School Legends

NomDeGuerre

Junior Acolyte
Joined
Jul 29, 2020
Messages
43
Reaction score
162
Points
33
As a bit of background, my secondary school (by the time I attended, a regular state school) was founded in the 16th century and, for three hundred years or more, had been a grammar. As you can imagine, in a building of that age (one that once boasted a forgettable US president as a student, briefly, when his family were in the UK) there were stories of things that went bump in the Double Maths lesson.

A lot of these were stoked by the caretaker, who lived in a little cottage on the grounds and used to love tormenting vulnerable Year 7s with stories of ghosts and ghouls in the art block.

The one story I really remember was grounded in an actual happening. The school used to have an outdoor swimming pool (now a car park) in which a teenage boy called Horace drowned. There's a plaque to him in the entrance to the school, but I can't find any other record of it online...

Anyway, so the legend goes, if you walk up to classroom U30 (the highest point in the school, and what used to be the dorms for boarders back in the grammar school days) and say 'Hello, Horace' you'll feel three sharp taps on your shoulder. Being a natural coward, I never did this.

It's a faith school now for some obscure Christian sect, so I'd imagine Horace has been banished for good and all, by now. Would love to go back and have a poke around at night, though!
 

Yithian

Parish Watch
Staff member
Joined
Oct 29, 2002
Messages
30,687
Reaction score
37,620
Points
309
Location
East of Suez
My school had a 'phantom penis drawer', who would leave poorly-scrawled graffiti of penises on walls along with the signature 'PPD'.
The best graffiti near my school was a very faded vestige of the early 80s.

The 'artist' had seemingly been interrupted in the commission of his piece, because in two-foot high white letters on a red-brick wall it proclaimed:

SKINHEAEAD!
 

BlackPeter

Ancient Badger
Joined
May 5, 2006
Messages
248
Reaction score
262
Points
79
As a bit of background, my secondary school (by the time I attended, a regular state school) was founded in the 16th century and, for three hundred years or more, had been a grammar. As you can imagine, in a building of that age (one that once boasted a forgettable US president as a student, briefly, when his family were in the UK) there were stories of things that went bump in the Double Maths lesson.

A lot of these were stoked by the caretaker, who lived in a little cottage on the grounds and used to love tormenting vulnerable Year 7s with stories of ghosts and ghouls in the art block.

The one story I really remember was grounded in an actual happening. The school used to have an outdoor swimming pool (now a car park) in which a teenage boy called Horace drowned. There's a plaque to him in the entrance to the school, but I can't find any other record of it online...

Anyway, so the legend goes, if you walk up to classroom U30 (the highest point in the school, and what used to be the dorms for boarders back in the grammar school days) and say 'Hello, Horace' you'll feel three sharp taps on your shoulder. Being a natural coward, I never did this.

It's a faith school now for some obscure Christian sect, so I'd imagine Horace has been banished for good and all, by now. Would love to go back and have a poke around at night, though!
Just seen your post, lots of this rings bells with me - was this school in Atherstone?
 

Mikefule

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Dec 9, 2009
Messages
530
Reaction score
1,542
Points
149
Location
Lincolnshire UK
I was reminded of this thread earlier today when I heard the word, "prat" and, unbidden, the memory came to me that "prat means pregnant goldfish." I'm sure I heard this several times at primary and comprehensive school (in the same catchment area).

So I looked it up today. The meaning and etymology of "prat" has nothing to do with fish, whether gold, pregnant, or otherwise.

I then searched from the other end: "what is a pregnant goldfish called?" and, to my surprise, learned that it is rumoured to be twit, tw*t, or twerp — all of which are playground insults, along with "prat" — and, importantly, that goldfish do not get pregnant anyway, as their eggs are fertilised outside the body.

So, in my area, it was "prat" but in other areas, it was different insulting words. The common thread was the meaning, "pregnant goldfish".

We had no ghosts or weird stories of tragic deaths at our school, although sadly there was a kid run over by the school bus one evening.

However, we did have a moderately pretty and fairly young English teacher who I remember used to tease and pretend to flirt with one or two of the better looking but shy lads in the 11-12 year age group: what we called "1st year" in those days. She was rumoured to have been caught having sex with a 6th former (16–17 year age group) in, bizarrely, one of the science labs. We were at that age when we were just starting to be aware of sex, and there must have been something in the water, too, because in that same year, the head of year (geography teacher) married the art teacher and the French teacher married the Latin teacher.
 
Last edited:

Naughty_Felid

kneesy earsy nosey
Joined
Mar 11, 2008
Messages
7,727
Reaction score
9,918
Points
294
I was reminded of this thread earlier today when I heard the word, "prat" and, unbidden, the memory came to me that "prat means pregnant goldfish." I'm sure I heard this several times at primary and comprehensive school (in the same catchment area).

