BEING hurled head first into a holly bush was the baptism of fire greeting an 11-year-old on his first day at a long forgotten boarding school.

David Skentelbery was forced to fight other boys in front of a baying mob and lived in constant fear of being thrashed by the headmaster with a riding crop.

Yet despite his ordeals, he has fond memories growing up at Knutsford College.

Lockdown gave him a chance to recall the precarious pranks in a book called The No Hoper.

"Nowadays I shudder to think what modern eduction would make of it," said David, from Warrington, who studied there from 1948 until it closed six years later.

Warrington Guardian:

Woodside in 1927

"Some of them got absolutely thrashed with a riding crop by the headmaster in front of the whole school This was calculated brutality.

"I think my parents sent me there because I was extremely shy. They didn't realise the school had been compared to Dotheboys Hall, the infamous boarding school described by Charles Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby."

The college was described in the prospectus as a school for the sons of gentlemen and was opened at Woodside in 1927 by the late Percy Hope.

"The school soon knocked the shyness out of me and I thoroughly enjoyed my school days," said David. "I have tried to tell the story in an amusing 'laugh out loud' way.

"There are still quite a few of my classmates around and you'll be hard pressed to find any who are not proud to be old boys."

Former students include a champion jockey who came fourth in the Grand National, a member of one of Britain's oldest circus families, a submariner and several others with distinguished military careers.

Warrington Guardian:

Patricia and David Skentelbery celebrating their diamond wedding in Looe

David cut his teeth as a cub reporter on the Knutsford Guardian and wrote for several other titles before becoming a freelance in 1968.

Now 84, he still works part time with son Gary, 57, at his Warrington news agency Orbit News.

"I'm not thinking of packing it in yet," said David, who recently celebrated his diamond wedding with wife Trica, two granddaughters and one great granddaughter.

The No Hoper is available from Amazon priced £5.99.