372 Merryhills Primary School, part 2

In 1952 there were no pre-school clubs and no nursery classes. Primary school began in the September following your fifth birthday, and you just jumped in at the deep end.

In my case it was a very deep end. As I was born in July I was the second-youngest in the class all through school (there was one very bright boy who had skipped a year). As I mentioned, I had spent my first five years in very sheltered surroundings. Now 1952-1958 was the height of the baby boom, so classes were large by today’s standards; at least 30 in a class.

Unlike many people I can’t remember my first day at school, but it must have been quite a shock; in fact I can remember very little of the first three years, in the Infants part of the school. I think we started in the first classroom (furthest east) and moved up one room per year. The cloakroom was about halfway up, so in our fourth year we moved past the crosspiece of the H into the Juniors.

I can remember three of the teachers. The headmaster was called Haydn Perry. We didn’t see much of him; he probably didn’t teach, as each class was taught only by its class teacher (except for music, which follows). I half knew, subsequently, that he was a writer on educational matters, and I now know that there are 9 books by him published between 1956 and 1966. One was called “Pictorial English” (out-of-print, not on the Internet) which perhaps suggests some progressive thinking, though I don’t remember anything unusual about the teaching that we received.

I can remember our last class teacher, a Mr. Noble, a kindly man, and, as he took the last year, the person who taught us to play the recorder, which set me going on the musical course I still follow 50 years later.

The music teacher, however, was a fearsome Miss Varley. Everyone was scared of her, though it’s hard to say why. She made some attempt at getting us to sing individually, and reported that I was nicely in tune but very quiet. Her main function was to teach us the hymns and other songs to be sung in Assembly; though she used to thrash them out so forcibly on the piano that we didn’t particularly make ourselves heard. We learned the words by rote, which led to some odd mishearings, especially as some of the words were not yet in our vocabulary.

One other name springs to mind. After dinner, during the remainder of lunch break, the dinner-ladies used to come out into the Junior playground (presumably to keep an eye on us while the teachers took a break); they would walk around talking to the children. Two, one on each side, could hold hands with a dinner-lady, and others would hold hands with those two, daisy-chain fashion, making a long string of children. The nearer you were to the dinner-lady, the more favoured you were. But one, a Mrs. East, was for some reason spectacularly unpopular, and where some dinner-ladies had a string of ten or more children in tow, Mrs. East usually had only three or four, leftovers who found the other daisy-chains just a bit too long. Some of the more rebellious types had a chant of “Mrs. East is a beast” but I think they kept this for when she wasn’t around.

A tour of the school may bring back more memories; they will be on the next page.


3 Responses to “372 Merryhills Primary School, part 2”

  1. Julian Cole Says:

    I remember Mrs. East the tyrant. She turned up at Enfield Grammar after Merryhills. Haydn Perry caned my big brother in front of me so he wasn’t that progressive. Mrs Varley and her side-kick Mrs. Cook were great leg slappers. Mr. Noble as you rightly remember was a gent as was Mr. Goldey who lived up Slades Hill – we used to walk up “The Lane” to his back garden on summer afternoons, His wife used to give us home-made lemon squash. He was obsessed with South Shields and the Shadouf.

  2. geoffreyking Says:

    This is useful information in more ways than one. I had forgotten Mrs. Cook and Mr. Goldey’s name was only vaguely familiar. And it has given a name to “the Lane” which runs up from the bottom of Bincote Road to Slades Hill; I should have thought of this myself, as it is clearly the old course of Worlds End Lane, left over from the time before Bincote Road was built. Thank you!

  3. Linda Craig (ne Marshall) Says:

    I was at Merryhills from 1956 and lived in the council flats along Enfield Road next to the Jolly Farmers Pub. We walked along Bincote Road to and from school and I remember well the Brook and spent many happy summers wading for sticklebacks and tiddlers along it’s course. The brook was adjacent to Merryhills Park which was a great place to play on the swings and Witches Hat and make little camps in the bushes. The brook stretched along up as far and you could walk right up to the top of Slade’s Hill.

    I remember the names of the teachers you mention Mrs Varley I think I remember she was a somewhat large woman with a strong odour, we always tried not to sit at the front in her class. I also remember Mr Noble as a real gentleman, I think he was a bit older?
    As for Mr Perry, well I was always being summoned to his office as I kept trying to lose my National Health Pink rimmed glasses and he would be waiting saying “Have you lost something Linda?” and then produce the much hated glasses from behind his back!

    The Cardinal Allen School is now demolished along with the lovely little library which has fond memories for me as my Dad and I used to go there most evenings.

    I remember there was a large playing field and sports day was always a great event. I also can’t remember where the school hall was originally.

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