4X = 5X

| 4X Photograph |

By the time I'd reached the dizzy heights of the 3rd year a number of my peer group (14 or 15 to be exact) had managed to escape expulsion (I think they call it permanent exclusion these days) by the skin of our teeth. From memory (mine) we'd had 7 or 8 kids from our year expelled by then but there was a small cadre remaining who, it appeared, were "too hot to handle". Even for some of the sadistic bastards that masqueraded as teachers at the school. I honestly don't think that it was because we were educationally sub-normal we were just difficult and we all hated school.

When we returned from the glorious summer that we enjoyed that year - does anyone else suffer from the same delusions by the way? I'm convinced that all summers, pre-1975 were long, hot and generally idyllic - we were, as tradition demanded, all lined up in the assembly hall whilst Monty or Dodo (could have been both actually) read out our form allocations, location and supervising commandant for the forthcoming year. Imagine our surprise when at the end of allocating the groups for the 4th year there was a small but significantly evil group of green blazers left standing.

Monty then launched into one of his infamous "take, take, take" speeches, accused us of generally being lower than the lowest form of pond life and gave the strong impression that because of us neither he nor any of his storm troopers had enjoyed a holiday as they'd been trying to work out what to do with us. Capital punishment, you may recall had been banned in the previous decade so his favoured option was out. Anyway, he ranted and raved for a good 10 minutes and then announced that the only solution was to invent a new collective term for low-lifes such as us - hence 4X was born and entrusted into the care of Father Raymond (the elderly amongst us will remember him as the original priest come Hell's Angel and he supported Watford to boot).

I think the general idea was that Fr. Ray would basically beat the crap out of us all at every opportunity. This would, in best traditions of teacher-schoolboy relations turn us into model pupils in short order, from which position we could usefully rejoin the rest of our peer group and do as we were bloody well told. As, with the passing of time, 4X became 5X, our numbers dwindled from around 15 to less than 10, expulsions and one spell in an approved school took care of the reductions and our general care and tutelage passed from Ray to George Courtney, it became clear that Monty's final solution had failed.

Of the original 15 only MO'C, and yours truly made it to the Lower Sixth. This may have had more to do with athletic & football capability than any scholastic achievements on our part. Suffice it to say that by the time the Upper Sixth came around all reference to 4X and 5X had been expunged from the records and it's last two inmates despatched to pastures new. Neither of us took well to a return to learning that year.

I can't for the life remember the class roll but apart from moi and the aforementioned O'Connor there were Ernie Stabler, Pete Forman, Andre Irons, Cliff Hayes and, I think Mick Casey, Peter Lock (who later went on to journalistic fame with the NME) Simon Parker (I think he dropped down from the year ahead of us), Mick McDonough - the others have been consigned to the annals of history (I can't remember in other words).

I can't honestly say that recalling my time in the X's has any sort of cathartic benefit for me - other than a test to see whether what few remaining grey cells I have still work.
(John Foley 68-74)

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