Not Many Wise -

Faith and spirituality in a modern world


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[9] John (Jack) Wales: Earith British School 1930’s

Ducks swimming on the pond at Earith.
Ducks swimming on the pond at Earith.

(The Earith British School is on the Colne Road. John Wales is speaking.)
The Headmaster, Mr Leadbetter, (or ‘Ghandi’ as the children called him) always carried a cane which he was not afraid to use and it was reputed that these canes were bought by the bundle!
In approximately 1937 a new headmaster was appointed – Jack Davies.
Children attended school from the ages of 4 to 14 years with 3 classes in the entire school, each class consisted of approximately 20 pupils.
At the age of 11, pupils had a chance to pass an exam and attend the Grammar School in Huntingdon (or Ramsey for Colne children).
Fee-paying pupils could also attend the Grammar schools.
Skeele’s Charity would make donations for books required by the pupil for the Grammar school.

The school had outings which the children paid for during the year and on these occasions, Mr Worsdell of ‘Kingscroft’, Earith High Street, would use one of his buses to transport the children.
I started in the Infants Class, known as Standard 1, and my teacher was Miss Chapman and she lived with her parents and sisters in the Railway Gatehouse near the sluice, at the Hermitage.
We used an Abacus to learn to count and also learnt how to lace up our own shoes and boots properly!

At Christmas time we made coloured paper chains and lanterns for decorations.
We had so big a Christmas tree we used to open the trap door into the roof to let the top go up — that was down in the other end in the big room.
Mr. Edwards from the village, he was a wholesale fruiterer in London, Smithfield Market, he always supplied it, massive thing, and we all got a prezzie and the youngest girl in the school got the fairy off the top.

The Duck Pond near to the British School, Earith.
The Duck Pond near to the British School, Earith

We had a family in here called Parkers, older one known as Chucky, the younger boy used to be in this room, the middle boy used to be in the other one and the older boy in the far room so if anything happened to either of them they could hear what was going on and then this one would rush in to our room, the big one would rush in and they’d all support him.
This particular day ‘Ghandi’ was hitting, you know, with the hand out with a cane and in the end the boy ran out and ran down the Back Lane and Ghandi, that’s the head master, he got on his bicycle, cane still in hand, and followed him, the two other brothers and all us other lads all ran down Back Lane.

After Standard 1, you moved to the middle room and Standard 2. Here the teacher was another Miss Chapman who came from away and lodged with Mrs. Hard who took in visitors, mainly fishermen, as did two or three other ladies in the village.
Miss Chapman eventually married the son of a fruit grower in the village.

In Standard 2 we had ink pens to write with and special lined paper for our writing lessons.
Miss Chapman had a very heavy, twelve inch long, black ruler and occasionally she used this on your knuckles for some misdemeanour!

(Extracts from ‘Keeping Time by the Crows’ University of Cambridge.
John Wales retains copyright on original contributions)

John (Jack) Wales

March 2012

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