I once met a man who played me a tape of his teenage son’s thrash metal band. They were very impressive and I told him so. He said they were going to be huge, and went on to explain that he had always known his son was destined to do great things, that he’d always been creative and clever and very advanced for his years. His wife chipped in: “He knew the names of all the dinosaurs.” Her husband sagely nodded. I told them that’s exactly what my Auntie Mavis used to say about me, and they just stared at me blankly. I’m not sure whether they were staring in sheer amazement at how big-headed I was being, or staring at my chubby, balding face and my shabby, tobacco-stained jacket and seeing their son’s life flash before their eyes, in a shocking realisation that perhaps their son wouldn’t be a huge star at all and instead he’d turn out just like me. I don’t know what it is about dinosaur-naming that makes adults go all starry-eyed. Maybe it’s the long words. Maybe it’s the Latin. Maybe at the age of seven you’re still supposed to be struggling with Janet and John, and not be able to pronounce long Latin words, or understand the concept of evolution. But whatever it is, I could definitely name dinosaurs when I was seven years old, and people did indeed take it as some kind of sign that I was some kind of genius who was destined to be a great man. I just thought it was all a bit normal really. I mean, they’re just words, aren’t they? Though I was obviously excited about dinosaurs – and the more I think about it, I suppose it is a tiny bit impressive that I could spell such long words at that age – at the time, I found it much more impressive that I drew my own terrible comic strips, invented my own useless comedy characters and did horrifically bad impressions of Prince Charles. Mr Geraghty knew I was clever when I arrived at Fairburn School. I remember him telling me so. Or rather, he told me that he’d bumped into Mr Jarvis, the kind, bearded deputy head of my infants school in Airedale, who had told him I was an especially gifted student and that he should watch me carefully. I don’t know how Mr Jarvis knew this – maybe he’d spotted me naming dinosaurs and suddenly realised I was destined for greatness. Whatever. The other reason I know Mr Geraghty had prior knowledge of my cleverness was because he put me on the wrong table. Fairburn is small. Tiny. Miniscule. Microscopic. Though it seemed big enough when I lived there, I recently walked round it and it took about twenty minutes. And being so small meant it really didn’t have many kids. The local school was a daytime home to about forty pupils, covering the first seven school years only, from the ages of 4 to 11. In modern educational parlance, these would be called Reception and Years 1 to 6. In the language of the seventies, they were first to third year infants and first to fourth year juniors. Having spent my first three school years at Redhill Infants School in Airedale, I was a first year junior. Fairburn School was, and presumably still is, split into two classrooms. Miss Cunniff taught the infants in one room. Mr Geraghty taught the juniors in another. Four years in one class, each with their own table. I knew which year I was in. I knew how old I was and how many years I’d been at school. So it was quite a surprise when, after returning from my disastrous morning at the swimming baths, I was told to sit at the second year table. I now realise this was an attempt to move me up a year and hasten my education, but on the day, it made as much sense to me as swimming did and I protested quite vocally, saying that Mr Geraghty had made a mistake and that I should be on the first year table. Mr Geraghty quite rightly told me to shut up and that I should just “sit there for now”. I didn’t stay in the second year for long. Maybe a week, maybe an hour, I don’t recall. But eventually I was moved to the first year table where I belonged. It may have had something to do with the fact that, even though my reading and writing skills were slightly above average, the second year Maths stuff was way too advanced for me. I don’t think I was bad at it - I just hadn’t been taught the first year stuff, which put me at a serious disadvantage. But my protestations about being in the wrong year had also made the other kids suspicious, and more than anything, the need for me to fit in was probably the over-riding factor. So to my relief, I was moved back down to the first year where I belonged. In the long term, this was probably a good thing. It meant that I’d already spent a bit of time getting to know the second years before I got to know the kids my own age, so ultimately I got to know everyone quicker and, first impressions tending to count, the second years remained my equals rather