by Stephen Wass

For information about performing this play please contact

This was written to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the foundation of St. Mary's C.E. School, Banbury as a bluecoat charity school in 1705 and performed in St. Mary's Church as part of our Christmas celebrations

Notes: Each of these scenes was adapted as each class teacher saw fit, however, there were some points which drew the whole thing together that everyone needed to be aware of, particularly the links from scene to another through a child character becoming an adult.
Although there were comparatively few speaking parts every scene had two or three instances where a group of children had to respond to events going on around them, this enabled everyone to join in.
We used the ‘Over the Hills and Far Away ‘ number all the way through to fill scene changes as well as the folk song: ‘As I was going to Banbury’, there were also one or two traditional carols in scene 6, otherwise additional musical elements were introduced as staff saw fit.
Sets and costumes were minimal, effects were achieved by lighting and oblongs of blue cloth were used as costumes and props over normal school uniform. Each scene had one or two adult parts in it which were costumed,


Now Light One Thousand Christmas Lights

[It is the night of the class sleepover. Everyone comes in carrying their blue cloth ‘bedding’.]

Teacher; So, welcome to our end of SATs sleepover, we’ve got lots of fun and games planned and loads of cool food and I want you all to be particularly nice to Tom and Polly as this is their first week here at St. Mary’s. Now we’ll start with pass the parcel.

[The children beckon Tom and Polly to join in but turn away. Everyone plays ‘pass the parcel’. The music stops.]

Lewis: Wow! That’s amazing. I’ve won and I never win anything.

[Tom and Polly go to the front of the stage and talk to each other, everyone else carries on chatting quietly.]

Tom:  This is so boring Polly. I wish we’d never moved from London. I mean Banbury! Nothing exciting ever happens here. Look at this old place, it’s a dump, this classroom it’s ancient and the headteacher, he’s even older!

Polly: I know what you mean, everyone is so…

Tom: Dull, dull, dull, and there’s everything else!

Polly: Tom, what do you mean by ‘everything else’?

Tom: Well it’s strange but I….

Teacher: Tom, Polly come over here quickly please. We need to decide what to do next.

Sam: Can we go outside for a bit?

Teacher: Well let’s see. Put your hand up if you want to go outside.

[Most children do, a few stay behind.]

Megan: I’m not going out. It’s 11 o’clock and it’s cold and it’s dark.

Polly: You’re scared of the dark aren’t you? Megan is scared of the dark.

Peter: Leave her alone, I don’t see you rushing out.

Polly: Well… I er….. don’t want to get my shoes dirty.

Tom: I don’t know which is worse going outside or staying in here.

Polly: So what did you mean about everything else?

Tom: I don’t know, all this old stuff, it feels weird.

[The teacher re-enters with the other children.]

Teacher: Well that’s enough excitement for one evening, this is where the ‘sleep’ bit of the sleepover begins. You all need to settle down.

Tom: This is just great, why did we come? This place is just a total waste of space.

Polly: Come on it’s not been that ….

[Everyone is getting ready to tuck themselves up when suddenly
all the lights go out]

What’s happened, all the lights have gone out!

Tom: [Nervously] It’s probably a power cut or something.

[The others all quietly leave]

Polly: What’s going on? Where is everyone?

Tom: It’s a kind of practical joke, they’re winding us up. Just wait till I get….

[Two blue coated figures drift into sight. There words are spoken by hidden actors using a microphone and they reverberate eerily around the church.]

Bluecoat Girl: [As if talking to herself] The Banbury Bluecoat Foundation began in 1705 as a charity for the education of poor children. It’s first home was in a room above the gaol in Banbury Market place which had places for…
[She breaks off noticing Tom and Polly for the first time]

Ah, I haven’t seen you before, you must be new.

[A bluecoat boy appears behind her]

Polly: Who… who.. are you?

Tom: It’s trick they….

Bluecoat Boy: Three hundred years ago, a long time back but I think we can stretch a point for you two.

Tom: What do you mean?

Bluecoat Boy: Banbury, a cold morning in February 1702. and a school is born.

