shirt because there was a risk of us "falling in mud and ruining our shirts", especially when we normally did PE lessons with shirts on.

Comments by Warren on 19th January 2017  

Like Toby My PE teacher had his usual suspects when it came to shirts versus skins. He was also XC Coach. After school runs were compulsory shirtless even in harshest Northern Irish Winters. He tended to pick members of the Football and XC teams. Which suited the beefier lads!

Comments by Rob on 16th January 2017  

When I started at an all boys school in the late fifties we were all told before the first PE lesson in the gym to get changed into gym shorts and plimsolls.We were not allowed to wear shirts,pants or socks and this was our kit until we left at aged 18 both in the gym and outside including cross country running.After all PE lessons it was compulsory for everyone to go naked into the communal showers. We did as were told without question and no-one ever said anything about being shy or embarrassed; we just got used to it.

Comments by Toby on 15th January 2017  

Hi Paul,

Unfortunately for me I was one of the favourites to strip. I have no idea why though. I was quite sporty but nothing special in any way. There were around 2 or 3 lads in each class who were singled out and that was the same in each class. Being honest once I got used to being a skin I didn't mind it too much, not that there was anything I could do. I do remember when I was 11 one of my friends saying his younger brother who was in the 1st year was singled out to strip down too. I think it was totally random but you got used to it. We were always pushed hard and was common for skins to be sweating freely, especially in the gym or playing basketball. At those points I was pleased to be a skin and it always got girls attention so bonus points there!

Comments by Paul on 11th January 2017  

Toby, were you one of the 'favourites' in your class? How did you feel about it if so?
Don't remember anyone being singled out in that way myself, although we did have vests vs skins in PE quite frequently.

Comments by Toby on 8th January 2017  

Wayne, your teacher sounded the same as ours. We were "introduced" to skins and vests as 9 year olds. I remember the very first lesson and being picked to stand in front of the class and was simply told " Right lad, vest off and drop it on the floor" soon after he picked others at random to drop their vests. To make things worse he had his "favourites" who always ended up as skins. It was the same every lesson until leaving at 18. If you had a punishment session it was always outside, we had to change round the back of one of the mobile classrooms and you had your top off regardless of weather or conditions. This was done during assembly time and always made you really late for the first lesson.

Comments by Wayne on 4th January 2017  

Hi Tom,
We did most sports activities in skins at some stage - football, basketball, volleyball and athletics were probably the most common. I was 12 the first time I did PE with my shirt off and that continued regularly through to 16. My first punishment run was at 13 or 14 but unfortunately it wasn't my last!

Comments by Tom on 24th December 2016  

Wayne, how old were you when you started to strip to the waist and what activities did you play in skins?

Comments by Wayne on 20th December 2016  

Matt's PE teacher sounds like the one I had in the 80s. He was something of a disciplinarian and boys who were deemed to have stepped out of line - as I discovered - found themselves subject to a punishment run. These could vary in length and difficulty but there was one certainty, you'd be made to take your shirt off before the run started. If there was a nip in the air that was too bad, you just had to run faster to get warm! Sometimes he would order boys to strip to the waist in ordinary PE lessons as well. I'm not sure there was any reason other than to remind us who was in charge.

Comments by Andrea on 19th December 2016 

If I remember correctly we just had to roll up the sleeves of our blouses for the BCG test.

For the actual BCG injection we had to unbutton our blouses sufficiently to be able to slip them off one shoulder.

Comments by Matt on 17th December 2016  

Thomas. If my recollection of the early 60's is right, the BCG test was done clad, then most boys had the injection against TB. For a few showing antibodies, like me, an X-ray was required just to check we were OK. The worst thing was that my mates found out and ribbed me about it the next day!
A "new broom" PE teacher made us run shirtless. It was initially for punishment runs, then for his classes and finally for all. He said it was to let air and sun to our bodies when we'd been cooped up inside. Also it let him see exactly what we were doing, although I can't think how that applied for running. And finally, there was the disciplinary aspect - we did what he told us to do. Although essentially a fair man, he was a hard taskmaster and stricter disciplinarian. Most Scots lads from the 60's will remember what that meant!

Comments by Pete on 28th November 2016  

I only remember having two school medicals, one in primary and one in secondary, when I was at school in the late 50s and 60s.
In primary it was done in the last year or the year before from what I remember, so we were about 10 or 11 years old.
They were done in two adjoining classes or empty offices, one was were we stripped to underpants and the other the examining room.
We were taken one class at a time, boys and girls separately, accampanied by our class teacher who happened to be a female in that year. So we were about 12 boys in our group.
As soon as we arrived the teacher told us to strip to underpants in the waiting room, then taken in one at a time in the exam room where the nurse told us to take off our underpants and did the preliminary checks like height and weight. Then the doctor would examine us. He happened to be a male doctor.
Actually there were two of us boys in the exam room to speed things up, while one was being examined by the doctor another one was called in to be checked by the nurse.
Our teacher stood in the doorway between the two rooms to immediately call in another boy as soon as one was finished, so she actually had a view of us being examined in our naked glory.

The secondary medical exam had a little more privacy, but about that in another post maybe.
I can imagine the embarrassment of having mothers or other witnesses at secondary school medicals when one is in their teens, as some have mentioned.

Comments by Ryan on 27th November 2016  

Thomas Somehow I managed to avoid the BCG at school. However, our school medicals sound similar to yours except they were held in a designated classroom the windows having been covered up Ours was an all boys school. We we called into the classroom from out of our lessons about 6 of us at a time. We lined up in the room stripped to the waste and stood in line one behind the other. Then we were called forward to the doctor and after several checks on ears eyes etc we told
to " drop em" Anyone being shy or coy got a gruff "I said drop them right down".

Of course this exposed your bare backside to the next person in the queue. The worrying thing (bearing in mind we were about 14 years old,) was that parents we invited to be present and usually those days mums stayed and home and it would be them. As far as I know much to the relief of us lads no ones mum ever attended. It was bad enough having a female nurse present.