St. JOSEPH'S - AN UNUSUAL SCHOOL
by DAVE BARRY
school was unusual in 1963 in that you entered it at the age of five and
left when you reached the age of fifteen. The 1944 Education Act, which
established secondary schools for all, was very late reaching Roman
Catholics in the West Riding. The school was, and still is, St. Joseph’s,
on Newgate. Few children left at eleven to go to grammar school as the
Catholic ones were in Leeds, but it was still a highly regarded school
by local employers.
life of the school was very much involved with the activities of the
adjacent church in Crab Hill. Each week all the children would attend
Mass and Benediction (a blessing service) during school time. The
priests knew every child and the whole town would be witness to the
processions twice a year.
processions were led by a brass band and Catholics of the Parish would
carry their banners denoting membership of the Catholic Nurses Guild and
such like. Hymns were sung and roses scattered on the street by
schoolgirls dressed in white as the procession wound its way along
Ropergate, through the Buttercross (another Benediction!), up Beastfair
and back to the church. Many non-Catholics must have cursed us for
closing the Town Centre to traffic on those Sundays.
Holy Communions were also a very memorable event for most young
Catholics. Even as late as the 1950’s we first learned to write using
slates, but with chalk rather than slate pencils, moving very quickly to
ink, ink wells and scratchy stick pens. The top infant’s classroom of
Miss McGuire, still had desks in galleries, possibly one of the last in
(Beaky) Harring, was the head teacher of the ‘big school’ during
most of my time at the school and notable teachers included: Messers
Lemon, Levy, McGuinness, the girls favourite, McDermott and Misses:
Ellen, Cairns, McGuire, McHardie, McKay and the almost legendary Mrs
Padgem of the reception class. ‘Beaky’ wielded the ‘stick’ with
school had no playing fields of its own and we would walk, or run, to
the field next to the Sun and Moon houses at the top of Halfpenny Lane.
I almost got into the school football team but failed the throw-in test
given to any potential wing half. Mr. Pagdin, who collected the waste
food after the school dinners, had his premises up there too. I remember
he used to pick up the pig bin and the contents would slip down the back
of his neck as he carried it to his lorry.
Day was at the Park and everyone would participate in at least one event
and one super sports person would seemingly win nearly everything and be
awarded the title "Victor Ludorem". I would love to know who
the lad was whose arm was pierced by a javelin - in flight - during one
of those events in the 1960’s.
unusual school also asked me to move ten tons of horse manure for the
gardens by wheelbarrow and to shovel a similar amount of coke into the
bunkers from the pile that had been left by lorry, both activities were
regarded as a privilege and a treat! I was also ‘Hall boy’ for some
months in my third year. I was allowed to miss every lesson – except
was unusual but when it did happen, Beaky would organise a boxing ring
in the playground and the bully would "put the gloves on" with
one of the older boys – the bully often ending up with a bloodied
class left in 1963 to go the new St. Wilfrid’s school at North
Featherstone and there we discovered that the education received at St.
Joseph’s had indeed been elementary. The school has great memories for
me but I wont embarrass any of my fellow pupils except Sheila, who
started in Mrs Pagem’s class on the same day as me, and Norman, who
was to be the first lad I sat next to.
write these few words in the hope that other readers who attended the
school will add to them over the next few months.