20 September 2003

Ullswater: Secondary School Friends.
I soon made friends with my new classmates, we were a mixture of town boys and boys from the outlying villages surrounding Penrith. As country boys we were all strangers to one another and we were at Penrith Secondary Modern because we were 11+ failures in want of an improved education. The town boys were known to each other. We were all 11 years old and the year was 1945.

Standing , probably looking a little forlorn in the schoolyard one day during my first week, a large boy from my class standing nearby spoke to me. I soon learnt he was from Penrith and had come up through the school and I, I suppose told him my story. Anyway, from that day on we became firm friends and his name was Henry Bamber. He had 2 other friends Jeff, his cousin, and Lol, short for Laurence. As Henry was big and solid, Jeff was small, thin and weedy; Lol was short and stocky. All 4 of us got on well together.

Within a short time of arriving at Penrith Secondary Modern I began to catch up in my subjects. I revelled in all this new knowledge, which helped me to move steadily up the class levels until eventually I was topping the class with my marks. This was not such a big achievement as it seems. Enthusiasm helped of course but what helped also was the fact many students were in classes under sufferance with no interest in education and after being weeded out by the 11+ exams the previous year some were not very capable in the learning stakes either.

My 3 friends fell into this "little interest in learning" category but that didn't spoil our friendship. I don't think it bothered them at all, even if they did notice. Sticking up a hand in class in response to a question, my hand was invariably not chosen, I kept my profile low. Henry was often in trouble with his class work, he just didn't care. Jeff and Lol also but they were unable to master their subject.

Lol and Jeff were also often in trouble in the schoolyard, Jeff often argumentative with others and Lol prey for bullies. Quiet Henry would step in only if things got out of hand with either one of them. If the problem persisted it then became Henry's problem and not too many boys dared to cross Henry. Looking back now Henry had a strict sense of fair play.

Henry and I were firm friends for over 3 years until we left we moved from Ullswater to Milnthorpe in 1948. We stayed at each other’s houses at long weekends and holidays. I introduced him to the world fells, farm and lake and he in turn showed me all the delights of a town life.

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