The transition from the Infants School to the 'Big' School in
Bollington must have been uneventful for me, as I recall nothing
to mark the event. The Council school, where we were transferred,
was an old building (which my Dad had attended in his youth).
The building followed the practical style of the age, it was
soundly built but had nothing of beauty to adorn the inside or
outside. It bordered on the street and was surrounded by an iron
railing with a gate that was locked securely once lessons began.
A good proportion of the village children attended as well as
those from the outlying areas of Kerridge, Adlington, Whiteley
Green and Pott Shrigley. No provisions were made for these children
by way of school buses or dinners. The long walk, maybe 5 or
6 miles each way, had to be made, despite hail, rain or snow.
One thing I do know, these children were never late for school
- only those who lived close by shared that distinction.
There was a concrete playground which was bisected by the River
Bollin and the big girls were allotted the playground on the
other side of the bridge which spanned the brook. Inside the
school, stone steps led upstairs where the higher classes studied.
Infants and lower classes had their rooms on the ground floor.
There was a cloakroom and a row of washrooms at the head of the
stairs, lavatories were down the yard. The world of that time
bad not discovered the psychological use of colour, and so all
the walls were painted a depressing green, or drab brown, with
a nondescript yellow for relief. The desks were made to seat
four children and seats were attached by iron supports. Children
had to climb in and out of their seats, especially those allotted
to inside seats.
The desks themselves were simply a slanted piece of wood with
a long shelf underneath on which to keep books not in use. Pen
and ink were in common use, so each child had an inkwell which
sat in a hole specially made for this purpose. Each Friday, the
boys who were ink monitors had the job of mixing the powder with
water and bottling it all for the coming weeks' supply. What
a messy job, and how they loved it!
Having to be absent a long time because of sickness, I missed
the time which should have been spent in Standards 2 and 3, and
picked up when I reached Standard 4. We had a male teacher, Mr.
Billington, who was a truly gifted teacher. Much of what he taught
us has remained with me and, though the subjects were limited,
we did learn thoroughly. Each morning began with Religion and
we read and learnt more from the Bible there than from Sunday
School. Then came Arithmetic which preceded Playtime. Geography
and History were also morning subjects. English and Reading were
afternoon lessons and my favourites. I had read so much during
my illness that I was familiar with a lot of literature, and
was ahead of my classmates. All our lessons were shared with
another class, thus Standards 4 and 5 learnt together, as did
6 and 7. We only separated for different levels of the same subjects.
Tuesday and Thursday afternoons were days when boys and girls
took completely different lessons. Girls had sewing and boys
did woodwork. The only lady teacher on the staff, Miss Barber,
took all the girls for the sewing lessons, and right from the
beginning there was no love lost between us - and I'm not really
As we progressed with the basic sewing - run and fell seams,
buttonholes (which I couldn't do!), herringbone and feather stitches,
the time came for us to 'make a garment.' We were given a choice
of three things and told how much material to bring for each
one. I can only recall my choice - a petticoat. The idea was
that we should be shown how to lay a pattern on material and
cut it out, and all that we had learnt in basic sewing would
be put into practice on his garment.
Well, things didn't turn out quite as they should. When Mother
was told how much material to send, and what kind, see was up
in arms. "Far too much - she'll just cut it to waste!" she snorted.
Being a practical woman and with no money to spend on frivolities,
she bought the material that she thought the best and cut it
out to her own ideas. I took the ready-cut garment to school
the next day and presented it to the teacher. When she saw it,
she was just as angry as Mother had been. "You were told to bring
material to school for me to cut out," she stormed. I was caught
between them. Mother hadn't the money to spare for surplus material
and Miss Barber had to give a lesson in cutting out. I hated
The teacher made my life quite miserable that year. She could
not accept the situation and gave me as little help as she could,
making unpleasant remarks that as it wasn't one of HER patterns,
she could not say how MOTHER wanted it made up. It's a wonder
I had any love for sewing at all after the bad introduction I
bad. There was no love of needlework implanted in me at all.
