Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 159,625         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 John on 8th December 2019  

Indoor PE was done shirtless and most lads by the age of 12 had stopped wearing vests underneath their school shirts. So it was simply a case of going into the changing room and changing into shorts and pumps, we weren’t going to do gym in our school shirts. Therefore we weren’t made to remove our PE shirts as we didn’t wear them anyway.

Football was sometimes played shirts vs skins if the PE teacher ran out of coloured bibs, on those occasions half of the lads had to remove their shirts. It never did us any harm.

Comments by William on 8th December 2019  

Max, If you think it's ridiculous, violating and crude for boys to do PE without vests, what do you think they should wear for swimming? And do you truly think that the boys in the Burnley Grammar photo look crude or violated? I don't think so.

Comments by TimH on 8th December 2019  

John - no offence meant & none taken (looking back to 15th Nov).

I agree that the whole topless thing was probably 'historic' - some schools did games topless - others didn't. It may not have been down to LEAs - just down to individual Headteachers and Boards of Governors, who probably had more important things to think about than whether or not boys did gym shirtless or minus underpants. (I think a lot of basic commonsense on hygiene comes into this).

Off at a tangent, places like Whitehough Camp School, an LEA outdoor education centre had their own regimes - I think I'm right in saying that Whitehough had a rule that all their boys went into shorts for all activities (including sailing, climbing, etc.) during the period of 'British Summer Time'. (Sadly Whitehough closed about five years ago)

Comments by Max on 6th December 2019  

It is not a good policy to have “lads” remove their shirts for p.e. Actually it’s down right ridiculous, violating and crude! I am strongly opposed to such a rule or even such a choice.

Comments by John on 6th December 2019  

Chris G,
It’s great to hear that you regarded the introduction of topless PE as being a positive experience by not being made to wear a shirt or a vest. So many contributors to this forum have spoken about disliking being made to strip to the waist for PE but often seem to have found it a more comfortable way to exercise after a few lessons.

I disliked being made to go topless for PE when I was introduced to the new rule at age 9 but that was simply because it involved change. My initial dislike turned out to be an irrational fear as I quickly came to prefer doing PE shirtless because it was more comfortable than having a sweaty shirt sticking to my skin.

Comments by Danny on 5th December 2019  

Coloured armbands were also commonly used to distinguish between the topless teams. They were elasticated so could not fall off or get in the way, unlike waist or shoulder sashes.
The coloured armbands were also commonly used in nude swimming competitions or galas to distinguish between the teams, unless swimcaps were worn.

Comments by Chris G on 4th December 2019  

John, when we used sashes to distinguish teams, we either tucked them into the waistbands of our shorts or tied them round our waists.

Comments by John on 4th December 2019  

Whilst I think that your school had a sensible policy of all lads remaining shirtless for PE, did you not find that the sashes kept slipping off your shoulder?.

Comments by Chris G on 4th December 2019  

I think I must have been about 12 when my school introduced topless PE, and I don't remember anyone in my class having any qualms about appearing in the gym minus a vest. In fact, I think we all enjoyed the liberating experience, and as I've said before, it quickly led to me and most of my class stopping wearing underwear vests altogether,

Comments by Ross on 3rd December 2019  

A few messages here about shirts v skins and reminded me of my own PE lessons where we all went topless but were given a red or green narrow sash to identify the two teams.

Comments by Ben on 2nd December 2019 

Mike C, sounds as if you enjoyed the vests and skins experience at school! Do you think it made a difference being used to it when you were that much younger? I was 14 the first time I did PE in skins and it seemed like a big deal at first, maybe because by that age boys are more likely to be self conscious about body image.
Interesting that they made the more sporty boys take their tops off outdoors, I wonder what the logic was to that?
For indoor PE, was that the official kit for every boy at the school, ie: just shorts? Or was it just the teacher's decision for your class?