Come they told Me

Scene 1 – A School is Born 1705

[In the darkness the next group of children creep on to the stage and lie down under their clothes. A cold blue light slowly strengthens then an adult’s voice calls out]

Adult [Off stage ]: Come on, come on, it’s five o’clock. Bestir yourseln.   Time and tide wait for no man or boy or girl and you’ll be sent home again if you’re late. Then how will we make ends meet? Come on, get up! On the instant!!

[The figures slowly and reluctantly come out from beneath their clothes and mime their various routines for the start of the day: rubbing their eyes, stretching, scratching. They ‘dress’ with much moaning and groaning by wrapping their clothes around themselves then trudge reluctantly here and there as if on their way to work. A respectably dressed man and woman walk across the stage talking together.]

 Mr. North: Well Mrs. Metcalf, a cold brisk February morning and no mistake.

Mrs. Metcalf: It is indeed a chill morning Mr. North and here are all these young folk dawdling on their way to work as if it held no joy for them.

Mr. North: Well little joy enough ma’am. These are children of the poorer sort who must needs attend to a menial type of work for they have few prospects.

Mrs. Metcalf: Few prospects indeed sir, see how their faces are pinched with misery. What kind of work do they do?

Mr. North: Let us see ma’am. You boy where are you off to?

Edgar: [Knuckling his forehead] To the tanyard may it please your worship.

Mrs. Melcalf: That noisome place, why it smells worse than a stable.

Edgar: That’ll be the pee your ladyship, we uses it for..

Mr. North: Yes, yes, yes, that’s enough, on your way boy.

Mrs. Metcalf: Let’s ask those two girls over there. [Beckoning] Come here my dears. [The girls drop a curtsey]
You are going to work I take it?

Patience: yes ma’am, my sister and I works out Neithrop way at Mr. Bucket’s farm, we’m pulling turnips today, yesterday twere carrots.

Mrs. Metcalf: Hard work for one so young. And you get paid for this?

[The girls eye each other]

Sophiae: A little ma’am, a very little.

Mrs, Metcalf: Well here’s a penny for you, take it and go now or you will be sure to be late and you don’t want that.

Sophia:  Yes ma’am

[They snatch at the penny and run off. By now all the other children are sat at the back and side of the stage occupied quietly in different kinds of work]

Are there no better jobs for them?

Mr. North: It is a sad fact ma’am that these poor children lacking any education at all must occupy themselves with the least rewarding jobs in town, and they are the lucky ones, they have work to go to, not like these vagabonds. Look to your purse Madam for there are beggars about.

[A group of 5 or 6 childen run on darting here are there and eventually making a ring round the two adults. As they circle them they call out for money.]

Mrs. Metcalf: Children, children, stop it, you are making my head spin, stop it now!

[The children stop circling and wait expectantly with their hands our.]

Mr. North: this will never do, have you no work to go to?

Will Weaver: We got no work, no homes neither.

Mrs. Metcalf: No homes! What’s your name boy? Where’s your family?

Will Weaver; Will’m ma’am. Aint got no family. My ma and pa were’m weavers but first ma took sick and died and last candlemas my pa died too.

Mrs. Metcalf: Where did you live?

Will Weaver: Don’t know ma’am.

Mrs.Metcalf: Have you no other family?

Will Weaver: Don’t know ma’am.

Mr. North: [Impatiently]  Don’t you know anything?

Will Weaver: Don’t know sir.

Mr. North [Throwing his hands in the air] I give up!

Mrs. Metcalf: [Kindly] What is your family name Will?

Will Weaver: Don’t know ma’am.

Mrs. Metcalf : Well, I shall call you Will Weaver. I cannot believe that you are so lacking in learning.

Nan: Please ma’am, my name’s Nan. I know my letters, I can spell.

Mrs. Metcalf: Well, let us see. ‘Thorough’ is quite a hard word, can you spell it?

Nan: Oh that’s easy… i, t.

Mrs. Metcalf: No, that’s not what I meant

John: Ask me something, ask me!

Mr. North: Can you say your ABC?