than my elders throughout my time in Fairburn. But in the short term, it was unsettling, and I wasn’t really quite sure what was going on. The earliest recorded date in any of my Fairburn books is on the first page of Topic 1, so I have to assume that this is where my work begins, on September 14th, 1979 (a Friday), with a picture of a brachiosaurus and some stuff about the word “dinousaur” meaning “terrible lizzard” (sic). Far be it from me to knock a seven year old child for not being able to spell properly, but this is where the dinosaur-naming/child genius dynamic falls apart. You see, it’s all very well to be able to spell the names of dinosaurs when you’re copying them out of a book, but being able to spell Parasaurolophus when I couldn’t even spell lizard doesn’t strike me as being particularly clever. And that’s what Topic 1 is. Copied. From the Ladybird Book of Dinosaurs, by the look of it. That’s what we were supposed to do in Topic lessons. Each child chose a book from the shelf – one we weren’t covering in other lessons like History or Geography – and then slavishly copied the text and pictures into another book. I’m not sure copying works as a way of learning things. I look back at this and the many other exercise books I’ve kept, full of things I’ve copied from other books, and I can hardly remember a thing about it. Ask me a year ago what an ornitholestes was and I would have guessed it was something to do with birds, but I wouldn’t have known I’d written about it in an exercise book when I was seven years old. Same with the History book I kept – a year and a half spent writing about Napoleon and if you were to ask me what I know about him now, I’d say virtually nothing. Surely it’s better to get actively involved with the subject and answer questions about it, to understand it, rather than just copying it all out of a book. Then again, we also did some science experiments around the same time, which it seems we actively got involved in as a whole class, and I remember even less about them, so maybe I don’t really know what I’m talking about. The basic fact I want to remember though is, a class made up of four different age groups can’t be as easy to teach as a class with just one. Everyone’s at a different stage of development. How do you ensure that everyone isn’t just copying the same thing over and over again? I suppose one way is to give them the means to teach themselves, by just copying something once, then moving on and copying something else. It isn’t ideal, but at least there’s a possibility someone might learn something, no matter how remote. The Mystery of the Source Material For most of my life, I assumed the stuff in this book was copied from the Ladybird Book of Dinosaurs. So finally, in May 2021, I decided to check and see if I was right. I found what I thought must be the original on ebay for about £3. It looked about right. Took one look at the cover and recognised it instantly. Published in 1974, so it was about the right time. Quite bewildering when it arrived to find out it wasn’t the right one. The book seemed familiar. The pictures all struck a chord, so I’d obviously spent some time with that book at some point in the past. But they weren’t the ones I’d copied into Topic 1. Nor the words. So I’m none the wiser. Do you know which book I copied? If you do, please get in touch on waen@waenshepherd.com - you’d make a self-obsessed middle-aged man very happy.
September - December 1979
Topic 1
TERM 1 Sept-Dec 1979
HISTORY 1 Sept 1979 - Oct 1981
SCIENCE 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980
GEOGRAPHY 1 Sept 1979 - Feb 1981
ENGLISH 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980
Darth Vader An autograph from a genuine stand-in
WAEN SHEPHERD Who was this strange little boy?
FAIRBURN The place where I wrote all this rubbish
Clarke Hall The place and time where it all began… September 1679?
The Forgotten World John and Mick fall foul of some extreme potholing
Bonfire Night Waen’s first time at the annual village fireworks display
Sheet Lightning Waen and his Gran shelter from the sheet- shaped storm
String Orchestra A visit from the North Yorkshire County Council Orchestra
The Old Stone Age Ancient humans try to co-exist with cave lions and giant deer
Christmas 1979 Can Waen last the night without opening his presents?
DINO LINKS
Dinopedia Dinosaurs on Wikipedia!
Top 5 Dinosaur Attacks! From Planet Dinosaur (BBC Earth)
Natural History Museum See dinosaur skeletons in actual real life!
Life of Dinosaurs Dinosaurs from NHK Japan!
American Dinosaurs! Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History
The Day the Dinosaurs Died Minute by minute!
Dinosaurs on Film! The evolution of film dinosaurs (1920-2015)
Evolution (1940) Ray Harryhausen test footage!
