West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Memories and Recollections

PONTEFRACT, 1939-1944


School Days at Love Lane was previously published in the Pontefract Family History Society Journal and is reproduced here with the permission of Marian Roberts.

I was a pupil at Love Lane School, Pontefract, during the war years from September 1939 to July 1944. I think the army took possession of the Infant School as a couple of infant classes that I attended were held in the Junior School building. My first teacher, when I was six years old, was Mrs Wood, a very elderly lady who had also taught my mother before the turn of the century at the British School in Gillygate. My next teacher was Miss Rose.

When I moved up into the juniors, boys and girls were educated separately. We did not even play together and the railings that had previously divided the area had been taken for the war effort. We were not allowed to pass over the imaginary line where they had previously stood and so we were still segregated. A very large water tank, in case of air raids perhaps, was installed in the girls’ area, taking up quite a lot of space.

We always put on a display for 'Empire Day' and sang songs that today would be considered patronising. The Mayor of Pontefract attended and we all waited anxiously for him to announce an extra days holiday. We also looked forward to a holiday for the Statutes Fair, which was always held on the first Thursday in November.

There was of course no National Health Service but there was a clinic opposite the Municipal Offices. The dentist, Mr. Fisher, would examine our teeth at school. At a later date, if treatment was considered to be necessary, we would walk down, in crocodile, to the clinic, carrying our gas masks. The nurse at the clinic was Mrs Lillian Tomlinson, the sister of the Headmaster of Love Lane Boys School. A doctor would also visit the school and I recollect being examined by Dr. Hessel Snr. (Michael's father), who announced that my tonsils needed to be removed. Two years elapsed before I went in to hospital. How does that compare with the present N.H.S. waiting lists? School dinners were not supplied but as we all lived locally we went home for lunch. As the war progressed, meals were provided at the Town Hall, in the British Restaurant.

The teachers at that time were :- Miss Hood, Mrs Brown, Mrs Wilberforce and Miss Todd. The Headmistress was Miss Hall. During the last six months I was at Love Lane School the 1944 Education Act came into being and the school became a Junior Mixed School. Quite an event in our lives. Several of the girls were concerned that they might be in Mr. Wheatley's class. He had lost an arm in World War One and carried a cane around, hooked through his jacket button hole. Mr. Tomlinson became Headmaster. I recall accompanying him and a boy called Billy Lawrence to an evening function at the Municipal Offices. We received an award on behalf of the school in connection with National Savings.

The pupils of Form IV were the last children to sit the County Minor Scholarship Examination. I believe five girls and two boys were fortunate to get places at the local Grammar Schools. I was one of those. There were other scholarships awarded and if my memory is correct, they were named Borough and Governors, but I cannot bring to mind how many children received them. I still have my prize, a book entitled "Cuchulain", chosen, I must admit, for its leather binding embossed with gold. This was war time and most other books were paperbacks. I think mine must have been old stock. I thought the "Hound of Ulster" was a dog, imagine my surprise when I discovered he was an Irish hero.

Miss Todd encouraged us to read poetry and my continuing interest in any form of history was kindled by her. Mrs Wilberforce instilled in us the importance of "good English". "Remember", she would say, "Do not pronounce the T in often and never the W in towards". Mrs Wilberforce I do remember!

Marian Denton Roberts (nee Johnson)


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