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About the Author

Mark A Peaty


 
 

This Page:

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Intro.

On each page of this site,the Star: Navigate page will take you to the respective "This Page" list.

 Some Personal History  

My family   [photos -
links to another page..]

 Why I am doing this  

 

 I used to be a Christian  

 

 So why did I cease to be a Christian?  

 

 What makes me tick?  

  Work in progress.  
   
   

 Footnotes 

 

 

Intro Navigate page

This web site is about ideas "whose time has come". For me it is the ideas that are important, it is the ideas which may live for ever [so to speak] whereas I and everybody I know will pass away. 

The stuff on these pages is part of my contribution to the common good. I hope it adds at least a little to the wealth of human knowledge,  if nothing else then at least something for those who come after to sink their sceptical teeth into. 

John Iser, who visited my pages a couple of years ago, told me to add some stuff about myself. 
[John seems to have disappeared in the meantime,  is there something I should know?]

I'm happy to oblige if it will reassure some folks that I don't have two heads and perhaps encourage you to have a second look at what I am actually saying. 

 Click here to view my domestic circus

 


Some Personal History Navigate this page

So........I was born in 1951 in Llandrindod Wells, a little town in the middle of Wales [part of the UK]. 'Landod' as we kids called it was, for most of the time anyway, a wonderful place for a little kid to grow up in. It had fields all around, tree filled parks with streams to fall into, derelict buildings and old quarries to explore, and a small school [the National School] with teachers who really seemed to care about us - they certainly didn't put up with any crap from us! But Wales can be very cold, cloudy, windy and wet which is probably a real hassle for parents with young kids. We left there, lived a few years in a few different places just over the border in England then migrated to Western Australia. By that time I had two brothers and three sisters and we sort of all got along with each other. But that is another story. Let's just say that we would all have been better off in the new country if someone had explained to us about culture shock..... 

Still, Australia is a wonderful country - a land of quite amazing opportunities for so many people. As long as we tolerate all our differences - criminal tendencies excepted - we have a really good thing going in this country. As long as we don't mess up the ecology too much more and we plant a couple of billion trees to replace the ones we have chopped out, get rid of the rabbits and feral cats before they evolve any further, things should be good for a long time to come. 
Compared to Wales and the west of England, the weather here is wonderful most of the time: in the south the summers are hot and dry and the winters are cool and wet. [In the tropical north of course things are very different. I suspect that ultimately much of the north will be abandoned to the cane toads as they spread out from north Queensland on their path to world domination :-] 

White people living in Australia have to be careful about the sun of course.  Hind-sight is a wonderful teacher. 
My elder brother Tristan died 11 June1996 from a melanoma. This may have wandered from somewhere on his skin [but they never found the spot] and lodged in the corpus callosum of his brain. On the other hand a skin specialist has told me that  there are melanocytes - black pigment cells - in the brain itself and it may have been one of these which ran amok. Surgery, radiation and chemicals failed to remove the cancer completely but did add a few months to his life. I sadly regret not making more time and effort to keep in contact with him whilst he was alive.

My mother Margaret Vera Peaty [nee Allen] died 14 October 2001. As you might expect this affected me greatly. She died of congestive heart failure

 

I have "been around" a fair bit, and have lived in Sydney, Canberra and Taipei, [Taiwan]. I currently live in Bayswater, a suburb of Perth the state capital of Western Australia, with my wife and four children.

 

Who knows what it was really like in families years ago - the so called "good old days" [also known as "these hard times"]. Maybe having relatives nearby or living-in may have made it easier for mothers to look after small children. I tend to think the effort of caring for little children has always been exhausting. For us in our little circus it certainly seems so. Still, the compensation is the fascination and wonder of getting to know a new little person. And there is nothing like a nappy full of pooh for bringing one's philosophy back to Earth! 


   

Why I am doing this Navigate page

All my life I have asked "Why?" about things. [OK, so it is an obsession] This annoyed the hell out of many of my teachers and quite often filled my parents with mixed feelings. [Many of the hierarchs in the government office I work for do not like this question either it seems....I wonder why?...] 

It may be a mixed blessing, but I believe that the times we live in now are unlike any previous era because many of my "Why" type questions are now being answered by scientific workers around the world. 
Questions like: "What happens when you die?", "What is the difference between people and animals?", "How does XYZ [you name it] work?" are all being transformed from ineffable mysteries known only to G/god/s and angels into puzzles that tease the curious and succumb to the determined.

