When Carol Ellis from Cowlersley read the recent Examiner story about a 12-year-old Colne Valley schoolgirl who was put in hospital by a bully it brought back memories of her own experiences of schoolyard intimidation – experiences she believes changed her life forever. She told her story to HILARIE STELFOX
CAROL ELLIS describes herself as a gentle, sensitive person – and as such she was an easy target for the bullies who made her school days so unpleasantly memorable that today, more than four decades later, she still feels distressed when she hears of children being bullied.
Our recent story about a Colne Valley girl, Sabrina Pollock, who claimed she was punched in the face after suffering months of racial abuse and physical assaults left Carol saddened.
"It made me realise that the bullies always seem to win in the end and that nothing has changed," she said.
Originally from Lancashire, Carol’s parents moved from Burnley to Southport when she was primary school age. She says she was initially bullied for having a different accent. It was to be the start of a nightmare experience that she believes altered the course of her life.
"I had quite a broad Burnley accent and the other children made my life miserable because of it," she explained. "What surprised me is that the teachers made fun of me too, which was very cruel. They used to stand me in front of the class and make me read poetry just to show me up."
So from the age of seven Carol – who is now 60 – learned that people who were different stood out and attracted the attention of bullies.
"I was actually quite quiet and shy and the experience took my confidence away very quickly,’’ she said. "Nobody wanted to play with me."
By the time she was enrolled in her third primary school – this time in Accrington – Carol didn’t expect to make friends.
"I was only there for a year," she said. "Being passed from school to school meant that I didn’t really have the chance to make friends."
But it was at secondary school, again in Accrington, that Carol really found out just how intimidating bullies can be.
She explained: "I tended to stand and watch the others playing rather than involve myself, so I was a target for a group of girls who found it hilarious to use me as a verbal punchbag.
"They would push me about and pull my hair but most of the bullying was psychological. They’d threaten me with what they’d do to me outside of school and pushed caterpillars and bits of animals they had been dissecting down my clothes. They frightened me witless.
"If I had any baking they used to take it off me so I never got home with any. I had to lie to my mum about it and say that I’d spoiled everything I’d baked."
And yet despite the fact that the bullying went on until she was 15-years-old and could leave school, Carol didn’t report it to teaching staff.