So I looked it up today. The meaning and etymology of "prat" has nothing to do with fish, whether gold, pregnant, or otherwise.

I then searched from the other end: "what is a pregnant goldfish called?" and, to my surprise, learned that it is rumoured to be twit, tw*t, or twerp — all of which are playground insults, along with "prat" — and, importantly, that goldfish do not get pregnant anyway, as their eggs are fertilised outside the body.

So, in my area, it was "prat" but in other areas, it was different insulting words. The common thread was the meaning, "pregnant goldfish".

We had no ghosts or weird stories of tragic deaths at our school, although sadly there was a kid run over by the school bus one evening.

However, we did have a moderately pretty and fairly young English teacher who I remember used to tease and pretend to flirt with one or two of the better looking but shy lads in the 11-12 year age group: what we called "1st year" in those days. She was rumoured to have been caught having sex with a 6th former (16–17 year age group) in, bizarrely, one of the science labs. We were at that age when we were just starting to be aware of sex, and there must have been something in the water, too, because in that same year, the head of year (geography teacher) married the art teacher and the French teacher married the Latin teacher.
Thanks I too believed "prat" was a pregnant goldfish and yes I got it from school.
 

escargot

Disciple of Marduk
Joined
Aug 24, 2001
Messages
30,912
Reaction score
35,236
Points
309
Location
HM The Tower of London
I then searched from the other end: "what is a pregnant goldfish called?" and, to my surprise, learned that it is rumoured to be twit, tw*t, or twerp — all of which are playground insults, along with "prat" — and, importantly, that goldfish do not get pregnant anyway, as their eggs are fertilised outside the body.
Yup, as a teenager I was told 'twat' meant 'pregnant goldfish'. Made no more sense then than it does now.
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
19,259
Reaction score
25,963
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
... The meaning and etymology of "prat" has nothing to do with fish, whether gold, pregnant, or otherwise.
I then searched from the other end: "what is a pregnant goldfish called?" and, to my surprise, learned that it is rumoured to be twit, tw*t, or twerp — all of which are playground insults, along with "prat" — and, importantly, that goldfish do not get pregnant anyway, as their eggs are fertilised outside the body.
So, in my area, it was "prat" but in other areas, it was different insulting words. The common thread was the meaning, "pregnant goldfish". ...
Yup, as a teenager I was told 'twat' meant 'pregnant goldfish'. Made no more sense then than it does now.
I think nonsense is the whole point.

It strikes me that the key elements in this puzzle are (a) there's no such thing as a pregnant goldfish; (b) this non-existent thing is consistently associated with insulting or 'dirty' words; and (c) the association is almost always reported as having been encountered in one's childhood / school days.

Now why would an association between a nonsensical fixed point of reference (pregnant goldfish) and any of a number of 'bad words' originate and persist? I can think of three reasons which aren't mutually exclusive and are within the range of things kids might do:

(1) The association arose as a running joke or gag to the effect that a word of unclear meaning actually meant something that made no sense.

(2) The 'pregnant goldfish' bit was an all-purpose response whenever someone asked you to define a word for which you didn't know the meaning. In this sense it served as an evasive deflection akin to those conversational tactics discussed elsewhere for deflecting unwanted questions.

(3) The nonsensical alleged definition was a widely known all-purpose excuse to give when challenged by authority (i.e., adults) for having been overhead uttering an unacceptable word (whether you knew its actual meaning or not).
 

Fluttermoth

Mrs Treguard
Joined
Feb 5, 2008
Messages
987
Reaction score
1,060
Points
149
I was told the 'twat means pregnant goldfish' at primary school. Was it Robert Browning who used it in a poem, seemingly thinking it related to nun's headwear, and no-one was brave enough to tell him the truth?

My secondary school biology master (who was an absolute legend, so many tales I could tell about him!) had an affair with our RE teacher. They'd both been at the school for many years and were in their late 50s (I'm guessing), it was a massive cause célèbre. They ended up going off to Africa to be missionaries :dunno:
 

BlackPeter

Ancient Badger
Joined
May 5, 2006
Messages
248
Reaction score
262
Points
79
Oh wow, small world!

Would love to hear any legends that did the rounds while you were there (or if you ever had a run in with Horace!)
Will have a think - still online at work - did you ever go down into the cellars under the main house -very strange area:eek:
 

Little_grey_lady

Junior Acolyte
Joined
Oct 12, 2009
Messages
94
Reaction score
168
Points
49
I was reminded of this thread earlier today when I heard the word, "prat" and, unbidden, the memory came to me that "prat means pregnant goldfish." I'm sure I heard this several times at primary and comprehensive school (in the same catchment area).

So I looked it up today. The meaning and etymology of "prat" has nothing to do with fish, whether gold, pregnant, or otherwise.

