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School Day Memories

by Bernadette Weyde

I went to Patrick school where there were two classes – an Infants’ class and a Junior one.  I was in the Infants’ class together with about 20 other children and there were another 30 odd children in the Junior class.  All the pupils came from the village itself and from the outlying district of Glenmaye and Dalby.  We went to school at 5 years of age and stayed in the Junior class until we were 11 when you either got a scholarship to the Douglas High Schools or went on to Peel School.  I, together with a boy from Gordon, was lucky enough to get a scholarship to Douglas High Schools.

In Patrick school there were the Cringles and Cowleys from Glenmaye; the Halls from Gordon (who were fisherman’s children) the Quirks and Quanes and Killeys from Dalby and the Kellys, Mylcreests and Kennaughs from the village itself; the Allans and Leadleys and Nicholsons from the lighthouse near Patrick.

All the children walked to school; the ones coming from Glenmaye and Dalby brought packed lunches with them to eat at dinnertime (lunch).  We went home.  I often wished that I could join the country children who ate their dinner on the stage with hot cocoa or tea provided by Mrs Kneale (caretaker).  She lived in the schoolhouse next door and her husband was Tommy, affectionately called ‘Tommy Heavysides‘.  Some people in those days were given nicknames and they stayed with them for the rest of their lives.  ‘Kitty Susan’ who lived with her mother in a cottage in Barnell, wore fancy garters and was of dubious character.

The infants’ teacher was Miss Faragher who came to school each day on the back of her boyfriend’s motor bike.  She was a tall lady with a loud voice.  The head teacher was Miss Pollitt who was of average height and rather prim.  I remember her most for her punishment of naughty boys.

When we were 7 we went up to the Junior class where Miss Pollitt taught.  We sat in two rows at wooden desks where two people sat side by side.  I sat next to Bessie Veetch and we wrote and did our work with pens and ink – the ink was in wells on the desk itself.  Miss Pollit taught us to write from the blackboard.  She did all her demonstrations from the blackboard.  How to write our letters, how to do hundreds, tens and units.  She taught us a bit about music and once put some clefs and notes on the blackboard asking us, ‘What are these?’  I knew because I went to piano lessons but Bernard said, ‘You ought to know, YOU go to music’.

Miss Pollitt was very keen on hygiene, ‘Chew your food twenty times before you swallow it,‘ and ‘Walk straight,‘ and ‘Clean your teeth,‘ and because of the scourge of consumption then we were given a spoonful of cod liver oil and malt each day.

The school nurse and doctor came to see us each year.  The doctor had a black bag and tested our lungs, the nurse looked for head lice and nits in our hair.

In the summer Miss Pollitt used to take us up to Barnell Glen for a nature walk and we took our nature books with us to jot down any nice things we saw and we wrote about them and drew them.  We passed the singing river flowing past the trees.  We picked wild flowers to paint and walked right up to the reservoir.  I loved nature then.  I still do.

In September I went to the Douglas High School for Girls.  I had to learn to ride a bicycle.  I got up at 6am each morning to get the 7.30am steam train from Peel.  If I was late I went to St Johns where Tommy the kind guard often waited for me.  I left my bicycle by the wall and joined the girls in the carriage that was especially for us.

At school we were divided into ‘As’ and ‘Bs’, I went in the A class to take Latin.  All the teachers wore long black cloaks and black mortarboards.  I was in awe of them!  Our art teacher was none other than Archie Knox.  Now he was rather nice.  We liked him because he used to put still life in front of us to draw.  If we did not get it right he sat down on our seats and drew it for us and then gave us ten out of ten for our efforts!

I stayed for dinner (lunch) at school and we paid 9d (9 pence old money) for the meal.  It was a very good meal – meat and veg followed by pudding.  We often got seconds of pudding.  Once, we decided not to get any dinner but use the money instead to go down town and spend it in Woolies.  We were brought up before Miss Haslet.  ‘Why are you girls not having your dinners with the money your mothers have given you? And I also heard you were taking your hats off when you left school.  Don’t you respect your school uniform?’  We were scared of her and did not do it again.

At the end of term we had tests and got marks and I was often top in art and music and came third  once in the whole class but we had strong opposition from some girls from the south – Annie Kneen and Annie Keggin.  We were never worried about coming bottom though as this was reserved for a girl who came from Foxdale.  She was always bottom.

In the third year we went to Amy Faith Green’s class and she looked after us.  She warned us of our changing life style and sex changes (teenage years).  I became very self-conscious at this stage and at home I used to look for fleas and flea marks on me and my clothes and my mother reported to someone, ‘Nancy is becoming very odd and acting strange lately.’

The boys at Douglas High School became more interesting and I passed love notes to one of them on the Port Erin train as it was going out of Douglas.  He came from Red Gap in Castletown.  When the Christmas party was on we joined with the boys at the other school and I played for the dancing once ‘The Bats in the Belfry.’  One of the boys stopped by me and said, ‘YOU are bats!’

In the 5th year we took our school certificate and I got 6 passes and left to go to college.

(source: Country Girl – Life on an old Manx Farm with Manx Dialect by Nancy Mills (1998); Dreamtime)

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