John: That’s easy, ‘your hay bee sea’. What you want me to say that for?

Mr. North: This is hopeless, can any of you figure with your numbers?

Young lady [Turning to Kate]

If I ate 3 apples then 4 apples more what would I have?

Kate: [Laughing] You’d have a gurt big  belly ache sir!

Mrs. Metcalf: Mr. North, I have just been struck by a terrible thought, could it be that these young souls are ignorant of the gospel and God’s saving grace?

Mr. North: I fear it may be so. Let us try. William, who pulled down the walls of Jericho?

Will Weaver: It weren’t me sir, I promise

Mr. North: We will essay something a little easier. [Turning to Kate] Do you know who Jesus Christ is my girl?

Nan: No sir, but my mum must know for she’s always calling out his name

Mr. North: [turning away exasperated ]
This is useless, I have never met a more ignorant bunch of children in my life.

Nan: Your pardon sir.

Mrs. Metcalf: Sir pray do not distract yourself. It is plain what these children need, they need to go to school.

[Everyone freezes including those round the outside of the stage who have been ‘working’. After a few seconds thoughtful silence everyone bustles around lining up benches and then sitting on them.]

Jack [Elbowing Will] So what’s this all about then?

Will: We’re in school, it’s like… it’s like… it’s like we’re having a meeting

Jack:  School, I thought this was the prison.

Will: No that’s downstairs, hush someone’s coming.

[The children who have been growing more excited suddenly fall silent. The master enters. They all scramble to their feet]

Master: [Grandly] Please be seated. As you may know for the past three years the good people of Banbury have been collecting money to set up this school to educate the poor children of this town. [The children look blankly at each other] By that I mean you! Now your best attention please and I shall read the rules.
[He reads the rules, the pupils look stunned.]

Jack: I think prison might be better….

[Lights out, all exit]

Polly: So that’s how the school started. I couldn’t believe, going out to work, some of those kids were only seven or eight.

Bluecoat Girl: Remember those were the lucky ones, the poorest families had nothing.

Tom: I don’t know, work sounds pretty good to me

Bluecoat Boy: Working can be difficult and dangerous, see what happened to William castle on a cold winter’s morning in 1789!

In the Bleak Mid-winter

Scene 2, Coal and Canal

[The children have swapped places and now a new group shelter under the clothes]

Adult [Off stage]: Time to get up, time to get up, school starts at 8.00. Get yourselves washed and on your way. What do you mean the water’s frozen? Break the ice and have your wash then of to school.

[ The children rise reluctantly, this time because of the cold. They wash, wrap themselves up warmly and set off to school to huddle together on the benches for warmth.]

Richard: We don’t have no coal left so I were out gathering firewood on Sunday, even though minister says it’s a sin.

Jenny: It’s a bigger sin to freeze to death, I’ve never known a winter so cold or one that’s gone on into March like this.

Richard: My dad says there’s no coal left in the coal shed and even if he had the money he’s not paying them prices for coal.

Jenny: Old Will Weaver is a decent enough sort but he can’t give coal away. He’s a merchant he has to pay the going rate whatever it is.

Richard: Hey, I bet these old benches ‘oud burn well enough, let’s take un home….

Jenny: Perhaps after school I’ll go round and see old Mr. Weaver. Mam’s at her wit’s end and little Toby he do cough so in the cold….

Jess: What are you two talking about? Someone needs to put more coal on the fire its freezing in here.

Jenny: Teacher says there’s not enough coal to go round, we’ve got to share it. She says that with everything coming by road and the roads so mired and muddy it takes an age to get here. That’s why there’s not enough…

Richard: [Joking] We’ll have to burn the master’s chair next.

Jess: Well that wouldn’t be a bad idea…

Richard: Look out here he comes!

[Everyone rises to their feet and then quietly walk of to the side of the stage. Jenny walks round then goes to ‘knock’ at Mr. Weaver’s gate.]

Mr. Weaver [bustling in]: Who’s there? Who’s there? Oh it’s you little Miss Jordan. Well Jenny my girl. What can I do for you?

