Christmas 1950. Top of the Class – Maybe a New Bicycle

For two years I had been hoping praying and begging for a new bike without success. My first and only bike was a second hand one given to me when I was just eight years old, I had long since outgrown it. In December 1950 I was sure this would be the year, I had done exceptionally well at school,  I was top of my class in the term exams. Well not exactly top, I was third, but it was only two girls placed with better marks, and who countherculesed girls anyway!!!So I was the top boy!

As we neared the end of the term and Christmas holidays, our first exams were scheduled, the results of which determined if we moved to a higher form or remained put. Exams were something I dreaded and usually failed miserably. This time my exams were of the utmost importance if I had any hope of getting the promised new bicycle. As Christmas approached, I worked hard, praying each night that this was when my new bicycle would arrive.

We sat a total of six exams covering Arithmetic, English, Geography, History, Arts, and Woodworking. The first two were my weakest subjects and biggest worry. At the beginning of each test we were told we’d receive ten marks for neatness. Always very neat, I was guaranteed the ten marks; my problem was finding an extra forty or so. With the last week of term drawing to a close, we completed the final exam. Then, a time of nail-biting ensued as we waited for the marks to be posted on the class notice board. I rarely felt much confidence writing exams, but this time I somehow felt I had answered most questions correctly.

With lessons over, we passed the time decorating the classroom for Christmas. A homemade letterbox had been set up in the main hallway, and students were permitted to make Christmas cards to send to friends in other classes. Every morning a student from each class was appointed postman. His or her job was to sort and deliver the mail. It was exciting to wait to see if we might receive a card, especially if it happened to come from a particularly special girl. Boys in class, myself included, sent cards to the girls we fancied, hoping to receive a reply the next day.


I was out on the playing fields when the exams results were at last tabulated and posted on the notice board. A classmate ran onto the field yelling that I was top of the class. I flatly refused to believe him; he was obviously having me on. Never in my entire school career had I come close to placing top of the class. Ignoring his silly prank, I continued playing football. When I returned to class later to read the results for myself, I had to re-read them several times before I could believe my eyes. I wasn’t actually top of the class – I had placed third. The important thing was that I was the top boy; only two girls had better marks. Everyone knew girls were supposed to be smarter at exams anyway, so this didn’t bother me in the slightest.

I had placed top in History and Art, second in Geography, forth in English and seventh in Math. Woodworking was my weakest subject, placing a miserable fifteenth! But who cared! I was walking on air and bursting to tell Lily and Ben. They would be so pleased, and my new bicycle would be assured. I could hardly wait for Christmas morning to arrive.

Dashing into the house, I proudly announced my good news to Lily. Her reaction surprised me and turned my elation to disappointment. She merely said it was about time I smartened up and took school seriously. Ben was more impressed when I later told him; he said to keep up the good work. Lily’s curt remark had stung me, and I didn’t understand why she wasn’t pleased with my accomplishment. Her mood didn’t change; my usual chores awaited me, and I received no special recognition for my efforts.


When Christmas morning arrived, no new bicycle awaited me under the tree, and, very depressed, I saw my school efforts as wasted. All in all it wasn’t a bad Christmas. I did receive many nice gifts of games and books, and, of course, the inevitable new socks and underwear. However, the one item I’d hoped and prayed for, for so long had not materialized as Lily had promised. I felt cheated.

God Bless and keep reading.



About irishroverpei

Author of "Lily & Me", "The Royal Navy & Me" and Chapter XXl Armageddon. Writer, blogger and RN Submariner, antique automobile enthusiast.
This entry was posted in Belfast Social History, family and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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