Royston National School
The girl in the front row of this photo is holding a board with the words. "Royston N. School" written on it.
N. School stands for National School and I would guess the photo was taken early in the 20th century.
Why is the image in my family history photo box? Perhaps one of my ancestors could be one of these children. I really don't know. But I do know the teacher isn't on my family tree.
I found a really interesting story in Hansard (the record of the proceedings of the British Parliament) about the National School in Royston.
In 1907, a new Headmaster was to be appointed and at the interview the school managers were divided equally in favour of two candidates: Mr Milnes and Mr Gardam. The Chairman of the managers, the local vicar, came out in favour of Mr Milnes. The supporters of the other candidate appealed to the local education authority, the West Riding County Council, who turned down Mr Milnes. The case became increasingly controversial and ended up with a full-blown debate in the House of Lords. You can read the transcript at the Hansard Archives.
On 9th August, The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer reported a discussion of the affair that had occurred at the West Riding County Council meeting.
So far I haven't managed to find out who was appointed as the new Headmaster.
Local Education Authorities (LEA) were created after the 1902 Education Act. The Royston case typifies the power struggles that occurred between the new LEAs and the existing individual school boards.
However the unofficial reason why Mr Milnes was the preferred candidate was that he was a married man while Mr Gardam was a bachelor and all the teachers were women! Clearly some members of the school board thought that heads might be turned by Mr Gardam. I might add that an attitude like that was still not uncommon in the 1970s when I commenced my teaching career!
Royston, South Yorkshire
Meanwhile, you might not know where Royston is. It's a former coal mining village in South Yorkshire situated between Wakefield and Barnsley.
In the mid twentieth century when I was born all my immediate ancestors lived at Royston. My father's side of the family were employed in coal mining for decades. In the 1911 census my grandfather (Sidney Henry Buckle), great grandfather (John Henry Buckle) and great great grandfather (Christopher Buckle) were all working down the pit at Royston. In fact, John Henry was the under-manager and he'd managed to get jobs there for all his male relatives.
Royston Infant School
Against the wall you can just make out a board with "Infant School Royston" written on it. I think that the young assistant teacher standing at the back on the right might be Annie Smith. She was my grandmother's sister and I know that she was a school teacher. She looks as though she's got curly hair which is typical in my family and her face shape resembles other known ancestors. It's so frustrating when you have photographs which are fascinating but you're not sure who the people are. Everyone who knew about the photographs has died long since and there is no way now to be completely sure. I've gone through all my own photographs and stuck labels on enough of them so that anyone interested in years to come will know who we all are. I would guess that this photograph is from the same era as the previous one. Looking at the size of the class, hopefully both the women were teaching it or they've doubled up two classes together for the photo.
Ann Eliza Wray nee Smith 1881 - 1926
My grandmother was Elsie Buckle nee Smith (1885 - 1952). One of her sisters was Annie Wray nee Smith (1881 - 1926). The 1911 census records Annie's occupation as an assistant schoolteacher. You can imagine my amazement when I was contacted by a reader of one of my earlier family history blogs to tell me she also had an ancestor who taught in Royston, South Yorkshire. And she had some photos which she was prepared to share.
A few days later she emailed copies of the photos and they are a truly wonderful record of her own grandmother from schooldays to retirement.
Amongst the photos was this one from 1914:
And on the reverse are the names of some of the people in the photo. (I've obscured a more recent annotation to protect privacy.)
So now I've got an authenticated image of my great aunt Annie! In my experience it's rare for old photos to be annotated with names; and even more rare for the annotations to include additional details. So, I think this photo is really special. After peering closely at the reverse of the photo however, I've been unable to identify the male teachers and whether either of them is Mr Milnes or Mr Gardham.
Countless thanks to Jackie who so generously shared her grandmother's photos with me.
