A Personal Story
I went to a Catholic boys school in Blackpool in the North of England. In my first year in the senior school I was a nerdy kid, with spectacles and short trousers. For one hour a week the class had elocution lessons from an old, portly teacher called Mr Priestley. He had a hard task wrestling with our flat northern vowels and trying to get us to enunciate the Queen’s English. One day he came up to me and said,’ Sloane, I want to put you in for a speaking festival.’ ‘Why me?’ I grumbled. ‘Because I think you can do it,’ was his reply.
I had to learn to recite a poem. It was ‘Play up, Play up and Play the Game’ by Sir Henry Newbolt; a classic motivational poem ringing with the heroic values of the British Empire. I had to practise it in front of the class, which was rather embarrassing; especially when dear old Mr Priestly said, ‘That’s good but you need to pause and to put feeling and emotion into it.’ Eleven year old boys are disinclined to express feelings.
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