Jenny:  Please sir, can you spare us a little something, mam can’t get out what with Toby being taken so poorly like. I have a farthing or two.

Mr. Weaver: Bless you girl. We must all do what we can for each other. That was one of the lessons I learned when they put me in that Bluecoat school all those years ago. I’ll tell you what, the yard’s nearly empty now but if you take a bucket and scrat around the back I’m sure you find a few shovels full of slack to keep you going till next week.

Jenny: Why sir, what happens next week?

Mr. Weaver: haven’t you heard, the new canal’s opening, down by the old mill.

Jenny: I saw all them mem a digging down there, what they doing?

Mr. Weaver: Like I says, it’s a canal, a water way, boats ‘ll come all the way from Birmingham and you know what that means?

Jenny: People speaking with funny voices?

Mr. Weaver: No, coal, cheap coal, four pence hapeny a hundred weight. Be there at the opening, it’ll be a grand day….

[They drift of to the side while children rush about in great excitement and string bunting up before lining up on the edge of the stage looking expectantly to the right.]

Jess: That Lewis Tooley said he was going to hide on one of them boats but he’d get caught he would.

Richard: he’s daft enough to do it too!

Jenny: Come on Toby, it’s too cold to sit around at home. Let’s walk down by the canal and see what’s happening.

[They join the others trying to see what’s going on.]

Richard: Can you see anything yet?

Arthur: I think there’s something coming round the bend, it looks like…

William Castle: [Importantly] Move back there, move back I say, make room, make room.]

Arthur: Oh it’s you William. What’s one of the Castle family doing out this early?

William Castle: I’ve got a job see.

[The others fall about laughing]

No it’s a real job. Here at the canal wharf. I’m going to help unloading these eer barges or whatever they’re called, now move back.

[Jenny appears with young Toby. Mr. Weaver enters ]

Jenny: Look Toby, here comes the first boat!

Toby: What is it? It’s strange.

Jenny; It’s a canal boat, it’s long and narrow 

[Everyone shouts and cheers.]

Mr. Weaver: This is a great day for he town , a great day for all of us, a great day for me… cheap coal for all!

[Another great cheer.]

Now stand back, the first boat is tying up now. Jenny look out for Toby there!

Jess: Isn’t that Lewis there getting on that boat?

[Everyone turns to look. Young Toby has wandered off and falls in to the  canal – off the side of the stage. William Castle is closest.]

William Castle: I’ll get him, water’s not deep.

[He leaps in]

Jenny: Watch out the boat’s too close.

Richard: There, he’s lifted Toby clear

Jenny: But the boat’s swinging round, he’s still in the water it will…

[There is an agonised scream]

Richard: he’s been crushed against the side.

Mr. Weaver: [Coming to the rescue]
Here I’ve got him, help me lift him out, gently now.

[William Castle is laid down.]

Quick blankets, someone go for a doctor.

[Turning aside]

That was a good day’s work Master Castle but I doubt that your legs will ever be right again.

[All exit some supporting William as he limps off]

Polly: I like the way everyone kind of looked out for each other in those days.

Tom: That girl should have been looking out for her little brother and not let him go wandering of like that.

Bluecoat Boy: Even so it was a brave thing that William Castle did, some would say what a pity it was that  he never worked again but I doubt he saw it that way!

Tom: What do you mean?

Bluecoat Boy: watch, It’s May 1st. 1840 

Over the Hills and Far Away

Scene 3: Old Mettle

[Once again a new group are sleeping.]

Adult [Voice off]: Good morning Lords and ladies, it is the first of May
We hope you’ll view our garland it is so bright today.
Oh it is the first of May, yes it is the first of May.
Good morning lords and ladies, it is the first of May.

[There is much excitement as the children tumble out of bed.]

Charlie: Come on Sarah. it’s May Day morning, plenty of time to get up to Crouch Hill and back before school starts.

Sarah: Do you think the morris dancers will be out. It’s so exciting, we’ll need to make a garland.

