Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 150,378         Comments: 714

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

714 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by John Lavender on 27th February 2014

I have been following this thread for a while and note the comments. I'm an older person and have no qualms about running Shirtless, like Dave I used to try and do without a Vest or Tee in Gym/PE class at school and used to prefer being on the 'Skins' Team when it came to "Skins v. Vests" for any team games played in the Gym. I run shirtless when ever possible as well. I'm training for an off-road event including obstacles at the end of March (which I intend to do shirtless in view of the extreme wetness/mudiness-likleyhood of the event); last week I was doing a Shirtless run and Obstacle Practice at a local Outdoor-centre, I had finished-up and was going to get showered-off when I got talking to one of the Centre Staff. They had no objection to me running shirtless personally and that the *kids* present at the centre probably would not mind but that any *parents* picking up their kids Might, so they asked me to stick a shirt on for my walk-back to the Changing rooms, which I did.
)I think it might have been half-term for some of the local schools).
What does this say about the Parents, as opposed to the Children?
I did a shirtless Run yesterday at the same place yesterday, involving more muddy off-road sections and Obstacles Practice, I cam across a group of about 6 or 7 16-18 year olds practicing Bouldering/Climbing on a large Boulder edifice. I stopped with them for about 5 minutes and we had a general chat about what they were doing; they were cool about my Shirtless-ness although of course they were dressed for THEIR activity including the customary 'Slogan' Tees and hats.
I explained that I was 'old-school' and that running shirtless as such wasn't really a big deal for me and I got the impression that they did not mind at all. The day's weather was cool - around 7c and breezy with occasional Rain squalls interspersed with brighter intervals. I had around 50minutes out on the trails at the Centre and the Obstacle Course and felt fine afterwards, no ill-effects.

Comments by Martin on 25th February 2014 

re: Andrea's reply,
We were the same for swimming, as I stated we had to wear normal swimwear for 'official' swimming lessons, gala's, competitions etc. The school swimming lessons when we all went in the pool completely naked were additional, and were held on weekday lunch-hours, Wednesday being mixed boys and girls, and Saturday mornings being mixed and open to everyone, swimwear was optional and most of us went nude!
With regard to changing for PE, we had to use the classrooms for things like sportsday, (because of the numbers involved) but for normal PE and country dancing lessons we had a changing room, and of course at our school boys and girls did these lessons together, all of us had to strip-off, we were only allowed to wear a pair of shorts with no underwear, shoes or tops, and the no-tops rule applied to the girls as well! I didn't like PE or country dancing as I wasn't any good at them, but at the end of the lessons Miss Newman (who took us for PE) always told us all to take our shorts off and go in the showers with nothing-on. Somehow I doubt if a female teacher would be allowed to supervise a crowd of naked 11 year old's in the showers THESE days! I confess that I might not have liked games or PE, but I DID love going in the showers, I could have stayed there for hours!

Comments by Phil on 23rd February 2014  

Martin - I think you must have been at school later then me. I was at a boys grammar school in the 60s and we did "proper" cross country runs - along a rough track, out on to a road and on to a large area of open countryside where we ran on paths, across grassy sections, through a muddy stream and around the edge of a ploughed field. We did this all barefoot and shirtless throughout the year but mostly in the winter. There was probably less broken glass around then but plenty of sharp stones etc but no-one ever came to any harm. I don't think I could do it now but youngsters feet are tougher than adults or they were then. From seeing visiting schools cross country teams it seems as though it was not uncommon - some teams wore plimsolls, some ran barefoot.
I never knew what a jock strap was - I heard of the boxes that cricketers wore but otherwise nothing was allowed under shorts for any p.e. or games and certainly no shoes or shirts!

Comments by Andrea Smih on 16th February 2014 

This is a repeat of a post I made under the Burnley Grammar School thread, but relevant as it's about primary school pe.

There was no nude swimming when I was at primary school in the 1960s. The boys wore swimming trunks and we wore one piece bathing costumes.

For pe. I generally wore a pe skirt or shorts and a T shirt. As there were no changing rooms we had to change in our classroom along with the boys, so by the final year I got quite adept at putting on my pe kit before removing my school skirt! I was still flat chested when I left primary school so changing into the T shirt wasn't an issue (I generally wore a vest anyway), but a few of my more 'developed' classmates were allowed to go to the toilets to change.

