School Badge

Frances HARPER (1961-1966)

I went there in September 1961 from Sandyford junior school and left in 1966 when my family moved to Burton-on-Trent. I was in the C form all the way up, though I could have gone into 3B because by some miracle I'd come top of 2C in the summer exams. However, I preferred to be top of the C form rather than bottom of the B form, which I sensed I would probably be, and anyway I had friends, and especially one particular friend, in my form and I didn't us to be separated. Not that going into the B form would have given me any particular academic advantage. As it happened I went down the ranks again in 3C, so I made the right decision.

Second year was the only year I understood anything in Maths. Miss Garret was our teacher and she urged us all to increase our Christmas mark by 30% (even if it meant getting more than 100% for the mathematicians!). And miraculously I went from 22% to 52%, the only time I passed a Maths exam, I think. I've never forgotten that two minuses make a plus because two knights were hurtling towards each other with their lances at the ready, and when they collided the lances fell lying over each other.

I was good in French and Latin, but to learn German you had to be in the A form! My father went ranting up to the school to see Doc H, as the way they streamed us according our average, rather than according to subjects (a system used in other schools), was rather unfair. As a result in some subjects, for example, there were people in my form who regularly got over 80% in Maths (to my 22%), whereas I was in the 80% for languages. My father didn't want what he believed to be a talent for languages to go to waste. "If we make an exception for one girl," was the reply he got, "we'll have to make it for others." So I carried on doing only French. However I later went on to learn Russian, some Hebrew, Dutch, Spanish, a bit of Arabic, but that's skipping a few years, and I'm bilingual in French since I've been living in France since 1970 and now I live in an area where Occitan is spoken!

I remember Doc H for her "Bless Our Dear Aunt Sally" equation in the Maths lessons she did once a week in first form, an equation which was supposed to help us in maths, but I kept wondering what to do with it. However, I've never forgotten the phrase. I also remember the elocution lessons in first form, which somehow I found extremely insulting, and as a result I demolished the BBC English pronunciation I had (my parents were Londoners who spoke like that) to adopt as much Geordie as I could, so now I have an accent that comes from nowhere and everywhere. I was the only one in the class who could pronounce words the way Doc H wanted us to, because that was how I spoke. However, ask me my name now, and I never say "Frarnces", oh, no. And all my students of English in France leave my lessons saying "past" and not "parst". I often say I went to Newcasrstle in 1959 and left Nicastle in 1966. I also remember going to Doc H's office for an Honour Mark, and quaking in my shoes. I had to force myself to knock on her door.

I remember Miss Raby for games and gym, and for the awful public showers that I rushed through, embarrassed, trying not to get too wet and shoving myself quickly into my clothes to get away from the gaze of everybody else - not that they were gazing, of course, but that's what it felt like! I also didn't like the way the teachers were all covered up in warm clothing for winter games periods and we had to wear skimpy things so we were cold. I always thought it most unfair. I hated games periods anyway, as I was not into sports. I also remember lacrosse, and I have never ever found anyone else anywhere who has played it (not even in France although its name sounds very French). People have always looked puzzled whenever I've mentioned it, and I've often had to draw pictures of the equipment. Was it something that was special to HHS? However, even if I was bad in gym and games, strangely I was one of the few who could climb the rope up to the top.

Mrs Reid told me I would fail in Maths: "There are some," she said pointing her finger in my direction, "that won't get their O level". Well, after five years of torture, I still didn't understand a thing and couldn't do the exercises - trigonometry with its cosines and whatnot was totally opaque, except for drawing the 3D triangles, which somehow I could do, but then I loved art. But I got a 5 in O level, which was brilliant, and all down to a strategy of rote that I had to adopt to have any chance of getting anywhere, because without realising it, Mrs Reid gave me the key. She said that we would get 45% of the marks in GCE just for writing down the theorems. That didn't fall on deaf ears. But as we moved at that point, I wasn't able to wave my paper in front of her the following September to show her how wrong she'd been.

I also remember Miss Harbottle and the horrible sewing lessons. I hated sewing and couldn't do it (nor cooking, I remember listening with envy to my brothers talking about metal and wood work), so I got my mother, who was a professionally trained dressmaker, to do the bits we had to do at home. And one day, Miss Harbottle tore out the sleeves my mother had set in saying that it wasn't the way to do it. My mother was furious because my parents hadn't much money, and Miss Harbottle could have torn the material with her thoughtlessness, in which case, my mother couldn't have bought me another piece - not that the school would have understood that, I reckon. But my mother just put the sleeves back in how she'd done it before! She wasn't having anybody tell her she didn't know her own job! I also did some classical ballet with Miss Harbottle - yes indeed, she did ballet lessons during lunch times.

I had Miss Iannarelli but I can't remember if it was English or French, and she left to get married. I also remember Miss Clough in History, another subject I hated in school as it was so boring. I love it now and have done for years. I remember how we used to play her up all the time, and when I was on the receiving end of the same treatment many years later as a replacement teacher, I realised how desperate she must have felt.

