My song today is ‘Maggie May’. This song was co-written by Rod Stewart. It was released in 1971 and was an immediate Number 1 hit with listeners. 'Maggie May' expresses the ambivalence and contradictory emotions of a schoolboy involved in a relationship with an older woman. Rod described the story told in the song as being a true episode in his earlier life, although he changed the name of the older woman he was involved with to 'Maggie May'.
It is neither unusual nor unnatural for adolescents and young men or young women to become sexually attracted to the older and more experienced woman or man. It matters not whether they are gay or heterosexual in origin, a boy or girl will often have a crush on their teacher. I recall this as being a natural part of my own development, first as an 11-year-old boy, and later as a young man aged twenty.
My boyhood attraction did not come in the form of any female teacher at ‘St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic School’, Heckmondwike during the 1950s. For that to have happened would have certainly required some miracle. There was only one male teacher in the school, and that was the headmaster, Mr. Armitage. His sole educational task was to walk around the school all day with a cane in his hand that he would swish loudly in the air to grab the immediate attention of a few boys who had dared to whisper to each other in the corridor. The headmaster never once taught a class, and rarely needed to speak to a pupil. The mere presence of his towering body and the swishing sound of his cane as he passed by was sufficient to command the total respect of ‘every little toe rag in the school’ as he referred to us.
The remaining six schoolteachers had each been heralded into the world fifty years earlier with a smack on the bottom, accompanied by those momentous words of the midwife that no proud mother can ever forget, “It’s a girl!”. However, the midwife would have been more faithful in her description of the species she had just withdrawn from the mother giving birth, had she limited her description to what she had pulled out of the magician’s hat to the single word, “It”.
When I was a young boy at school, it was common to have read to us stories that frightened the living daylights out of us. It was common to hear mention of wolves killing grannies in their beds and wicked witches and old hags wandering the woods in many of the children’s stories told to us by our teachers. Indeed, come to think of it now, every one of the female teachers who taught at ‘St Patrick’s Roman Catholic School’ in my day was well-deserving of bearing her title, ‘Miss’ and their spinster status. Yet, while every ‘Miss’ was considered a child expert, not one had ever been married or given birth to a child, and every one of them easily brought the scary stories about old hags and witches to life with the minimum effort required. In truth, I cannot recall any female teacher in the school with whom ‘pupil infatuation’ would ever become an issue.
I will never forget the first time I entered my children’s ‘First School’ in Mirfield and set eyes upon my son’s female teachers. My first thought was, “Teachers never looked like that in my day!” Had they looked so nice, wild horses would not have dragged me into the mill to work at the age of 15 years!
I recall attending a social gathering at a club in Mirfield during the 1980s. My present company was a group of chaps who attended the same Catholic Church. As the evening went progressed, more beer was imbibed, and then came the inevitable stories, each one told being taller than the one before it. Regular attendance in the Confessional Box is known to be sufficient social lubricant to liberate the mucky mind and scandalous tongue of many a Roman Catholic who has had one drink too many on a good night out. What made the story told that evening a good one to hear, was that though we considered it to be exaggerated and false, it was a story which fitted some of the early prejudices that we would have liked to be true, just to confirm some of our worse memories of a strict childhood Roman Catholic education.
I have never been a subscriber to conspiracy theories, but on the evening in question, my own prejudices inclined a part of me to accept the truth of the tale as being much stronger than ‘suspicion’ and slightly weaker than ‘fact’, as it came from the ‘horse’s mouth’ so to speak. The person in our social gathering telling the tale was known to have previously served upon the ‘Roman Catholic School Educational Board’ which selected suitable teacher candidates and approved all the teaching posts in the Diocese. That was a fact that made it more difficult for the assembled group to know if we were being informed or deliberately misinformed and being made the butt of a tall tale!
The storyteller stated that the ‘Catholic Education Board’ which appointed all teachers to their schools in the Diocese, rarely employed a woman younger than fifty years of age. All appointed female teachers were spinsters in status and old hags in look. The reason was said to be purely pastoral and pragmatic and concerned with protecting the mind of young boys from sinful thoughts that are prone to go through their heads as they approach the age of adolescence and start having strange feelings down below which require further exploration. According to Roman Catholic scripture, such unnatural thoughts permanently stain the soul of and bring a person one step closer to the fires of hell.
I was to experience my first infatuation with an older woman of immense beauty when I was 11 years of age. It would be an experience that occurred in the hospital and not at my school. She was a nurse at Batley Hospital called ‘Sister Sykes’. I had been admitted to Batley Hospital in a critical condition after a wagon ran over me and left me at death’s door with several life-threatening injuries. I had a damaged spine, punctured lungs, a collapsed chest with all but two ribs broken, and all my four limbs were broken in many places. For three weeks, the doctors told my parents that they expected me to die, then when I did not, my parents were then informed that my spinal injury would prevent me from ever walking again.