I do not believe that this is hubris, rather it is an inevitable trend that has been implicit in human culture since culture first evolved but only in recent history has it accelerated to the stunning pace we now see. 

As I hope I will make clear in other pages of my site, I do not believe that science answers all questions, far from it, but modern scientific method does provide us with the best means for satisfying practical questions of fact about the world we live in. This then provides us with the firmest possible footing for tackling the deeper questions of how we can all live together on this planet without destroying ourselves and all the rest of our fellow species. These are questions of ethics, politics, personal and group psychology; questions about the meaning, purpose and value of what we do and how we define ourselves.

I could, like so many others, just say "Aw Stuff it! It's too hard, and nobody else seems to care, and what can one person do anyway." But my children ask me questions and they so obviously love life. They are the future, and like us "oldies" before them, they want to make something of their lives. They deserve clear answers to their questions and I owe it to them, and to myself, to be as clear, honest and accurate as possible in how I describe things. 

Putting one's thoughts in writing is one of the best ways of sorting out exactly what one thinks and seeing if it makes sense. Getting feedback from others about it is even better. 
You can help me in this by considering what I have written and setting me straight if you think any of it is wrong.

This task will never really be finished I think but, as I have only just started, it probably looks much rougher than than you would like. If you have any ideas about improvements in style, please let me know

At the end of it all however, it is the ideas that count, are they true or false, relevant or irrelevant?

 

 


 

I used to be a Christian. Navigate page

I say "used to be" because most of the mainstream Christian believers I have known would not be particularly happy with the ideas I have now adopted. So be it. What concerns me now is to understand correctly the nature of the remarkable event that caused me, at the tender age of about 27 years, to become a Christian. Prior to this event I was rather emphatically against "religion" in general and was singularly unimpressed with what I thought to be Christianity. So what took place?

It happen that one day, in the springtime, I was sitting in the refectory of the Student Union Building of the Australian National University in Canberra drinking coffee, reading a secondhand newspaper and spying on various pretty women sitting at other tables. A fellow named David B., with whom I had a passing acquaintance, came and sat down with me. I new him to be a Christian but this did not particularly interest me, in fact it rather prejudiced me against him because I thought at the time that to hold such beliefs was a sign of a certain lack of intelligence. We fell to talking and he expounded a little on what appeared to be his two favourite topics: Christianity ("What Jesus means to me"), and the benefits of buying and/or selling Amway products which could only be obtained from direct-selling distributors. I attempted to turn the conversation around to my particular obsession which at that time was the teachings of George Gurdjieff. At a certain stage he said:

"You know, you should try asking Jesus Christ into your heart!"

"Yeah, eh, oh well yeah, I guess I might think about that some time." I replied, not in the least intending to take this line of thought any further. But he persisted:

"You know, you could do it now! It's simple, won't take a moment!" (Or words to this effect). I did not want to but I vacillated. On one hand I just wanted him to go away, on the other I was also curious. So I said:

"Ok." Yet not with any enthusiasm. He got really enthusiastic however, and advised me to shut my eyes and ask Jesus Christ ("by name!") into my heart and into my life, whilst he said a prayer also! So, muttering to myself about "trying anything once", I did as he asked. 

What happened next, as I sat there with my eyes shut feeling very embarrassed, was that I became aware of a pulsating glow deep in my bowels. No, it was not inflammation or flaming flatulence! With my eyes very firmly closed I "saw" this flickering light rise up inside to about the level of my heart then burst into an amazing brightness which quickly spread throughout my whole body. A feeling of wonderful relaxation and tranquillity accompanied this "explosion" whilst at the same time I seemed to be seeing my tense and embarrassed body from the inside. When I started peeking out from under half closed eyelids the world looked strikingly clear and bright, sounds were sharp and immediate. I noticed that all the other people sitting around eating and talking seemed to have 'worried' expressions on their faces[1]. In subtle coincidence, at this very moment, a nun walked through my line of sight and the polished metal crucifix she wore "flashed" at me. 

David spoke: "Well, did you ask him?"

"Eh, yeah." 

"And did anything happen?" - he continued.

