We Don’t Need No Education…

Hey! For once, this isn’t Deb – she’s mending pens. This is Gordon, her worse half. I want to say something in context about writing with ink.

When I was a tiny nipper, I began my education in a little country school. My first teacher was the delightful Miss McKenzie, who was patient, kind and had years of experience of imparting information to little minds. Unfortunately at the end of my first term she retired and was replaced by Mrs Stewart, who was younger and full of ideas and also a psychopathic sadist. My, did she enjoy applying the ruler to young knuckles!

In any case, the first couple of years’ writing was done with a pencil, and we young sprogs (when we were not howling from the latest beating) looked forward to the day when we, like our seniors, would be allowed to use a pen. That day came at last and dip pens were laid in the groove on our desks and ink (Stephens, I believe, with that strange odour that lives with me to this day) was poured into our inkwells. Wonderful! How I was looking forward to this and to the copperplate I would lay across my white, lined page! Then we were told to begin copying a sentence which teacher had written on the blackboard. I dipped my pen, made my first stroke and disaster! All the ink in my pen landed on the page in a great blot and when I tried again the sharp nib dug into the paper and produced a series of splashes across the paper. I hadn’t even written a single letter yet and the page was ruined! In the sweat of my brow I persevered and managed to scrawl a word or two before I felt the looming presence of Mrs Stewart at my shoulder.

I don’t remember quite what was said but I do remember the tugging of the ear and the ruler on the knuckles. I’m not sure how that was meant to improve your writing, as your hand trembled and your knuckles swelled. And so it went on. I never came to terms with the dip pen and it was only a couple of years later, when we were finally allowed to use fountain pens that I began to appreciate the sweet kiss of nib on paper.

6 thoughts on “We Don’t Need No Education…

  1. Hi Gordon glad you have let Deb have a snooze! I live the Dip pen now as it what is used for good Calligraphy but I well remember the Stephens ink and the Waverley nibs with rulers on the knuckles! I was never any good at Copperplate and still associate it with swollen knuckles!! How great was the first Burnham I had and then graduation to a Co way Stewart

  2. Hello Gordon, rings a bell or three! The only plus thing I remember was the feeling of empowerment when I got to be the ‘ink monitor’ filling up those little porcelain desk pots!
    The large tin jug used was pretty cumbersome for an infant’s hands so spillages could happen and woe betide when they did! I remember less of the knuckle ruler and more of the outstretched hand and the swish and thwack of the cane!

    1. Hi Martin,

      Our inkwells were brown Bakelite, just to be different. For the more serious transgressions, Scottish teachers preferred the tawse. I think it’s a good thing that beating has gone from the classroom; children do not learn well in an atmosphere of fear. There are those who say that discipline has suffered as a result, but it was my experience that no good teacher needed the threat of corporal punishment to maintain order.

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