Comments by Martin on 10th February 2014 

In a very similar vein I will repost what I posted earlier under another page. I was at Shears Green Primary School in Kent (southern UK) from 1979. Our school was a normal local primary school with just over 400 children from 7 to 11½ years old. PE and country dancing lessons were always mixed but we were only allowed to wear one item of clothing, thin cotton shorts for the boys and knickers for the girls, we ALL had to do the lessons barefoot and topless (even the girls!) although girls who had started to 'develop' could request permission to wear a t-shirt. However the school was MOST famous (infamous?) for it's nude swimming lessons in the schools indoor pool, this went on from the late 1960's to the mid 1980's and was girls nude swimming on mondays, boys on fridays and MIXED on wednesdays, I seem to remember there was mixed nude swimming on saturday mornings as well. Look up Shears Green Primary on facebook, there are many memories from former pupils about it!

Comments by Mark on 23rd December 2013  

To Spence again we would only see the girls on Sports Days etc.
I do recall on one Sports Day when after Running the mile race stripped to the waist a few girls came up to me and spoke to me.

Comments by Mark on 23rd December 2013  

Yes we were always stripped to the waist whatever the conditions.
When we went outside the school grounds I don't recall anyone making any comments.

Comments by Spence on 21st December 2013  

Were you aleays stripped to the waist outdoors, regardless of weather/time of year? Did you do cross country through streets where you could be seen by the public? If so, what was their reaction?

You say you never saw the girls. Did you never use the playing fields at the same time?

Comments by Martin on 18th December 2013  

Reply to Mark: My previous comments about boys and girls at my school doing swimming lessons together completely nude and doing PE 'topless' related to Primary school, ie we were all under 12, and while swimming nude was optional, topless PE was mandatory for everyone! I then went to a boys only Grammar School, but even in the Co-ed Secondary Modern school I very much doubt PE lessons would have been mixed, largly because of the much greater number of pupils at secondary schools! I do know that we would NEVER have been allowed to do cross country 'topless', out on the local streets a vest was considered the minimum for 'decency' and running barefoot simply wouldn't have happened, I am slightly skeptical that anyone actually did 'proper' cross country in bare feet, there would have been far too many opportunities for foot injuries from tree branches, broken glass, sharp stones and other debris. I think the limit of outdoor barefoot running would have been round school fields, and given the number of inconsiderate people who exercise dogs on school fields, that also would be a potentially rather unpleasant activity (YUK!) As for the enthusiastic discussion about types of jockstraps, we never used them, I don't recall ever having seen one in all the time I was in secondary school, and certainly never wore one (not that I ever had very much for it to support, sadly!) the only 'protection' we ever wore was a cricket 'box' they were mandatory and were held in place by wearing swimming trunks under our flannels, the ONLY time we were allowed to wear any form of underwear for PE or sport.

Comments by Mark on 17th December 2013  

I went to mixed schools throughout my school career and doing mixed PE was unheard of.
What the girls wore I don't know but boys were always stripped to the waist for indoor PE and many also went barefoot.
For outdoors and cross-country again we went stripped to the waist and again some lads went barefoot.

Comments by Martin on 15th December 2013  

I went to Shears Green Junior School in Kent, from the 1960's until the late 1980's boys and girls did PE and country dancing together, before the lesson we had to take ALL our clothes off and were only allowed to put on one item of clothing, cotton shorts for boys and PE knickers for the girls, everyone (even the girls) did PE topless and without shoes or underwear. Girls in year 6 were allowed to wear t-shirts or vests if they wanted to, but ONLY if they had started to develop noticible boobs! After PE and dance lessons we had to take our PE kit off and go in the showers naked, we also had nude swimming lessons in the school pool, this was for everyone, right up to 11 years old, girls only on Monday, Boys only on Friday and mixed nude swimming lessons (for which we needed our parents written permission) on Wednesday and Saturday morning, which were always very popular! Shears Green has pages on facebook and Friends Reunited and there are many, many memories of those days, many people think now that it was a bit 'weird' but we really enjoyed it at the time

Comments by Iain on 14th December 2013  

Like Dave I was shocked at having to do PE and cross-country stripped to the waist especially as I wasn't very well-built or muscular.

Comments by Dave on 7th December 2013  

When I started at Secondary School in the late 1950s I was shocked to find out they we had to do PE stripped to the waist.
After a few sessions indoors we were told we would be doing cross-country going out of the school grounds - again stripped to the waist.However I soon got used to it.

