George Bradford, English Teacher


16195430_1318947201498619_2284008524640527127_nMr George Bradford – Born in 1925 in Muirkirk, George was a popular secondary school English teacher from the mid to late 20th Century.

He initially taught at Gallowflat School in Rutherglen in the mid 1950’s. By the 1960’s, he was still living in Rutherglen and travelling to Blantyre for work, he was known locally as “wee brick.” An unsung hero of the Scottish Education system, George had one arm and it is unknown how he lost it.

He worked at Calder Street Junior Secondary School in the 1960’s, then later at Blantyre High in Boswell Drive where he was also Deputy Head certainly between 1973 and 1982 assisting head teacher Mr Montgomery and later Mr Peter Moncreif.

George’s wife was also a teacher working in Burnside. In the 1960’s he drove a Ford Anglia Car and it is said, he was partial to a Lightbody’s pie! He was well respected and fair and could turn his ability to be able to stand in for most other teachers if they were absent. He even allowed the children to call him by his first name, which was something unusual for that time.

A story is remembered where he held a class on limericks, with an opening suggested line by him being “There once was a teacher called Brick”, and you may imagine how the children found delight in filling in the subsequent missing lines.

He was also strict and a draw of his belt would be enough for any child to behave again. His belt was with him at all times, kept over his shoulder, under his jacket although a wooden ruler usually sufficed for minor offences. He was certainly stricter with boys than girls. He was known to give out some corporal punishment with that leather strap, as was commonplace in those decades and was a good aim with a blackboard duster. There is even an urban myth that he once broke a desk with his strap.

However, the belt was used seldomly and he had a kind side too, even known to have loaned children money if they had forgot their cookery class money or reward them with a sixpence for having the best essay. He appreciated hard work, made children believe in themselves, appreciated honesty from those in his class and returned that sentiment by giving career advice to older pupils.

He was also known to have a sharp sense of humour. He would often produce a Daily Record newspaper and read some of the day’s current affairs with pupils, the paper said to have been easier for his one arm, than reading larger broadsheets.

His interests extended to being involved in running the local football team and he was a keen gardener. Upon his retirement in the mid 1980’s, following his long and illustrious career, he moved to Ayrshire not far from Robert Burns’ House, coincidently with poetry being another dedicated hobby.

George passed away in 2001, ahed 76 and is is fondly remembered as being a gentleman, a scholar and one of the finest teachers that Blantyre schools ever had.

From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2017

On social media:

Moyra Lindsay I met mr B when I worked in EK where he lived and he remembered Don from school, I think he remembered most pupils. I think I remember his daughter saying on friends reunited that his arm was deformed at birth but he used it to his advantage telling stories. I think he was a friend and contemporary of Alistair McLean the author.
Rab Mccarrol Him and Alistair McLean taught my dad in Rutherglen
May Mccarrol Rab Mccarrol and he taught you too
Rab Mccarrol Yip at Blantyre high
Alan Murdoch I have told my kids about wee brick and I think they thought I was joking but all those stories are true and he was a great teacher
Steven Lightbody Sad that he’s passed, but a great man and teacher, they don’t make them like that anymore! Thanks for sharing the story and memories!
Elizabeth Dobson Grieve A great teacher who also taught my dad. Glad he moved to Ayrshire to be near Burns poetry as he taught our first year class to say my love is like a red, red rose, with feeling and to the whole class. He gave me my love of the Bards work and I will be forever thankful
Peter Murray Brilliant teacher  😉
Max Sneddon Wee brick.
Alex Sheddon Interesting article well done all concerned!!!!
Rab Watson He was a great teacher
Moira Beveridge Great man & teacher 😘
Elizabeth Clelland he was very good at drawing the belt but a very good teacher x
Jim Frame First class teacher broke the mould with him
Nathaniel Mains Wee brick was brilliant!
The Blantyre Project I loved writing this up and trying to track down his early life. It was clear from the comments from people who remembered Mr Bradford, just how popular he was.
The Blantyre Project I am reliably informed by a trusted source that Mr Bradford caught polio in his early years, which is what caused his disability.
Elizabeth Dobson Grieve That’s true. Dad told me that as well
Peter Murray I remember the time at b/h i forgot my p/e shoes the teacher was davie aitken 😠 spoke to wee brick told him what was wrong he gave me money for a pair of gym shoes think they were a pound from tandem penny blacks 😅😅at that time saved me from the belt 😉cheers the brick
Davy Thomson Hated big Aitkin with a passion,, always walked in when all the lads were in the showers, big creep
Bobby Mackie Bang on lol and wee robey
Davy Thomson I liked wee Roby,, the geography teacher??, he saved me from getting suspended a couple of times lol, used to swear in front of the lads lol, at that age, we thought it was cool,, but, even you think back,, was totally wrong lol
Isobel Watson Loved him as my English teacher….he was brilliant.
Wendy Mackie Great teacher ,as was the late Peter moncrieff, as headmaster
Anne Grogan He was a great teacher, I forgot he kept his belt over his shoulder.
Jackie MacDonald Lovely memories of a well respected man. X
Carole M Castle I remember wee brick I had many a strap off this man and it stung like mad as he knew how to give the belt RIP Mr Bradford x
Sheila Strang A remember a git the belt from him by god it was sore first time ever 😱😱
Debbie McMillan I remember my mum telling me storys of him
Helen Henderson Mclaughlin Fantastic teacher. X
Caroline McDougall Amazing man x
Gina Mcghee Brilliant teacher
Gordon Mather Fine tribute to one of the the best👍 great memories of Him
Ann Ferguson A real gentleman and an excellent teacher. I kept in touch with him after I left school as he was friends with my dad (Rev Mackie). I visited him often when he moved to Doonfoot in Ayr as I was living and working locally by then and he often spoke of his pride in the staff and pupils of Blantyre High. The huge turnout at his funeral was testament to the high regard he was held in by those who knew him.
Alexander Ogilvie He taught me when i attended Calder Street ,a great teacher fondly remembered.Everything he taught was fun, which made learning easy for a dummy like me. Do’es anybody remember the “choice” the handshake or the belt.Most took the belt. Happy days.
Robert Stewart The ‘choice’, I forgot about that😀😀
Archie Peat Hi Paul , timing on your brilliant and evocative article is slightly out. I remember him coming to Calder Street in 1956 / 57. Rumour had it that he lost hi arm in the War .He made an instant impact and his classes were very much looked forward to .
Archie Peat Sorry ,that should probably read 1957/58
Lorna Stevenson I remember wee brick,teachers are not made that way any more,a gentleman!!!!!!
Bobby Mackie Ah wee brick and big monty or ped as wee called him. YOU BOY GET OFF THE GRASS LOL..X
Bobby Mackie I remember him kicking you out the the class as you were sent to big peds office for taking the micky out of Greig aka slevory Graham Paterson lol
Willie Frame Remember him well and was an excellent teacher
Jean Boyle Brilliant wee guy xx
Arlene Campbell That corridor .. #transported
Jan Ritchie Lovely memories of Mr Bradford! What a man! Amazing teacher and human being! I don’t think you could find anyone who had a bad word to say about him! An honest to goodness good guy! x
Robert Henderson Cracking teacher
Marilyn Muir My favourite teacher. Everyone respected him. I remember him asking what the 3 forms of communication were. Telephone, telegram and tell a woman. Ha! Shows how long ago that was 😆
Gordon Mather Marilyn, the latter is still the best and quickest lol x
Kenny Macfarlane Great teacher,made learning a pleasure with a great knowledge of burns
David Gallacher He was an inspiration to me. He made the subject of English interesting. It is he who taught me the poetry of Robert Burns and even convinced me to speak at the school Burns Supper. Very fond memories.
Marion Robertson Your favourite Fiona Glen & Violet Reynolds Shaw, always remember you both telling me the stories that Mr Bradford told you both.