Charlie: [Affectionately] And you can wash your face in the morning dew, anything to make you look less like a horse’s backside.

Sarah: So Mr. Handsome you’ll be after little Nancy Parker with your favours, you’re sweet on her Charlie.

Charlie: Am not, come on let’s go. We can meet the others at the top of Castle Street.
[Out on the street a group of children come together carrying green branches and posies.]

Sidney: Morning Charlie, morning Sarah, coming up to Crouch Hill?

Alf: We thought we might go round collecting later, make some money

Sarah: Alf that’s all you think about. Let’s go and gather some flowers. Lead the way but we mustn’t be late for school.

Charlie: Hang on, isn’t that Nancy up by the Three Pigeons?

Sidney: What if it is?

Charlie: Nothing, let’s um cut up through the Reindeer’s back yard.
Can you hear the bells? The morris dancers must be there, come on.

[ The children hang around to watch the dancers perform, Old Mettle appears and starts fooling around.]

Alf: [In a loud voice] What’s he look like. [Shouts] Yer, you big fool.

Old Mettle: Who’s a fool. Now your Dad, does he work for a living?

Alf: Of course he does, he’s a carrier, runs his horse and cart to Bloxham twice a day.

Old Mettle: Well I live without working so who’s the fool now?

Alf: At least my Dad’s not a miserable cripple like you.

Sarah: Come on boys, we ‘ve been here too long, we’ll be late for school.

Alf: You go, I’m not letting an old loony like that get the better of me. Come on boys.

[A small gang follow him. The street clears. Enter Mrs. Jordan.]

Mrs. Jordan: Ah William there you are, are you having a good May Day?

Old Mettle: Good enough, thank ye for asking Miss Jordan

Mrs. Jordan: And do you have any matches for sale today?

Old Mettle: I have a bundle or two somewhere, half a mo.

[He searches]

Ouch, what was that?

[He has been hit by a stone]

You ruffians, come here.

[Alf and the other boys run away. Old Mettle hobbles after them. One of the boys cuts round behind him and Alf turns to confront him.]

Alf: What you need to do is go on a nice trip

[He pushes Old Mettle over and they all run off again.]

Old Mettle: I know who you are, you go to that new school on the Southam Road.

[He limps off with Mrs. Jordan following him. The children assemble on their benches for school to start.]

Sarah: Where’s Alf, he’s going to be late, he’s bound to get the cane.

[Alf dashes in at the last moment.]

Sarah: Where have you been?

Charlie: [He has risen to his feet and is looking round]
I don’t believe it, Old Mettle’s coming into school.

Sarah: You’re joking.

Charlie: No it’s true look. Perhaps he’s coming to sell us matches

Esther: You’re right, it’s the bogey man!

Sarah: Don’t be silly, it’s just that he…

Alf: I’m off I’ll see you later…

[ He starts to run but careers right into Miss Jordan who takes him by the ear.]

Miss Jordan: I believe you are the ring leader in all this.

[Everyone gathers round.]

Would it interest you know that this man was a hero? Many years ago he saved my younger brother when he fell into the canal and that cost him the use of his legs so I’ll thank you to show more consideration in future.

[She shakes Alf.]

Alf: I’m sorry Miss, I didn’t know.

Miss Jordan: Well clearly you have a lot to learn. We’ll leave you to get on with it. [She and Old Mettle stalk out, the others quietly disperse.]

As I Was Going to Banbury

Tom: Well I bet he felt stupid.

Polly: But he shouldn’t have been messing about like that anyway.

Bluecoat Girl: That day certainly changed Alf, you’ll see.

Bluecoat Boy: It’s a very hot summer’s day in 1877.

Scene 4: Mumps and Measles

Adult [Voice off]: Time to get up. It’s as fine a summer’s morning as you’re like to see   Big uns off to the fields and babies on your way to school.

Lilly: I couldn’t sleep last night, it was just too hot, I still feel hot and prickly.

George: It’s just the weather, come along there’s Edward and Lizzy.

Lizzy: Morning George, morning Lilly, you’re not looking too well.

