This part is only covering 4 years since I had started school, wasn’t quite at the point where I knew more than those trying to teach me, although this period was spent in the company of fools at school who knew less than me.
In 1960 we had lost Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) and Richie Valens the year before, Cuba was in the pipeline, the war had been over for 15 years and rebuilding was going ahead throughout the country. In Europe 6 countries had formed an economic alliance to prevent another war. France, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg were joining up with Italy and West Germany, when they asked Britain to join the Prime Minister retorted “Why would we join up with 4 countries we had to save from the other two less than a decade ago?”. In among all this mess I was going to school, at first in Kinglassie but from September 1960 I attended High Heaton Primary school in Newcastle.
To begin with in 1959, as stated in Chapter 1, I started school with the ability to read, ask questions and hold conversations with my elders, I’d been taught to respect my elders so was never cheeky. Anywho, my peers were struggling with “Janet and John” and I was reading the Daily Mail, struggling with the big words still but more advanced than my peers. This made me feel as though everyone else was in a bucket of gloop and holding me back when I really wanted to follow through on books which contained more words than pictures. I remember when the teacher called on me to read a little I’d been daydreaming and the girl next to me pointed to the part of the page we were up to so I could read from there. This happened too often for the teacher to not notice so one afternoon she asked me to wait behind after class.
Everyone thought I was going to be in trouble (including me) but I waited behind anyway. She asked me why I was always daydreaming instead of trying to learn with the rest of the class. I answered truthfully (expecting to get my knuckles rapped none the less) that I found the books too babyish. Instead of rapping me on the knuckles the teacher asked me what I enjoyed reading (bear in mind I was 5 years old) and jumped when I said the Famous Five novels were my favourites but I also enjoyed the Secret Seven. She told me to get along to the library and choose an Enid Blyton book and return to the class. When I did that she took the book opened it a random page and asked me to start reading. When I’d read two paragraphs she was impressed enough to tell me that I could go and return the book the following morning. Needless to say I went home and read the book from the beginning to the end before bedtime.
Now, in those days I was an avid reader, I read anything I could get my hands on, belonging to the local library I was taking out 2 books at a time (had to be returned in two weeks to avoid a fine) and I was changing these every few days. By the way, dear reader, although this follows the time line from 1960-1963 it’s mixed in here although I will end this chapter with the events of November 22, 1963 and what these meant for me.
Anywho, if nothing else I didn’t have too many friends at school in Kinglassie where I attended from Easter 1959 until July 1960. Following our annual trek to Newcastle during the last fortnight in July (the Glasgow Fair when my dad’s work was closed for maintenance for two weeks). My mum found out she was pregnant (for the third time) and Graham and I were left in the care of our Nana in High Heaton. Of course we didn’t understand why, I was enrolled in High Heaton Primary school just over the road. I started in the September 1960 and hated it, everyone spoke with a Geordie accent but mine had been diluted into a Fife accent by then. Never good to stand out with a crowd of your peers when you’re only 5. Kids can be really cruel even more than adults. It was a relief when I came down with measles in January and after that I refused to go back to school.
When my dad brought my mum down to collect us and to show Paul off at the beginning of March 1961 I was so pleased to see them and more so when I found out I was going back home with Graham and the new baby. Paul was unique in so many ways, Graham and I had both been born in Newcastle General, Paul was born in the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, he was the youngest (still is by the way) and I never tried to kill him since I already had felt the pangs of jealousy when Graham arrived.
Having a new baby around meant the two bedroom’s we had in Kinglassie were no longer enough so dad started looking for a bigger house for us. In late 1961 we were told we were going to be moving to Glenrothes and moved in to our three bedroom house in Woodside in the January before school started after the Christmas break. In a huge change for me I was going to be attending the local Catholic Primary school which meant a bus ride morning and afternoon. As the “New Kid in Town” I was given a mentor, Philip, who introduced me to the “cool kids” in class and hung out with me at dinner time for the first week. After that I was left on my own and met another outsider who was picked on because of his size, Peter, and as the outsiders we got on well together and started to stick up for each other before we had properly been introduced. Anyway we seemed to hit it off and no-one tried to pick a fight with us because they quickly realised we could fight, I’d knock them down and Pete would sit on them.
I often walked home from school with Pete, and once I realised he would walk to school in the mornings as well we did that together as well. The 6d I was given for bus fare was spent on an apple every morning which we would share (a cooking apple was our favourite). We started hanging out after school, at weekends and during the school holidays quickly introducing our respective mums who also became good friends. I still hung out with my other friends who lived either side of us, even though they attended the local school, so not at school with me. Pete started hanging round at mine from time to time as my friends accepted him as well being my friend. I was getting a rather unique collection of friends around me. Following my first communion aged 8 (in 1962) I decided to take Latin lessons from the local priest and to become an altar boy. Within 8 weeks I could recite, and understand, all the prayers from the mass and was duly started as an altar boy.
For those who aren’t catholic (and I couldn’t care less what religion you follow dear reader) an altar boy is a youngster who assists the priest to celebrate the mass. I’ve no doubt that following on from the scandal concerning the church of Rome and priests which has been brought to light recently many will think, wrongly, that my priest abused me. Truth is no-one was ever abused by Father Grace to my knowledge. He was the best adult, apart from family, I knew at that time. He taught me Latin and all about philosophy, in fact he was the first adult who told me to take nothing I didn’t understand at face value. He taught me the wrongs of the world and, while not having any solutions he told me to work towards finding some.
On November 22 in the year 1963 John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX. This didn’t just ripple through America, the effects were felt all over the planet. The cold war took a sudden turn for the worse, Cuba may have rejoiced at the time but the Soviet Union came to realise what a great man had died that day. Here in the UK a 9 year old cried at the loss of the man who was capable of leading the world towards a new age in space. Had he not said that before the end of the decade we would watch a man stand on our moon?
The next day a new sci-fi adventure was launched on BBC1 at 17:15 and Dr. Who gave us a new age look at the past and what may happen in the future. More to follow in Chapter 3: 1964 the year I turned 10.