Mr Murphy had an uncanny way of making teaching interesting so that you wanted to know more.
As a boy I struggled in some subjects, for instance, maths was never my strong point, however, I enjoyed most lessons, history was one of them. I particularly liked listening to my class teacher Mr Murphy reading to me about Eric Bright Eyes. Mr Murphy was at that time the best teacher in the school, he was kind and understanding, the only teacher in the school who would set time aside to read a story to the pupils. To this day I appreciate every time I think of him. In the school playground, he would take the opportunity to play ball with us, there was no one like him, I respected him a great deal, he was my hero.
Other teachers in the school included Miss Purdy and Miss Chorly, and a Miss Chirnside who I considered very good. Of the male teachers, was a Mr Worley who became Headmaster of New York School.
Now back to Mr Murphy, he had an exceptionally good insight on how to get your attention, then show you how to use this information in life. He had an uncanny way of making teaching interesting so that you wanted to know more. He was a great inspiration to us. At one stage in our training, he would put us in a unique position where we would have to think how we would tackle a problem.
He did this in an unobtrusive way by giving us the opportunity to choose our own subject. The plan was this: we would think of a subject that we thought we knew something about, then set it out in our own words and explain our findings in front of the class. This was something I had never done before and neither had anyone else. This was revolutionary in my eyes. This was the first time in my life I was put to the test, nothing like that had happened to me before. I wasn’t scared or anything we were all in the same boat so-to-speak.
The subject was to be of our own vocation, Mr Murphy said: “It is up to you, choose your own subject”. I remember one well-dressed boy in my class voiced his opinion and said he was going to talk to us about mechanisation of the Army, something he knew quite a lot about. What would I talk about? I hadn’t a clue, however, my dad had collected lots of books over the years and these stood me in good stead and helped me to make up my mind as to what subject I would choose.
Searching through the books, I found a Home Doctor book and in one section was the intricate details of the human eye; this was to become my consuming interest for the next ten days or so. I mastered the names of the accompanying components of the eyeball and how the eye worked. Now I had to explain in front of the class what I had learned from my study of the diagrams of the eye in my book. I was summoned to the front of the class to do my teaching because that was what it was all about; putting us in his position so we could see what he was trying to do. He was a very clever man, after that day Mr Murphy found a certain pride in his pupils.
After moving on from junior school to Linskill Senior School, every morning after the register had been called, all classes would assemble in the main hall to be addressed by the Headmaster who would bring us up to date with events taking place then and in the future, this would be concluded by singing a hymn followed by a prayer. School was always competitive, that is why when in my first class we would be ennobled into a regime of teams, each one was told what team he would belong to, in my case I was in Hanover which was yellow, red would be Tudor, green Stuart and blue which was Windsor, so we all knew our place in school society.
One of the most interesting lessons I remember was to come under the tuition of a science teacher Mr McNaught who was great fun to be with, he taught us how to morris dance and we loved it, especially if music was played to accompany our dancing, it was a joy. I well remember him explaining what air pressure could do, he displayed how air pressure could be seen happening before our very eyes, with a tin can and a bunsen burner. It astounded me. This was an experiment I never forgot because it completely enthralled me, even to this day.
My other memorable teacher was Mr Doig, a tall robust red-cheeked man. I respected him and got on with him. I remember making a brass nameplate with my father’s name on it. As I remember, my dad put it on his allotment gate, near Preston Cemetery. I wonder if it is still there! Following on from that I remember making a copper vase, with expert tuition from Mr Doig. The vase had to be planished on the outside, this is a finish achieved by lightly hammering on the outside surface which produces a highly polished appearance to the finished article. It looked beautiful. I was very proud of it. Sadly my finely soldered exhibit was stolen by one of the many pupils who attended that workshop. Sadly the influx of new students brought in lowering of ethical standards. Who would steal another student’s work? Only the lowest of the low!
The last of my review of some of my teachers who made an impression on me was my headmaster known as Mr Cockburn, pronounced “Coburn” a very quiet man; until he got angry. I found him to be always calm and collected and easily approached. I was in the last few years of my schooling, nearing the age of fourteen, this was the age I could leave and start to earn my living and get a job, this was possible if the headmaster thought you were up to it, you needed his permission. This was the first time I had ever approached him on a personal matter. He was always immaculately dressed, never anything out of place, very ordered and confident, he seemed a kindly man never one to rant and rave, never known to cane a boy. He appointed me as a prefect, so he must have seen some potential in me. When I did ask to see him he was a charming man with one small imperfection, he smoked cigarettes all the time. Unfortunately, shortly after I left school I heard he had died, a sad end to my story.