Practically all the children of my school days were in the same
situation as me - we were all poor. But, strangely, we were not
aware of it. We were lucky enough to have resourceful parents
and I'm sure we felt quite well off by some standards. Mother
always made our school dresses and kept us smartly dressed. Ingenuity
and a lot of planning went into this as money was not forthcoming.
I well remember some of the girls in my class. There was Annie
Leigh who had one glass eye. Sometimes her eye socket was inflamed
and she could not wear the false eye and would come to school
with a large celluloid patch over it. Her close friends were
allowed to peep under the shade and view the empty socket - it
resembled a pink pocket - gruesome lot that we were!
Nancy Marsden was one of a large family, whose clothes were
always hand-me-downs. Doris Snape, whose father had been killed
during the war, lived with her mother and grandmother in a tiny
house on a low income. Emily Archer was another one from a large
family. She had learned early in life that those who shouted
loudest were the ones that were beard. No-one ever called her
Emily, it was always "EMLAARCHER".
Then there was Annie Gee, who was a pure albino, with white
hair' and pink, weak eyes. Dorothy Ottley was the most affluent
as her father owned a saddler's shop which had a thriving ironmongery
side to it. Dorothy, who sat next to me, had great difficulty
with English and composition (essays). I can't remember how it
started, but I used to do all her English lessons for her. Ironically,
her parents were able to afford the necessary fees for her to
attend the local high school in Macclesfield, something I would
loved to have done.
Alice Cook was another of the class. Her father was the cricket
professional, and so was at home during the weekdays - something
looked on as a bit queer because every other man worked either
at the Mill or was in his own business. Mr. Cook coached would
be cricketers and did some Green Work on the local cricket field.
Naturally he was the star turn at the Saturday afternoon matches.
Of the boys, I can only remember Arthur Leighton, Alec Snape,
Eric Hopper, Bobby Green and Hughie Archer, brother of the pert
Although our school subjects were somewhat limited, what we
did learn was thoroughly taught and remembered. Much emphasis
was put on neat handwriting and presentation of work. We memorised
tables, poems, songs, hymns, and many historical dates. I shall
never forget 'The Deserted Village', Gray's 'Elegy', 'Lochinvar'
and 'Vitae Lamparda'.
Although the school was set in the heart of the countryside,
we were confined to the classroom. Silence was insisted upon
and so was a good deal of awe and respect for our teachers. Periodically,
Mr. Allen, the 'School Board' - now known as the Truant Officer
- visited school and examined the resister to see who were the
persistent absentees. He was a man who used biting sarcasm and
we all used to squirm as he called the offenders out in front
of the whole class to demand why that child had been absent on
a certain date. Naturally, the child could barely remember and
was so petrified with fright that he became speechless. The children
were the same ones each time and the usual reply (in a frightened
whisper) to the question "Why were you absent on Tuesday last
week?" was "Mam had to go out and I had to mind the house." Daddy
Allen would glare down his huge beak of a nose and bark "Why
- would the house have run away?" These kids usually had a baby
to look after or an ailing grandparent, as well as the house.
Then there was the Punishment Book. Corporal punishment was
administered - but fairly - and each caning was recorded in this
book and the reason for it. Of course, I was never caned, I was
much too tired to consider being naughty! There were never any
after-effects, except a boy nursing his bruised hands for a while.
It usually had the desired effect of acting as a deterrent to
further mischievous behaviour.
On the whole, I enjoyed school - it was hard, discipline was strict
and there were none of the visual aids or learning tools that today's
children have. No gymnasium or library, no visits to museums or
even nature outings. On the other hand, every child at school-leaving
age could read and write, no learning disabilities or dyslexia
problems seemed to exist then. Juvenile delinquency was unknown
and psychology was just a word in the dictionary.
© 1985 Enid Simpson