My unforgettable car journey with a skeleton wearing a Burnley scarf in the passenger seat | Dave Thomas
In a recent column I mentioned the village school where I was headteacher and this prompted quite a few letters from people asking for more details about it.
Village it may have been, but pretty it was not. This was no leafy lane place where life was slow and peaceful and picturesque. It was an old coal-mine village with disused railway yards thrown in for good measure.
Some of the staff had been there so long, they were draped in cobwebs.
One of them was the school pianist. Assemblies were never dull because when she played, she used the 'nuffnote' method. It meant that if she played 'enuff' notes, some of them were bound to be right.
The secretary was deaf in one ear and couldn’t type.
Her eventual replacement was spooky. She claimed to be psychic which I always took with a pinch of salt until the day my mother-in-law’s ashes went missing after they had been sent up from Bristol by special delivery. To my astonishment my psychic secretary closed her eyes and announced, after some trance-like deliberation, that she knew where they were. Off she went to the depot in Morley nearby, and by gum, there they were.
Just to the north there was a grimy council estate. The farmer always used to plant extra rows of potatoes or cabbages around the edge of the fields because he knew the locals helped themselves whenever he wasn’t looking.
When building work took place at the school, half the materials vanished one night. The nursery building was broken into one night by some of our own older children. But how could I be cross? I must have taught them well because when they had finished playing, they tidied up and put everything away.
I used to love going to the Museum Service buildings in Leeds and especially enjoyed the day I brought back a skeleton in the car. I sat it in the front seat and draped a Burnley scarf round its neck.
The looks I got from passengers in buses or people standing at the roadside were priceless.
I was determined to resurrect the school football team but was so short on numbers that I had the first ever girl goalkeeper in the school league and this was in 1987. We could just about scrape a team together and played schools that were four times the size of ours, but still came second in the league for two years.
The reason was simple. We had a lad called Dean West and he was the only lad I taught that ever went on to become a pro footballer. Jokingly, I said to him and his dad one day, as we stood ankle deep in mud somewhere in Wakefield, that I would get him a trial at Burnley one day. They laughed.
But that’s where he ended up via Leeds United and Bury.
The threesome he formed with Glen Little and Paul Weller on form was a joy to behold. One morning we bumped into each other in the now deceased Claret Café at the ground. “Good Lord, Dean West,” I said.
“Good Lord, Mr Thomas,” he said.
And to this day will not call me anything else.