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  1. Re: George ‘Wee Brick’ Bradford
    From: “My Granny Made Me An Anarchist”
    “The One-Armed Dominie
    …. MY NEW SCHOOL in Blantyre was Calder Street School and the person who made most impact on me there was the English teacher, George Bradford. He was a one-armed Socrates (I never found out how he lost his arm) who epitomised everything a good teacher should be — interesting, stimulating, encouraging, non-judgmental and inspirational. He gave me a wide-ranging interest in history, culture and people and taught me the value of language. He was pivotal in stimulating my thirst for knowledge and helped me to understand some of the practical and moral complexities of the world in which I was coming of age.

    “On one occasion he was briefing our class on an English exam we were to take the following day and reminded us that there would be no excuse for not showing up. Exceptions would only be made in the case of serious injury or illness, or a sudden death in the immediate family. A bit of light-hearted banter ensued and one smart-arse asked if ‘extreme sexual exhaustion’ would be acceptable as an excuse. When we had stopped sniggering, George smiled sympathetically at the boy and shook his head. ‘Not an excuse. You’ll just have to write with your other hand.’

    “George was obliged to take us for Religious Education (RE) at least once a week, which involved a short reading from the King James Bible and then a general discussion. Inevitably, however, he would end the reading and close the Bible with the words ‘… And you can believe that if you like!’ …

    … Hank Janson Meets Lady Chatterley
    “CENSORSHIP WAS ANOTHER irritant in the cold war between ‘them’ and ‘us’ in the 1950s. It all came to a head in 1960 with Penguin’s publication of the first paperback edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, provoking a major confrontation with the establishment.

    “Lobbying by church groups had resulted in the introduction of modern censorship with the Obscene Publications Act of 1857. Magistrates were given the somewhat limited power of seizing and destroying work which existed ‘for the single purpose of corrupting the morals of youth and of a nature calculated to shock the common feelings of decency in any well-regulated mind.’

    “By 1868 the Lord Chief Justice had widened the interpretation of the test of obscenity as to whether or not it depraved and corrupted those whose minds were already open to such immoral influences. Saturation point was reached in the late 1950s with various nonsensical trials and judgements such as the banning of Boccaccio’s Decameron by Swindon magistrates while permitting the sale of such seedy US imports as Hank Janson’s ‘Don’t Mourn Me Toots.’

    “The Old Bailey jury trial and subsequent acquittal of Lady Chatterley’s Lover felt as though another battle had been won in the war for ‘freedom’.

    “Shortly after the trial, I was seen reading it on my way up Calder Street by one of the nymphophobic spinster teachers. This was to provoke a massive row in the school staffroom between the reactionary and liberal-minded teachers. The latter was led by Mr Bradford, our English teacher who was believed by these pathetic hags to be a corrupter of youth and intent on undermining their moral authority.

    “The teacher in question, a sour old bitch of a spinster who taught ‘religious education’, vented her spleen the next morning, in the RE class, by lecturing me. We had been having fairly animated discussions about censorship in Bradford’s English class the previous day so I immediately adopted a self-righteous, truculent attitude and more or less told her she was a narrow-minded reactionary. Unfortunately, I went so far as to imply that this was a view shared by other teachers. This left her flabbergasted. Unfortunately, it also got Mr Bradford into trouble and led me to being hauled up before an embarrassed headmaster who quite simply didn’t know how to handle this new situation….”

    … and another reference to George from “General Franco Made Me A Terrorist”:

    “… Prior to my court martial (Council of War) in Madrid, Special Branch in Glasgow vetted my background. This involved interviewing my English teacher, George Bradford (‘Wee Brick’) in Blantyre. They asked George if they could read through my school essays in order to get some insight into the development of my political ideas.
    He refused. No doubt the police of two countries were annoyed to find a stand on academic freedom and confidence between teacher and pupil should be made, not in a historic university, but by the dominie of a secondary school in Blantyre….”

    May the earth rest lightly on you, George!

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