With my condition being so serious and being nearly 12 years old, I was placed as a patient on the Men’s Ward during my nine month’s hospital stay. Because of my age and my extensive injuries, it was not unnatural for the Ward Sister and a few of the other nurses to take an added interest in my progress. However professional ‘professionals’ are supposed to remain, they are only human, and there presumably comes a time when the professional and the more personal interests of even a Ward Sister unknowingly blend. I was never aware of Sister Syke’s personal life, and my infatuation led to my imagination in fanciful flight. All I knew was that Sister Sykes was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. Whenever Sister Sykes ended her day shift, she would always come onto the Veranda (where another three patients had beds as well as me), and she would wish me good night. When Sister Sykes was on night duty, she would always tuck me in. My pain was very intensive with my extensive injuries, and there were many nights when the hurt stopped me from sleeping. On such nights, Sister Sykes would bring me a hot drink whenever she had one herself.
She was the second woman I ever loved; my mother being the first, but in a different way to the way I loved my mum. I remember thinking how unfair life is to make two people who were obviously meant for each other, be born twenty years apart. For nine months, I became determined to kiss Sister Sykes as she tucked me in nightly, and each night, I took fright as she bent down to pull my bedsheet up toward my neck and chickened out. It took me until the very last week of my hospital stay before I managed to drum up the courage to make my move. What surprised me the most was, as I launched my surprise smackeroo at her cheek, she wasn’t in the least surprised or embarrassed with the innocent advances of this 12-year-old boy. She looked at me affectionately, smiled warmly, and whispered 'Good night'. I did not know it at the time, but I sensed a note of finality in her “Good night, Billy”. That was the very last time I saw her. The night after when she did not show on the ward and I inquired as to her whereabouts, another nurse told me that Sister Sykes had obtained another nursing position at a hospital in Scotland.
For most boys prone to romancing, 'in the mind' is where infatuation starts and ends, but for some young teenagers, sexual attraction to an older woman can materialises into a real event; if not with the teacher, then with an older woman. I have known a couple of such relationships with a wide disparity of age between the couple, crash and burn immediately after emotional take off. There was one relationship I heard about that outlasted the expectations of the young man’s parents. I did not know either of the two people concerned and heard of the story one evening during the late 1980s while I was attending a weekend course in Clitheroe, Lancashire.
The relationship in question concerned a young man aged 18 years and a 32-year-old woman who earned a living teaching piano. She did her job out of a love of music as she did not need her job for the money she earned. The woman was reportedly very attractive, well-educated, comfortably off, and unattached. She had been married for a few years before an industrial injury killed her husband, leaving her a widow in her late twenties. She owned a larger than average-sized house with a big garden and extensive grounds. She could not have children; a fact that made her less satisfied as a married woman than she otherwise would have been.
The woman first met the young man in question when he was aged 14 years after he answered an advertisement for ‘gardening help’. She was 28 years old when they first met. He started attending her garden every Saturday morning, and over the following months his visits of once-weekly doubled, when he made a point of attending his gardening duties mid-week also in the summer and autumn months. The young man (who was tall and attractive and looked a few years older than his age) and the young widow gradually grew closer in their affection for each other. Apart from a few kisses, nothing sexual happened was reported to have taken place until the young man was 17 years old. When it looked like their relationship could get out of hand, the widow asked her young gardener to stop coming. She was stated to be less fearful for her own reputation, or what her gossiping neighbours might say about her, and was more concerned with the young man’s future and good name (for whom she thought a great deal).
The upshot was that the couple genuinely tried to break off the relationship but their emotional and physical attraction toward each other was too strong a bond and proved to be an impenetrable barrier to them ever remaining apart. They did not marry. Even though he wanted to, she had enough foresight to know that a future day would inevitably arrive when their disparity in age would prove too much an impediment to their continued happiness. The woman sold her large house, and the couple lived together in a new part of the country. Their relationship was said to be fruitful, loving, and lasted for a full twenty-years before amicably ending in lifelong friendship; having outlived its natural romantic shelf life.
I will never forget one woman with whom I worked when I served as a Probation Officer in Huddersfield. The woman was an attractive lady in her mid-forties, who after divorcing her husband, took on a young lover in his early twenties. When once speaking about her ‘toy-boy’, she told the group she was a member of, 'He's half my ex-husband's age, but twice as energetic. the sex is great, and afterward, he is always so grateful!” From what she told the group, he always bought her a new dress after a satisfactory love-making session. She also told us that whenever she wanted to add to her wardrobe, she would simply initiate a love-making session with her toy-boy, and still manage to get a new dress out of it.
Come to think of it, I suppose most wives or partners would be perfectly happy to change their twice-a-year love-making sessions into a five nights-a-week-regular-routine if they got a new dress bought the following morning?
Love and peace Bill xxx