Otherwise known as ‘CHI’ or Clifford, Butch Ingham was the Latin master at Bolton School Boys’ Division during my time at the school (1959-1965). Butch was no ordinary Latin master. His teaching methods were very unusual, but he became part of the folklore of the school through the ‘camps’ he took to various parts of the UK and Europe. Those camps would be quite illegal today, but to many who attended they were a formative experience not to be missed.
‘Butch camps’ had been run for many years before those I attended. My uncle enjoyed several, and by the end, Butch (inset) had perfected the laissez-faire disorganisation that made the trips such fun. His wife normally came along, always wearing a huge fur coat no matter what the weather, even in the heat of Spain. As we travelled, we had to carry wooden packing cases with rope handles – two carriers to a box. The boxes contained tinned food brought from England, together with the tents and cooking equipment for the trip. Some boxes contained special luxury food and other items for ‘Mrs I.’
We rarely camped on an actual camp site. No proper arrangements were usually made beforehand so the tents were set up anywhere we happened to be at the end of a travelling day: on beaches, in fields, by the roadside, in orchards, on rubbish tips – literally anywhere with the space. Quite often Butch wasn’t even with us. Once we’d all be loaded up on a train he might decide to take a different train himself, going somewhere else with Mrs I and a few others, and they would turn up a few days later.
Sometimes he drove the train. He was a steam train enthusiast and talked his way on to the footplate of the (steam) engine. He could talk his way anywhere, in fact, using the presence of his large party of schoolboys as a bargaining tool. But on one foreign camp the boys had to fight their way onto a train with cricket bats. For a reason I can’t remember, on a trip to Spain we’d lost Butch and got off the train at a small station on the French border (Port Bou), then walked through a tunnel, carrying all the kit, until we reached the Spanish side and caught a different train to Valencia where we camped on the beach next to a brothel called Villa Marguerita.
In Granada we camped in a ploughed field but visited the Alhambra Palace. Some boys with extra money paid for a spin-off trip to Gibraltar while the rest of us waited, more or less free to go where we liked.
But in other ways Butch was quite strict. If you were caught smoking you were sent home by yourself, even from abroad, paid for by Butch in cash from the camp kitty. The camps were expensive to go on because he never calculated costs beforehand. He couldn’t, because very little was actually planned, other than a rough idea of the cities to be visited – always by train. So you payed a lot of money up front, then possibly received a rebate at school a few weeks later.
To return to his teaching, Butch was expert at Latin but
an awful a difficult teacher, with no not much patience for boys who couldn’t pick it up readily. He’d sit the clever ones in the front row of class and the stupid ones, including me, at the back. Marks during the lesson were scored by answering questions, so Butch would ask one and shout out the name of the boy to answer it together with the number of marks for the answer. The marks varied according to the boy selected.
So he’d state the question, then start along the back row, shouting out “Thompson 110”, “Berry 250”, and so on. He knew that Thompson had no chance of answering the question, and Berry even less. The stupidness of the boy was reflected in the higher marks available. By the time he got to the front he wouldn’t need to shout, and the marks would go right down, so it was “Nightingale? 5”. And Nightingale would pick up his 5 marks.
Occasionally he threw something at a boy, either for bad behaviour or exceptionally poor Latin. He didn’t just toss it but flung it hard – a Latin dictionary or a board duster aimed at your head. Those heavy Latin dictionaries didn’t last long. And Butch had his favourites in class; ‘Bird’ Nightingale was “Bird” but Thompson was “Thompson”, and he simply refused to teach some boys – they were barred from the class (as my brother was, until my mother complained).
Butch Ingham was a complete eccentric, of the sort you will never find in schools today. He only ever seemed to own one suit, made from a browny orange tweedy material thick enough to be a farmer’s. He did keep pigs at his home in Culcheth. Each day after school he backed his van up to the school kitchen door and tipped the waste bins into the back, as food for the pigs.
[Content removed from here in response to Barbara Laycock’s comments below]
My guess is that Butch Ingham, for all his eccentricities, is remembered with affection by those who knew him.
Posted by Brian Keighley
I'm a friend of your fathers and discovered your web site indirectly via that connection. Your article on Butch's trips brought back many happy memories. I don't know about being sent home for smoking but I had my first cigarette, my first pint, and my first adolescent fumble among female clothing, on various Ingham adventures. I went on my first trip, to the Yorkshire Dales at New Year, when I was in the Third Form and my friend and I were adopted by some Sixth Formers. I was amazed when we all trooped off to the pictures on the first afternoon then travelled to the Youth Hostel in a taxi. I also remember him leaving a group of boys at what I now know to be Coruisk when they were late back for the boat. They had to find their own way around the Cuillin. I learned a great deal from Butch's trips but not much of it would be found in the National Curriculum. I also agree with you about his qualities as a teacher of Latin. I dropped it at the first opportunity.