I found another fascinating entry in Hansard related to teachers. In 1913, an MP asked the President of the Board of Education if he is aware that the majority of the women teachers in the elementary schools wanted to have the option of retiring with a suitable pension at an earlier age than sixty-five. He said that many had commenced class teaching at fifteen to twenty years old. They were now upwards of fifty years old and had become conscious of their inability, through physical or mental weakness, to perform their work in the most efficient manner. Yet they were unable to claim a breakdown allowance, not being medically certified as permanently incapable owing to infirmity of mind and body. He asked whether, in fairness to these women and in the interests of the efficiency of their schools, the President of the Board of Education would consider the advisability of inaugurating a system of earlier optional retirement for women teachers? The answer wasn't encouraging but somewhere along the line they did bring in retirement at sixty. I think nowadays it's been taken back up to sixty eight years. Don't we learn anything from history?
Poor old Annie wouldn't have had the option of early retirement; she died in 1926 aged 45 years.
Her "In Memorium" in the Royston church magazine shows that Annie was held in very high regard in the community.
The "Mrs Smith" referred to above is Ann's mother, Eliza Ann Smith nee Hall, who outlived her daughter by several years.
Normanton High School and Grammar School
In a completely different era, this photograph is from the 1930's.
It's the Speech Day at Normanton High School for Girls where my mum (Doreen Buckle) was a pupil from 1938 onwards.
I've enlarged this image on several occasions to such an extent it was just a mass of dots, trying to work out which girl is Doreen. I decided she was on the right hand side, two rows from the front, three girls in from the end.
Normanton was a few miles away from Royston but it was where children had to go if they passed their 11+ exam and wanted to have a grammar school education. Although there were no school fees to pay by that time, the cost of uniform and equipment was often prohibitive and lots of children who were academically suitable for a grammar school education didn't get it because their family couldn't afford the expense.
Doreen was able to go to the High School at Normanton because she had two aunts who were both unmarried and childless and who agreed to help with the costs.
There's a nice photo of Normanton High School for Girls on this website. Doreen left the school in 1943 and went to work as a trainee librarian with the West Riding County Council.
A few years earlier, my dad also passed his 11+ and attended Normanton Grammar School for Boys.
Norman left school in 1940 and went to work in an office. There's a contribution from Norman In his school magazine for the Summer Term 1940.
Few of us will be going away for holidays this year for we carry out the "Go to It" slogan. We shall smell the Chemical Works rather than that "honest, seafaring smell compounded of tar, rope and fish, known to the educated as ozone" - (W.W. Jacobs)
We all know that intense feeling of satisfaction we have when we walk along the sea-front for the first time after twelve months and see Mr Spaghetti with his ice-cream in the usual place. If we were to go this year I'm afraid we should not see him as a friend but should miss him as an internee. Is "Punch and Judy" still there and does the conjuror still push swords through the lady in the cabinet?
We dream of nights with velvet skies, with a bright moon, thousands of twinkling stars, a low wind rustling the leaves, the rumble of the surf and a …….but never mind, let's leave it.
We remember the colossal suppers eaten in the ultra-modern restaurants which serve anything from a milk-shake to a four course dinner (including cheese and biscuits and all for 2/6!); the amusement arcades with their rows of 'Penny-in-the-Slot' machines; the crowds of people on the beach, including very stout ladies dressed in bathing costumes; the motion-picture machines, with very alluring pictures, around which crowds of weedy looking youths congregate; and of course we remember the old salt sitting in his boat, chewing thick twist and sending spurts of tobacco juice into the atmosphere with mechanical precision. But there will be no preparing to return home; no buying of presents; no pushing of dirty shirts and socks into a suitcase, and no feeling of sadness as the train steams out of the station carrying us home.
This year all will be changed "and they will beat their fishing rods into hayforks and their bathing costumes into farmers' smocks." Let us hope that next year we may return again to the seaside to pay one shilling to see Hitler in a glass case, fasting to death for a wager of five pounds.
[The "Go to It" slogan described those who were involved in the war effort on the home front.]
[The W.W. Jacobs quote is from a book titled "At Sunwich Port" written in 1902.]
