Springingtiger's Blog

Giggleswick in the Dales.

In Ribblesdale, in Yorkshire, there is a village and by the village, a school named after it, Giggleswick. Today it featured on Ade Edmondson’s “The Dales” and I was surprisingly moved as I watched those scenes, familiar from my youth. Last year Giggleswick celebrated it’s five hundredth anniversary, Mr. D. Fox had organised a gala concert by the Halle Orchestra, in the school grounds so much of the program focused on that.  Later that night I was watching The Tudors, which as Edward VI gave the school it’s charter, I suppose, completed the circle.

I spent ten happy years in Giggleswick, although at the time I didn’t appreciate either how lucky, or how happy I was. There are few parts of the world more beautiful than upper Ribblesdale and the Pennines, Giggleswick afforded many opportunities to enjoy and explore this ancient and inspiring countryside. A highlight of the year in Catterall Hall (The Preparatory School) was the Ascension Day Walk when the whole junior school went off by bus, with packed lunch, to walk and visit places like Aysgarth Falls. Later in the Senior School we were allowed to take off by bike, on a Sunday after chapel. I once cycled to Horton-In-Ribblesdale, walked the Three Peaks, then cycled back to school, whatever was I thinking? My childhood in the Dales gave me a love of and appreciation for our countryside which remains to this day.

I may not have always enjoyed it at the time, but Giggleswick provided a great education, and facilities are even better today than in my youth. I suspect our teachers were ahead of the times and there was plenty of active learning. In geography we learned to measure the river by wading in with yardsticks at a couple of points, plotting the profile of the river which opened up the possibility of calculating the flow of the river by speed and volume. One of our English teachers, Mr. Hay, encouraged  our creativity by experiential learning, he would have us suck a humbug and then describe the experience, on another occasion he set light to cardboard in the classroom and had us describe it, on occasion he would have us take sides and debate a premise such as, “This house believes blood sports should be banned”. The sciences were supported by well equipped laboratories.

The lessons were complimented by the extra curricular activities. I still remember listening totally enthralled as Russell Harty prepared us juniors for a trip to the “Big School” to see Henry IV part two. Shakespeare plays were performed frequently, although more modern plays were also performed. As well as the annual play, there were festivals of one act plays performed by the various houses, a choir play, usually Gilbert and Sullivan. We were also taken out to the theatre, which is how I came to see Ian McKellern in the RSC touring production of Richard II. There were a range of clubs and societies, I was in the Bullidon Club, we met several times a year and at each meeting a member presented a paper. Mine was on Wordsworth at Rhylstone Abbey which of course touched upon the Rising of the Northern Earls, I seem incapable of escaping the Tudors! However the high spot of the evening was when Mrs. Dean served us Earl Grey tea, sandwiches and sponge cake. Music was taken seriously and, as well as the choir play, there were music and singing competitions and several concerts. Reading the Gigg News nowadays I am very impressed by the school’s cultural presence far beyond its confines taking plays on tour.

Talking of tours the rugby and cricket teams seem to get much further afield than in my day. Sport was always very important. At one time as well as daily exercises we played sport on at least three afternoons a week, but members of teams played even more with regular competitive fixtures. We had, as well as Rugby and cricket, athletics, cross country running, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a well equipped gymnasium.

I have written before of how the school’s structured activities and discipline benefited me and, indeed, how badly I coped when it was removed from me. I firmly believe that Giggleswick both then and now was an excellent preparation for life. Some pupils went on to make a name for themselves in various fields, others have led lives less obviously distinguished. However I am certain that the richness of my everyday life owes much to the breadth of experience and education I received  from Giggleswick. It was good to be reminded of those days and how present they still are in my life. I suspect The Dales Northern will become a regular on my viewing schedule, there are many scenes from my childhood yet to revisit.


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