Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 159,051         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 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 can’t 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 wasn’t 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.

Comments by Philip on 22nd January 2013  

I was at grammar school in the 60s and, like many others, ran cross country, mainly in the winter, but always barefoot and bare-chested. This seemed quite normal and, as we started before the weather got cold we got used to it as the temperature dropped. I don't remember any-one being upset by it - we were all treated the same and being shirtless or barefoot was never used as a punishment. Some people these days seem to get upset about a little discomfort - it seems a shame barefoot and shirtless cross country is no longer the norm.

Comments by Lars on 15th January 2013 

Hi, I am Lars,19, from Germany.
I really like this picture, because of these good locking boys. I wish, the where running stripped to the waist, to see there nice chests.


Comments by Sam on 6th January 2013  

As Roy said being stripped to the waist for PE was normal in the fifties and sixties.
Boys accepted it and certainly there was also an element of discipline involved as well.
Lads did have to do press-ups etc outdoors while stripped to the waist as a form of punishment.

Comments by Roy on 26th December 2012  

At my school it was simply the normal practice for all boys to be stripped to the waist for PE and nobody questioned it.

Comments by Matthew on 23rd December 2012  

I've read the last few posts about shirtless PE being linked to discipline and there's certainly no doubt this was the case at my school. Unless you forgot your kit, the only time you did PE shirtless was as some kind of punishment, often running around the football pitch in detention. Even if it was just a round of press ups, it wasn't unusual to be instructed to take your vest off first.
Like many teenage boys, I was probably a bit too cocky and lacking respect and I think the idea was to take you down a peg or two. For me it certainly had that effect. I remember suddenly feeling quite small and embarrassed on one occasion when I was told to get my vest off and do laps of the gym. Finally I was allowed to rejoin the rest of the class but the teacher made it clear: 'that vest stays off'. I felt even more uncomfortable because I was surrounded by about 30 other boys all wearing full PE kit and me in just shorts and bare chest.
I'm sure it would have felt different if we'd all had to do PE shirtless on a regular basis. Because we didn't, it was an effective punishment and probably helped to keep boys in line.

Comments by Roy on 22nd December 2012  

I agree with Ben.There seems to be no discipline these days and if doing PE stripped to the waist brings this about then I'm all for it.
I did PE stripped to the waist throughout my school life and it did me no harm

Comments by Ben on 22nd December 2012  

well, if it helps to discipline boys I am all for it. Boys these days need a bit more discipline a firmer approach. Shirtless PE certainly puts them in their place.

Comments by Jamie on 21st December 2012  

Daniel, I think there's a difference between boys choosing to go shirtless because they find it comfortable in warmer weather, and being forced to go shirtless for PE. Swimming was a bit different because no boy would expect to do that wearing anything other than shorts or trunks. But it can be a real shock for boys, especially those who are shy or self conscious, to suddenly be told they must go running or play football bare chested, something they wouldn't normally do. I could see no logical reason why I needed to be shirtless for physical exercise, it always felt like it was more about discipline.

Comments by Daniel on 21st December 2012  

I don't see what is the problem people seem to have about lads having to strip to the waist for PE etc.
You are stripped to the waist for swimming so what is the difference in having to be bare-chested for PE.
Also you often see youths walking around stripped to the waist in hot weather in the summertime in any event.

Comments by Chris on 6th December 2012  

I went to a boarding school in the early 60s which was spartan to say the least running over the moors and through the bogs. Cross Country was always done in vest, shorts and plimsols. No underwear of any kind was allowed or rugby shirt under the vest. The first puddle in winter and the toes turned blue. In winter the ice on the frozen puddles cut the ankles.

PT in the gym and the school yard was done barefoot and in some strange stretchy shorts that were more like swimming trunks. PT included running outside barefoot in all kinds of weathers.

To his credit our ex-army didn't stay in his office drinking tea but joined us similarly dressed and was always ready to encourage us along with a quick swipe on the buttocks or legs.

Many of our runs were timed so that he could punish any boys who had been lazy and brought in a slower time.

Happy days though.

Comments by Dave on 5th December 2012  

When I was about fifteen a group of boys from a secondary modern school joined our Grammar School to do O Levels.At their previous school they were stripped to the waist for PE and at their new school they continued to be bare-chested.Gradually more and more of us started to strip to the waist and eventually we were all stripped to the waist!

