Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bas Salmon, my greatest teacher, may he rest in peace

Brian "Bas" Salmon was the greatest teacher I ever had. Bar none. A remarkable, kind and eccentric history master at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, I will never forget his methods, nor his wisdom. Especially memorable is a delicious Latin phrase he once chalked on the board - Parlum Taurum Excrementum (speak intelligent bullshit) - which isn't even correct, but then that's probably the point.

He was part of a history department at LRGS that could probably match many universities for sheer brain power, depth of knowledge and certainly what we refer to as "teaching excellence".

All three, Jack Lea, Jock Fidler and Bas Salmon as we knew them, also had wide hinterlands beyond school - either in drama, quiz teams and the church, all were High Anglicans.

All three also influenced me very directly in how I live my life. It was sad then to learn today that Flea and Bas have both recently passed away, but they will have been given great send offs filled with love and affection.

Fidler, who survives the other two, I never liked. He seemed a vain and uptight bully who is widely despised by almost everyone I ever meet who was taught by him. Yet there was always a paradox about him, he gave so much to the school and to the Air Force cadets thing he ran - the Fidler Youth, we called it - and whenever I saw him out of school he held the hand of his wife or his daughters, something that showed an otherwise hidden side of a man capable of such warmth and affection. Having shared a version of this short tribute on the Lancaster Past and Present Facebook page I've had a few people give Fids the benefit of the doubt, which is as it should be.

Bas was the first person who suggested I go to university, or rather he just assumed I would be doing, which had a remarkable affect on me at a time when Fidler had made me feel awful, humiliated and useless. I always burned with a desire to go back and show him he was wrong about me, when in retrospect I now simply regret not telling Bas he was right.


Bon Timothy said...

Your comments about John Fidler and the CCF are not necessary in what is otherwise a nice tribute to Bas Salmon. If you feel the need to air the other things, why not do a separate blog and leave this one as it should be - about a fantastic teacher and motivation to generations of LRGS pupils.

Michael Taylor said...

Fair point, but I tried to be rounded and fair to JWF. Also, the contrast in my recollections and feelings is of some significance. I don't mean to be rude about the CCF, I mention it to display JWF's selfless devotion to something which will clearly have brought great pleasure to many.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the comments re. Jock Fidler made by Mike Taylor are entirely fair and accurate. Fact is, none of the schoolboys liked him, to put it mildly. I attended LRGS during the 1970s and was taught by JWF (never knew what his middle initial stood for) and also by "Jack" Lea and Bas Salmon. Being taught by Jack Lea was fun. Being taught by "Bas" Salmon was a joy - he was inspirational, so naturally all the boys adored him. In stark contrast, being taught by the icy Mr Fidler felt like a real penance. I swear that the temperature in the room fell by several degrees when Jock walked in, and things quickly went downhill from there. Sorry, but even 40 years later I still remember how utterly joyless it was being taught by JWF. Why did he have to be so needlessly stern, so utterly unwelcoming and such a martinet? For boys who had desperately unhappy home lives (and that includes me!) getting more of the same sh!t at school was a real downer. So, thanks for nothing, Jock.

Anonymous said...

I was truly sorry to learn that Bas Salmon had died. What I remember most about him was his innate kindness to the boys. Put simply he was a thoroughly nice guy who really knew his stuff when it came to teaching history. He made learning fun. It's strange but even now I can still recall a few of his catchphrases e.g. we were in his class so he could "make thinkers out of stinkers" or the jokey one about the 700th law of the Medes and Persians. During my time at LRGS I was also taught by John Fidler. However, since I've always believed that if you've got nothing nice to say about someone then you shouldn't say anything at all, I make no comment...