Comments by William on 1st December 2019  

Dr Wallace, There is much online about nude swimming in American schools. Pastor Frank Senn wrote about it at length last year in his blog Frank Answers. There was a lot of comment from those who experienced it.

You are right about different stages of development. I was 11 (mid '60s) the first time I went naked into the communal showers at school. Many of us stared in disbelief at the bush of pubic hair on a 12 year old who had been held back a year. No-one had told us about that. One or two boys from more relaxed homes said they had seen hair like that on their parents.

Comments by Mike C on 30th November 2019  

Hi Ben & John, At my first school skins vs vests were all done in the gym though the teachers who picked the teams definitely made some lads strip off more than others. I moved school when I was 11 and the difference was immediate. My new teacher insisted the whole class went topless inside and, though we were told a shirt or vest would be worn outside, teams of skins and vests were preferred. If like me you showed sporting ability you were expected to strip off outside regardless. Quite why no-one knew but it did form a basis for a team of skins and others were simply picked out, dropped their vests and bingo 2 teams. Happy days.

Comments by George Spelvin on 30th November 2019 

Hello, Martin!
Hello, any other Shears Green alumni!

I understand that you folks had quite a discussion on Friends United.
I looked you up on Facebook and found you, but I got a message saying that Friends United has been taken down.
Can you tell me what was in that discussion?
I am fascinated with Shears Green because I would have liked to be a student there.

Comments by Doctor J Wallace on 29th November 2019  

Shrinkage? We INVENTED shrinkage!
Every now and then I'll wind up in a conversation with someone regarding the horrors of junior high school gym class. This chat will invariably lead to me saying,

"... and the worst part is, the boys all had to swim naked,"

to which the recipient of that comment will stare blankly at me in disbelief as if I had just told them I was really a convicted murderer but am pretty sure I'm through with that phase of my life now.

I find the response to my gym class confession both amusing and disturbing. Amusing, because of the way it stops people dead in their tracks, which causes me to imagine how their minds are trying to process the image of thirty 12 year old boys running around naked in the public school's pool center. And disturbing, because to date, I've never met anyone else (besides the kids who went to that school) who has ever said, "oh yeah, me too," which forces me to question the practice of that particular Phy-Ed policy in the first place.

The oddest thing about swimming nude at our junior high school was that we never questioned it, as if it was a right of passage included in the advancement from grade school. You're a man now. This is how the MEN swim! Men don't wear swimming suits.

My guess is, the whole decision to swim nude was nothing more than a cost-saving measure. No suits to buy, no laundry to do, no unauthorized swim wear screwing up the PH balance of the water. In retrospect I suppose they could have allowed us to bring our own suits, but again... no one seemed to question this arrangement at the time.

The only thing we really seem to care about was how damn cold it was. Not only was the pool water kept at a mere 70 degrees (freezing by recreational pool standards) but the entire pool facility itself was cold as well. Add to that the fact that the bench where we had to sit (on our naked butts) and listen to our coach lecture (for several minutes) was made of ceramic tile, and you have yourself a shivering herd of blue-lipped tweens.

Another area of, how shall I say... "interest" at this time was the issue of physical development. In our school district, junior high ran from 7th - 9th grade, or ages 12-15. Being as how this is also the age span at which young boys may or may not experience puberty, you don't have to stretch your imagination very far to realize that some boys looked different than others. In 7th grade it wasn't that big of a deal... we basically all looked like we were growing a small mushroom on barren ground. But by 9th grade, some of the more muscular jocks were already growing beards and sideburns... and had the shrubbery to match. This was especially evident with the aptly-named Peter, who after being held back, expelled and truant countless times, was 18 years old by the time he was finally able to leave 9th grade. Let's just say we never had to wonder who we wanted to grow up to be like.

So that's my story. Just one of many skinny, naked, freezing boys, dutifully doing their time every Tuesday and Thursday from 2:30 - 3:30 p.m., hoping some smart-ass didn't put tape over the latch on the door that opened to the hallway so someone could fling it open while we were in mid-march to the poolside, causing everyone to dive into the freezing water before every girl within 100 feet could run up and sneak a peak. No big deal. Literally.

