I didn’t really want to go to my secondary school, I already had a paying job at age eleven but I was forced to go, I wouldn’t say it was a hard school but one had to be sent there by a judge. It was one of the hardest schools in Norn Iron and it really was like an prison, a taste of the future for a lot of the inmates. Like prisons, it was isolated from the rest of the community, we had to walk four miles out of town to get to it, there was a short-cut across Miskelly farm but he didn’t appreciate gangs of smelly youths stomping across his field so in time he put cows in the fields and we came to an uneasy truce as we dodged the cows and the cow pats..
Gransha Boys High School was still being built when I started 1st form, I was seriously pissed off at having to go to an all boys school, for generations before every single boy and girl in town went to Bangor Secondary School, a mixed secondary school and I was looking forward to mixing up with girls of my own age but in P7 we were informed that the council had built a new school in the middle of nowhere and all the boys would be attending that from September…gutted!
So, come September we all had to march off to the bus stop and wait for the school bus, Bangor Bus Limited were paid a fee to hoik all us yoiks the four miles to the school but they didn’t lay on anything fancy, we got the double-decker buses with the hard plastic seats and sat on them for 45 minutes and the bus stopped at every hole in the hedge picking up more and more grotty kids.
On the buses a strict hierarchy was established immediately and we obediently moved into our allocated spots, the newbies (me) in the front downstairs, the bullies at the back of the bus and upstairs the 3rd form nerds at the front and the 5th form psycho’s at the back of the upper deck. One never risked sitting in the wrong place, especially as most of us came from
Whitehill Estate, the creme da la creme breeding ground of thugs. The Meat (Police) wouldn’t come into our estate in normal police cars, they would only come in driving armoured Landrovers (Meat Wagons) and in force, never in one wagon.
So our two buses were particularly rough and at time’s very rowdy, the bus drivers HATED doing the Whitehill run and they drew straws to do the run, it wasn’t unusual for the bus driver to stop the bus and shout at us all to stop misbehaving, on occasion he’d actually throw us off the bus and we’d have to continue the journey on foot, usually in the rain and then have to explain to your Form Master why you were late…and get a detention for that, this fuelled my hated of injustice as I never caused trouble, (honest gov’nor!) I was too scared and goodie two shoes but I was bundled in with the rest of the miscreants and was punished at the same time.
The worse incident came when one winters afternoon when we were all coming home and one of the psycho’s set fire to the bus, they all smoked of course and one guy left a burning fag on the plastic seat as he left and the seat caught fire and quickly consumed the entire bus, we all got off OK and watched the bus burn down and the police and fire brigade come… names were taken but nobody would squeal on anyone out of fear, we all lived in the same estate (isn’t that right Terry Bennett!)
In the Bangor Spectator it made front page news, Whitehill Estate vandals burn down bus and an excellent picture… In a way we took some perverse pleasure from this, the guys from Kilkooley Estate, our bitter rivals never made it to the front pages of the Spectator..
But of course there was a price to pay and all buses to Whitehill were suspended for the rest of the year so we had to walk enmass to school and this was Norn Iron so more often than not it rained.. I remember one day taking the shortcut across the field as I was late and not realising just how muddy it was, the farmer had ploughed it and as I hurried across I realised it was getting muddier and muddier and I was getting bogged down, by the time I arrived at school I was covered in mud almost to my shins, I had to spend 20 minutes scraping it all off and was even later..
We had detention like most schools these days but back in ‘73 we also had really bad beating handout out by the teachers, getting caned was a regular occurrence and OMG did that hurt, I was caned for one minor misdemeanour in 1st form and as I left the Headmasters office I licked the welts to make them seem worse, we all did that and then went back to show off to our friends but sadly the Headmaster saw me doing this and caned me again on the exact same palm.. he said if I wanted bigger welts then he was happy to oblige… ouch..
The French teacher was the worse and entirely why I don’t like the French these days 🙂 He was vicious, he had a leather strap which he would beat your arse with and if you really pushed him then he put you over his knee in front of the whole class and beat your backside with a leather slipper… it wasn’t that painful but it was the humiliation at hurt the most, not like anyone laughed because we were all ‘brothers in arms’ against him. If he did that today I’m pretty sure he’d end up in jail.
So school in Norn Iron was not a lot of fun, we lived in a climate of fear from the moment we got on the bus until we got home, and it was only as I got bigger that I hardened and got picked on less, and when I was in 5th form I and a few others made a point of kicking the crap out of the lower form bullies and restoring some sense of law and order to the school. In a way I was fortunate to have a lot of older brothers and they would help me settle scores and I did the same for my younger brothers but in a school of over 1,000 boys one can’t be everywhere all the time..
We had one boy in the class that was picked on by the class bullies constantly and by year five it had just become a routine, we didn’t dare interfere as the guys doing the bullying were huge but one day the lead bully picked on Geordie once to often, it was in the Sports Hall and we all witnessed it, Terry started his usual pushing around and suddenly Geordie exploded into a rage, five years worth of pent up anger come to the surface and he totally beat the crap out of Terry, it was actually something magical to see, Terry was much bigger and stronger than him but he was on the floor getting the shit kicked out of him. We were shocked but grinning from ear to ear, those that live by the sword.. Eventually the PE teacher came in and broke it up but from that day on no-one touched Geordie Roe…or even looked at him..
Of course it wasn’t all beatings and kicking, we did have good times there as well, especially as we got older and bigger and other less hard targets appeared. Waterbomb fights were frequent, we’d bring in balloons, fill them with water and drop them from the 3rd floor window onto your greatest enemy below and then run like hell, and we played this game during lunchtime called Murder Ball. The object was to get the ball from your end into the opposing teams goal but that was the only rule, there was no limit on team size and one day practically the entire school played and it was by any fair means or foul so pushing, punching, tripping and general beating the crap out of your opponent prevailed, I loved playing this game and frequently came home with a black eye but it was all good fun (mostly), there was only occasionally the odd broken limb..
When I started at Gransha Boys Secondary School the builders still hadn’t finished building it, in fact half of the school was still out of bounds because of the building works but one afternoon I was able to sneak into the new sports hall so see what was going on, I found the changing room complete with fresh cement and thought wouldn’t it be ‘a jolly good cape’ to write my name on the fresh cement between the lockers with my little finger, so I did and went home and forgot about it.
On Monday the Headmaster was raging and pulled me out of class and dragged me to the Sports Hall.. He was right pissed with me and pointed to my name… I was so stupid in writing MY name… I should have wrote Terry Beatty or someone and got them into trouble but it was too late and I was canned on both hands, it stung like hell BUT my name will always be remembered in that school, not because of some famous deed but simply because for years after it stayed there on the floor and from what I could tell was there when I left Norn Iron aged 25.
I had a wee nosey on Mr Google about the school and was surprised to see this, the school was built in the early 70’s and didn’t even last 40 years before it was tore to the ground, too many bad memories me’thinks. I wonder if there are any ghosts haunting the site now..