Comments by peter on 1st December 2013  

The pe kit at my secondary school in the 1970s was just white shorts. I was more bothered I suppose with being barefoot than without a top. In the hall that we sometimes used our soles became black with dust within a couple of minutes and climbing wallbars in the gym meant getting boys' barefeet in your face, or climbing onto your hands which I didn't like. PE outside was also sometimes done in shorts only which could be cold and the wet grass made it quite unpleasant until you got used to it. I always did cross country in plimsolls thankfully, though.

Comments by Matt on 25th November 2013  

Like Mark I had to do cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot running almost entirely on pavements.

Comments by Mark on 4th November 2013  

When I did cross-country we all were stripped to the waist and barefoot running mainly on pavements and grass.

Comments by Andy on 1st October 2013  

Mostly paths some grass some dirt and pavements . I new the rules if we had P.E that day you had to do it . Not having the right kit was not a reason for getting out of it. So if you forget you trainers you did it in barefeet.

Comments by peter on 30th September 2013  

That seems tough. Did you run across rough ground or just on grass?

Comments by Andy on 29th September 2013  

I went to school in the 70's I remember forgetting my trainers and we had cross country and he made us run in barefeet

Comments by Phil on 11th September 2013  

Those lads were lucky.
We were bare-chested whatever the conditions.

Comments by David on 12th August 2013  

The winters in the 1960's always seemed to be cold and again at my school we always had to do PE stripped to the waist whatever the the weather.
This also included doing cross-country bare-chested.

Comments by Nigel on 5th August 2013  

I well remember coming back to school after the Christmas holiday in January 1963 with maybe upto a foot of snow on the ground.
The boilers had also frozen and we were sent home for the rest of the week.
But when we came back on the following Monday we had PE and we still had to strip to the waist albeit indoors in the cold gym.
A few days later we had to go outside and again we were all stripped to the waist.

Comments by Rob on 29th July 2013  

If you were in the pack those playing at No.8 flankers or locks would often hold onto the shirts of those plaing in front of them in the scrum

Comments by Rob on 27th July 2013  

Hello Rob (from another Rob!)

I am very interested by your comment (7th June) that you sometimes played rugby bare-chested. We were not allowed shirts for any indoor activity, but outdoors kit always included a t-shirt, football or rugby shirt, though we were allowed to take them off if we wanted during tennis, cross country and athletics. A junior school friend of mine who went to a different secondary school told me they played shirts v skins rugby but I never really believed him until I saw a brief clip of such a game on a TV local news programme - this would have been late 60's.

Going shirtless never bothered me but I would have been terrified of playing rugby like that. When the ground was rock hard during dry weather, and probably with a few odd stones and twigs on the surface, I guess it must have hurt like hell tackling and being tackled and your bare chest and stomach being scraped along it, causing grazes and sometimes cuts. It was bad enough on our bare knees! Was it really like that or am I imagining it to be worse than it was? And what exactly did you mean about it being difficult in a scrum? I am fascinated - tell us more!

Comments by Mark on 3rd July 2013  

Lie Daniel I had to do PE stripped to the waist in all weathers but I actually enjoyed it.

Comments by Daniel on 1st July 2013  

Those lads were lucky. We had to be stripped to the waist whatever the conditions.

Comments by Neil on 20th June 2013  

At my school in the sixties it was the usual practice for boys to do PE and games while stripped to the waist.
Few objected and if you did you would probably end up doing a detention outdoors while being again bare-chested.

Comments by Ben Whalley on 18th June 2013  

Aye, when I was a wee lad we used to sprint naked out in the cold. Most of us died, but I was the only one left in my class. Aah, they were the days. 1902 - best years of my life! Then, If we survived, we ate each other. It was like lord of the flies. I especially liked roasted heart on a stick.

Comments by Rob on 7th June 2013  

We often played football while bare-chested and also rugby.
It was a bit difficult for boys in the pack having to do the scrums while stripped to the waist.

Comments by Peter on 5th June 2013  

Quite a few lads(me included) not only went stripped to the waist for PE but when about bare-chested in school at break times etc.

Comments by Barry on 4th June 2013  

When I went to secondary school we boys were all told that we had to do PE stripped to the waist and I also quite enjoyed it.

