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I have been trying to remember just how much bullying went on in my primary
school years. I was prompted to do this by the glut of media reports that are today covering the subject. So, going back sixty
years, I have been searching my memory for recollections of those supposedly carefree years. My question to myself has been
“were those days in fact carefree, or were they blighted by the bullies and by fears that a small boy is prey to?”
Let me say first up that I attended a Catholic convent school,
in a small coalmining town in the Cessnock coalfields. There were 103 other children attending, and we were put into composite
classes, so that for example, third and fourth class were stuck in together. I was a skinny little kid, who was always considered
bright, so that generally I was put up into the classroom above where I should have been. This meant that I was very much
underweight, and also I was not at all aggressive, so that – all other things being equal – I was a likely target
for bullying. On top of that, my Mum made me wear shoes to school, and that made me conspicuous and more fun to bully.
The most obvious group of bullies who were always on hand were the so-called
retards. This far from flattering name was used for anyone who was too old for primary school, but stayed on from the age
of about thirteen until he was old enough to leave school. Most of these kids were pretty thick, and were a year or more behind
others of the same age. That meant for about eighteen months they formed a little clique, completely unteachable, who gave
the good nuns a hard time. They always sat in the back corner, away from the rest of the class, and on a daily basis had to
be told to “put it away, Mickey Malone.”
Were they bullies? As far as I was concerned, not at all. Outside the classroom,
they went off behind the lavatories, and bothered no one. A few dubious characters went to visit them, and generally got punched
up a bit, but if you stayed on the straight and narrow path to the dunnies, you were safe. Mind you, the trip there was always
a bit worrying, and the visits were always brief, just in case there was a policy change. But, for me, there was nothing of
INTRODUCTION TO 1948
RATIONING AND SHORTAGES
PRICE CONTROLS END
WHITE AUSTRALIA POLICY
BULLYING AND DREAD
YOUR LOYAL SUBJECTS
LOVE ME SAILOR
PALESTINE AND INDIA
CRICKET AND SPORT
BIRTH OF PRINCE CHARLES
SUMMING UP 1948
EXTRA READING -- COMPLETELY OPTIONAL
YOU WILL NOT BE EXAMINED ON ANY OF THIS
ABOUT THIS SERIES … But after that, I realized that I really
knew very little about these parents of mine They had been born about the
start of the Twentieth Century, and they died in 1970 and 1980. For their last 50 years, I was old enough to speak with a bit of sense. I could have talked to them a lot about their lives. I could
have found out about the times they lived in. But
I did not. I know almost nothing about them
really. Their courtship? Working
in the pits? The Lock-out in the Depression?
Losing their second child? Being
dusted as a miner? The shootings
at Rothbury? My uncles killed in the War? Love
on the dole? There were hundreds, thousands of questions that I would now like to ask them. But, alas, I can’t. It’s too late.
prompted by my guilt, I resolved to write these books. They describe happenings that affected
people, real people. The whole series is, to coin a modern phrase, designed to push the reader’s buttons, to make you remember and wonder
at things forgotten. The books might
just let nostalgia see the light of day, so that
oldies and youngies will talk about the past and re-discover a
heritage otherwise forgotten.
they will spark discussions between generations,
and foster the asking and answering of
questions that should not remain unanswered.