Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Item #: 1602
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959
While it is certainly true, as comments here demonstrate, that many schoolboys ran cross-country bare-chested in the past, I can vouch for the fact that this was not always the case, and in many cases it was not even an option.
During my, now rather distant, schooldays in the fifties and sixties, I attended two secondary schools, in both of which cross-country running formed part of the exercise regime. At the first of these, I was among a minority of day-boys at a small boarding school in a country town in the English south midlands. When I arrived, standard PE kit was shorts and vests, underwear or commando optional, but after I had been there a couple of years, topless PE was introduced throughout the school, a development that was widely welcomed. When it came to outdoor activities, however, tops were required at all times, and especially whenever we left the school premises for runs. At my second school, in a rural location in the northern home counties, where I was part of the majority boarding population, tops were required for all sporting and PE activities, especially those, such as runs, taking us off the premises, although there were a few lads who were bold enough to strip off their tops once they were out of sight of human habitation. The only time that we were allowed to be topless in the gym being at the regular end-of-term weight/height measurement session.
So, I would submit that the picture is an accurate representation of the cross-country running dress-code at some boys secondary schools for the indicated period (1959), even down to the motley collection of tops and shorts being worn.
To return to discussion about this photo I can’t understand why these lads are not stripped to the waist for cross country as so many schools made lads run during that era. It also seems strange that even if they had been allowed to wear shirts or vests that by the time that they were at the end of their run that most of them hadn’t got really hot and sweaty and taken their tops off.
As you say in years gone by no one worried about ball blacking or other such initiations. I never experienced that, but at my first scout camp, I do remember being told "something would happen one night" I just had to wait. It turned out that the custom was when we were in our sleeping bags, We would be dragged out of it by the older scouts our pyjamas removed and pushed out of the tent and made to run round the field once naked. It happened it was done with and that was it. Needles to say when I was one of the older scouts I help carry out the same initiation with the new younger scouts. That is how life was.
There's some wonderful, evocative memories here. Essentially, those early experiences of communal showers after PE or having to be on the 'skins' team taught us as much about learning to accept things and just get on with it as it did about sporting skills. Even, as William mentioned last October, a ball blacking was just one of those things that happened.
Since you do such thorough research about school PE kit requirements and post them here, have you ever come across schools that mention nude swimming for boys in their curriculum?
I remember long ago seeing such a school curriculum which stated in the list of PE clothing requirements that stated "Swimsuits are not required for boys."
Mr Dando, There are already teacher shortages. Why would anyone enter a profession that subjects them to the constant stink of hordes of sweaty teenagers. Abolishing showers in schools would be irresponsible and regressive. Surely students in 2020 Should be able to shower in privacy.
"Like the Octopus I have an 8 point plan for effective child protection."
Ha ha! Very witty. I like that!
Happy Easter and let us hope with Good Friday and the Covid 19 self-isolation all pupils get a permanent respite from the dreaded school shower.
Like the Octopus I have an 8 point plan for effective child protection.
1 Abolish all school showers
2 Boys to wear rash vests or one piece suits in the swimming pool.
3 No forced change of underwear rules for PE.
4 Both boys and girls to be allowed to wear tracksuits and bottoms for indoor and outdoor PE, regardless of inclement weather.
5 No requirement for boys to wear white shorts when girls get to wear black shorts.
6 No bare foot PE for indoor games. All pupils to wear socks and trainers to prevent foot infections.
7 All pupils to change in cubicles not open plan changing rooms.
8 Gender neutral sport activities so that boys are not forced to do rugby & football while girls do hockey and netball.
Here is another school that has a mandatory towel requirement for its pupils.
Boys will also need:
• black PE shorts (cycling shorts and long shorts are unsuitable)
• rugby shirt with house colour
• black football socks
• football boots and shin pads
• towel for shower
• gum shield
Girls will also need:
• black PE shorts or ‘skort’ (cycling shorts and long shorts are unsuitable)
• black football socks
• football boots and shin pads
• towel for shower
• gum shield
Pupils may be allowed to wear black tracksuit trousers or a black Uffculme PE hoodie (at the
discretion of the PE teacher). Sweatshirts with the School logo on can be purchased from our
• Black or white underarmour
• Black leggings for dance and trampolining only
• A waterproof coat is needed for some school activities, such as fieldwork and for movement to the detached classrooms.
