School Sports – Cross Country Running

When we returned to school in January 1966 we all changed and trooped out as normal but today there was a surprise because Morris called all the first years together and amazed us with the question, ‘right, hands up all the boys who want to play soccer?’ (it works best if you can do this with a thick Welsh accent and say the word ‘soccer’ with a distinct sneer of disapproval for such a pansy game); of course a forest of arms went up into the air and he looked scornfully at us all and said, ‘right, all the boys who want to play soccer, go and stand over there’ and he dispatched us contemptuously to the touch line.

There was real exhilaration and anticipation about this development because at least it seemed certain that we would be playing our preferred choice of Association Football.  This excitement started to wither away however as we were kept waiting on the touch line while Morris spent half an hour or so with the rugby boys as he prepared them for the afternoon’s sport.  This was completely deliberate of course because it was cold and wet and we just stood around getting damp and miserable.  It was obviously a well rehearsed routine that he would stage every year and I bet all of the other teachers knew about it and were probably watching from the staff room window and pissing themselves laughing.

Finally the rugby match got under way and Morris strutted over to us with an evil leer on his face and things were about to go from bad to worse. ‘Right’, he said, he always started a sentence that way ‘all you boys who want to play soccer (pause for effect) ‘you’re going on a cross country run…’

 And so in full rugby kit and football boots we were sent for a couple of laps of the field and then through a succession of farmer’s muddy fields, along the Grand Union canal tow path and back to school along the Kilsby Road. I had never been on a cross country run before and found the going quite tough at first but gradually I started to pull ahead of most of the others and I started to enjoy it.  I finished in the top six and decided that cross country was a whole lot better than getting roughed up on the rugby field and the following week elected to do it by choice.  This meant different kit of course more appropriate to running and a pair of suitable running shoes and no doubt my parents were delighted by another trip to J M Squires and the additional expense.

It was worth it however because finally I had found something (apart from Religious Education that is) that I was actually good at and fairly soon I was in the under 13 school team and every weekend representing Dunsmore in inter school races.  Actually we had a brilliant team and in 1968/9 the under 15 we had an exceptional season and the school magazine for that year reported:

‘The U15 team yet again had a very successful season winning the Town Championships, the Newbold Road Relay and as usual all their league matches, thus once again retaining the League Shield.’

I was so good at cross country running that I even went on with a couple of the other boys to represent Rugby Town in County and District events and the best thing about that was that I never had to play rugby football ever again.

In addition to sports afternoon every week we had a couple of sessions of Physical education (P.E.) in the school gym.  In addition to Wyn Morris the sports masters were David (Molly) Sugden and Taffy Thomas who used to put us through our paces doing sit-ups, press-ups and climbing the wall bars, a lot of which would surely contravene health and safety regulations these days.

What would almost certainly contravene all regulations these days was the punishment regime regularly handed out. I think it was about toughening us up but Wynn Morris in particular used to enjoy spanking boys with a slipper.  This was much worse than the cane because you couldn’t take double underpants precautions in advance.  In fact you couldn’t take any sort of underpants precautions at all because we weren’t allowed to wear them under our gym shorts and we had to do P.E. with our tackle flapping about and unprotected.

Punishment could be for anything really, mostly trivial stuff like not getting changed fast enough, having untidy kit or looking at the master in a funny way.  Once selected for a slapping all the other boys were sent off to the gym to warm up and the victim had to stay behind.  Morris would fetch the worn white plimsol that he would use for these occasions say ‘bend over’ and then whip down our shorts and apply two or three slaps to our exposed bare buttocks. Nobody seemed to think there was anything wrong about this it was just an accepted part of the Dunsmore sports routine.

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