Comments by Chris J on 28th November 2012  

My parents had moved home so I changed schools too. Our PE teacher was hard (ex Army) and following a sharp frost early November I changed into my PE kit - vest, shorts and trainers for my first lesson. After leaving the comfort of indoors we were lined up on the school field and being the new boy was singled out to stand in front of the class and told to drop my vest on the freezing ground and form a skins team. Upon seing me react to the cold our teacher yelled out "You'll have your vest off until I tell you otherwise. I'll toughen you up!" For the next 5 years he was as good as his word regardless of the time of year/conditions or temperature I remained barechested for PE and Games lessons until I left at 18.

Comments by Graham on 22nd November 2012  

To answer Stuart's questions, we always did cross country in vests, shorts and trainers or plimsolls. The only variation was when it was really hot or humid and some boys would ask to take their vests off, but I don't think anyone ever asked to go barefoot.
Personally I was quite shy so I always kept my vest on for PE unless I was made to take it off. This happened quite regularly in the gym where most team sports were played as shirts versus skins. One boy in my class frequently used to turn up without his vest and therefore would almost always be on the skins team. If you were a skin you played in just white shorts, but never barefoot.
Outdoors we had reversible football/rugby shirts which were worn for team sports, and black shorts instead of white.

Comments by Mike on 21st November 2012  

In those days the school was divided into two: lower and senior. The separation was distinctive. The lower school had a different dress uniform insofar that junior boys (ages 11-13) wore shorts and long socks with garters. The seniors wore long trousers, and sixth form students had their own tie. Various badges denoting sporting, academic and meritorious achievement could be adorned on school blazers. I once had the temerity to pin my Ian Allan Loco Spotters badge to the lapel of my junior blazer only to have it ripped off by a supercilious sixth form prefect. I was summoned to a senior house master who gave me a dressing down and threatened to cane me for bringing the school’s reputation into disrepute! I bagged a detention and I never retrieved my badge.
We had a separate PE and sports uniform. The PE uniform in the lower school consisted of a white vest, white shorts and white plimsolls. The plimsolls and white vest were worn ostensibly for outside activities; otherwise we were permitted to wear only a pair of shorts. Some boys found this disconcerting, neither liking to go barefoot or bare-chested, or both. In fact, the rule was arbitrary and rested on the whim of the teacher taking us. His understanding of temperature was purely subjective, so it was not unusual for us to run shirtless in the cold. And all p.e. lessons ended with a cold, sharp shower.
I have to say that the constant exposure to the elements hardened us to the point that midway through the spring term it made no difference to wearing a vest or not. We were never discouraged from discarding the vest and occasionally were told to run barefoot on the school’s grassed running track.
The sports uniform was particular to whatever team game or activity we were playing. Therefore my parents had to fork out money for a full rugby strip and cricket creams, including sleeveless sweater. Lucky for them – but not for me – I inherited a few ill-fitting items of clothing from my elder brother and cousins. It is a proof that clothing in those days lasted a long time because the Bukta rugby shirt I inherited from my cousin was later donated to another cousin, who in turn gave it to a younger brother.
The afternoon we played sport depended on our year group: Ist Year was on a Monday; and we all had to play on a Saturday morning. The latter practice ceased when the school became a comprehensive. Apparently the sitting Labour MP objected to the tradition (presumably viewing it as elitist and anachronistic) and the local education board stopped the practice. I was then in the sixth form and had conflicting feelings. I enjoyed playing sport but also valued the opportunity to go and earn some much needed money at Sainsbury’s. So I guess the classless socialist turned me into something of a capitalist!
By today’s standard the regimen of sport and p.e. at my school in the 1960’s and 70’s would appear Spartan. My masters were men who had grown up in the 1930’s Depression and had fought in the Second World War. Their mindset was greatly influenced by their experiences. Yes, they were tough and uncompromising, and demanded respect; but they were decent and generally fair and wanted to produce fit, healthy, and vigorous young men. I would like to defend their ethos.
I also realise, now with hindsight of being a father and a grandfather, how disorganised and forgetful boys and young teenage boys can be. My school’s approach to a p.e. uniform ( or lack of one) was therefore practical and insightful. I can truly say that because I had two p.e. and two sports lessons per week I entered the adult world in better physical shape than my own sons did at the same age.