• Denim jackets, leather type jackets and hoodies are not permitted, with the exception of the official Uffculme PE hoodies, which may be worn for PE only.
Let us learn from our recent history of state sponsored child abuse to become a voice for the voiceless!
Mr.Dando probably wore longjohns for PE and for swimming, with long sleeve vest to match.
I must admit, it does seems strange that Mr. Dando is so against what is no biggie for the rest of us these days. Maybe he had an upsetting incident in his youth? I recall a Kenneth Williams song where the last line was "There's an octopus up my dando!" Who's to say the same thing didn't happen to him whilst he wasn't covered up, and he's been scarred for life?!
Like you I am also in complete agreement with Anon.
I don't think anyone can take Mr.Dando seriously.
Just to say that like Andrea & William I am in complete agreement with Anon.
No, you are not alone. I suspect you have written what many contributors think. Not only is the constant repetition tedious, it is also frustrating that the contributor in question hardly ever responds to the points made against him relating to hygiene, fitness and bodily confidence.
He is also reticent about what drives him. He cites child protection but the vast majority in this country would think it daft to suggest that child protection requires boys to have their chests covered for swimming and their legs covered for gym. That would be a most extreme form of modesty, but there is no point speculating about motive because he asserts but he does not discuss, and thus I for one have stopped responding to his comments.
Further to the comments by Anon, it is futile for Mr Dando to be conducting his campaign on Historyworld anyway.
School uniform policies are a matter for individual school governing bodies and I doubt whether many of them base their decisions on the content of a forum dedicated to historical pictures.
Am I alone in thinking that this excellent Website, dedicated to the celebration of twentieth century British social and family history, is becoming increasingly hijacked by a one-man crusade to rectify a perceived personal injustice dating back several decades. Personally, I am finding the persistent detailed tabulating of school PE kits rather tedious, not to mention disruptive of the general discussions.
The arrival of Easter in both 1986 and 1987 meant the end of compulsory school showers for outdoor sports which included rugby, football and cross country. There were no showers for summer or indoor sports. Girls had the option of wearing tracksuit bottoms but we were forced to be bare legged when we were 13 and 14.
Let us use this period to campaign for Gender neutral PE kits with fully modest gear for indoor, outdoor and swimming sports.
Here is a school that still mandates this misery!
Children must be provided with a change of clothing for PE and games. Parents will be informed when their child is swimming and they will be informed of any special requirements for games.
A towel is needed for showering after PE.
Plain white T-shirt
Black PE Shorts
Optional for outside lessons:
Plain black/navy tracksuit
Girls: One piece costume
Boys KS2: Swimming trunks
Boys KS3/4: Swimming shorts.
Let us stop the towel requirement and allow both boys and girls to wear gender neutral one piece costumes that cover the legs for swimming. It is vile that young boys are forced to wear trunks and only older boys get to wear shorts in the pool!
Danny - when I was at grammar school in the 60s we went out on cross country runs as part of our normal p.e. However, we had cross country teams who competed against other schools. I was not nearly good enough myself to be in a school team but I did turn up on Saturday afternoons and act as a marker so that the visiting team did not get lost. Our oldest team would have looked similar to the boys in the photo regarding age though not in dress and cleanliness when returning from a run.
Danny, the caption also says "led by Stuart Bennet (Captain)"
The fact that the runners are returning is not in question here since the caption itself says that " the cross-country team returns from a practice run".
But the fact that the runners seem much older than 16 or 17 and that that they had a "captain" instead of a coach or teacher, or if such independent teams even existed in schools concerning competitive sports in country-side running is what is in question.
Unlike other competitive team sports like football and others that you mention country-side running was mostly done as a physical exercise and not as a competitive sports.
Maybe others who did, or rather were made to do, these country runs can tell us if they had actual teams for this at school.
We've been through most of this before.
The photo is probably staged but they are definitely 'returning', not setting out - look at the way the gates are.
In the 50s, 60s & onwards most schools would have football teams, cricket teams, etc., and these would have 'Captains' - to lead them out and receive prizes on behalf of the teams.
