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U3A Writing: School

...We sang Fill Thou my Life or The King of Love my Shepherd is with There is a Green Hill at Easter and harvest hymns at the appropriate time and of course carols at Christmas.

November 11th was kept every year with 2 minutes silence which seemed like an eternity, and nearly always somebody fainted which added a bit of drama to things...

Peggy MacKay recalls her school days.

As I only attended my first school for less than a year, I have very few memories of the time spent there. I do remember it was next to the workhouse, and I have a recollection of old men working in the grounds.

During the one winter I was there the outside toilets froze and couldn't be used, causing great distress to us little ones. I remember going home in sleet and rain, trailing behind me a paper chain and lantern made from wallpaper - Christmas decorations.

Of my teachers I have no memory at all until during my fifth year we moved to Quarmby and I attended Oakes School, alas now no more, but a residential home I believe.

I seem to recollect a large rocking horse in the Primary departments and mattresses for afternoon naps and a very kindly teacher, truly in the right job if memory serves me right. Her name I think was Miss Marshall, but I can't be sure.

Then to the big school, Junior department, where we now had to form straight lines when the bell rang and march into school in an orderly manner. After the register was marked we went into the big hall for prayers, all except Roman Catholic children and they were excused. Looking back, I can't think why, they must have felt to be oddities as we thought they were, and there really was no valid reason for them to be separated that I can see.

Here we sang Fill Thou my Life or The King of Love my Shepherd is with There is a Green Hill at Easter and harvest hymns at the appropriate time and of course carols at Christmas.

November 11th was kept every year with 2 minutes silence which seemed like an eternity, and nearly always somebody fainted which added a bit of drama to things.

Our junior teacher used to read to us, sitting on top of a desk with her feet on the seat, twisting her pearl necklace until the inevitable happened and they were scattered all over the floor. But there was no shortage of helpers to pick them up, as Miss Haigh was a favourite with us.

Our next teacher, Miss Starkey, had glasses and prominent teeth, and drank hot milk during playtime. She read A A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh to us, and I cannot recall anything remarkable the year with her.

Next came Miss Aspinall. By now we were Standard 4. She was tall and slim with a gentle but firm manner and she kept firm control of 48 of us boys and girls.

Those were the days when we had to stand and read in our turns and I was called upon to read with one of the boys who had a dreadful stammer. I used to feel so sorry for him; it must have been very embarrassing.

During our year with Miss Aspinall she was taken ill and we had a relief teacher for a month or six weeks. I can't remember exactly. Her name was Mrs Morton, and my memory tells me she was short and plump and wore glasses.

During her stay we were encouraged to do our very best and the pupil with most marks would get a prize. I still have the battered remains of a blue leather backed autograph book.

By this time we were coming up to ten years old and Miss Batley took charge of us. I think this was the year when boys and girls parted company and the boys went into the adjacent building and their own yard.

Miss Batley was small, dark and bespectacled and no nonsense allowed. Pupils were in her class to be taught and to learn - no messing. Here we learned our Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, and acted it too. I was Portia at under ten years. Imagine it It certainly didn't make me a Shakespeare fan, although I can remember the "Quality of Mercy” bit, but I preferred Dickens at that time.

Our headmistress was Miss Sally Louisa Bradley, a tall majestic creature with grey hair and pearls, who reminded me of our Queen Mary. She wielded a cane as to the manner born. She visited each class at regular intervals, and everyone held their breath in fear of being caught out with substandard work or some other minor misdemeanour. She could hand out six of the best to a dozen at a time without batting an eyelid.

Oh that there could be some of her mould in charge these days, and no rules and regulations to stop them. There would be far fewer problems.

I loved school from the day I started until the day I left in tears, and whatever upsets there were along the way didn't seem to count at all.

I didn't always enjoy the walk to school and back, particularly in winter time, when Wellington boots and raincoats chaffed my legs where they met my bare legs above my knee stockings. It was a long walk from Quarmby up Oakes Hill, morning and afternoon, as there were no school dinners, not even milk in those days. That hill felt like a mountain to little legs in snow and rain. My mother was always there with the snowfire tablet to soothe us when we got home.

It was quite a lonely road in those days, no houses from the bottom of the hill until it levelled out at the top approaching Highgate Oakes. Even in those days there were weird people about, and we used to be warned not to speak to strangers. But I think we were much safer than the children of today.

I sat my 11 plus at ten and passed without effort because I could soak up knowledge like a sponge in those days, and remember it. Oh for some of that memory now sometimes!

When I was 11 years old we moved to Sowood and I spent my last three years at Outlane, leaving many friends behind, but strangely enough some of them followed me to Outlane and others I kept in touch with for some time. I can still name quite a number of people on the Oakes school photo, but some have faded with time, and the later years at Outlane are a bit more vivid in my memory.

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