"Eh, yeah."

"Oh, Praise the Lord!" he said with tremendous enthusiasm. 

Oh, shit! I thought, Does this mean I have to become a Christian? The last thing I wanted right then was for him to interrupt the experience. But he went on about usually having a little pamphlet with him which explained what had just taken place, but today he did not and therefore could we arrange to meet, same place, same time, tomorrow? (or something like that). I agreed, as much as anything to get him to go away, but also because I knew intuitively that this was something much bigger than I had ever experienced before and maybe he could tell me something about it! (My "intellectual superiority", over "some dumb Christian" like David, had received a sharp rebuke!.) 

Eventually he went off to a lecture and I could be alone with myself. The experience was so powerful and the effects so persistent that, as I told everyone I met from then on, "I knew intuitively that God had touched me." It was beautiful, and different in quality from the many legal, and illegal states of consciousness I had experienced before. As I told people also at the time, it was something which must, in principle, be accessible to anybody. The only trouble was, nothing in what I had gleaned from the teachings of George Gurdjieff, or from anybody else for that matter, enabled me to adequately explain it. As the days went by, I found myself able to read and understand the "Religion" section of the Canberra Times. So also the New Testament of the Christian Bible which, until then, had been a closed book to me. Nobody I spoke to came forward with an explanation that came anywhere near the nitty-gritty of this experience. I was thus left with only the Charismatic Christian explanation of events which I perforce decided to go along with, particularly as it really did happen when I "asked Jesus Christ into my life". Some very sceptical science student friends were prone to making generalised assertions about illusions and gullibility but, for example, I never once heard the words "transference" or "projection" used. Click here for my explanation of what happened. 

Other, more "New Age", friends were very dismayed (although nobody was overtly hostile) as I drifted into a mainstream Christian world view and discovered just how common "believers" are. The long term result was that I began attending churches where the people were of a "Charismatic" persuasion, where spiritual things were expected to happen, and continued this practice, on and off, for the next ten years. Eventually I became dissatisfied with much of Christian doctrine and the practices of fundamentalist preachers in particular. I discovered answers to many of the questions I had always asked since I was a lad, in large measure as a result of research for the book I was writing which has developed into this web site. The kind of questions I have always asked are just the obvious questions which occur to children everywhere: what is the difference between people and animals?; what happens when you die? why is the sky blue? how do brains work? is God real or not?

So why did I cease to be a Christian? Navigate page

My "faith" waxed and waned over the years, as it does with every believer. In 1986 during a period of enthusiasm, I thought about writing a book to explain to 'scientific types' what was so good about Christianity. I was particularly interested to explain about spiritual experiences. After some thought I decided to find out a bit about what science said about how brains worked so I could talk sensibly on the subject [eh, so to speak Did I bite off more than I could chew or what!]. I had always been interested in science but never considered it as a career because I believed I was no good at maths. In casting around for a source of information I came across Scientific American magazine and became enthralled in the vast array of new things being discovered about the world. I have bought a copy of every issue since then. 

I guess I should mention that my particular self-inflicted mental straight jacket was loosened also by reading [most of] On Being A Christian by Hans Kung. [ 2]

Anyway, after finding interesting articles about brains, memory, vision and so forth I started looking for books on the subject of 'how brains work' at my local library and discovered readable offerings by  J P Changeux, Gerald Edelman, Vernon Mountcastle, A Luria, Michael Gazzaniga, Jonathon Winson and then Susan Blackmore. I also discovered ABC Radio National's Science Show on every Saturday afternoon. All of this caused me to realise that brain, mind, consciousness, emotion and behaviour were all being described in ever clearer detail and at an ever accelerating pace. Furthermore the Darwinian explanation of the origins and evolution of life and human behaviour made ever better sense!

To cut a long story short: the last straw for me was when I sat through a 'sermon' by a Pastor named Philip Baker at Rhema Family Church [name now to changed to "Riverside" or some such due to the terrible reputation the place got on account of the overseas activities of one of its missionaries and for some other things] in Perth , Western Australia during which he purported to explain why wings could not have evolved, therefore birds shouldn't be able to fly. His argument was obviously flawed and his delivery of it was basically a theatrical performance to make the crowd laugh. He triviallised and ridiculed a 'straw man' concept ["imagine a chook with just half a wing"] and showed absolutely no grasp whatsoever of the fact that there are hundreds of very diverse animal species living in forests around the world which all make do with less than 'half a wing' when making controlled jumps and glides from tree to tree. Given that he was [and may still be] regarded as a bit of an intellectual by the Charismatic fraternity in Western Australia I realised just how much his teaching - and that of his ilk - required and fostered ignorance in those congregations. 

