Posted October 17th, 2006
I recently came across a black and white photo of Butch Ingham and his wife, taken in the 1960s.
Otherwise known as 'CHI' or Clifford, Butch Ingham was the Latin master at Bolton School Boys' Division during my time at the school (1959-1965). Butch was no ordinary Latin master. His teaching methods were very unusual, but he became part of the folklore of the school through the 'camps' he took to various parts of the UK and Europe. Those camps would be quite illegal today, but to many who attended they were a formative experience not to be missed.
'Butch camps' had been run for many years before those I attended. My uncle enjoyed several, and by the end, Butch (inset) had perfected the laissez-faire disorganisation that made the trips such fun. His wife normally came along, always wearing a huge fur coat no matter what the weather, even in the heat of Spain. As we travelled, we had to carry wooden packing cases with rope handles - two carriers to a box. The boxes contained tinned food brought from England, together with the tents and cooking equipment for the trip. Some boxes contained special luxury food and other items for 'Mrs I.'
We rarely camped on an actual camp site. No proper arrangements were usually made beforehand so the tents were set up anywhere we happened to be at the end of a travelling day: on beaches, in fields, by the roadside, in orchards, on rubbish tips - literally anywhere with the space. Quite often Butch wasn't even with us. Once we'd all be loaded up on a train he might decide to take a different train himself, going somewhere else with Mrs I and a few others, and they would turn up a few days later.
Sometimes he drove the train. He was a steam train enthusiast and talked his way on to the footplate of the (steam) engine. He could talk his way anywhere, in fact, using the presence of his large party of schoolboys as a bargaining tool. But on one foreign camp the boys had to fight their way onto a train with cricket bats. For a reason I can't remember, on a trip to Spain we'd lost Butch and got off the train at a small station on the French border (Port Bou), then walked through a tunnel, carrying all the kit, until we reached the Spanish side and caught a different train to Valencia where we camped on the beach next to a brothel called Villa Marguerita.
In Granada we camped in a ploughed field but visited the Alhambra Palace. Some boys with extra money paid for a spin-off trip to Gibraltar while the rest of us waited, more or less free to go where we liked.
But in other ways Butch was quite strict. If you were caught smoking you were sent home by yourself, even from abroad, paid for by Butch in cash from the camp kitty. The camps were expensive to go on because he never calculated costs beforehand. He couldn't, because very little was actually planned, other than a rough idea of the cities to be visited - always by train. So you payed a lot of money up front, then possibly received a rebate at school a few weeks later.
To return to his teaching, Butch was expert at Latin but
an awful a difficult teacher, with no not much patience for boys who couldn't pick it up readily. He'd sit the clever ones in the front row of class and the stupid ones, including me, at the back. Marks during the lesson were scored by answering questions, so Butch would ask one and shout out the name of the boy to answer it together with the number of marks for the answer. The marks varied according to the boy selected.
So he'd state the question, then start along the back row, shouting out "Thompson 110", "Berry 250", and so on. He knew that Thompson had no chance of answering the question, and Berry even less. The stupidness of the boy was reflected in the higher marks available. By the time he got to the front he wouldn't need to shout, and the marks would go right down, so it was "Nightingale? 5". And Nightingale would pick up his 5 marks.
Occasionally he threw something at a boy, either for bad behaviour or exceptionally poor Latin. He didn't just toss it but flung it hard - a Latin dictionary or a board duster aimed at your head. Those heavy Latin dictionaries didn't last long. And Butch had his favourites in class; 'Bird' Nightingale was "Bird" but Thompson was "Thompson", and he simply refused to teach some boys - they were barred from the class (as my brother was, until my mother complained).
Butch Ingham was a complete eccentric, of the sort you will never find in schools today. He only ever seemed to own one suit, made from a browny orange tweedy material thick enough to be a farmer's. He did keep pigs at his home in Culcheth. Each day after school he backed his van up to the school kitchen door and tipped the waste bins into the back, as food for the pigs.
[Content removed from here in response to Barbara Laycock's comments below]
My guess is that Butch Ingham, for all his eccentricities, is remembered with affection by those who knew him.
Related entry: photo of Butch Ingham and Mrs I.