In those days youngsters had to grow up quicker - it was the society they lived in - I'm happy to say they're 6th Formers - 16/17/18 year olds.
The guys in the picture are no schoolboys, they all look at least 18 or 19 and probably in their early 20s.
The caption also confirms this by saying that it is a "cross-country team" and led by a "captain".
So it is probably some sort of sporting club and voluntary, unlike cross-country runs at school which were probably obligatory and led by a coach or teacher, not a team captain.
So the title "Royal Grammar School" must be some mistake since I don't think that grammar schools had boys that old.
Maybe someone else may clarify this further since I am not familiar with grammar schools.
Oh wow these lads aren't muddy at all! Can't have been much of a tough cross country run.
When I was a lad we ran around the school sports fields and in winter they were often waterlogged and extremely muddy. So muddy it was actually better to run barefoot which we all did without any hassle.
And not just hygienic, but sociable as well. I spent three 6th form years boarding at my second secondary school, and for us 6th formers the shower-block formed a most agreeable social club for baths or showers first thing in the morning and last thing at night, as well as a practical cleaning-up facility after a muddy game of rugby or a sweaty cross-country run. And no "towel dance"! We just stripped off
After playing sports and getting hot and sweaty it is hygienic to have a shower and if using a single sex changing room and showers why on earth is there a problem with showering naked and communally?.
It is time we ended compulsory showers and full or partial nudity in British Schools. Here is another school that inflicts the dreaded shower on its pupils!
Indoor: Boys & Girls
A white Immanuel sports polo shirt*
Navy Blue shorts (loose fitting)
White sports socks (ankle length)
Indoor training shoes
Outdoor: Boys & Girls
Navy Blue Immanuel outdoor shirt*
Navy Blue shorts (loose fitting)
Navy Blue Immanuel football socks*
Plain Black Navy Blue tracksuit bottoms (optional)
(to be worn at the teacher’s discretion)
A towel will be needed for drying after showers.
Watches valuables will be kept safe whilst in PE.
Let us end this practice and allow pupils to wear tracksuit bottoms for both indoor & outdoor games without the "discretion" of the teacher. Children must be given a right to modesty!
Dave, some interesting points there.
It was towards the end of the 1950s that my school intgroduced topless PE. I moved on to another school three years later, and i never kept in touch, so I don;t know how long it lasted there. The school itself closed some time in the 1980s anyway.
I don't think that the Governors would have had much involvement in the decision. They were never much in evidence anyway. I think it would have been most likely the PE master who had the idea, and tghe head who sanctioned it. They were both fairly young men, as indeed werre mostd of the staff.
As far as the boys were concerned, pretty well everyone, myself included, thought it a very good idea. We were of an age, and it was a time, when boys playing out shirtless in warm weather was the norm, so actually being shirtless in front of our peers was nothing new to most of us.
I think the people most concerned by the introduction of topless PE at my school were our parents, particularly our Mums. PE lessons minus our vests soon led to going to school on PE days minus our vests, and within a few weeks most, if not all, of us had given up wearing vests altogether, even in winter.
Thank you for the answers. So it seems shirtless PE kit was
decided and approved by the board of governors but it wasn't the case everywhere.Am I right? By reading the comments it's clear that the majority of schools had a shirtless PE rule from about the 40's till the mid 80's (or it became rare earlier?). You have mentioned even though it still existed so you didn't know back then but it was a rarity by the late 80's early 90's. What was the reaction of boys having to be shirtless for PE in your schools? Was it a talk theme among you? What do you thing why shirtless PE was became so early nowadays. Boys still swim shirtless even in mixed swim classes so what's the difference?
I can think of nothing more terrible than forcing a child to strip down to their underwear and go from their classroom to the hall and do gymnastic. Incredibly, in Muswell Hill London they still do this.
A timetable is displayed in the staffroom of hall times for
Children undress down to vest, pants and bare feet for
PE in the classroom and go to the hall carrying their
shoes (so they have shoes in case of the fire alarm
going off). Key Stage 2 children wear PE kit.
Please let us stop this inhuman treatment of our kids. If the teachers think this is okay, make them teach lessons in their underwear.
John, Chris G. I suppose it was decided and approved by the board of governors at the school and I was lucky to gain benefit from that.