Posted by Patrick
Times have changed. One large Butch trip I went on departed from Bolton railway station at 7 am on New Year's Day. I'd be surprised if trains actually run on New Year's Day nowadays. Come to think of it though – the summer 'long camps' run by the school's 19th Bolton Scout Troop were a pretty strange experience too. 'Lord of the Flies' comes to mind.
Posted by Olly Penrice
I never went on a 'Butch' trip, nor was I ever taught by him. I don't think he liked me very much judging by his disapproving glare in the corridor but I don't mind about that. What I remember was his leaving day in the Great Hall (capital letters!) It was the first time I had ever been swept up in a standing ovation. That small, glowering, belligerent little hardman stomped out of the hall for the last time but must have felt elated by the rolling thunder of his standing ovation. I was… and I hardly knew him. I'm thinking about it now some forty years later so it must have had quite an effect on me.
I find the account of his death very disturbing and wonder what strange story it conceals. Some twenty-odd years ago I heard a Radio 4 interviewee talk about him with great affection. Not an ordinary man, I suspect.
Posted by Roger Dobson
It's been a long time since we were fellow campers. Possibly because I attended a meeting of the Clifford Ingham Bursary Trust last week I thought I would Google Clifford's name and up popped your web site and most interesting article.
I remember the Spanish camp very well. It was my first experience of responsibility as I was appointed Camp Cook. Using cans from those very orange boxes I catered for forty people using only an open fire. Although Butch retired officially at the end of the 60s he was still teaching and leading camps when he was eighty.
Your description of the apparent chaos, unpredictability, ingenuity, enthusiasm for railways and eccentricity are all accurate as is the observation about contemporary constraint on trek camp type expeditions. However it is worth remembering that in forty years of leading his trek camps and hikes all over Europe from the Artic Circle to the Bosphorus he never lost anyone nor to my knowledge was anyone seriously injured.
His teaching style was also unique and his classroom a challenging environment. I do however take issue with your description that he was an 'awful teacher'. A number of his pupils have become eminent academics and carry on his work in promoting the ancient world. For those of us who were less gifted he persisted. At 'O' level he transformed my Latin result from 25%, at my first attempt, to 70% at the next. Those who accompanied him with a gathering crowd of tourists as he gave a guided tour of the Roman Forum knew they were in the presence of a gifted teacher.
Mrs Ingham had suffered periods of illness over very many years which happily did not detract from her remarkable support for Clifford. Some of us well remember her legendary hospitality at their home at Croft. Subsequent events were truly a Greek Tragedy.
The Clifford Ingham Bursary Trust was established in his memory by former Camp Adjutants in 1986 and provides financial support to pupils of Bolton School to undertake development activities in the outdoors.
It has been suggested that some of us write a fuller account of these memories. I would be happy to collate any contributions.
Posted by Patrick
Butch's teaching style never suited me, but perhaps I was also an awful pupil. I do think many of the teachers at the Boys' Division at the time were appointed for their academic prowess rather than a gift for enthusing and leading pupils into the subject. Willie Brown was in this category. He was a very fine historian but in my view a poor teacher of the reluctant-to-learn.
On the other hand, Cedric Aspinall, a physics teacher, was superb. I hated physics until he became my teacher, then I began to enjoy it and did quite well at 'O' Level. Jim Garbett was also an excellent (English) teacher of recalcitrant boys like me.
Returning to Butch, one day, when our Latin class was waiting for him to arrive, a parson entered the classroom and announced he was taking the lesson. The whole class let out a cheer. Doubtless there will be some of us who thrived under Butch's style of Latin and Willie Brown's style of history, but I did so badly I was barred from sitting the 'O' Level Latin and history exams (partly my own fault, of course).
Having said all that, with hindsight I wouldn't have swapped Butch Ingham for anyone else. I would rather have the experience and memories of his camps than Latin 'O' Level.
Posted by Barbara Laycock (Ingham)
I do not see why my family should suffer your insensitivities. Your articles are inaccurate – he did have more than 1 suit thanks to my mother, Mrs I, steering him into the modern world and making sure he did not go to school like a tramp. You do not know it by half!
You imply that CHI and Mrs I left the party for "jollies". What smaller boys in the party will not have realised is that maybe some boy had lost his passport and days would go by sorting out the matter at The British Embassy. OR – obtaining visas or currency. He would of course have delegated the responsibility for the care of the boys to the accompanying member of staff.