But what I really want to know is... was my school the only one who had naked swimming for the boys? (the girls got to wear suits btw) Was this standard policy in the mid 70s or was our coach a little "different" than the rest?

Comments by Turner on 28th November 2019  

At my traditional grammar school in the sixties our cross country route was entirely along pavements on the edge of town, so we probably returned no more muddy than when we set off. This was long before the popularity of road running as a hobby. I suspect the school at Clitheroe must have done something similar despite the caption.

Comments by Ben on 28th November 2019  

It wasn't a case of boys volunteering to play in skins, our teacher decided who would play for which team at the start of the lesson. Initially I think the majority of us hoped we wouldn't be chosen to take our tops off.
In theory the teams were always random but some boys were definitely assigned to skins more often than others - and I was among the former group. However, it's probably no bad thing that we weren't given a choice - otherwise I suppose only the most confident boys would have volunteered and the rest would have remained lacking in confidence.
For outdoor football, we usually wore reversible jerseys but sometimes in warmer weather one of the teams would be skins.

Comments by John on 27th November 2019  

Did you volunteer to be on the skins team?, our PE teachers had no shortage of lads wanting to take their tops off for football outdoors.

Comments by Ben on 25th November 2019 

John's description of the PE teachers running out of coloured bibs was rather like what happened at my school in the early 90s. Up to age 14 we wore different coloured bibs for basketball and 6-a-side football, the next year they put us into bigger groups for PE - something to do with the timetable, I think. Suddenly that meant there weren't enough bibs to go around and the teacher's solution, of course, was one group of boys playing in vests, one group in skins. Some of us, including myself, were quite taken aback when we were instructed to take our tops off, it wasn't something we'd been used to. For the next two years, however, vests against skins became the standard arrangement in our PE lessons and I got to understand the logic. First, it was so much easier to pick out a team mate, and also at times in a hot stuffy gym, it felt more comfortable to have sweat evaporate off your bare skin than clinging to a damp vest. Now I wonder why we didn't do vests and skins at an earlier age!

Comments by John on 24th November 2019  

Andrew C,

Sometimes we played football outdoors shirts vs skins, occasionally this happened in winter too when a whole year were having a PE lesson and the PE teachers ran out of coloured bibs. Indoor PE was shirtless and if we played basketball or 5 a side football one team were given coloured bibs or armbands to wear. The age range was 11 to 18

Comments by Andrew C on 23rd November 2019  

Hi John, I too did X country barechested or stripped down, as the teachers called it. It wasn't fun but sometimes it made a change from stuffy classroom. Were you split into vests and skins anytime and what was the age range at your school.

Comments by John on 15th November 2019  

Tim H,
Please accept my apologies for the last post, it was supposed to be addressed to you but from me.

Comments by Tim H on 15th November 2019  

I think that the topless PE rule for boys was dependent upon which Local Authority Grammar Schools came under. In the Northwest of England and many parts of Yorkshire topless PE seemed to be the norm for Grammar and Secondary Modern schools and the rule continued into the 1970s and 1980s when many of these schools became Comprehensives.

Cross country was also normally done shirtless by these schools.

Comments by TimH on 15th November 2019  

I have to 'disagree' with John about topless cross-country. I went to grammar school in 1960 - we didn't do it 'topless' and, as far as I can recall, neither did the other boy's grammar school.

For the record, gym was white shorts either with or without a T-shirt, plus plimsolls. Many of us started off wearing the T-shirt, but as we grew and became more 'confident' we tended to discard it.

Comments by Ross on 13th November 2019  

Ahh yes Tim you are right! Sorry. I guess it must be posed then for an article.

There definitely does seem to be a split among lads that ran shirtless and barefoot to those that were allowed shirts and footwear.