It was this and similar experiences that led me to understand just how unethical are the teachings of such religious leaders who shepherd their 'flocks' away from the paths of independent thought. In this day and age where we are surrounded by the fruits of the amazing power of sceptical thought and scientific method it is not just 'misguided' to tell others to ignore science, it is thoroughly BAD, very wrong, and quite wicked! This web site grew out of the book that was never finished. 

For me not to continue with this project, would be to allow silence on my part to be construed as agreement, on the one hand, with the foolishness of fundamental Christians, Moslems, Jews, Hindus, etc. and, on the other hand, with the self-serving lies of the bourgeois [laissez faire] capitalists and their 'economic rationalist' camp followers. Navigate this page

 


 

 What makes me tick?  Navigate this page

By and large, few people have been moved to wonder what makes me tick. I could be wrong about that but if so most of them have kept it to themselves. My wife Glenda is the main exception and she is a very perceptive person - amongst many wonderful attributes [amazing patience and long suffering being high on the list] - so I do have some idea of how I come across. Glenda's extreme loyalty, understanding, and tolerance of my foibles has allowed me an easier time of it these last 20 years than I really deserved and her insights have allowed me to change and grow in a relatively painless manner.

Like many people though, the main force behind me reviewing my life, its meaning and direction is the awareness of death. So called 'mid life crisis' is basically what happens as the realisation of one's mortality confronts the illusions in one's dreams and aspirations. It is not wrong to dream and hope, quite the opposite, but the paradoxical nature of our experience impells us to deny death in the same way it impells us to believe that our consciousness is simple, direct contact with the world rather than what it is like to be a constructed representation. [Or, to be more exact, the process of updating the representation.] In so far as attachment to dreams and aspirations will always involve attachment to at least some things which cannot be, 'mid life crisis' is not something which stops, it just evolves. The growth entailed in surviving one's mid life crisis - whether one is growing older gracefully or not - is precisely the recognition of what is illusory in one's life and the letting go of it; A kind of self pruning. The pain of it is the emotional resistance - fear and anger - at the loss, and the very mixed emotions that go with radical change to one's self image.

But where am I coming from and why do I believe that the things I have written on the pages of this site are things that absolutely must be said?

Well, my early life was framed by a mix of periods of chronic emotional insecurity but relative immunity from poverty. As kids, we always had enough to eat, a roof over our heads, sensible clothing and shoes on our feet, the modern wonders of piped clean water, electric power, access to medical aid, publically funded schooling, and shops that always had things we needed at prices our parents could afford - well pretty much the latter anyway. Our family was not poor financially but not terribly rich either.

The emotional insecurity came largely from the number of times we moved house. The first couple of moves were no particular problem because each time was to a bigger house closer to the centre of the little town of Llandrindod Wells which, as I mentioned above, was a relatively good place for kids to grow up. But then we moved to a new town and I lost all my friends. Bayston Hill, outside the town of Shrewsbury, was a new suburb and the teacher of my class was an ex military sadist named Booth who had zero people skills, who took great delight in caning people smaller than himself, and whose preferred teaching technique was the supercilious put down, so life there was not much fun and I was on the verge of nervous breakdown for much of the time - school days anyway. Nine months later we moved to a little villiage in Herefordshire called Bodenham. The school had just three classrooms, and my teacher Mr Dance who was the head master was a very caring, patient and fair man who loved the kids he taught. It was pretty much idyllic in comparison with the bullying bastardry of Mr Booth of Bayston Hill.

Two years at that school, then a year at a 'Grammar School' in the nearest big town of Leominster. Then we moved again to the local city of Hereford, noted for having a mediaeval map of the world hanging on a wall in the cathedral which gave the place its city status [although it is only the name of Hereford cattle which rings any mental bells outside England]. Two and a half years at Hereford High School for Boys and then it was off to Australia.