I then searched from the other end: "what is a pregnant goldfish called?" and, to my surprise, learned that it is rumoured to be twit, tw*t, or twerp — all of which are playground insults, along with "prat" — and, importantly, that goldfish do not get pregnant anyway, as their eggs are fertilised outside the body.

So, in my area, it was "prat" but in other areas, it was different insulting words. The common thread was the meaning, "pregnant goldfish".

We had no ghosts or weird stories of tragic deaths at our school, although sadly there was a kid run over by the school bus one evening.

However, we did have a moderately pretty and fairly young English teacher who I remember used to tease and pretend to flirt with one or two of the better looking but shy lads in the 11-12 year age group: what we called "1st year" in those days. She was rumoured to have been caught having sex with a 6th former (16–17 year age group) in, bizarrely, one of the science labs. We were at that age when we were just starting to be aware of sex, and there must have been something in the water, too, because in that same year, the head of year (geography teacher) married the art teacher and the French teacher married the Latin teacher.
I was told tw*t was a pregnant goldfish, and that was at secondary school!

We had a teacher who when I started in year 7 (first year of secondary school) was rumoured to be sleeping with a sixth former. We were an all girls school and he was one of 2 male teachers, the other one was in his 60s, for a few years, so I always felt it was easy to make up a rumour about him. Someone once made a snarky comment in a lesson with him, and he just blushed, but we still didn't take it seriously. After all, he was married to the maths teacher Fast forward to me being in the sixth form at the school and we discovered (as in I actually saw the evidence) that the rumours were not only true, he and the maths teacher had split up and he was living with the girl, who was obviously no longer in the sixth form. To make matters worse, he had some interesting tastes in his internet history and left the school when it all came out
 

Fanari_Lloyd

Devoted Cultist
Joined
May 7, 2012
Messages
175
Reaction score
191
Points
39
My junior school was next to the church and graveyard (the wall of the school yard separated it) We got used to it, even though my grandfather was buried there. It was a lovely small village school, and the school house was attached to it.

My parents were offered the school house to live in temporarily when I was about 7, (in the 70’s) after the head teacher moved out, which seemed quite cool to me.

I remember my parents spending some time after work painting and doing various things. The windows of one bedroom and the kitchen looked onto the graveyard.

I used to go with them sometimes (we lived in an extended family in the next village, so not always) and was there one night (autumn, I think; it was dark). My mother was doing something in that one bedroom, (measuring curtains?) my father was downstairs
I remember sitting at the bottom of the stairs when Mum‘s footsteps rattled over the bare boards and she hurtled downstairs.

She refused to stay another moment, and we never did move in. It was only years later she said she had seen something through the window, down in the graveyard that terrified her.

The blue arrow shows the school house.

C8FDBDA2-D254-4608-86AB-D197C1B5C0B6.jpeg
 

Krepostnoi

Zing boom tararrel
Joined
Jul 9, 2012
Messages
3,573
Reaction score
7,474
Points
209
My junior school was next to the church and graveyard (the wall of the school yard separated it) We got used to it, even though my grandfather was buried there. It was a lovely small village school, and the school house was attached to it.

My parents were offered the school house to live in temporarily when I was about 7, (in the 70’s) after the head teacher moved out, which seemed quite cool to me.

I remember my parents spending some time after work painting and doing various things. The windows of one bedroom and the kitchen looked onto the graveyard.

I used to go with them sometimes (we lived in an extended family in the next village, so not always) and was there one night (autumn, I think; it was dark). My mother was doing something in that one bedroom, (measuring curtains?) my father was downstairs
I remember sitting at the bottom of the stairs when Mum‘s footsteps rattled over the bare boards and she hurtled downstairs.

She refused to stay another moment, and we never did move in. It was only years later she said she had seen something through the window, down in the graveyard that terrified her.

The blue arrow shows the school house.

View attachment 31651
I'm extremely envious of the fact that you grew up in Uffington - no wonder you found your way here.
 

Fanari_Lloyd

Devoted Cultist
Joined
May 7, 2012
Messages
175
Reaction score
191
Points
39
I'm extremely envious of the fact that you grew up in Uffington - no wonder you found your way here.
Well, technically I grew up in Kingston Lisle, just up the road, but I went to school in Uffington. Best years of my life living out there :)
 

Kondoru

Antediluvian
Joined
Dec 5, 2003
Messages
6,770
Reaction score
1,601
Points
234
Betcha I can blow the blowing stone better than you!
 

Fanari_Lloyd

Devoted Cultist
Joined
May 7, 2012
Messages
175
Reaction score
191
Points
39
:salute: I haven’t tried since I was about 14, Kondoru! My friend and I used to wander down to the Blowing Stone quite often, and learned if we sort of pursed our lips and did a raspberry it was more effective And quite pathetic really.

Quite (what I call now) a li i always place, all around there. Not really scary stories, but just odd things that made you feel you were always on the edge of ‘something’.
 
Top