Comments by TimH on 13th November 2019  

Ross - we've been through this before. If you look at the gates they're opened inwards, and it looks very much like a public street outside. A posed picture, perhaps?

Comments by Roy on 13th November 2019  

When I went on a cross-country run I certainly got very muddy.
We all ran stripped to the waist as well as barefoot!

Comments by John on 13th November 2019  

I agree that it is odd that they appear to be so clean, in winter you would expect the lads to be spattered with mud. Perhaps it was during a dry spell and the ground wasn’t muddy.

What I find really unusual for Grammar School lads of 1959 is that they are not stripped to the waist, from people I know who were at Senior School back then cross country kit was shorts only. Some schools allowed footwear and some had a barefoot rule.

Comments by Ross on 12th November 2019  

The caption says that they are returning but I thought they were all heading out. These boys aren't nowhere near as muddy as I got on my cross country runs.

We ran in a white shirt and shorts but we all ran in bare feet which was good as you learnt to grip in the mud with your toes and we didn't have any mud soaked pumps to clean afterwards.

Comments by Mr Dando on 26th October 2019

In line with the National Curriculum requirements a note from parents is required if students are unable to actively participate in the PE lesson. ALL students MUST bring PE KIT as they will be expected to officiate/coach in accordance with the National Curriculum.
All kit should be clearly labelled
Forgotten kit – kit may be borrowed but this will be recorded with a kit mark in the staff register.
NO valuables to be worn, all watches, money and jewellery, will be collected before the lesson and locked away. Pierced ears must be plastered over if recently pierced. Any valuables left in the changing rooms are left at your own risk.
Long hair must be securely tied back.

A towel should be brought to all lessons as showering is necessary on occasions.

In swimming, anyone with a medical complaint e.g. epilepsy, asthma, heart condition must wear a differently coloured cap to the rest of the class. Minor medical conditions – WHITE. Major medical conditions – RED.

Blythe Swim School Hats of all colours are available for purchase from school

Boys will need to bring swimming trunks or spare underpants to wear under shorts for all activities, both for personal hygiene and comfort.

Comments by Chris G on 26th October 2019  


Sorry to be a bit pedantic, but I think you will find that "debagging" is British English usage and "depantsing" is American English, and as "" deals with Britain's History in Old Photos and Vintage Adverts, lets not quibble about which is "more easily understood"

Comments by Danny on 25th October 2019  

The proper word is depantsing, which is more easily understood.
Yes, it was common for us boys to play this game on other boys in PE class. The boy selected would be unaware of this since he would have his PE shorts swiftly taken down from behind.
However we never did it in front of our PE teachers who would have disapproved.
I also saw this done sometimes in swimming pools, most often when a boy would be exiting the pool and someone from behind would pull down his swim briefs.
This was more embarrassing since it would be done in a public pool where other people, including girls, could see the boy being exposed. But no one ever seemed to disapprove since they saw it as a play prank between young boys. In fact everyone seemed to laugh at seeing this prank.

Comments by Mike on 24th October 2019  


Debagging is forcible removal of a boy's trousers, usually as a practical joke, but it can also be carried out as a punishment. Mainly to cause embarrassment or humiliation to the victim! To rob him of his dignity and at the same time embarrass him because most of us regarded the sight of a boy without his trousers and in his underpants as highly amusing. And as a punishment, this was a way of showing disapproval of him and at the same time exposing him to ridicule.

Q. Do the victim's trousers have to be completely removed by other people?
A. No. Forcing a man to drop or hand over his trousers constitues a debagging.

Q. Is debagging still as prevalent as it used to be?
A. Sadly, not in England. Although long regarded as a harmless practical joke by both practical jokers and most debagging victims, in recent times the custom has suffered as a consequence of becoming yet another casualty of the politically correct world in which we now live, with claims having been made that victims can suffer psychological traumas. The effect of this has been that some schools and factories where the tradition of debagging once thrived have now banned it.