Comments by Tom on 21st November 2012  

At my school all boys did PE stripped to the waist and most went barefoot as well.
For cross country again we all went stripped to the waist and although we could wear plimsolls many went barefoot.

Comments by Stuart on 19th November 2012  

When you were allowed to wear vests & plimsolls, did everyone do so, or did some boys still stick with bare feet, and do PE stripped to the waist ? What did you do ?

Did you wear vests/shirts for cross county, or were you made to strip. At my school on the very odd occassion that we couldn't play rugby outside, we used the gym, but everyone had to take off their rugby shirts - in effect the same kit as for PE, just navy shorts replacing white shorts, nothing on our feet and bare to the waist.

Comments by Mike on 18th November 2012  

Reading this blog brought back painful memories. I attended a boys grammar school (that became a comprehensive under the Wilson/Callaghan governments) in London during the late 1960's and early 1970's. The rich tapestry that was our formal school uniform was strictly enforced. However the PE uniform was minimal to say the least. There was a school pecking order in those days. First and Second Year boys wore only a pair of white shorts for indoor PE, which comprised mainly gymnastics. Discipline was strict and at times brutal with plenty of "thick ears" and the occasional slippering. All indoor activities were performed barefoot. However, the regime relaxed as we got older. Senior students could wear vests and plimsolls.

Outside activities were limited to rugby union, cricket and athletics/cross country. We had to have a sports uniform for these. We were expected to play in rain, hail or snow. Occasionally we were allowed to retire to the gym during periods of exceptionally cold weather. If so, we continued minus our shoes and socks.

Comments by Al on 17th November 2012  

Nearly fifty years ago was the harsh winter of 1962/63 and at my school the lads still had to do PE etc outdoors while stripped to the waist.
A few months later when it was quite hot we again we were bare-chested for athletics and our annual sports day.

Comments by Geoffrey on 15th November 2012  

Our school was in a built up area and from the outset when we went out on cross-country runs we had to go stripped to the waist.At first many lads found it embarrasing running through the streets bare-chested but we soon got used to it.

Comments by Nicholas on 8th November 2012  

At my school you could buy a blue sweatshirt which could be worn over your PE vest for cross country. The teacher didn't mind that so a few boys, including me, got into the habit of wearing them. Sometimes I didn't even bother to bring a vest, I just wore my sweatshirt. That was unwise, as I found out when we had a new teacher who insisted it was vests only and ordered those of us with sweatshirts to take them off there and then. 'Tough' he said when I protested that I had nothing underneath my top and made me take it off anyway. I got a lecture about the importance of bringing the right kit, then I was given detention and finally, of course, I had to go and do the lesson bare-chested and shivering. I'd never run without a top before and it was a miserable experience. I had goose pimples and my teeth were chattering, plus of course I felt really self conscious - the other boys all had vests, so I was the only one stripped to my shorts. It was a huge relief when the lesson was over and I was determined to make sure I didn't repeat the experience.
As it turned out, I had to do it again the very next day in detention! There were four or five boys altogether and we all got changed into PE kit as instructed - this time I wore my vest instead of the sweatshirt. But I might as well not have bothered, the teacher announced that we'd be doing detention - which consisted of another outdoor run - with our vests off. So once again I found myself trudging around with goose pimples and chattering teeth, the only slight consolation was that this time all the other boys had to bare their chests as well.

Comments by William on 21st October 2012  

As many people have said, there was no point in complaining or arguing if you were told to run bare-chested. I found it quite a shock when I started secondary school and learned that my PE kit was shorts, socks and plimsolls and nothing else. At first I thought it must be a mistake but realised it wasn't when I started getting changed for the first PE lesson and saw the other boys in my class stripped to the waist. Many didn't like it and one or two were in tears but nobody dared to question it, we just had to get on with it because those were the rules.

Comments by Ben on 19th October 2012  

Like Adam and Mark our school shared a site with a secondary modern school and the boys there always did PE stripped to the waist.
One lad at our school started to take his vest off and more and more boys followed suit so that eventually all of us were stripped to the waist both indoors and for cross-country runs.