Village life set me to rights

19th May 2006 at 01:00
I was recently reading Hilary Clinton's autobiography (it was a present), and came across the phrase: "It takes a village to educate a child."

It is 30 years since the long hot summer of 1976 when I took my O-levels, but the phrase triggered a trip down memory lane.

I was fortunate enough to grow up near the delightful village of Betws-yn-Rhos, in north Wales. In the scorching summer of 1976, I used any excuse to get away from exam revision with glee. I would volunteer to walk the dog down to the village and back to get a pint of milk if that is what it took.

This was before the advent of mind-mapping or spider-diagrams, so revision meant the grind of making notes, then notes of your notes.

I was down in the village one day when an old farmer came up to me and said: "You're the butcher's boy, aren't you?"

I nodded.

"I hear you are doing your O-levels."

Again I nodded.

Then he said: "Remember, young man, you are not doing them just for yourself, you are doing them for the village as well."

I was horrified. It was scary, and a couple of days later it happened again. A retired lady was walking through the village and she stopped me.

"You're the butcher's son? Remember when you do your O-levels, you are doing them for all of us."

Again lots of nods and gulps. This happened at least 10 times and a 16-year-old got himself home and revised. As a conspiracy it worked. I revised because I knew people cared, and I went on to get six O-levels.

That was when the next surprise came. When the results were out, everyone wanted to know what I had achieved. Everywhere in the village there were questions - and everywhere I was rewarded with pound notes and 50p pieces.

In fact, one day I went home with the best part of pound;15.

Mrs Owen Hafan gave me a silver thruppenny bit from an old charm bracelet she kept; in fact she gave one to every child in the village that passed their exams.

But the people of the village gave me more than that. As I look back now, they have given me beautiful memories because they cared. They cared enough to want to set me on the path of education to what they believed would be a better life. And for that I am truly grateful.

Graham Lawler taught for 23 years and is now an author and broadcaster

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