Comments by Chris G on 24th October 2019  

Adrian, "debagging" = having one's trousers removed against one's will.

Comments by Adrian on 22nd October 2019  

Mike what dou you mean by debagging?

Comments by William on 21st October 2019  

James, Peter J, Before one gym lesson I was stupid enough to be talked into bending down to look through the keyhole to see whether the gym was set up for pirates. In a second my shorts were yanked down.

There will be other contributors who were in the combined cadet force at school or in the sea, army or air cadets. Our cadet sergeant told us that it was a tradition for cadets at summer camp for the first time to have their balls blacked. He told us that it was no big deal, happened to everyone and that we should just go along with it. We had no idea when this would happen.

Cadets were accommodated two to a room which had a wash basin. On the first night I was just about asleep when the door was flung open, the light switched on and in came four cadets. My bedding was pulled off, my pyjama top pushed up and my trousers pulled down. One cadet held my shoulders, another my legs and the third used a shoe brush to daub shoe polish on and around my genitals. They then did the same to the cadet who shared the room. I cleaned off the worst of the polish and went back to sleep.

Next morning the worst thing was shoe polish in pubic hair. It took a lot of time at the wash basin for my roommate and me to get ourselves clean.

I didn't find the experience humiliating because it all happened so quickly. They didn't linger over it, which would have been embarrassing for a boy of 14.

The cadet sergeant's advice was shrewd. I never really thought anything about it and then read a few years ago that some former cadets who had been through initiation ceremonies like this had sued the Ministry of Defence. I had no wish to be involved in that, and that is why I have said nothing about when and where this happened.

Comments by Mr Dando on 21st October 2019  

tollbar Academy Sportswear

To maintain the quality and standards of the P.E. kit, the items in bold are only available from Uniform Direct.

Boys' and Girls' P.E. Kit


Navy/sky blue polo shirt with TBA logo.
Navy/sky blue football shorts with TBA logo.
Navy/sky blue sports socks with TBA logo.
Navy/sky blue reversible capped rugby shirt.
Football boots.
Training shoes.
Shin pads.


Navy tracksuit bottoms with TBA logo.

Swimming costume for showers.

Additional warm clothing/base layers may be worn underneath the Academy kit during very cold weather at the discretion of the member of staff.

Comments by James on 21st October 2019  

Danny,we were subjected to derogatory remarks and were often a sauce of amusement as we passed by.

Comments by James on 21st October 2019  

Danny,I meant to say was wearing of short trousers imposed by your parents not by my parents?

Comments by Danny on 20th October 2019  

James, did the people who saw you running through the village streets in just brief shorts, especially girls your age, make comments or laugh at you as you passed by?

Comments by James on 20th October 2019  

Danny,was it compulsory to wear short trousers up to 14 or was imposed by my parents?I too always felt childish and self conscious wearing shorts at that age.
It was the same wearing brief shorts when going on long country runs of up to seven miles through two villages.
The shorts were very thin and of a flimsy,shiny material.
We were supervised by the same teachers who took us for swimming and often went out in their cars to see we didn't take a short cuts.
We were also timed and we had to achieve our time of our previous run.

Comments by Mike on 19th October 2019  

William, James, Peter etc

I remember debagging at our school ... never suffered or saw blackballing though!

Comments by Danny on 19th October 2019  

James, I did feel a bit childish having to wear uniform shorts at age 13-14, but most boys at school wore the same till that age. We only started wearing long trouser which were the same grey colour after age 14.

It wasn't a big deal wearing them at school since the other boys wore the same, the only time I felt self-conscious about it was when walking to and back from school through town.
I am surprised how many here say that they had to do country runs, often going through town streets, in just small white shorts and nothing else without feeling embarrassed about it.

Was it always the same teachers that supervised you during nude swim lessons or did they vary?

