Jim Phelan remembers Mr Crotty

Having been a teacher myself, I’m not over keen on criticising others in my profession, but as the victim of the inadequacies apparent in the staff at Xavs in the 60s, I feel in a position to objectively pass comment. The recruitment policy, if there was one, was to play ultra safe… no women, no young inspirational firebrands… stick to middle aged white males, regardless of any ability to communicate. Mr CROTTY was one such member of staff. As noted by Bob, his methods were somewhat unorthodox. He would set a task… draw a map / copy from the blackboard or a book / dictate notes… then sit down and read The Times. When the inevitable noise broke out, he would walk the aisles between desks striking the heads of any boy who wasn’t bent over his book. He carried a ruler not only for striking purposes, but to actually measure the distance of head from book… 12″ was the recommended gap!

Jim phelan
Jim photographed with John Sweeney

The rumour was that Crotty was suffering shell shock, but whatever the cause of his inability to teach… he just shouldn’t have been there… for his sake, or for ours. By year two we were fed up with his methods and delighted in taunting him. As he patrolled one side of the class, the opposite rows would sit bolt upright… Crotty would race across, ruler in hand only to discover on arrival that both rows had now got noses touching desks… meanwhile back in the other two rows, all were sitting up … this game would then continue for the whole of the lesson like some real life version of whack-a-mole.

In that second year, our form room was closest to the playing field and all the paraphernalia used for the Summer Show was temporarily stored there… including multiple sets of darts! Several targets were chalked onto the blackboard and every boy had at least one dart… Crotty arrived, saw the targets, turned his back on the class to erase them and on the shout of NOW, the blackboard was peppered with a blitz of darts. By the time he had turned round, every head was nose to desk… somehow that position of submission seemed to render the adopter immune to any form of punishment.

Another incident, this time in year 5, comes to mind… Crotty hadn’t changed but we were a lot more adventurous in our methods of disruption. By now he was regularly 5 minutes late in arriving for lessons which gave us a chance to be more creative. It was a hot Summer’s day and the windows were open… there were building works taking place on the new science block behind the classroom, so lots of building materials were to hand. We hauled in several lengths of scaffolding along with dozens of bricks and distributed them around the room at desk height… which cut the desks off from the front and blocked access to the aisles… all the boys along the back row then lit up and were billowing out smoke when Crotty entered the room. Incredibly, he didn’t appear to notice that anything was amiss and continued to deliver his lesson amid total mayhem…. Somehow, incredibly, maybe because I loved drawing maps with a fine nibbed pen and inks… I was one of the very few to pass Geography O Level.

4 thoughts on “Jim Phelan remembers Mr Crotty”

  1. Brilliant, Jim. Our class was just as chaotic. I seem to remember Mr Crotty’s idea of homework was to set us passages to copy verbatim from a textbook. Also, that his handwriting was easy to forge, so we all got high marks. He would collect our exercise books in for end of year reports and accept our own marks. Not surprising that our parents and his colleagues might have thought we were doing ok in geography but 29 out of 32 failed O level dismally.

    • I was one of the ones who failed Geography with Crotty whose teaching was non existent. There was one class who pranked him by putting books under one end of those old double wooden desks, tilted the pictures at the end of the room, all sat sideways and awaited his arrival in an early morning class , knowing that he had the occasional tipple the night before. He entered, blinked and sat down with head in hands . Students asked him ‘ Are you ok Sir ? ‘ ‘ Can I get a glass of water for you ? ‘ A well worked prank.
      Regards to all Tom Derbyshire in Oz Remember you John !

  2. It is a fact that Bernard Crotty had shell shock. He had served in the North African desert. That doesn’t excuse his employment. Strangely he had a “thing” about the Atlas Mountains which formed much of his teaching in Ward Hall.

  3. Mr. Crotty was my first form teacher and I had him for Geography thought my first 5 years. I remember an incident or two….in Upper Four Two, McKeown….I can’t remember his first name, lit up a fag at the back of the room. He had opened a window so that when Crotty “thought” he could smell smoke we all said “no sir it’s coming from outside”.
    Another time someone in the front row grabbed his briefcase and passed it round the classroom surreptitiously and almost went crazy wondering where he’d left it.


Leave a comment