u3a - Battle of Britain and the Blitz stories - Tony Peters

Submitted by Tony Peters of Bangor u3a

 

My Eleven Plus Exam

I was the token Protestant at a Catholic Primary School from the age of 6. My mother had gone to the Grammar School to ask which Primary School had the best record of success in the 11 plus exams...and was told St.Peter & St Paul’s School.

Despite being Protestant she took me off for an interview with Mr Bolsover the Headmaster. I remember this vividly to this day because Mr Bolsover was a very tall man with flared nostrils. I could see right up his hairy nose and was transfixed by the sight. Despite this he agreed to take me on as a pupil.

My progress proceeded smoothly as I was considered a model pupil with one blemish only on my record. I was amazed that whenever the teacher turned to write on the blackboard somebody would speak to their neighbour. This infuriated the teacher and she would start an escalating series of threats to find the perpetrator. “Who spoke?” she would demand. ”If you do not own up it is a cardinal sin”….silence. In a louder voice “If you do not own up now it is a mortal sin”….silence. “ You now risk eternal damnation for not owning up”.

I wondered what on earth the punishment could be (for speaking behind the teacher’s back) that was worth the risk of eternal damnation if you could not get to confess in time to the Priest for absolution. So one day I said “I did” (when I had not spoken...just to see what the punishment was). I was caned on each hand which really hurt. But it did not make me a believer.

The day before the 11 plus we were given a new pencil, a protractor and a new ruler (rare in wartime) and told that “without these you will not be allowed to take the exam tomorrow...do not forget”. I went home to prepare. At about 5.0.am our house was flattened by a bomb. I was uninjured but only dug out of the rubble at 7.0.am. I was wrapped in a blanket and asked which school I went to. They then took me to the Priest’s house for shelter (assuming I was Catholic).

To this day I feel a little guilty because I did not like to tell the Priest I was not Catholic. He put me up for 2 nights...telling me that I did not need to.