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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Quarry Bank: that Lennon's detention sheets.

This pair of fairly amusing documents is up for auction via Tracks at the moment, and they've supplied a detailed (and equally amusing) press release which I certainly can't better, so, in the interests of extreme laziness, here some of it is verbatim. (The quotes in italics are from Rod Davis, about whom ye will shurely already know.) Re. the above, relating to Form 3B:

"The detention sheet covers the period between May 19th and June 23rd 1955. John Lennon always portrayed himself as bit of a rough handful at school. This detention sheet supports this view and, in fact, if anything, it shows John to be actually worse than he made himself out to be.

This page was part of a class detention book that was rescued from a bonfire at Quarry Bank High School in the late 1970s. During a summer break at Quarry Bank a member of staff was asked to clear out a storage room to make space for a newly appointed teacher. His instruction was to burn all of the books which were stored in the room. Whilst burning a number of old and redundant books he spotted the name ‘Lennon’ at the top of some of the pages in the book and quickly realised it contained details of the detentions imposed on John Lennon. He tore the sheet from the book and retained it as a keep sake. A number of the pages that he had taken out of the book and kept were unfortunately destroyed at a later date in an accident involving chemicals. Other sheets he gave away. This page is one of the few that have survived.

In relation to the different detentions listed, the following information is specified on the page from the book: The date that the detention was given, the reason for the punishment, the date that the detention was served and the initials of the teacher who imposed the punishment. Where possible we have tried to establish the identity of the various teachers who gave John detention. The information in red written within quotation marks was supplied to us by Rod Davis. Rod was John Lennon’s school friend and a former band member of John’s group, The Quarrymen. He very kindly helped to provide us with the information relating to the identity of some of the teachers who had initialled the page and their respective responsibilities at Quarry Bank etc.

May 19th 1955. John received two detentions the first was given by John McDermott for being a ‘Nuisance’ and the second, from a different master, was for being ‘1/4 hour late for detention’.

John McDermott taught Religious Instruction (R.I.). There is a great story involving Lennon, Shotton and McDermott and a classroom full of school lads dressed as vicars (courtesy of Lennon and Shotton) on page 40/41 of Pete Shotton’s book ‘Lennon In My Life’”.

May 23rd 1955. John was given two detentions. The first was given by Harry Dautch for ‘Chewing in class’ and the second was given by Oscar Greaves for ‘Noise’.

The system was all about "Bad Marks", so that if you did something to deserve a bad mark, this would stay on the record for a week and then would expire. If you got a second "Bad Mark" in the week then you would serve a detention. For really getting up a master's nose you would get 2 bad marks, which meant a detention right away. This is the explanation for the figure 1s and 2s in the sheets. Just because John was getting detentions from masters it does not necessarily mean that he was being taught by all of them at the time”.

H.D. - Harry Dautch, John’s French teacher. A kind and charming man with a great sense of humour, however John obviously did his best to prevent him teaching anything by fooling around in class. In John’s School Report from Christmas 1955 Mr. Dautch wrote ‘A disappointing result, He is so fond of obtaining a cheap laugh in class that he has little time left for serious concentration’”.

Oscar Greaves taught English, he was a very charming old chap. In his earlier years Lennon fooled around so much that according to Pete Shotton (verbal) he nearly had a nervous breakdown”.

May 25th 1955. John was the recipient of a detention from Oscar Greaves for ‘misbehaviour again’.

May 26th 1955. John received a detention from John McDermott for ‘Very bad behaviour’.

May 27th 1955. John was given two detentions. The first for ‘Sharing desk without permission’, the teacher who gave this detention was R. A. Roberts. The second was for not having his homework, ‘No Hwk’, this was given by a teacher named Graeme Nixon.

R.A. Roberts, known as “Jocky”, he features in the “Daily Howl” (John Lennon’s satirical hand written mock school newspaper). He lived in Woolton and owned a little pre-war Austin 7 in which the window glass was yellowed. We used to joke that it was “heraldic glass” as he was a history teacher. He was a very kind man who would often give you a lift back to Woolton if he saw you standing waiting at the bus stop”.

I.G.N. - Graeme Nixon, a maths teacher. Known as “Nick”, not a pleasant man according to Pete Shotton. I subsequently learned that he had been a very gallant tank commander in World War 1”.

June 6th 1955. John was the recipient of detention for ‘Talk’.

June 8th 1955. John was given a detention for ‘Talk’

June 13th 1955. John was the recipient of a detention from R. A. Roberts for ‘Repeated misconduct’.

June 15th 1955. John received two detentions. The first from G. J. Benzie for making ‘Silly noises during an examination’. The second was for ‘Bad behaviour, repeated’, given by a teacher with the initials ‘G.U.S’.

Benzie was a geography teacher but here he appears to have been invigilating an exam, although John did not take his GCEs until 1957”.