You may be a competant web designer, but you are remarkably insensitive, causing a lot of hurt to my family of 3 children and 6 grandchildren who do not wish those dreadful memories of his ultimate demise to be perpetuated. It has taken 20 years to eradicate such horror. Can you imagine what life has been like to have lived the horror? Obviously no thought like that has gone through your head.
No you are only thinking of how you felt – ok, as one of his less popular pupils. He should not have had favourites – nor done that scoring system in class.
I would appreciate it if you would "lay-off".
Barbara Laycock (Ingham)
Posted by Patrick
Yes, I was thinking about how I felt, and we're going back over forty years to a period I recall with great affection, in part because of Clifford himself. His teaching style would have suited some boys more than others, but I think it contrasts quite favourably with the namby pamby fairness we have nowadays, everything sanitised by legislation and political correctness. The 'Butch Ingham experience' was a taste of self-reliance in a liberal world, not a stifled world of killjoy risk assessments and school sports days banned because the pressure of winning and losing might be too much for pupils to cope with.
I've no idea why Butch and others left the main party on occasion. If pressed, I would have said they'd gone to visit a Roman ruin or something like that, but it doesn't matter, because the end result was, for us, the thrill of adventure. Reading over my comments and some of the others from people at the school in the 1960s, what comes across is a fondness for memories of an extraordinary man who gave us formative experiences that pupils in modern schools can only dream of.
Posted by Olly Penrice
If it is any consolation to you, I, as someone who knew your father only a little at school, have found on this website nothing to detract from my recollection of him as a most remarkable man. Nothing. I am very sorry that things ended badly but the end of a story is not its only part, nor should it be seen as having any special dominion over what came before.
Posted by John Statham
I've only just found this website and am delighted for the opportunity contribute my memories.
Having just scraped into Bolton School in 1969 on the reserve list, I didn't thrive in CHI's latin class and gave up at the first opportunity. I did however go on three Butch Camps which were probably the most formative and instructive events of my school career. I have very fond memories of both Mr and Mrs I.
I think it was at Epidaurus where an English guide was explaining the accousics to her party. " Would anyone like to come and try speaking from this spot ? " … " Go on Sir" .. We were treated to the first paragraph of The Illiad in Greek and then in English- I've always wondered what the guide made in tips that day.
An event I missed but worthy of repeat was when Butch had to plead with the police on behalf of some errant pupil in a language he didn't have. Using a Priest as interpreter, negotiations were conducted in Latin.
I am so very grasteful to have known CHI, he had a great influence in my development as a youth. I was delighted to be able to visit him at home and see the orchard planted with his father in preparation for the privations of the war. I was so sad to be at his funeral but pleased to see such a large turnout of school staff.
Barbara – How proud you must be of them both.
Posted by Graham Windsor
Butch's neat comments still remind me of him, by no means a neat man, but a rolpoly of faded green. As I became a teacher myself later I can say that I somewhat imitated the swish of "presence" when he entered the classroom. In his own way he was willing to live and let live. Admittedly I was one of the Latiin stars, so had my tongue hanging out for the goodies that could come from answering one of the questions. If only that "swot" Michael Priestley hadn't been just as good at Latin as he was at Physics. Butch seemed to enjoy the lessons as much some of us did, which I take to be a great qualification for a teacher. Everything about him seemed consistent, his lack of showing off, his readiness to not be a replica of the more refined. Thanks to Butch! he gave me a great introduction to Latin, so that my Cambridge career opened with a bang. I was sorry that the Tripos wouldn't allow the mixing of ancient and modern languages. He was a man who loved his subject (future teachers, take not).
I have enjoyed reading Latin of all ages ever since,and few things more grateful than a Satire of Horace or an Eclogue of Vergil.
Outside class I had many times with Butch, as I was one of his cross-country runners. He was never effusive or sentimental, even when I won, and never did I see him show favouritism to people. I remember once when he had to take us to a match in the back of his van – he had to turn out the vats of pigswill first which he collected every day. I never saw his home, but respected him for his down-to-earth virtues.
As for the "camps" they were certainly something else. The first one I remember must have been 1948. The gloaming was long past when we arrived at Kirk Yetholm Youth Hostel. We dossed down in the straw in the stable as if waiting for th Nativity.
Many other memories remain, Brittany 1949, cider in the hedgerow, Provence 1950 when I fell in love with the caretaker's daughter, but oh, when the coach sped past the most beautiful girl in my life in Arles, the true L'Arlesienne. Germany 1951(got lost in the Schwarzwald). I think Spain must have been 1954 because he let me play hookey for several nights, as I wanted to live in a pension and practise my Spanish.