Lilly: It’s funny. I can’t make up my mind if I’m too hot or too cold.

Edward: Look I need you to cover for me. I’m of out to Hardwick to see if I can get work bringing in the harvest. Alf Woodall’s a generous sort, he’ll pay me for a day’s work and we need the money.

George: But you don’t leave school for another two weeks. There’ll be the devil to pay if you’re caught.

Edward: Just say I’m ill, tell them I’ve got the measles or something. I’ll see you later.

[He leaves, all the others enter school and sit on their benches. Enter Miss Parsons, everyone stands]

Miss Parsons: Good Morning Everyone

Class: Good morning Miss Parsons

Miss Parsons: We will begin with the register. There seem to be a lot of children away this morning. Elizabeth Morris, where’s your brother Edward?

Lizzy: Errr… he’s um….

George; Got the measles Miss.

Miss Parsons: Got the harvest itch more like, we,ll see.
[There is a coughing]
Deborah, what’s up with you? Stop that coughing. Peter why are you scratching so, especially your arms?

Peter:  I can’t help it Miss, I’ve got this rash see.

Miss Parsons: Come here, let me see you. [She examines him] Oh dear, yes I see. It looks like you have the measles. This is terrible.

Peter: Measles Miss, what’s that?

Deborah: Miss look, I’ve got spots too!

Lilly: [Crying] Miss I feel poorly too, I… [She attempts to walk forward but faints.]

Miss Parsons: Oh no, I must get you home, you must call a doctor and… You know I’m not feeling too well myself. Lizzy, you’ve been helping me this term as the class monitor, you’ll have to take over until someone can be sent in to help you teach.
[She staggers out together with the other sick children.]

George: What are we going to do? We can’t afford a doctor and Deborah’s family haven’t got two pennies to rub together either so they’ve no money going spare.
Clara: I hope I don’t get the measles.

Jacob: I don’t think any of us want the measles.

Sarah: If you get the measles you can go blind, you can even die.

Lizzy: [Standing up at the front trying to take control] Now what’s all this talk of dying, I’m sure nobody’s going to die. Now class pay attention, we need to get on with this morning’s object lesson on the er… [She looks around] the um hedgehog.

[Children groan]

Now come along you must…

[There is a commotion off stage]

On no, now what?

[Enter Alf Woodall dragging Edward]

Alf: Now what I want to know is what is this lad of yours doing trying to get work in my fields. [Looking round] Who’s in charge here?

Lizzy: [timorously] Er… I am sir.

Alf; [Suspiciously] Aren’t you this boys sister? Where is your regular teacher?

Lizzy: She has been taken ill sir and left me in charge.

Alf: [Seeing the funny side of the situation] Well my girl, he’s broken the rules so you will have to cane him.

Lizzy: But sir, he’s my brother and …. He’s bigger than me. [Trembling she looks round for the cane.]

Alf: No, no, I was only joking. Come tell me where is everyone?

Lizzy: Sir, it’s terrible people are falling ill with the measles but as no one has the money for a doctor we’re feared that everyone will get ill.

Alf: Really? Well we’ll see about that. I’m sure I can spare a pound or two for the pupils of my old school to keep everyone from this terrible plague. Thank you Lizzy.
[Turning] Edward come along with me let’s find the headmaster and you can help me…. What’s the matter?

Edward: Sir, I feel poorly, I think I really do have the measles!

Alf: Come on then, I think we need to close the school, I’ll get you home and then I’ll go and find a doctor.

[All exit]

Little Donkey

Polly: Just think about that, they had to pay to see a doctor!

Tom: I see what you mean about Alf though, he really cared about those sick children.

Bluecoat Girl: He did and looking after others was a lesson that he had passed on to the other children when the war to end all wars came along thirty years later.

Bluecoat Boy: It’s 1916 and we are just half way through the Great War, you will know it as World War I.

Scene Five: The Great War

Adult [Voice off]: Quietly now, time to get up. It’s an early start for those of you working in the bomb factory over at Overthorpe but the rest of you must get ready for school.