We arrived in Western Australia in 1967 and I started at Armadale Senior High School.  As my sister Ella said one day in recounting her memories of the place: "What more can you say about a place designed around a toilet block?"  Hmmmm. Maybe I can think of some good things to say about it later, but I am working on a page about home education which is far more worth while, so let's not hold our breaths, OK.

Suffice to say that in my school years I formed then totally lost four sets of friends and neighbours. This might not sound like a great suffering and of course, in comparison to the dislocations and injustices inflicted on many people around the world, it is probably nothing at all but it left me with no feeling of belonging to any community. Combined with my basic introversion it contributed to me having great difficulty forming lasting friendships. It contributed significantly to me feeling like an outsider and tending to identify with outsiders and underdogs.

 Other themes and influences.

 'Safety First' and sister Sue's near drowning.

I seem to remember that in primary school first in Wales and then in England, the phrase "Safety First!" was drummed into us on a fairly regular basis. There were signs and posters for the concept with all sorts of illustrations of how to avoid dangers of various sorts, by storing furniture out of people's pathways, looking carefully before crossing the road, keeping electrical appliances away from water, not playing with matches, and all that sort of thing. It all seemed pretty reasonable as far as I can remember. I know the phrase is still used in some places around the world because when I was in Singapore years ago I saw 'An Quan Di Yi' in characters on the back of a municipal truck. I have seen the same characters on mini mechanical trench diggers also which makes me think that maybe they use the same phrase in Japan as well.

Be that as it may,when I was about 11 years old we lived in a big house called Bowley Court near the village of Bodenham in Herefordshire, England. One of my chores was to mow the lawns using a big old reel mower. The first one of these was a bloody great single cylinder four stroke monstrosity which I could only operate by pushing up on the handles from underneath so that it didn't fall back on me as it accelerated forwards. I think it was that machine that I had been using on the day in question. I had just finished mowing the lawns on the west side of the house and I trundled the machine across the flagstones and parked it in a large alcove under one end of the house. This last procedure would have been particularly deafening because of clattering a heavy metal machine over flagstones into an echoey stone alcove. I couldn't have heard anything else.

With the machine parked and switched off, I wandered down a path to the fish pond set in - what should have been anyway - a formal garden. I looked down at the water and saw something floating there. At first I thought it was my sister Elaine's [now 'Ella's'] little pup tent in its bag. Then I realised that it was in fact my baby sister Suzanne floating face downward in the water, not moving. She must have toddled there and fallen in face first. Part of my mind froze I think, but enough kept working so that I thought to lift her out. At some point in the process I remembered seeing on TV - black and white 'Telly' as we called it - a demonstrating of mouth to mouth resuscitation. This became my focus of thought and I held her up by the legs to let any water run out of her lungs - I wasn't too clear on how I would know if enough came out though. Then I lay her on her back and started breathing into her mouth. She seemed to make a sort of sighing sound each time I let the air come out. What would have happened from then on if help had not arrived I don't know.

Luckily however my mother arived back from a shopping expedition just then. I think she had been down to a shopping enclave near the village about a mile away. Maybe there were others of my siblings with her in the van, and the rest were somewhere in the house with the helper girl. My mother nearly got herself runover by leaving the hand brake off in her haste as she ran around in front of the van. But anyway she took charge of operations from then on and they all between them managed to do the more traditional [then anyway] form of artificial respiration as it was called, which involved alternately pressing the chest then pulling the arms back, and somebody called an ambulance.

Sue survived. She spent about three weeks in a coma in Hereford hospital I believe but all in all does not appear to have suffered significant damage to her brain or other body parts. [NB: Bob Cook reckons that the fact that she and her family moved to Tasmania some 10 years or so ago is indication that there was some damage. But he is very biased. He reckons most Tasmanians have a scar where the second head was removed.] After the incident my picture appeared on page one of the Hereford Times with a story of the incident. I remember our cat intruding itself into the photo and me being a bit pissed off with that later because I didn't like cats then and still don't really. I think I suffered a delayed shock from the experience because within a few days I came down with a dose of pleurisy.

 I believe that experience had a profound effect on me even if I didn't acknowledge it then or much later, but it has made me very safety conscious and very aware of potential dangers inherent in the practical layout of places and the way things are stored and handled. My father thinks I am far too cautious in the things I do but I tend to think that his treatment of me as a child, coupled with my own reaction to sister Sue's near death experience, had a major effect of making me cautious.