Dinosaurs on Dr Who! Jon Pertwee meets an amazing BBC T Rex in the street!!
WHICH BOOK DID I COPY?
Fairburn School dining room, 1980. Far table: ?, Caron Chadwick, Kay Wright, Sarah Sunderland; Middle: Simon Briggs, Mark Hudson, Jason Bastow, Joanne Dobson; Near: Helen Easter, Gerald Swaby, Waen Shepherd, Paul Mattison, Darren Ridley, Aaron Ross
(IT WASN’T THIS ONE)
BLONDIE! Pictures of Little Waen’s lovely blonde hair
I once met a man who played me a tape of his teenage son’s thrash metal band. They were very impressive and I told him so. He said they were going to be huge, and went on to explain that he had always known his son was destined to do great things, that he’d always been creative and clever and very advanced for his years. His wife chipped in: “He knew the names of all the dinosaurs.” Her husband sagely nodded. I told them that’s exactly what my Auntie Mavis used to say about me, and they just stared at me blankly. I’m not sure whether they were staring in sheer amazement at how big- headed I was being, or staring at my chubby, balding face and my shabby, tobacco-stained jacket and seeing their son’s life flash before their eyes, in a shocking realisation that perhaps their son wouldn’t be a huge star at all and instead he’d turn out just like me. I don’t know what it is about dinosaur-naming that makes adults go all starry-eyed. Maybe it’s the long words. Maybe it’s the Latin. Maybe at the age of seven you’re still supposed to be struggling with Janet and John, and not be able to pronounce long Latin words, or understand the concept of evolution. But whatever it is, I could definitely name dinosaurs when I was seven years old, and people did indeed take it as some kind of sign that I was some kind of genius who was destined to be a great man. I just thought it was all a bit normal really. I mean, they’re just words, aren’t they? Though I was obviously excited about dinosaurs – and the more I think about it, I suppose it is a tiny bit impressive that I could spell such long words at that age – at the time, I found it much more impressive that I drew my own terrible comic strips, invented my own useless comedy characters and did horrifically bad impressions of Prince Charles. Mr Geraghty knew I was clever when I arrived at Fairburn School. I remember him telling me so. Or rather, he told me that he’d bumped into Mr Jarvis, the kind, bearded deputy head of my infants school in Airedale, who had told him I was an especially gifted student and that he should watch me carefully. I don’t know how Mr Jarvis knew this – maybe he’d spotted me naming dinosaurs and suddenly realised I was destined for greatness. Whatever. The other reason I know Mr Geraghty had prior knowledge of my cleverness was because he put me on the wrong table. Fairburn is small. Tiny. Miniscule. Microscopic. Though it seemed big enough when I lived there, I recently walked round it and it took about twenty minutes. And being so small meant it really didn’t have many kids. The local school was a daytime home to about forty pupils, covering the first seven school years only, from the ages of 4 to 11. In modern educational parlance, these would be called Reception and Years 1 to 6. In the language of the seventies, they were first to third year infants and first to fourth year juniors. Having spent my first three school years at Redhill Infants School in Airedale, I was a first year junior. Fairburn School was, and presumably still is, split into two classrooms. Miss Cunniff taught the infants in one room. Mr Geraghty taught the juniors in another. Four years in one class, each with their own table. I knew which year I was in. I knew how old I was and how many years I’d been at school. So it was quite a surprise when, after returning from my disastrous morning at the swimming baths, I was told to sit at the second year table. I now realise this was an attempt to move me up a year and hasten my education, but on the day, it made as much sense to me as swimming did and I protested quite vocally, saying that Mr Geraghty had made a mistake and that I should be on the first year table. Mr Geraghty quite rightly told me to shut up and that I should just “sit there for now”. I didn’t stay in the second year for long. Maybe a week, maybe an hour, I don’t recall. But eventually I was moved to the first year table where I belonged. It may have had something to do with the fact that, even though my reading and writing skills were slightly above average, the second year Maths stuff was way too advanced for me. I don’t think I was bad at it - I just hadn’t been taught the first year stuff, which put me at a serious disadvantage. But my protestations