Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Extract from;
my first book ......... published 20 years ago ...... remember as it is dated

"I’ve worked with young people full-time now for twenty years-usually with kids who are seen as ‘delinquent’ or ‘tough’. The hard, tough image outside them is a big front, it seems to me, - inside there is a sensitive delicate human being who is hurting.

In my childhood I hurt too. Having three older brothers I felt ‘underside’, that is, quite insignificant. I had to be aggressive at school and in the street because I knew no other response other than to be a nobody, a ‘wimp’ in today’s language, or as we used to say in St Helens, ‘mard’, which roughly translates as soft, or cissy.

I came from a warm accepting home, with a mum who taught warmth by example. My dad was a coal miner who worked hard to keep our family. He wore a leather belt around his waist, and he occasionally used it on his children.

I didn’t do well at school. At the age of ten or eleven I still couldn’t read, so my mum paid Albert, a local grammar school boy, half a crown to give me Sunday morning lesson. We used to sneak in and listen to ‘Dick Barton Special Agent’ on the wireless. He was the dashing, superhero of those days! Dick Barton didn’t get me through my 11-plus exam though! learning didn’t come easy-but I did eventually learn to read and I was grateful for that.

Like most working class youngster I picked up ‘street skills’ as I grew up, but I also had an outlet with my rugby. I played at school and also for the best Rugby League team in the world! Blackbrook Amateur Rugby Club which beat every team in our age group and cultivated some of the best professional Rugby League players, who remain famous in the sport.

Being a clever rugby player wasn’t my game however. I was a prop forward, or a second row forward, but most renowned as a hooker – a dirty one! It was a big macho sport and I was given credibility for my tackling, fighting and getting sent off. I boasted of butting a Lancashire County scrum half so hard that he never played again. I boasted of hitting my opposing prop so hard, in every scrum, that I could get the loose head-or control of the scrum without the usual skilful play. Smashing mud into a hooker’s eyes and mouth during the scrum was my speciality. Even now, as I write, I am aware that I can, if I don’t watch it, actually enjoy relating all this - rather than having an awareness of succumbing to my own macho stereotyping.

But I had to be good at something. If I had been brought up in the East End of London I guess I would have been good at street fighting and thieving, the local street skills, rather than the cultural violence of St Helens. My violence was not obvious law breaking. It was contained within an aggressive sport."

I don't feel good about the violence here or anywhere ........