Laughter from teacher’s tales of the classroom - and of Arthur!

Todmorden U3A chairman David Cross, left, with speaker Geoff Scargill
Todmorden U3A chairman David Cross, left, with speaker Geoff Scargill

David Cross, chairman of Todmorden University of the Third Age, alerted members at the May general meeting, to the fact that speaker Geoff Scargill would answer the first question at the beginning of his talk.

He entitled it, “I’m Still at School”, as although now retired he still helps out at a local school. He went on to tell funny tales of his life as a schoolteacher.

During the miners’ strike, Geoff was often asked if he was a relation of Arthur, to which he replied that as far as he knew he was not. As this question kept coming up, Geoff decided to explore his family tree and was able to trace his family back to the 18th century. Unable to go any further, he then wrote to Arthur Scargill to see if they had a common ancestor at that point. Arthur wrote a very nice hand-written letter in reply, explaining that there was no common ancestor in the 18th century but there was one in the 14th. Furthermore, Arthur is descended from one Baron de Scargill. “But”, Arthur wrote, “I don’t tell people that.”

Geoff told how a “dragon” of a primary school teacher, with whom he never got on, wielded a ruler which on one occasion she used to smack him on the arm for opening his eyes during prayers, leaving him wondering how she could have seen that. Her teaching helped him into Manchester Grammar School.

Geoff’s headmaster there was Eric James, later Lord James and an advisor to governments. Geoff told how three classmates found themselves alone in the science lab. An attempted experiment led to a waste basket catching fire and one of their number, name of Small, felt the safest thing to do was to toss the basket out of the nearest window. Unfortunately, one of their teachers was taking his customary lunchtime stroll below.

At the later appointment with all the sixth form, the expected rollicking was delivered. The culprit identified himself. The High Master duly enumerated, in stern tones, those whom Small had let down. James opined, “You must be feeling very small”, then asked the boy his name. “Small, sir.” His fellow classmates collapsed with laughter - in which James himself joined.