Burnley Grammar School

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Burnley Grammar School
Burnley Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 884,594
Item #: 1607
There's pleny of room in the modern-styled gymnasium for muscle developing, where the boys are supervised by Mr. R. Parry, the physical education instruction.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959

Comment by: Pete S on 11th March 2012 at 19:53

In reply to Marks earlier comment about punishment...If we didn't perform to the teacher's expectations we were taken out of a lesson to be given either laps of the field (anything between 10-15 laps being the norm), or a fitness session outdoors on the yard regardless of the weather. Obviously punishments were done with stripped to the waist and could be quite brutal during a freezing winter.

Comment by: John Lavender on 4th March 2012 at 10:36

@ Victoria : I think there are probably a few of the Boys who were in the photo who have subsequently seen the photo and may even have commented. Over 70,000 hits [and counting] makes the page popular by any-one's standards.
I would speculate that the local paper was anxious to publicise 'their' Grammar school and that the Gym was probably thought to epitomise the Modernity aspect.
The photographer/reporter from the local Paper probably took two or three Photos and just selected the best; I think he would probably be interested only in the Teacher, as far as names or personal details were concerned.

Comment by: Stuart on 4th March 2012 at 10:12

Judging by other posts, at my senior school, we had a pretty relaxed approach to PE and cross county kit. In the gym we wore shorts, plimsolls, socks and a vest. For cross county we were allowed to wear PE or rugby shorts, plimsolls/socks, and a rugby shirt/vest/t-ehirt mix.

What's interesting is that while a lot of boys wore all of the kit allowed, a small number always wore less, so half a dozen boys always did PE striped to the waist, and a couple chose just shorts/bare feet. For cross country some of these boys ran shirtless, and one lad always ran in nothing but shorts, so even if it was raining and freezing cold he never wore a top or any footware.

I wonder if other people had similar classmates who chose to not wear items of kit, even if they would have been allowed to, and if anyone else ran cross county shirtless and with bare feet ?

Comment by: victoria horsfall on 3rd March 2012 at 18:21

does anyone know names of boys in the photo

Comment by: Gareth on 28th February 2012 at 21:00

I went to a catholic high school in Newcastle in the 80's. the PE Kit was white shorts, white socks and a long sleeved house shirt depending on what house you were in. However the house shirt was only worn for outdoor games like football and rugby. Indoor PE and basketball was strictly bare chest. As an 11 year old kit i remember being mortified at having to take my top off in the gym, though this shyness soon wore off. I think it was healthy and made you very body conscious and by the time you got to what was then 5th year or 6th form you kind of felt proud about showing your body off to the mates and in 6th form i rmember a few of the lads had developed hairy chests and they got so much respect, they were kind of seen as 100% all man! so funny thinking back. Regardless if pe was indoors or outdoors it was strictly no underpants under the white shorts, so different from my kids today.anyone else at st Cuthberts in the 70s or 80s?

Comment by: Mark on 17th February 2012 at 18:48

Apparently a shirtless outfit is still de rigueur in some countries in eastern Europe. I recently saw this documentary on Russian intitutions for juvenile delinquents. The boys are not allowed shirts for sleeping, exercising, work in the brickyard kilns and a number of other activities. I wondered if it is all right to treat these youths so harshly although they are criminals.
Here is an excerpt:

Comment by: Sid on 17th February 2012 at 13:14

I agree completely with your comments. These days the lads have it too easy. I do think that nowadays they are mollycoddled.
As I have logged previously, historically I am sure all things considered we were better for having to paricipate in pe & games wearing virually nothing except short flimsy shorts & no top or pants. With all this excercise I can only remember one obsese lad. Furthermore, I am sure we did not s "suffer" from the colds & sicknes that now seem so prevelant. The cold never hurt us nor did the sun in the summer.
We did have swiiming lessons but we wore trunks. It may have been an interesting experience to swim naked

Comment by: Jim on 17th February 2012 at 02:29

Crikey, kids these days don't know they are born.

They can wear what they like for school sports of which they have an endless choice if they bother to do any exercise at all.

No freezing cold gyms on Winter mornings and cross country runs wearing practically nothing in the frost and snow.

No corporal punishment to worry about.

