Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Happy days - despite the cane!

The class of 1954/55 at Dewsbury Moor Junior and Infant School.
The class of 1954/55 at Dewsbury Moor Junior and Infant School.
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They say that our schooldays are the happiest days of our life, and for most of us they were.

But going to school when I was young was very much different to today, and I think most of my generation would agree.

Most of us went to the same school all our life, except for those who had gone to grammar school or the local technical school.

At our school there was a playground for the boys and one for the girls, and discipline was strict.

We had no sports facilities and had to walk up to nearby fields in Healds Road for rounders and all the way to Savile Town playing fields to play hockey.

Our domestic science classes were held at nearby Batley Carr Council School because we hadn’t a school kitchen, but going to different schools to share their facilities was exciting.

I cannot remember feeling ashamed of our school, which would probably have been at the bottom of today’s school league table, but I always felt secure going to a school which all my brothers and sisters went to aswell.

Walking to school was no hardship because we walked everywhere in those days, even when the snow was knee deep. Schools didn’t close for bad weather then.

Today I listen to conversations among young parents about their child’s education and the worries and concerns they have if their children aren’t doing well.

I can never remember parents talking about how well or bad their children were doing at school, but then I can’t remember anyone up our street going to grammar school.

My mother was always proud when I came top of the class. She would mention it to my aunties who lived nearby, but she never asked me how I’d got there. If I had come bottom, I knew it wouldn’t have mattered to her. She certainly wouldn’t have lost any sleep over it, and when I failed my 11-plus there were no tears.

She, like many parents in those days, left our education to the teachers and never interfered, not even when we got the cane for being late for school or missing Mass.

As far as she was concerned, we knew what the penalty 
was for both misdemeanours and had to take what was 
coming.

Once I was wrongly given the cane for something I hadn’t done and when this was pointed out to Sister Saint Agnes, who had doled out the punishment, she told me the next time I did do something wrong, to tell her and she wouldn’t cane me for it.

I thought that was fair enough, but when it came to the next time I was too afraid to remind her of the promise made, and I took my punishment without murmur. I’m still angry about that!

Although I am not in favour of corporal punishment for anyone, least of all children, it certainly made me aware of the importance of sticking to the rules.

It would have been less painful if they’d found another way of disciplining us, but they never did while I was there.

Still, I can say in all honesty that my schooldays were amongst some of the happiest of my life – despite the cane!

I was reminded of my early school life this week when I received the photograph above from former Dewsbury man, John Walker, who hopes that readers might be able to fill in the blanks of the names he cannot remember.

John, who now lives in Derbyshire, grew up in three areas of Dewsbury, namely Staincliffe, Ravensthorpe and Thornhill.

Some time ago he wrote to the Reporter trying to locate some of his old friends, with whom he played football and cricket, and we were able to oblige.

Some former schoolfriends got in touch with him including Stuart Yarrow and Dorothy Bentley, who provided the photograph above.

John attended Dewsbury Moor Infant and Junior School, and later Ravensthorpe Secondary Modern School, and Dewsbury Technical College, where he studied textiles.

He later got involved with local football and cricket teams, including Savile Town Spartak football team and Ratcliffe Mills cricket team, both of which he formed in the 1960s.

John said he made a lot of good friends in Dewsbury and he is always happy to hear from them.

One of the highlights of his childhood was a two-week trip to Cliffe House with other children from his school.

John writes the following about his childhood in Dewsbury:

“I went back to see the school in the photograph about two years ago just to see if anything had changed, and looking from the outside (as it was closed at the time) the building looked the same as I can remember it. I was there from age five to 11 and then went to Ravensthorpe Secondary Modern until leaving at the age of 15.

“I used to live at 92 Staincliffe Road – at the time we had a straight through house which was unusual as most of the houses in the area were back-to-back.

“I do remember the shops which were on the same parade as me, one called Manns and one opposite called McLeans. Also outside our house was one of the old type police boxes.

“I remember distinctly 
walking to school every 
morning and I had to walk down a back cobbled road which now of course no 
longer exists.

“I also remember passing an old mill which later on in life I realised was an old rag mill. I used to watch the workers through the open doors and windows sorting old rags out. This fascinated me.

“I don’t remember too much of being at junior school except my first teacher and the first morning when my mother took me. I wouldn’t go in and felt as though she was handing me over to a fierce dragon! “

John hopes that other children who went to the school might be able to fill in the blanks which he and Stuart have left.

If you can, please e-mail them to tresham3@gmail.com or ring 01924 468282.