 Post WW2 and the shadow of the Bomb.

 

 Mensa and the myth of intelligence.

 

to be continued .....

See also  My Diary  


 


 

 

 Footnotes Navigate this page

 

1

Given that this was the period leading up to end of year exams, students had a right, possibly a duty, to be worried. At the time however I "intuitively" construed their comparatively worried looks as their natural state which was obviously not so enjoyable as my state of grace at that time. Which interpretation is correct? The intuitive one I think. I can't prove it of course.

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2

As the Christian world goes Hans Kung is a liberal and therefore anathema to charismatic types - I mean he encourages people to think, for heaven's sake! By comparison, most stuff offered in the book shops of the charismatic churches I went to was an incredibly superficial mixture of candy floss and screwed down dogmatism. Why did my wife and I stick with these charismatic types? Because there seemed to be some life in them! The few "liberal" churches we went to - generally Anglican - seemed wooly and lifeless; clubs for the well meaning middle class. The non-charismatic "Evangelical" churches had the screwed down dogma but not the spark of real life. As my wife puts it: "Why go to some place each week just to be depressed?" 

Question: What do people get out of such things? 

Answer: A stable mental model. Remember "Reality is what it is like to be the most stable mental model." The model does not have to be "all true facts", just plausible and stable.

One should not underestimate the importance of such stability however. I suspect that one of the most powerful impulses driving the need for religion of any sort is the awful fact of infant mortality. It is only recently in human history that it has ceased to be normal for about half of all children born to die before the age of six. And this is so in certain parts of the world only. The next footnote talks about the powerful instincts of the child, but these are matched by powerful instincts within the mother also: to do all and give all to ensure the survival of the child. The loss of an offspring would be hard enough to bear if only animal emotion and physiological adaptation [hormones and so forth] were involved but ever since hominids began to think about why things happen, human mothers have had to cope with a far greater depth of grief and somehow assign meaning to what has happened. Of course men grieve also but nature has designed it that mothers invest far more of their being into their children so for them it is just that much harder to lose a child.

[NB: Alt + Left arrow or click the "Back" button]

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3

Briefly the theory goes as follows.  All normal children are born with an instinct, [i.e. a hard wired set of neuronal networks] which identifies and imprints onto the "mother".  "Mummy" is the feeder, provider, saviour and protector;  mummy is all.  The infant's mind does not distinguish between mummy and self. Fortunately for most children the normal mother's brain includes hard wiring that prompts behaviour adequate to fulfill this expectation.

The mother may not always see herself as achieving this however so, as my wife says: "Motherhood is a guilt inducing experience!"  Did I bite off more than I could chew or what!  

As the child's brain develops and the social self model is constructed, so also the mummy-saviour/protector image generalizes ["transfers"] to other persons and things such as cultural symbols which either plainly exhibit or are described as possessing the attributes of saviour/protector. I see this transference as the origin of God, gods, totems, and so forth.  Most of this happens at an age too early for sustained critical questioning hence it becomes deeply ingrained "second nature".  If our hard wired instincts form the foundation of the psyche, the set of people and things/symbols which take on this saviour protector role are the anchors that keep everything else [all the other memes] in place.

What happened to me was a shift in my self-in-the-world model, a real paradigm shift. It was definitely a regression in terms of transference. It was a shift  away from reliance on the constructs [or memes] of "science", left wing philosophy, "new age awareness" and counter culture life style - which were not sustaining me emotionally and mentally at the time - back to a more naive, primitive and far more relaxed state which characterised my early life. I had never been a "for real" believing Christian before but had absorbed all the parts of the Christian story during childhood. My youthful scepticism and lack of parental pressure had ensured I never got "converted".  By the time I met David B. who I mention as popping the "Jesus" question to me, I think I was in a primed state, i.e. was receptive at an unconscious level, because I had been studying for some time the teachings of George Gurdjieff a middle eastern teacher of "esoteric" Christianity. Back to main story
 

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 4

Not to be confused with the Council School, an infamous place and breeding ground for ruffians. The Council School was down the hill from the railway station whereas the National Shool was on the up hill side of the railway line, not far from the signal box and level crossing at the north end of town.

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