We were subjected to a pretty tough regime in the 1950's/ early60's but I am sure it was much more stimulating than school life today which seems totally boring in comparison.

Looking back it was really great fun trying to outwit the very strict teachers knowing what the consequences could be if you failed.

Also as a result of all the sport and physical exercise obesity in children was unheard of. We were really pretty healthy despite the austerity of the times.

Materially kids are so much better off these days but are they physically and spiritually. I am not so sure.

I can't remember much of the Latin I was taught but the phrase ' Mens sana in corpore sano ' springs to mind.

Comment by: Steven on 16th February 2012 at 00:03

We had a similar system for PE at my school to what Pete described, with different coloured shorts as part of the kit. It was white shorts if your surname was in the first half of the class register, black shorts for boys in the second half. Then for football or basketball in the gym both groups were divided again as shirts or skins, so there were four teams in total. For full size football games we all wore black shorts and half the boys played in skins.

Comment by: Pete S on 10th February 2012 at 20:37


This was in the mid 80's and we lived at time near the England/Scotland border. We remained barechested for football, each team distinguished through different coloured shorts (black or white depending which class you were in) The only form of rugby played was touch rugby on the yard or when inside and it was teams of 5 against 5.

The other school operated a barechested or skins policy indoors but usually played vests vs skins for football but went barechested for cross countries like us.

Comment by: MALCOLM on 5th February 2012 at 17:49

Regarding Pete S's post. What decade are you talking about here and what part of the country?

Do you know whether boys in other schools nearby had to be ouside barechested in all weathers or was your school the exception?

Did you wear shirts for football/rugby.

I went to an all-boys school in London in the sixties where shirts were optional inside all year and outside in the summer for PE but shirts were always worn outside for football or winter PE.

Comment by: Pete S on 4th February 2012 at 15:02

The school uniform listed our kit as a vest, shorts, ankle socks and plimsoles. However after changing for our first PE lesson we were to find our teacher thought differently. After being taken outside and lined up on the yard he walked up the line letting us know what was expected in terms of effort and when he reached the end of the line randomly picked a boy and made him face the class and take his vest off. Regardless of the activity,the time of year or the weather,indoors or outside, we remained barechested until we left. As you moved up the school there was no shortage of girls watching and eyeing you up, indeed that's how my wife first saw me.

In response to Robert's excellent comments regarding his grandchildren, given the current financial climate I am surprised that boys aren't being encouraged to exercise barechested or in vests. Parents would save a small fortune!

Comment by: James on 27th January 2012 at 08:47

We wore shiny,satin shorts for outside games without underwear and anyone would easily have been noticed as they were so brief and would have been caned.They were worn mainly for aeshetic reasons.They offered no protection from the cold and I remember some boys crying because of the cold when wearing these skimpy little numbers.

Comment by: sid on 26th January 2012 at 13:34

I think Robert's comments about his grandchildren wearing long johns bears out my previous ideas thatboys & youngmen of today are softer & cannot cope with cold weather or strict regimes

Comment by: Robert on 26th January 2012 at 00:53

What an evocative picture. I was at school in the early 60's, and had forgotten the PE regime. It was bare-chested, or a white singlet at best (no cosy T shirts) despite the lack of heating, and no underpants, for whatever reason. Looking at today's footballers, I must have been a trend-setter, because for some time I got away with wearing trunks (like tight boxer shorts of today), which usually showed a few inches below my skimpy PE shorts. This failed when we were allowed to wear coloured shorts, but I still had my white trunks on, which were then very obvious. The cane soon put a stop to that fashion, but I did still get away with white Y fronts under darker PE shorts. Strange that today my grandsons (15 and 17) often wear long johns under their shorts when training for football with no adverse comments. Must be sheer bliss!

Comment by: Mike on 23rd January 2012 at 19:08

I can report the same experience ( more or less )as Malcolm. At school in the late 60's we were told "no underpants" but boys who played in school teams were encouraged to wear swimming trunks underneath. Definitely a more comfortable experience. Also a great feeling of security on the rugby field!
More senior boys often took to a jockstrap although they were not commonplace.
Definitely the gym equipment was just like the picture.