Oliver: School again, it’s so boring. I wish I could go and fight for king and country and join the army in France. How’s your brother Johnny, have you heard from him yet?

Johnny: Not yet Oliver, I  think Bert’s somewhere on the Somme, Ouderdom or somewhere foreign sounding like that

Oliver: It sounds marvellous, come on let’s met the others in the playground.

Johnny: Yea we can have a game of conkers. Douglas, give you a game.

Douglas: Come on then, mines a twenty niner, what’s yours?

Johnny: I’m just starting, watch this.

[The game starts, a group congregates. The sound of military band is heard.]

Douglas: hey chaps, do you hear footsteps?

Johnny: Anyone can hear that!

Oliver: Look it’s soldiers marching by, it’s the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.

Gertrude: How do you know smarty pants?

Oliver: I can tell by the cap badges. Come on give them a cheer.

[ The children line the edge of the stage and wave and cheer as the troops march past.]

 Come on, let’s follow them.

Johnny: You must be joking, if we leave school now we are certain to be caned when we get back.

Oliver: I don’t care this is much more important than school….

Gertrude: hang on, who is this coming?

Oliver: It’s Elizabeth Morris  she used to be a teacher here but now she works at the Red Cross Hospital in West Street.

Gertrude: And she’s got a wounded soldier with her.

Johnny: It’s Bert! [Running to him] Bert, Bert, what’s happened?

Bert: [Obviously still in great pain]
Oh it’s you Johnny boy, I never thought I’d be back at St. Mary’s, my old school looking like this. Nurse Morris was helping walk home to see mother and father, I’ve been injured you see.

[Everyone else gathers round]

Oliver: [Excitedly] Wow what happened, were you fighting off a crowd of Germans?

Bert: Nothing that exciting I’m afraid old fellow, faulty fuse on a hand grenade. I could see it was going to go off and with my pals all around me there was nothing else I could do…

Elizabeth Morris: he was very brave children, he threw himself on top of the bomb to smother the blast. He was terribly injured, he’s only just been allowed out of hospital but he still needs all my help.

Bert: She’s an angel but it was a bad business. Blew half my innards away chaps so that’s me out of the war and never even got to see a German, I’ll catch up with you later Johnny.

[He limps away with the nurse.]

Douglas: He looks awful.

Gertrude: At least he’s still alive.

Oliver: [To himself] But only just, what a terrible waste. [He looks at his conker then drops it.]

[Everyone exits looking thoughtful]

Ding Dong

Bluecoat Girl: Oliver always was a peacemaker after he saw what had happened to Bert.

Tom: I can see why.

Polly: Everyone had to work together when the war was on.

Bluecoat Boy: The second World War wasn’t too bad for Banbury, we only had a couple of bombs dropped on us and like you said everyone pulled together. It wasn’t until 1965 that Oliver, or Grandpa Ollie as his grandchildren called him really had bring peace of a kind to the town. Let me show you.

Scene Six: Custard Crimes

Adult [Voice off]: Come on down, there’s orange juice and corn flakes for breakfast then you’ll all need to get your stuff ready to take for the Christmas party at school today.

[Everyone gets organised and sets of for school in a cheerful sort of way.]
Dave: Samantha, are you coming, have you that box of crackers Grandpa Ollie sent us?

Samantha: I’m right here, it’s a big box, do you think thee’ll be enough for the whole class?

Dave: I doubt it, not with those new kids from Birmingham.

Samantha: Well I expect they’ll bring some of their own stuff.

Dave: That lot, I don’t think so, they’re just slum kids, moved to Banbury from Birmingham ;cos their old houses were falling down… and they were full of rats.

Samantha: Oh come on Dave, they’re not that bad. They only moved here so their mums and dads can work in the new custard factory… Birds I think it’s called.

Dave: And that’s another thing, you should hear dad going on, why couldn’t they give the jobs to Banbury folk?

Samantha: Yes and I’ve heard Grandpa telling him not to be selfish, dad’s from London anyway.

Dave: That’s different… oh no!

Samantha: What’s the matter?