Comments by Chris on 9th May 2013  

My start to secondary school was a bit like Sam's, mainly because I didn't pay enough attention to the uniform list. Although it stated that boys had to wear a PE vest bought from the school shop, I made the (incorrect) assumption that an ordinary white t-shirt would do, as had been the case at primary school. When I wore it for the first PE lesson, the teacher was less than pleased. Why wasn't I wearing my vest, he wanted to know? I didn't have one, I told him. That seemed to make him more angry and, unsurprisingly, I was ordered to take my t-shirt off and do the lesson barechested. I was the only boy in the class without a vest and that felt really humiliating.
To make matters worse, when I went to the school shop the next day there were no vests in my size, so although I ordered one it still hadn't arrived when my next PE lesson came around. I hoped if I explained the situation to the teacher he might agree to let me wear my t-shirt this once. Wrong. My pleas fell on deaf ears and once again I found myself forced to do PE barechested. Tthis time it was cross country too and I've rarely felt so miserable as I did during that run. Oh, and I got detention as well. Thankfully my vest arrived the next day and I made sure I brought it to every lesson from then on!

Comments by Sam on 7th May 2013  

When I went to secondary school at the age of eleven my parents received info from the nedw school including uniform etc.
On looking at the PE uniform I noticed that therfe was no mention of a vest/singlet.
When I mentioned it at school the next day I was told that we would have to do PE topless.
I wasn't very happy and when I started at the new school I dreaded PE.
On the first day we trooped into the changing room and the other boys soon were stripped to the waist so I had to join them and strip to the waist as well.
What made it worse was that we had cross-country and had to run through the nearby streets bare-chested.
The other lads seemed to enjoy it and I soon got used to it myself.

Comments by Mark on 7th May 2013  

My father also made me go shirtless nearly all the time.
As soon as I got home from school I had to strip to the waist and I remained stripped to the waist for the rest of the day.
I was stripped to the waist throughout the weekend and I vividly remember sitting down to Sunday lunch bare-chested.

Comments by Tim on 31st March 2013  

Like Robbie I was kept shirtless most of the time and actually got quite used to it

Comments by Robbie on 28th March 2013  

Sam's comment reminded me of a friend I had at school called Tom, whose parents made him go shirtless a lot of the time. They were very into healthy living - no junk food etc - and believed it was healthier for him not to wear a shirt if possible. In summer Tom was almost always in shorts and nothing else, as was his brother who was a couple of years older than us and both of them would be well tanned. Tom was usually shirtless for playing sport, including PE classes at junior school where he was the only boy (or girl!) with no top on. The rest of us used to tease Tom about his minimalist PE kit, but he took it all in good spirit and made it clear he was comfortable with being shirtless.
When we went to senior school Tom was no longer the odd one out in PE classes because it was made clear that all boys were required to do it in shorts and bare chest. That didn't bother Tom at all as he hadn't brought a PE top anyway and I don't think he could quite understand why most of his friends, including me, felt less comfortable about having to take our tops off.
However, having Tom around definitely helped me get used to it because he was so at ease with being shirtless. I was nervous when we had to do cross country, in case any of my family or neighbours saw me running with no top on, but Tom just ran confidently and naturally and after a while I found I could do the same. I surprised Tom when we played tennis together on a hot day the following summer - of course he was shirtless as usual but when he saw me take my top off as well he gave me a sarcastic round of applause!
I lost touch with Tom after school but I'd be interested to know if he kept up his shirtless habit - and, if he had any sons, whether they were expected to follow his example.

Comments by Sam on 24th March 2013  

When I did cross-country I had to go stripped to the waist whatever the conditions.
Although I didn't like it at first I soon go used to it and eventually I went bare-chested whenever I could.
I remember there was one lad whose father kept him shirtless for most of the time and he refused to wear a shirt even when offered one.

Comments by Mark on 16th March 2013  

I think one major reason for doing PE shirtless was that when you got sweaty after vigourous exercise it was more comfortable not having a vest clinging to your sweaty back and sweaty chest.
Certainly I enjoyed doing PE stripped to the waist whatever the weather conditions and it also helped me when I worked as a builders' labourer in my vacations both from school and college.
I always was stripped to the waist on site.

Comments by Mick on 5th March 2013  

Like Paul I well remember doing bare-chested runs after lunch but during the lunch breaks.
We would be cheered on not only by fellow pupils but also by a group of workers on a nearby building site.They were of course all stripped to the waist themselves.

Comments by Dick on 21st February 2013  

At my school gym was done in underwear. Girls wore navy blue knickers and a white T shirt (bras where allowed for the over 13s). No footwear indoors but outside plimsolls allowed.

Boys wore only tight white briefs both indoors and outdsoors

Outdoors plimsolls were allowed.

X-country in the wet mud was great fun!