Comment by: Sid on 21st January 2012 at 21:02

Well Malcom in response to your comments I do not think we really thought about no pants being uncomfortable we just got on with it.Howevr, our shorts were short
& tight so nothing flopped about.

As for jockstraps they were never mentioned & I don't think we knew what they were.

Comment by: Malcolm on 20th January 2012 at 22:47

Interesting photo and comparisons with more recent experiences. The gym shown was similar to ours but I don't remember playing in skins.
I am supprised that many older boys were expected to play games wearing nothing under their shorts, surely this must have been uncomfortable to say the least. At school in the 1970s we had a strict no underpants rule for games (gym, rugby, running etc) but older boys wore a jockstrap, again school rules.

Comment by: Philip on 18th January 2012 at 17:12

This is just how I remember gym and school and it was great fun. Working on bits of apparatus with the gym teacher helping and demonstrating there were loads of challenges. He was strict which was only right as we could have had some bad accidents if there was no control. I don't remember a single accident in the gym and we didn't have risk assessments. Like others, I remember pirates and killer ball.

We certainly didn't wear shirts or socks for gym, brief white shorts and no underpants and either barefoot or plimsols. Showers had water pumped straight fromt he arctic and they were communal and compulsory. If we didn't behave there was the slipper, a size 12 black plimsol, the strap or the cane depending on how bad we had been, they all hurt!

Comment by: Andy on 15th January 2012 at 16:43

Sometimes we did indoor P.E in just short no shirt but not that often but indoors always had to be done in bare feet.

Comment by: sid on 15th January 2012 at 16:12

To continue with this topic, as I have said I think previously PE without tops was accepted in our day.
Why does there seem to be such inhibition now & boys have to cover up.
During the summer countless lads are seen posing in the swimming pools or on the beach & even walking down the street topless.It does not make sense to me considering that there seems to be no inhibition in showing off designer underwear(in many cases more than the named waistband) by almost wearing low slung trousers.

Comment by: Cornelius on 14th January 2012 at 01:53

i don't think it was compulasary at that time, it was more a habit for me.

Comment by: Cornelius on 14th January 2012 at 01:01

I was transferred to that school for gym, and we had shirtless gymnastics (as a habit, no questions asked).Must say that it was good for me also to be like that, I improved a lot in the performances

Comment by: Dave on 13th January 2012 at 23:02

Hello Cornelius!

Was it compulsory or voluntary being shirtless for gym? What was your compulsory PE kit inside and outside?

Comment by: Cornelius on 13th January 2012 at 22:45

Interesting topic here. Just to mention that i did my gyms shirtless as well on atheneum classes in the netherlands during 1970 -1973. (Stedelijke scholengemeenschap), it was great gymn though, and i learned a lot. Perfect!!

Comment by: sid on 5th January 2012 at 13:52

Well Derek reading your account it must have been mortifying for you. I suppose that as most schools are now co ed swimming without trunks would be considered a complete no no & would reult in absolute shock horror even if the lessons were boys only

Our school used the local Municipal Swimming Pool although not open to the public during our lessons we wore swimming costumes in the design of what would now be called speedos.

Was it better in the "good old days" when we could go into the local countryside & just be all boys together swimming without worryinh about wearing anything?

Comment by: Sid on 3rd January 2012 at 14:01

Well James it must have been worse for you when you had to share the lesson with girls. At least our school was all boys & all male teachers so to a certain degree it was all males together

Comment by: Derek on 3rd January 2012 at 12:58

At Berkhamsted School for Boys in the 1950's we had excellent gym lessons in the normal curricula of the day. On any particularly hot day in the summer, with no notice, the master would take us to the school pool as a treat. We had no swimming gear with us so we swum naked, age about 14-16. As kids we just assumed this was normal practice.

One day we were having a naked swim, when the Head Master, assuming the pool would be out of use in the middle of lessons, walked in with prospective parents, a couple, who had brought their son and their two teenage daughters in school uniforms complete with hats. To say that we made for the safety of the water quickly was an understatement.

Comment by: James on 2nd January 2012 at 21:36

Dave,Inside we wore the shorts which I described,no vest and barefoot.Outside vest and satin shorts.Bit chilly in winter dressed in skimpy kit.

Comment by: Dave on 2nd January 2012 at 20:58

James, what was your whole PE kit inside and outside?