By the time this photo was taken, we had moved from Llanishen, as my dad had bought a large
Victorian terraced house in Corporation Road, Grangetown, Cardiff for £1500 (I kid you not!). It was in a
bit of a state, so he spent six months prior to our moving in doing it up. It used to belong to an old lady called Mrs
We were now part of the property owning democracy - the 'aspiring' working classes. We
were going up in the world! Actually, I didn't think so, and my mum always hated the place. Grangetown then
contained much older, poorer quality housing than Llanishen, even if it was largely 'owner-occupied', and the area looked
the worst for wear. The same went for the school where this photograph was taken - 'Grange
Council' school, as it was known colloquially. Historically, a Victorian school, with Victorian attitudes to discipline
to match. This was quite a culture shock for me, compared to my previous Primary school; Cefn Onn.
A tough school alright, and still was when I started attending there aged six in 1958. The
cane, usually wielded with a heavy hand by Mr John, the headmaster, was in constant use, and - Jesus! - it
bloody hurt too!, I can tell you, especially when my little hand was at the receiving end of it!
Mr John occasionally carried out public mass canings (boys only) when he'd cane a whole line of the older 'big boys'
in front of an entire class of the 'little 'uns'. I witnessed several of these while I was a 'little 'un'. Mr
John - his cane whistling through the air as each painful stroke was administered - was oblivious to desperate
last-minute tearful claims of innocence or the howls of pain he generated as he proceeded along the line of reluctantly outstretched
open palms, one by one, dispensing rough 'justice' with his cane while the rest of us watched - pour encourager les autres,
as the French have it. That was really sick!
The girls got caned too, although not in this public way. This was the only concession
he gave them. I've never fallen for the line that females are the weaker sex and let me tell you that Grangetown in
those days bred some tough girls who could take a caning just as well, if not better, than us boys (certainly better than
I ever could - I used to cry my eyes out! Well, my little hand used to feel like it was on fire, for a whole hour at
least. What a way to treat an intellectual!). Still, I got to like the school and the
area eventually, and I still think of myself as a 'Grangetown' boy.
One activity I was very good at at this age were the 'pissing' competitions we boys held in the boys'
toilets in 'playtime'. (Dear oh dear, the things little boys get up to when they're six years old!) Like many
old Victorian schools of its type at the time, the boys' toilet was outside, at the edge of one side of the playground
- nothing more really than an enclosed three-sided wall to pee against with a gutter running around the bottom of it.
We would often compete to see how far away from the wall we could stand, 'let fly' and still hit the target area!
Some boys were a bit over-optimistic on occasions, judging by the puddles of piss on the floor! There was also a standing
challenge amongst us boys to piss so high in the air, it would go right over the top of the wall, and land outside on
the playground. I witnessed several attempts to accomplish this feat in my time there, but knew of only one boy who
ever actually succeeded - ME! I don't think the other boys ever twigged the unfair(?) 'advantage' I had that enabled
me to do it, and I certainly wasn't going to tell them. They might have wanted a closer look at what I was 'letting
Needless to say, it's been a very very long time since I could piss 7ft up in the air!
Click on the link below if you want to go straight to the next picture and commentary.