G.U.S. I can’t come up with a definite answer here as I am not familiar with the initials. The best candidate is Mr Shears, who was known as “Clipper” in my early years, then “Fred”. There was an English teacher Mr Lippett, who was known as “Gus” but he would have written his correct initials rather than his nickname”.

June 16th 1955. John was given two detentions. The first is an interesting detention for ‘Sabotage’ given to him by K. I. Lishman. The second was given by Oscar Greaves for ‘misbehaviour’.

K.I. Lishman, known as “Killer” because of his initials KIL. He was a no-nonsense Maths teacher. He is the origin of the comment “this boy is bound to fail” which has wrongly been attributed to the Headmaster W.E. Pobjoy. Lishman was not referring to failing in life, but merely to failing Maths GCE due to chronic absence! The actual quote is: “His term marks amounted to 17% of the maximum and he missed the final exams. He is certainly on the road to failure if this goes on. K.I.L.” The date of this comment is Summer 1956, so it would have been July”.

June 20th 1955. John received detention for ‘Just no interest whatsoever’.

June 22nd 1955. John was given a detention for ‘Idleness’.

June 23rd 1955. John received detention given by John McDermott for ‘Very Bad conduct’.

Peter Beech, John’s General Science teacher at Quarry Bank, remarked of the detention sheets, ‘The sheet is typical of John Lennon, he was an extremely cheeky boy! He did, however, know his limits. In the classroom, if you settled John down, you generally settling the class down! John Lennon’s chemistry teacher Eric Oldman said that John could actually go far’.

On being shown the detention sheets recently Beatles official biographer Hunter Davies, commented, ‘When I was interviewing John, back in the Sixties, he delighted in recounting all his misdemeanours at school, along with Pete Shotton, how naughty they were, then laughing at their own bad behaviour. I thought he was exaggerating, flamming it up for effect, as successful people do when they get older, making themselves more a rebel than they were - but it turns out to be all TRUE. These detention notes prove it. In a way they are laughable, in this permissive age, being detentioned for chewing gum or shouting, but at a grammar school in the Fifties - the sort of which I also attended - these were seen as terrible crimes, almost hanging offences, so the teachers liked to suggest…’"

...and here is the second sheet, this time relating to Form 4C:

Again, the press release shiznit:

"The detention sheet covers the period between November 25th 1955 and February 13th 1956, class 4C.

November 25th 1955. John was given a detention for ‘Comments’ by G. J. Benzie.

November 29th 1955. John received two detentions the first for ‘Talk’ imposed by Harry Dautch. Then a second was given to him by R. E. Shimmin for ‘Talk after warning’.

Mr Shimmin, a Manxman, John Lennon made various jokes about him in the “Daily Howl”. He was a science teacher”.

December 2nd 1955. John was given a detention by John McDermott for being a ‘Nuisance’.

December 6th 1955. John received two detentions this day. The first was given to him by R. E. Shimmin for ‘Fighting in the class room’ and the second was given to him by P. L. Burrows for ‘Shouting’.

P.L. Burrows, known as “Porky” because of his bulk, was John’s class teacher in his first year and is present on the class photo from that year. He is the man whom Derek Nimmo credited with stimulating his interest in drama. Porky taught English”.

January 9th 1956. John was given a detention by R. A. Roberts for ‘Misconduct’

January 16th 1956. John received three detentions in one day! The first was given to him by R. E. Shimmin for making ‘noise during lesson’, the second and third were given to him by H. Dautch for ‘Chewing’ and ‘Silliness’, respectively.

January 23rd 1956. John was the recipient of two detentions. One was given to him by R. A. Roberts for ‘Talk’ and the second was given to him by K.I. Lishman for ‘No input’.

February 9th 1956. John was given a detention for making an ‘Impudent answer to a question’.

February 10th 1956. John received a detention from R.L. Burrows for being ‘Late for lesson’ and another detention given to him later that day by John McDermott for being a ‘Nuisance’.

February 13th 1956. John was given three detentions in one day! The first for ‘Misconduct’, the second for ‘Talk after warnings’ given by R.E. Shimmin and the third for not having his homework, ‘no HW’, given by K.I. Lishman.

A note on the bottom of this sheet states that John Lennon was given a detention for being late, ‘Late 31/1, 8/2’ by his chemistry teacher, Eric Oldman.

Eric Oldman (known as “Ferric” because he taught chemistry) was the Housemaster of Woolton House, of which John was a member. It is possible that these detentions were for being late for school in the morning as John would normally have had to report to Oldman on arrival to be registered”."

Many thanks to Jason at Tracks. They are being auctioned on the 22nd, if you have the "moneys".


  1. very interesting... i had seen the listing but hadn't read this - thanks for posting!

  2. Fascinating, as always. I don't know how I am going to be able to afford this and the gypsy caravan.

  3. Truly fab post. Thanks for all that! It's a wonder Quarry Bank didn't expel him, innit?