Let's not forget the cleaning of dixies in the local stream, and endless potatoes to be peeled on fag days, and Mrs Ingham standing by the porridge line. I think she was doling out the true salt, but I needed the syrup, however little I could get. Unforgettable days.
Later I took a couple of trips of my own to Spain, in something like the Ingham way, ambitious, but arrangements a little haphazard.
It seems from these posts that there was some tragedy in his death. I like to remember him as big, bluff, genial, and I dare say that beneath his control there was a deep, intense thinker and a very private person.
Posted by Mike Smith
I tried both the 'Baden Powell Way' and the 'Ingham Way' when first moving up from Park Road at the end of the summer term of '45 or thereabouts. Sadly the Scouts didn't work out too well…………… one camp at Powerscourt, among other experiences, was enough for me.
But my experiences with 'Butch' opened up a whole new approach to the 'great outdoors' and set me on a path which has persisted down the years I first met him, not in one of his Latin classes, but at the School lunch table where he presided for a couple of terms or so. These were the days of rationing, but whatever the kitchen served up 'Butch' set the example by attacking his plate, and persuading us to do the same. I suppose we were the healthiest generation on record as photographs taken at the time would appear to show. It was during these days that he told me of a forthcoming 7 day winter hike to the Border country…I told my parents and thus began a series of 'expeditions'…one even took us on our first trip to Continental Europe… Switzerland.
We stayed overnight in Youth Hostels during the cooler months, but summer camping with 'Butch' was as casual as his dress sense. But there was nothing casual about his insistence on adding more and more salt to the porridge we stirred continuously over the open-fire every morning. And certainly nothing casual about the pace he set to hike 20 or more miles to the next Youth Hostel he'd chosen for an o'night. A hike up Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran was memorable not just for the magnificent views of the islands from the summit, but because 'Butch' chose to eat margarine, sardines and jam spread on a wad of think-cut sandwich. An old Scottish custom no doubt.
Few may recall that it was he and 'Taffy' Lane who were the genesis of Rugby Football at School. I joined a dozen others one day at Hopefield on Dobson Road for an introduction to the game. We didn't have the oval ball but used a regular soccer ball to throw around. I guess football was my first love, but I played Rugby in the Army for my Battalion which owes everything to 'Butch' planting that early seed.
It's true I only ever saw him in one suit at School…a blend of green and brown tweed I seem to recall…with brown shoes and a split and somewhat tattered gown which always seemed to drift off one shoulder.
Obviously, I was very fond of this 'free-spirited' school-master with his laissez-faire view of the world; always kindly and one who you felt was always on your side.
Posted by Thea Boyle
Barbara, I worked with you at Lowther College and was at your wedding all those years ago, when I met your father at your home in Croft. Sorry that you have been upset by this correspondence. However, I would really love to get in touch again with you and Peter, so if you see this could you please respond to firstname.lastname@example.org
from Thea Boyle.
Posted by Ray Thomason
I went on several of Butch's camps, the first was by default as a member of the party dropped out at the last minute. My tent was one of the cheapest bought by mail order and, as another of the group had not thought to bring any equipment, I had to share mine. This blew down in a storm on a building site where we were camped in Corruna, Spain.
Butch was also my housemaster and I recall that at a meeting he awarded one of our group additional house points for being out of bed before dawn.
Posted by Simon Binner
I remember Butch with pure gratitude. Taking boys off on one of his Trek Camps would be utterly illegal nowadays for a zillion ludicrous, nonsensical 'nanny state' reasons: just the Risk Assessment Forms that Butch would now be required to complete would fill the Bolton School Undercroft seven times over and take him eleven years to complete!
The benefits that so many Boltonians derived from his laissez-faire and borderline insane Trek Camps utterly outweigh the necessary risks taken. Along with countless others, I remain forever in his debt.
Butch was a great guy. Sadly, we will never see his like again.
Posted by Roger
A few memories that make me smile – scorpions in the tents in Istanbul, cooking huge vats of spaghetti on Naples railway station (I think we'd carted it from Bolton!) and then watching as someone accidentally spilled it all over the train track, hitching across the Bosphorus bridge on the back of a lorry full of apples, waking up on deck in the middle of the Corinth Canal, watching a green snake slither under the sleeping bag in Sicily, getting completely lost in Rome, and dropping my Dad's camera before we even got to Dover – which meant I couldn't take any photos! (I think I'd probably taken one 36 exp film to last the month!). Great trips, and I joined Butch on a couple of very different camps to the Outer Hebrides too.
Posted by Stephen Mann
I went on Butch's trek camp to Greece and Turkey in 1971. He was an extraordinary man. I was a handy linguist at Bolton School, but he put me through my paces. 4-term crash course to get Latin 'O'-level, required for Oxford then.