Norman volunteered to join the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy in October 1942 and, after training, became a Radio Mechanic. He was sent to a naval air base in Sierra Leone and later to a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean as part of the British Pacific Fleet. When he returned from the war, one of the first things he did was to go on holiday: to Butlin's at Primrose Valley, Filey, Yorkshire. Check out this page for more about Norman's wartime experiences.
To finish my School Days post, here's an account by Michael about a teacher he had at primary school.
E.R Braithwaite was my teacher at Chapman Street Junior Mixed and Infant School in the East End of London. I don't think many people are aware that before Braithwaite taught at the East End secondary modern school on which 'To Sir, with Love' was based he'd already been a teacher in the East End for some years. And that's how in 1956, when I was nine years old, I was fortunate to become one of his pupils.
As a teacher he was simply inspirational: by which I mean that my young life would have been so much the poorer if he hadn't been in it. I vividly recall him reading aloud in class extracts from the short stories he'd written about his boyhood in Guyana. From these we learned that his name was "Ricky", because that's what his mother called him in the stories. This was extraordinary: in those days primary pupils never got to discover their teachers' first name. Mr Braithwaite read beautifully. His voice seemed deep and cultured and contained a few unfamiliar but attractive vowel sounds. It was also curiously resonant and his sentences seemed to hang suspended in the air well after he'd finished speaking. It was a most distinctive voice and if I close my eyes now, even after all these years, I can still hear it.
On another occasion, in 1957, I remember Mr Braithwaite gathering the whole class around his desk and excitedly informing us that this was a momentous day because the Gold Coast had achieved independence and was henceforward to be known as Ghana. I recall him showing us where the Gold Coast was on the world globe which every classroom had in those days. The happiness and delight on his face made a deep impression on me.
Mr Braithwaite encouraged us to write. He set a literary competition with the prize of a book token for the best essay. I won the prize with my piece about a film I'd seen which was set in Venice. I never traded the token in for a book because it was my most prized possession and I never wanted to relinquish it. Unfortunately, I lost the token, which disappeared when we moved home in 1960. I also recall Mr Braithwaite telling my mother that I would never be a mathematician but I could become a writer.
Mr Braithwaite was a strikingly handsome man (my single parent mother was always saying how incredibly good looking he was). He dressed immaculately in beautiful dark suits, crisp white shirts and lovely silk ties. He illuminated the drab world of our 1950s primary classroom with the technicolour charisma of his arresting presence. He was the first real star I ever met, even before he became famous.
His shiny black shoes always fascinated me; they were so unusual. I craved a pair and dragged my mother round all the shoe shops in Watney Street market and Whitechapel but could never find a pair of shoes like his. Of course, I hadn't the courage to ask him where he bought them.
E.R also encouraged my secretly nursed ambition to become an actor. I remember coming into school one day and he pressed a book of poems into my hand and told me that I'd be reading one of the poems in assembly. The poem was 'Leisure' by W.H. Davies, and despite my initial nervousness, reciting it to what in those days seemed to be a massive audience did wonders for my self-confidence. E.R also gave me a substantial role in the group recitation of Longfellow's 'Hiawatha' which was presented as a piece of choral speaking on Speech Day. Unfortunately, the parents were not appreciative of Longfellow's extremely long, epic poem, and there was much fidgeting, talking and restlessness in the audience by the time we'd got half way through. Visibly annoyed, E.R. stepped forward, snapped his fingers at the choral speakers and ushered us all off stage.
In 1959, when I was at secondary school, I became aware that Braithwaite had published 'To Sir, with Love'. I acquired a copy and was amazed to find that it reproduced vividly life in the East End as I knew it. The Commercial Road and other places familiar to me had been recreated in an altogether different ontology - within the pages of a book: and it was thrilling to know that I had actually been taught by the man who had written this amazing work.
Eustace Edward Ricardo Braithwaite died in 2016. This remarkable teacher, social worker, diplomat, academic and writer was 104 years old.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
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The story of my great, great Uncle William Buckle who emigrated to Australia in 1842.
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