My Everton #48: Rumbled By The Headmaster

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It was the 1968/69 season and I was in my last year of grammar school.

I was sitting in the classroom with the rest of my classmates trying to pay attention to whatever subject we were being taught when one of the school prefects knocked on the door. Myself and three fellow students were summoned to the headmaster’s study.

This must be serious. We were terrified but could not think of any misdemeanours which might cause such a stir.

The head prowled before the four of us standing in a line. He was silent for what felt like an eternity, then suddenly: “Where were you, Quinn, on this date?”

I had no idea. He asked the other three the same question. We were all perplexed.

He prowled again. “Where were you, Jones, on such a date?”, this one different from the first. Jones had no answer, none of us did.

As dramatically as he could, the headmaster produced four sick notes for the afternoons of the dates bothering him.

“Oh no,” I thought. I had written all four.

But I had used different pens and mismatched bits of paper and even attempted various styles of handwriting.

Surely I hadn’t been rumbled. He read out the first note, which was mine.

Dear headmaster, please excuse my son Joseph from school this afternoon. He came home with an upset stomach.

The second gave a different excuse: headache; the third and fourth were more dramatic: fell off his bike and tripped on the kerb and banged his head.

I had thought these were passable explanations for our absences.

Next, the head brought out four letters for the other afternoon we had all been absent; much the same excuses, in different handwriting, on different bits of paper.

I was praying the others wouldn’t snitch on me but there was no time for thinking about possible mitigation when the headmaster blurted out: “Quinn, what was that first date I mentioned?”

I was so scared I couldn’t remember. I muttered something about October. He reminded me of the exact date.

“Jones, what was the second date?” Jones, equally frightened, guessed at April. Again, he was reminded of the precise date.

“What a coincidence," blasted the head. "All four of you absent on both afternoons. And you were all unfit for school?” The question was asked without any attempt to disguise his sarcasm or distaste.

“Yes sir” we replied, trying to sound honest. He started prowling again. I think he expected one of us to crack, but what could we say?

The drama continued. He produced a piece of paper alongside the Everton fixture list for the season.

“Quinn, remind me of that first date!” I spluttered out the exact date in October 1968. “Ah, yes” he began, “Derby County away in the League Cup. Jones, the second date please. Oh look, Burnley away in the league.”

We were rumbled – and bunking off school had serious consequences. We protested our innocence; no we hadn’t gone to the match, we were definitely sick, Sir.

Unless we confessed, the headmaster had no proof. That was what saved us.

By now, without an admission of sagging school to watch Everton, the headmaster grew bored.

But he deliberately hit us with these final words, as he studied the fixture list and his piece of paper: “Hmm, the next non-Saturday Everton away game is at Nottingham Forest. I don’t expect any of you gentlemen will be sick on that afternoon. Good day."

The four of us walked back to our classroom. We were immediately more concerned about how we were going to get to Nottingham Forest than how we'd managed to escape possible suspension.

We travelled to away games with a coach firm based in Crosby, which was about a mile from our school.

We asked the company what time they were leaving for the Forest game. The answer was 4pm.

We didn’t get out of school until 4pm, we could never make it.

We asked the lady who took the bookings if the coach could leave at 4:15pm.

She felt sorry for us and called her boss, really laying it on: “These kids go everywhere with us, it’s only 15 minutes.”

Her boss agreed but said if we were one second late they would leave without us.

The day of the match came and during the first lesson of the afternoon the headmaster visited our classroom for some spurious reason.

He had a quick word with the teacher and scrupulously searched the faces in the room to ensure we were all present.

We had pleaded with our classmates to behave that day, to not do anything that might result in a class detention. To be fair, all of them remained on their best behaviour, even the Liverpool supporters!

The final bell sounded. We maintained an orderly march out of class, then out of school, and once beyond the gates ran as if our lives depended on it.

We were the last four on the coach. It departed immediately. Now all we had to do was get into our jeans and other civvies ready for the game. Phew!

By Joe Quinn, Evertonian

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