Comments by James on 18th October 2019  

William,I agree that some boys became confident about the'no pants rule'communal showers and nude swimming lessons.
Wearing brief shorts that were imposed without underwear made it difficult to participate in the strenuous exercises and remain comfortable without the loss of dignity.
One particular prank was where a boy would sneak up and pull the shorts down of another boy which could be embarrassing as it was usually done outside.
May I ask what did the'ball-blacking ceremony'involve?

Comments by Peter J on 18th October 2019  

William, I remember having to do the handstands as you say with a partner holding up the legs. everything was on view but it seems we just accepted it because the roles were reversed when we swapped over. What actually happened during the "blackballing" that you referred to?

Comments by James on 18th October 2019  

Danny,We swam in the nude throughout secondary school and we were supervised by a male teacher and his wife and a female supervisor.
The teachers took our swimming lessons very seriously and had the same authority as the male teacher.
I was only smacked once by a female teacher for running in the pool area and it was done by a female teacher and it was done in the standing position.
May I ask you if you felt too old to wear uniform shorts up
to 14,as I had to wear them up to the same age?

Comments by Danny on 17th October 2019  

James, what ages were the boys? I presume it was a boys only school in spite of the female teachers supervising the boys during nude swimming classes.
We never had the luxury of a swimming pool at the schools I went to, both primary and secondary, so I can't imagine us boys swimming naked in front of female teachers. :)
It may have been fun or embarrassing/humiliating, especially in Secondary school, so I can't tell.
More so since they used corporal punishment on you boys during these swim lessons. We had corporal punishment at my schools, mostly in class by teachers, but always on our shorts clad bottoms. We wore uniform shorts till about 13 or 14.
Do you think these female teachers enjoyed the spectacle of boys swimming naked and having total authority including nude smackings?
In these circumstances during swimming did they smack you in the standing position, or bent over or some other position?
Must have been very humiliating being smacked by them completely naked right in front of everyone.

Comments by Ross on 17th October 2019  

Bernard, for me going out barefoot and shirtless for a run eventually became a welcome relief from my lessons well any PE lessons was, even rugby which I wasn't much good at.

Comments by Ross on 17th October 2019  

John, running cross country in bare feet during the winter was exhilarating! I actually loved it well after the initial shock of being told to go outside in the cold barefoot. Still was much easier to simply shower and clean my feet than carry around muddy water logged trainers all day long. The summer was just as good too and I am sure I ran faster barefoot around track.

Comments by William on 17th October 2019  

James, Like a lot of other contributors my school had communal showers and a "no pants" rule. I agree that most of us quickly got used to it and became confident. On 13th September in the Burnley Grammar discussion you said that some boys were brazen. I think you're right. They were a minority but I clearly remember one boy in the end of term game of pirates swinging from a rope with his shorts round his ankles - just for the sheer fun of it. The gym master had popped out for a few minutes. If he had returned in time, the boy would have had a sore bottom.
We did not have nude swimming and the only activity I thought was slightly uncomfortable were handstands in the gym, where one boy held another boy's legs. Our cotton shorts were loose and shorter than those in the Burnley Grammar photo, and the boy holding the legs could see everything under the other boy's shorts. Nobody stared but I think everyone had a look. I recall feeling vulnerable, upside down and on display. What made it all right was that in a minute the roles would be reversed.
This was a bit uncomfortable but not humiliating. We were all treated the same. Being singled out would have been humiliating. The ball-blacking initiation ceremony for first time cadets at summer camp was uncomfortable rather than humiliating. It was very quick and, crucially, we all went through it.
No doubt all this shocks the younger generation but it taught us to take things in our stride and that the reality of nudity at school was never as bad as the anticipation of it. It made me more relaxed and confident about my skinny body. I feel sorry for young men today who are too shy to remove their shorts on in the swimming pool showers when the groin is the last place you want to leave chlorine. Likewise in the gym they spray their sweaty bodies, or even worse their gym vests, with deodorant rather than have a shower. I'm glad I was brought up in a tougher regime at school in the '60s.