13th March 2015
Former Headmaster David Buckroyd shares his memories of Peter ‘Nuff nuff’ Clarke, the long-serving Ermysted’s caretaker who has died this week aged 90.
Peter was well-known to boys and staff as well as the wider community in Skipton. He was appointed as school caretaker in 1939 and retired in 1985 after 46 years. After retirement he went to Canada on holiday and subsequently married for the first time – at the age of 60. But so much did he miss the school that he returned to work at Ermysted’s on a part-time basis in January 1986!
The Chronicles of Ermysted’s note that while preparing for the re-opening of school after the summer holidays in Autumn 1958, he suffered a badly fractured leg and was off work for a full term, returning in the Spring of 1959. He subsequently suffered the effects of the injury for the remainder of his life.
Peter’s funeral will take place on Friday 20th March at 1pm at Skipton Crematorium.
We asked former Headmaster David Buckroyd for his memories of Peter and he has very kindly written the following article.
Memories of Peter Clarke, by David Buckroyd (Headmaster 1982-1998)
When in 1982 I succeeded John Woolmore as Headmaster of Ermysted’s, the School was ruled with a rod of iron by the late, lamented Deputy Headmaster, Wally Evans. Wally, however, would have been the first to acknowledge the debt he owed to the long-serving and most efficient, yet superficially bumbling caretaker, Peter Clarke. The teaching staff were delighted to delegate their lunchtime supervisory duties to Peter, especially in the depths of winter, as more than three decades worth of experience of schoolboy pranks, hiding places and excuses had equipped him admirably to deal with every eventuality. His efforts were generally reckoned to be the equivalent of an additional three members of staff. He was frequently overheard to remonstrate with some recalcitrant urchin or other: “That’s enough!” or “I’ve had enough!” Hence, his affectionate nickname: “Nuff, nuff.”
Peter’s influence was felt at all levels of school life. He operated out of the dingy storeroom in the back quad underneath the erstwhile swimming pool and at morning break and lunchtime he ran the tuckshop from the sunken cloakroom just by the door into the 1933 block. Health and safety issues had clearly not yet raised their ugly head, as he was helped in this enterprise by the long retired retainer, Jack, whose dog, Lady, had the run of the school and was fed titbits by the younger pupils.
Peter’s overriding concern was the cleanliness of the school. His deputy, Bill Wheatley, had an eye for the ladies and frequently wasted time chatting up Peter’s harem of female cleaners. Peter would creep up behind him, remove his flat cap and assault him with it, saying; “Less talk, more work!”
At weekends and on special festival occasions Peter enjoyed officiating as a cricket umpire up on the Top or down at Sandylands. He gave a lifetime’s service to Skipton Church Institute Cricket Club and in his later years he rejoiced in the role of President. Equally he was touched and immensely proud to become an Honorary Member of Ermysted’s Old Boys’ Society.
Peter devoted his working life to Ermysted’s. Only in his years of retirement did he seek solace through marriage to Betty, who, sadly, predeceased him.
He was a maverick, a one-off, who would have struggled in today’s climate to come to terms with the rules and regulations imposed by outside authorities. I cherish an image of him climbing the flight of steps from the boiler room under school house, where he had grappled with a small fire in an extractor fan, which, left untackled, would have caused serious damage. He had used his initiative to douse the flames, there being only one source of water to hand (no, don’t ask!). Wreathed in smiles he reemerged, covered from head to foot in oily soot, to the applause of the curious, youthful onlookers. He will never know whether it was his heroic efforts which had attracted universal acclaim or whether it was the fact that he had forgotten to button up his overalls!
No matter. The building and the school had survived. Throughout his life, that was all that mattered to Peter.
David Buckroyd, Headmaster 1982-98.