Comments by Harry on 20th February 2013  

In reply to Rob's question about shirts v skins sports that took place outdoors, we sometimes played football that way at my school. Our football/rugby tops were reversible but they were also quite thick and heavy so in warmer weather it was often preferable to play shirts v skins instead. Most boys welcomed the opportunity to run around more freely instead of having to wear a heavy sweat-soaked shirt that clung to your skin.
The school teams wore a different shirt, made of lighter material, for matches against rival schools, but these weren't reversible. That meant that in warm ups, if we played five a side, half the team would be instructed to take their shirts off. Personally I disliked being a skin in the warm up, not because I was embarrassed about going barechested but it felt uncomfortable having to put a shirt on when my chest and back were sweaty.

Comments by Paul on 16th February 2013  

Cross country at my school was a serious thing. If you weren't good at it, then you had a hard time. Luckily I was (and still am) very good, but that automatically made me a XC Captain and extra training sessions, where failure not an option. Me and a few others were living skeletons -ideal for long distance running and able to take the punishing training schedule handed to us.
Most lunchtimes were comprised of an almost hour-long run with the PE teacher pacing us on his bike, not letting us lose pace. The thinner we got, the easier it was, due to never having lunch, but running instead.
Was great in the summer, with us 5 team runners going out the gate for our lunchtime run - shirtless, usually ending with a lap or two of the field, whilst the others were on their break - getting cheers off the girls and encouraging us till we finished.
It paid off, winning the regional champs and secured places for a 10-day xc camp, which was hard but fun.

Comments by Chris P on 16th February 2013  

Rob, We played skins and vests games outdoors too - basketball on the yard (using the girls netball rings when they were indoors) football both 5 a side and full matches and cross country for which we were all made to run with vests off. May sound harsh but really it was normally good fun until it started to snow

Comments by Rob on 16th February 2013  

Gary, I'm intrigued by what sports you played shirts v skins outdoors...? Like many here, my PE kit was white shorts only for work in the gym, but outside we did cross country, cricket and athletics in shorts and a t-shirt and had football and reversible rugby shirts for those sports.

Comments by Paul on 13th February 2013  

In my school in the 1960's it certainly was the rule that all PE was done stripped to the waist and we were all bare-chested whatever the weather even in 1963.

Comments by Jake on 12th February 2013  

Sounds to me as if Angus just had an unusually kind-hearted PE teacher! I certainly canít imagine any of the no-nonsense characters who taught us being bothered in the slightest about a boy catching pneumonia or a chill through running bare-chested. I was still at school in the late 80s and shirts and skins was standard for most PE lessons. While it wasnít an official rule that boys ran bare-chested, I can certainly remember occasions when we were made to take our vests off outdoors. And there was nothing to be gained from complaining about that, one boy in my class did protest and as a result he was made to do every PE lesson with his vest off for the rest of the year.

Comments by Gary on 8th February 2013  

Ed, the 1980s? I left Catholic Secondary at 16, in 1992. We played shirts vs skins year round in the gym and outdoors in all but the worst weather.(When we'd be in gym, 50% of us shirtless.)This practice continued for a number of years after I left, as did communal showering in an area designed for much smaller classes.

Comments by Ed on 25th January 2013  

Although things were possibly changing by the 1980's there were still many schools where bare-chested PE both indoors and outside was insisted on.

Comments by Angus on 24th January 2013  

Things had clearly changed by the time I went to school in the 80s because I had a PE teacher who actually refused to let me do cross country barechested. I realised when we were getting changed that I'd left my vest at home but just put on the rest of my kit (shorts, socks, trainers) and assumed it wouldn't matter. A lot of boys chose to run with their vests off in summer and, although it was November, I thought it'd probably make me look hard in front of the other lads if I ran barechested on a cold day (the kind of thing you tend to think as a 14 year-old boy, which I was at the time).
But the teacher wasn't having it, even though I insisted 'I don't mind Sir', he said it was too cold outside and he wouldn't be responsible for me catching pneumonia! I'm not sure how much extra protection from the cold he thought the cotton vests worn by the rest of the class would give them! However, I wasn't allowed to do cross country that day - instead he told me to go and join the class doing PE in the gym. Ironically they were just about to start a shirts and skins basketball session, so I fitted right in! But I would have been quite happy to run barechested and, from reading some of the messages here, it's clear that I would certainly have been made to do so 20 years earlier.

Comments by DAVE on 23rd January 2013  

As with Philip, at my Grammar School in the 1960's I did cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot.
Again we started at the beginning of the Autumn Term and were used to it by the time it got colder.
Nobody complained and we quite enjoyed showing off our bare chests in the local area especially as many of the lads were quite well-built and muscular.
Several of the older lads had developed hairy chests as well.