about being in the wrong year had also made the other kids suspicious, and more than anything, the need for me to fit in was probably the over-riding factor. So to my relief, I was moved back down to the first year where I belonged. In the long term, this was probably a good thing. It meant that I’d already spent a bit of time getting to know the second years before I got to know the kids my own age, so ultimately I got to know everyone quicker and, first impressions tending to count, the second years remained my equals rather than my elders throughout my time in Fairburn. But in the short term, it was unsettling, and I wasn’t really quite sure what was going on. The earliest recorded date in any of my Fairburn books is on the first page of Topic 1, so I have to assume that this is where my work begins, on September 14th, 1979 (a Friday), with a picture of a brachiosaurus and some stuff about the word “dinousaur” meaning “terrible lizzard” (sic). Far be it from me to knock a seven year old child for not being able to spell properly, but this is where the dinosaur-naming/child genius dynamic falls apart. You see, it’s all very well to be able to spell the names of dinosaurs when you’re copying them out of a book, but being able to spell Parasaurolophus when I couldn’t even spell lizard doesn’t strike me as being particularly clever. And that’s what Topic 1 is. Copied. From the Ladybird Book of Dinosaurs, by the look of it. That’s what we were supposed to do in Topic lessons. Each child chose a book from the shelf – one we weren’t covering in other lessons like History or Geography – and then slavishly copied the text and pictures into another book. I’m not sure copying works as a way of learning things. I look back at this and the many other exercise books I’ve kept, full of things I’ve copied from other books, and I can hardly remember a thing about it. Ask me a year ago what an ornitholestes was and I would have guessed it was something to do with birds, but I wouldn’t have known I’d written about it in an exercise book when I was seven years old. Same with the History book I kept – a year and a half spent writing about Napoleon and if you were to ask me what I know about him now, I’d say virtually nothing. Surely it’s better to get actively involved with the subject and answer questions about it, to understand it, rather than just copying it all out of a book. Then again, we also did some science experiments around the same time, which it seems we actively got involved in as a whole class, and I remember even less about them, so maybe I don’t really know what I’m talking about. The basic fact I want to remember though is, a class made up of four different age groups can’t be as easy to teach as a class with just one. Everyone’s at a different stage of development. How do you ensure that everyone isn’t just copying the same thing over and over again? I suppose one way is to give them the means to teach themselves, by just copying something once, then moving on and copying something else. It isn’t ideal, but at least there’s a possibility someone might learn something, no matter how remote. The Mystery of the Source Material For most of my life, I assumed the stuff in this book was copied from the Ladybird Book of Dinosaurs. So finally, in May 2021, I decided to check and see if I was right. I found what I thought must be the original on ebay for about £3. It looked about right. Took one look at the cover and recognised it instantly. Published in 1974, so it was about the right time. Quite bewildering when it arrived to find out it wasn’t the right one. The book seemed familiar. The pictures all struck a chord, so I’d obviously spent some time with that book at some point in the past. But they weren’t the ones I’d copied into Topic 1. Nor the words. So I’m none the wiser. Do you know which book I copied? If you do, please get in touch on waen@waenshepherd.com - you’d make a self-obsessed middle-aged man very happy.
Topic 1
September - December 1979
DINO LINKS
Dinopedia Dinosaurs on Wikipedia!
Top 5 Dinosaur Attacks! From Planet Dinosaur (BBC Earth)
Natural History Museum See dinosaur skeletons in actual real life!
Life of Dinosaurs Dinosaurs from NHK Japan!
American Dinosaurs! Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History
The Day the Dinosaurs Died Minute by minute!
Dinosaurs on Film! The evolution of film dinosaurs (1920-2015)
Evolution (1940) Ray Harryhausen test footage!
Dinosaurs on Dr Who! Jon Pertwee meets an amazing BBC T Rex in the street!!
TERM 1 Sept-Dec 1979
HISTORY 1 Sept 1979 - Oct 1981
SCIENCE 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980
ENGLISH 1 Sept 1979 - Mar 1980