Dave: There’s a gang of them Birmingham kids hanging about on the corner by the Three Pigeons.

Samantha: It’s alright here comes Jim and Alice, we’ll walk up together, hi guys.

Alice: Hi, got your things for the party?

Samantha: I have, Jimmy what have you brought?

Jim: Just a big bowl of jelly Mum made.

Alice: Is your mum coming in to help with the party?

Dave: No but grandpa is, he used to come to St. Mary’s you know.

[They have now reached the ‘Birmingham’ gang.]

Dave: Morning, got your stuff for the party?

Chris: Might have, why do you want to know?

Samantha: Well it’s going to be fun.. you know.

Celia: Oh yea, like anything’s going to be fun round here. This place is just a dump.

Dave: Well if you don’t like it here why don’t you go back where you belong?

Chris: So you’re going to make us are you?

[Things start to look a little threatening, Samantha steps in.]

Samantha: Oh you have brought stuff, what’s in those little round tins?

Celia: [A little embarrassed ] It’s er… custard you know.

Jim: Come on guys and gals, let’s go in and get everything set up

[Everyone enters ‘school’]

Teacher: Right everyone lets get sorted out, we need the food on the tables and let’s shift the benches, the head has said that if we don’t make too much noise we can do some disco dancing.

[There is much pushing and shoving between the two rival groups as things are got ready then when the music starts they just stand in two different groups eyeing each other up until the teacher grabs one of them and pulls them forward to dance, some of the others join in reluctantly but there is no party atmosphere.  Then Chet, a Birmingham boy, starts bumping into Samantha, half aggressively half jokingly ]

Jim: Hey, you leave her alone.

Chet: Why’s that then.

Jim: just leave her… she doesn’t like the way you smell.

Chet: You take that back.

[He pushes Jim]

Jim Shan’t [He pushes back even harder and a real fight starts. Grandpa Ollie comes bustling in]

Grandpa Ollie Stop that, stop that. I came to help with a party not break up a fight!
[He pushes the two boys apart who stand glaring at each other, the other groups have separated too.]

I’ve seen too much fighting in my lifetime to impressed by it, especially not at Christmas. Don’t they teach you here what Jesus said about loving thy neighbour?

Jim: he’s no neighbour of mine, just look at them, they’re so scruffy and…. poor.

Chet: And you’re all dull and stuck up and stupid.

Grandpa Ollie: Boys, boys.
[To Jim] It’s Christmas, wasn’t Jesus born in a stable , sounds poor and scruffy to me.
[To Chet] And wasn’t that stable in some dull little village called Bethlehem, full of stuck up and stupid innkeepers.
This school makes everyone welcome, that’s what it’s done for the last 260 years and I don’t see why we should stop that now. What about this party?
[To Jim] What did you bring?

Jim: Some jelly

Grandpa Ollie: [To Chet] And you?

Chet: Custard.

Grandpa Ollie: Perfect, bring it over.

[Oddly the bowl of jelly and can of custard are brought forward by the Bluecoat Boy and Girl which no one seems to notice.]

Now, jelly by itself [Dipping his finger in] mmm good. Custard on its own [Dipping his finger in] yes, very nice. But put them together [He pours the custard in with the jelly] Just superb!

[Everyone laughs and the tension is released.]

Now let’s have a Christmas Carol while we get the rest of the food set up.

[They sing a carol then drift off leaving Tom and Polly with the two Bluecoat Children]

Turn Down the Lights

Bluecoat Boy: You can learn a lot in three hundred years.

Bluecoat Girl: [As if talking to herself] The Banbury Bluecoat Foundation began in 1705 as a charity for the education of poor children. It’s first home was in a room above the gaol in Banbury Market place….

[They both fade away leaving Tom and Polly holding the bowl. The lights come on and we are back at the sleep over.]

Megan: Great, some food, where did you get that from.

Peter: Great, we can all share it, have a midnight feast, what do you think?

[Tom and Polly look at each other for a long moment then smile.]

Tom and Polly: Yea, why not? Come on.

Ding Dong (Reprise)

[All exit to huge applause.]