|Memories of Aireborough Grammar School 1946-1948 shared with us by Dr Neil Clifton.
I have published this as it was given to me by Neil.
My early schooling was at Horsforth St. Margaret’s C of E School, still at that time known to all and sundry as Horsforth National School. This was an excellent school and I will always be grateful for the education I received there. How the staff managed to cope with the large class sizes in the very difficult wartime years, remains a mystery to me and can only have been accomplished with a great deal of devotion. The headmaster was Mr Sharpe, and the deputy head was Mr Tom Warren, who was always known as ‘Daddy’ Warren. My own very first teacher, in the ‘Babies’ class, was Miss Preston. Higher up the school was an outstanding teacher, Miss (Nancy) Sutcliffe.
In early 1946, we took the ‘County Minor’ exam, which was later known as the ’11-plus’. Together with a lot of other children, I was told I had passed for Aireborough Grammar, and I duly began there in September 1946. We were all a bit scared about going to the ‘Big School’ where we did not know any of the teachers and there would be children from all over, Guiseley, Yeadon, Rawdon etc. as well as children from other Horsforth primaries. Whereas there had only been one class per year at the National, Aireborough has four classes per year.
Moreover, getting to and from school would involve a bus journey. This was paid for by West Riding County Council, and we could choose between travlling on the LCT bus No 71, which ran along the A65, or by the ‘Private’ service, provided by Samuel Ledgard, which operated on a contractual basis for children from areas of Horsforth remote from the A65, such as Woodside, the Old Ball area, Troy etc. I chose the ‘Private’ service as it passed very near my home. The buses used on the ‘Private’ were from Ledgard’s Moorfields depot in Yeadon, known to house the most decrepit and run-down buses in the fleet. Two vehicles would normally be provided. Usually one of them would be an old 26-seater, which we referred to as ‘Vinny’s Wreck’. There were also the ‘Utilities’, which were Bedford OBWs with slatted wooden seats, and one or two of the TS8 saloon coaches, still in grey paint from wartime.
We had been led by older boys to believe that all new boys had to be put down the ‘Froghole’ when they began. The ‘Froghole’ proved to be no more frightening than a basement window-well and was quite easy to climb out of. Girls, of course, were spared this indignity.
There were roughly 120 new pupils starting at the same time as me. We were divided into four forms of just over 30 pupils each, strictly on age grounds and regardless of sex. I found myself in the youngest form, known as 2D, which contained an imbalance of 21 girls and 12 boys. Regardless of the fears I had previously had, we all settled down into what proved to be an interesting and friendly environment. The form master of 2D was Mr Wickham. He was a firm but friendly teacher. Although he would not have put up with any nonsense, he never shouted at anyone and was well-liked. As well as being our form master he taught us for English and History. French was taught by Miss Smart, who was about 50, she was kindly also. But our favourite teacher was Mr Tillotson, who taught us for Maths and Physics. He never got cross, and let us talk while doing our Maths.
Mr Robinson taught Chemistry and Geography. The only teacher I was scared of was the woodwork teacher, Mr Beadle, everybody knew him as ‘Basher’ Beadle. He shouted all the time and hit the bench top hard with a piece of wood. It did not help that I was useless at woodwork, and particularly, as I am left-handed, the benches were all the wrong way round for me.
Mr Davies took biology, we called him ‘Tojo’ because he looked a bit Japanese. There was also Mr Senior who took religious education. I can remember not one single fact I ever learned from him.He was ‘getting on a bit’ and was known to ‘like the girls’
Mr Wigglesworth took us for football and PE and also swimming. The school bath was closed when I first went to Aireborough, as a fault needed reparing. When it was done, I wished it hadn’t as the water was really cold and you were made to take a cold shower before getting into the bath. ‘Wiggy’ was another teacher who shouted a lot, but I managed to avoid getting noticed too often
By playing at left-back in football all I ever did was to hoof the ball upfield whenever it came to me. Just once it entered the opponents’ goal (the goalie must have been asleep), but that was the only occasion on which I did anything useful. When the cricket season came round things were a bit better, I could bat a bit and field but my attempts at bowling were, to put it politely, unsuccessful.
At that time Brian Close was still at Aireborough, and at lunchtimes he would bowl to us in the nets.
I did not have school dinners, but took sandwiches, those who did this were provided with a special room (it was Room 17, the Elementary Lab), to eat them, and you could get a cup of tea for 1d.
Another diversion at lunch times as going ‘out of bounds’ with two of my friends, Dick Beck and Roy ‘‘Rusty ‘ Hardwick. We would go and watch operations at Guiseley Brick Works, where clay was mined and put into little tipper skips which ran on a narrow-gauge railway up to shed where they would disgorge their content.
I soon settled in to life at Aireborough. Being just turned 11 it was a time when I was getting keen on girls and of course we all had our favourites. The girls I noticed early on were Gillian Spencer and Shirley Bailey. I was shy and never plucked up courage to speak to Gillian, but I got on well with Shirley, who now lives in Ireland and I am still in contact with. Most of the boys liked Mavis Kitson who was very pretty, she was in the same class as Gillian and Shirley. There was also a girl called June Bridgeland who was in my own class. She moved away to Southampton later and proved to be a talented distance-runner, but she was killed in a tragic accident in 1956 when she fell from a train.
For my second year at Aireborough I was put into form 3S. We had a most interesting form room which was` Room 20 in the basement, accessed through the woodwork room. Our form master was the Art teacher, Mr Greenwood, whom I already knew quite well as I was in the school Chess team, which he looked after. Also a lot of new teachers – Mr Pollard for Maths, Mr White for English, Mr Ward for History, (he was horrible), Mr Price for Physics, Mr Gregory (‘TEG’) for chemistry. No biology for 3S. Mr Greenwood took us for Art.
Mr Greenwood gave me a large piece of paper to draw a map of Horsforth, which started me off drawing maps, eventually those on my website at www. 5000maps.com/wr
When I went into 3S, a new cohort of children had arrived from the local primaries. These included a girl from a remote part of Horsforth, called Jean Speight. I really liked her, she was so pretty. But again shyness on my part stopped me talking to her. She later went to South Africa,where I believe she still lives, if she is still alive.
I did not see a third year at Aireborough, because my father got promotion and my family moved to Rochdale in Lancashire. This of course meant a new school for me –all boys Rochdale Municipal High School, which I hated and longed to be back at Aireborough, where I had spent the happiest two years of my school life. I was very sad to see the school had been pulled down in the 1990s.
I would be very pleased to hear from any old Aireborough students any time.