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Murton Elementary School 1948

I used to take 4d to buy soup and a sweet at the British Legion Canteen which was opposite the school.

This photo is of my class in Standard 4, 1948 at Murton Elementary New York School (I haven’t any earlier ones – perhaps because of shortages in and after the war?). The Headmaster, Mr McDonald, is on the left and our teacher, Mr Crabtree, is on the right. Sorry, I remember the faces but can’t remember all the names of the children, but here goes as well as I can. I’ve entered NK where I can’t remember.

Class photograph Murton Elementary School, 1948Front row from left: 3 NK, Joyce Stevens, 2 NK, … Bennett, NK, Myra Mason, NK; Second row: Ellen Wake, NK, Muriel Heron, Grace …(?), 3 NK , Nancy Rowlands (?), NK, Margaret Rutter; Third row: Richard Main, … Dean(?), NK, George Harrison(?), NK, Brian Bradley, 2 NK, Martin McCann ; Back row: Lucy …(?), Maureen Langlands, NK, Elsie Varley, NK, Sylvia Reid, 3 NK

After seeing a number of entries regarding New York School, particularly about Miss Chatt and Mrs Storey, I thought I’d add my two penn’orth. I was a railwayman’s daughter and lived in Old Allotment. The children in West Allotment went to Holystone School, but the few children at our end of the village went to New York (officially Murton Elementary School). My mother took me there for the first day or two then I travelled with the other children from Old Allotment – sometimes on the bus but often walking, sometimes pinching ‘nannies’ (swedes) from the farmer’s field en route – I hated them but had to take part of course. My best friend and her brother, who were the children of a different farmer, were in this group.

There were no school dinners then, and at first my mother used to give me sandwiches which I took to the house of an old friend who lived in New York. Later, as I didn’t like dinners, I used to take 4d (rather less than 2p now) to buy a soup (1d) and a sweet (3d) at the British Legion Canteen which was opposite the school. When school dinners commenced it was a retrograde step as the meals were made at central kitchens (the buildings later became the council cleansing depot beside the Rex Cinema), and I think they toured the whole of Tynemouth Borough before they reached our school.

When I was seven, I was given my first two-wheeler bicycle – as it was war-time it was impossible to get new or modern bicycles and my father got hold of a real old bone-shaker which was made of cast iron and had small solid wheels, – at least I never had a puncture! My Dad sandpapered it, cleaned it up and painted it red and I used to ride all over the area on it, pedalling furiously – fortunately there wasn’t much traffic then.

Unlike some of your contributors, my first impression of school was that it would not be a good idea to get on the wrong side of Miss Chatt, my first teacher. I was some weeks late in starting school as I had been in the Fleming Memorial Hospital having my tonsils removed; this was accepted as a reasonable excuse, but another girl – or rather her mother – got a good telling off from Miss Chatt as this girl too was late in being presented at school and there was seemingly no good excuse. The whole matter was dealt with rather publicly at Miss Chatt’s desk in front of the class. I soon found out that Miss Chatt was in fact very kindly as described by other contributors.

I will add only one tale of my own about her – on Friday afternoons Miss Chatt used to read us a story (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc.) and I must have been rather tender-hearted at that age as the stories always made me cry. It, therefore, became part of the class routine that I would be called to the front and settled down with my head in Miss Chatt’s lap ready for a good cry without disturbing everyone.

Mrs Storey seems to have acquired a rather fearsome reputation, and I feel that I must leap to her defence as I thought she was lovely. Apart from liking her and enjoying her lessons, I remember that she used to bring in cooking apples from her garden and offer them to the children (remember this was war-time and apples were quite hard to come by) but I don’t think that there were many takers apart from myself as the apples were so sour, they made splendid apple tarts and sauces, however. She also invited me to her home for tea when I passed the 11+ exam.

At this time the only teachers in the school were those who weren’t called away to the forces or for other war services. The Headmaster was Mr McDonald. After Mrs Storey’s class, we moved up to Standard 1, taught by Miss Dobie; I can’t recall the teacher of Standard 2, but by Standard 3 the war was over and we had Mr Hope, then Mr Crabtree. In Standard 4. I also remember a young male student-teacher, Mr Gray, whom all the girls had a crush on.

Playtime was spent in the segregated schoolyard, although there was usually a cluster of boys and girls chatting at the gateway (which had no gate) between the two yards. At lunch-time, we ran around more freely on the ‘rec’ or recreation field. I’m not sure why it was called that as I don’t think it was used except by kids and dogs – it probably wasn’t even enough for, say, a proper football pitch, but informal games of football, rounders and hot rice were played there.

Games were seasonal, tops and whips in September were very popular and there was great competition to chalk the best patterns on the top heads. Marbles and ‘chucks’ were favourite games. The girls nearly all had their own skipping ropes and there used to be games where two girls would swing either one or two long ropes (the two ropes were swung in opposite directions) and the rest of us used to dash in one by one until, sooner or later, someone touched a rope – all fall down! There were ball games, remember ‘one two three an uppy’? – usually played with two tennis balls, but sometimes three, and all quite competitive.

There was hop-scotch and roller skating. We would line up or form a circle and perform traditional actions while we sang what I believe were very old songs: “The Old Ship Sails Through the Alley-Alley-oh”, “Wallflower, Wallflower on the Garden Wall”, “All The Little Children Are All Going To Die, Except (named child), She’s The Only One”, “Turn Your Back, Turn Your Back, Turn Around To The Wall Again”, “Ring-a-Ring of Roses” and many more (I believe the latter two refer to the plague, although we did not know this). School games were sometimes held in the playground but sometimes we used to walk in crocodile to a field at Hill Heads, which was way up a minor road and seemed to be in the midst of the country then.

The formal celebrations that I remember best were Empire Day, when the whole school went to a field which I think belonged to Jacksons’ Farm, where there were games, dancing round the Maypole, sticky buns, and a speech and prize-giving by a very old-fashioned lady in voluminous black clothing. I think she was Miss Balls – possibly an important lady in the area, although we never saw her at any other time. Certainly, the whole affair smacked of an earlier era – Lord Bless the Squire and his Relations!

Other celebrations were organised out of school – there was Shiremoor Treat Day, which involved marching down from West Allotment to the Treat field near Shiremoor crossroads; some of the ‘shows’ would go there after being at the Town Moor in Newcastle for Race Week and we were each given a brown paper bag with the inevitable sticky buns. From West Allotment United Methodist Chapel (there was another one called the Independent Methodists but they later joined forces), we used to join the Sunday School March on Easter Sunday and there was the annual trip by bus – I can remember going to Hexham and Gloucester Lodge amongst other places. I may not have been very impressed at some of the places we went to as our family got free or concessionary rail travel because of my Dad’s work and regularly travelled as far as Lancashire to visit relatives and enjoyed many day-trips away by train.

I was the only child in my year to pass the 11+ exam although, like another contributor, I felt at the time that there were at least another four or five who should have done so. One contributor (who must have been in my year) wrote about it being something of a culture shock to start at Shiremoor Modern School, but at least she would be there with others from New York school. Imagine what it was like for one girl to start at Tynemouth High School where there were something like 700 pupils at the morning assembly.

It was all much more formal than anything I had experienced before. The whole school was expected to file-in in an orderly fashion from four different points arranged according to seniority and sex. Once the school had assembled under the eagle eyes of the teachers on duty, the other teachers, wearing caps and gowns took their seats flanking centre stage where the Headmaster finally arrived as everyone sprang to attention.

The Headmaster, Mr Smedley, seemed far removed from anyone I knew, and at first, I thought similarly of the teachers although I soon discovered that many of them were quite pleasant. At first, however, I only knew one boy and one girl in the whole school. They had attended New York School, but they were about three years older than me. In the following year, two other pupils from my class at New York passed to come to the High School, but by then I had made new friends and developed new interests.

However, that’s another story…….

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