Mrs Marshall was my first introduction to French and it was like someone opening a door. I can still quote the very first lesson in the book in which "Marie est dans la salle de classe, Jean est dans la salle de classe, le professeur est dans la salle de classe" etc., and along came the wonderful word "prestidigitateur" which I practised until it tripped off my tongue, and which, as I discovered in 1967 on a trip to my pen friend's, no one ever used, they said "magicien"! Mrs Hobson was the next French teacher up to 5th form.

I've never forgotten the dreadfully ugly drill slip we had to wear that was most unbecoming to girls over 13, the peggy purse, the blue girdle, which I've still got, the beret with the tassel on it which I liked, I can still tie a tie correctly! But I have never been able to wear anything in check gingham throughout my adult life. And what about the fact that we weren't allowed to be seen walking to school with a boy. One of my brothers went to Heaton Grammar, so if we were walking together we had to make sure to split up well before the boundary streets. I remember how we all rushed to the window to look at these mysterious boys from the Grammar school on the rare occasion that they used the path past our windows coming back from some outside activity. If the school had been a boat, it would have overturned.

I remember Mrs Davies and her "impotent" in music lessons. However, I did have fun in the choir as I loved singing, and I can still remember the harmonies we did for Open Day, and yes, I remember parading in the Quad. But I actually enjoyed that, because of the singing.

Some people in my class: Diane Pilter (my best friend, who died in 1994 from breast cancer, unfortunately; her husband had moved them to Brussels by then), Anne Butcher, Sylvia Bell, Vivian Saunders, Jean Jardine, Anne Brzosztowski (spelling?), Elaine Thompson, Pamela Watson, Janet Burrage, Patricia Thompson, Pauline …., Christine Graham, Cynthia Innerd, Hilary Elsworth (I discovered on the Heaton Manor site), was there an Isabel Black ? I also had a friend in the D form who lived not far from me in Jesmond, called Rosamund Crowther. Diane had a friend in the A form called Hillary Rholles. For the moment I can't think of other names. I've got a picture of 3C taken in summer 1964 so I keep looking at it to try and remember the names. I'm very bad with names anyway, but I remember faces.

Anyway, after A levels at Burton-on-Trent High School, I went to Wolverhampton Polytechnic to become a bilingual secretary, and moved to France in 1970, where I lived in various places in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region until 1998 when I came down to the Ardèche, to a little village up in the mountains. I married a Frenchman in the Lille area in 1974, so became Madame Lemaire until we divorced in 1990, and it was back to Harper as the French don't keep the ex-husband's surname when they're divorced. I've had French nationality since 1975. I have three children, and now have three grandchildren who also live in my little village, as one of my daughters laid her sights on one of the two remaining bachelors in the village one spring while down here on holiday with me! After stopping work to look after my children, I went to Lille University during the 80s to get a degree to teach English and then taught, self-employed, in firms, specialist schools (such as transport and logistics) and the adult education department of Lille III University. Down here, in the sunny Ardèche, I'm the local newspaper correspondent, and I've published 4 novels in French, and translated others into English (including one of mine). I can be found on the French Google (on the English Google I've discovered a homonym who was a black American writer at the beginning of the 20th century!).

It would be interesting to have some photos on the site. A lot of memories would be jogged, as mine was by just reading some of the entries. I don't know what made me google the school, but I'm glad I did.

Val HARRISON (now Banjo) (1949-1954)

I was a pupil in Miss Beavis's class at Heaton High from 1949 to 1954. Incidentally her obituary was in this weeks (November 2002)  paper, she was 92. I went straight from school to work as an apprentice graphic artist for the Evening Chronicle. After about three years I got married, had two children and went to live in Nigeria. Another two children and over thirty years later and many interesting experiences I am back in Newcastle. I still keep in touch with a few old classmates but often wonder what happened to the rest. Would love to hear from any of them

Mildred HESLOP (now Robson) (1944-1949)

I only knew one girl at the high school when I started in September 1944 and she was in the year above me. Elsie Murray explained exactly how one had to tie the sash around the gymslip we all wore. Such detail seemed very important at the time. The uniform was a square necked cream blouse, (later changed to a shirt necked blouse and tie), navy blue gym slip with box pleats and a blue waist sash, grey knee socks, black shoes, navy blue gabardine raincoat and a navy blue velour hat with a ribbon in the school colours. In the summer we wore blue checked gingham dresses and short white socks. Knickers were navy blue or the gingham check. We each made a pair of gingham knickers in our first year and learned to make french seams and hem by hand. But I don’t know of anyone who actually wore the ones they’d made. We also did patching, darning and weaving. My weaving earned me an Honour mark.

There was no physical punishment at the school but a very effective system of Honour or Black marks. Over all the years I received four Honour marks and one Black mark. That was for climbing over the dividing wall into the boy’s playing field to collect a cricket ball. I would rather have the black mark than face Miss Raby with the news that we’d lost a cricket ball. I gambled on the chance that no teacher would see me climb over the wall at the back of the school in the dinner hour, but Miss Sinclair in the Art room did and easily recognised me.

My gymslip lasted me all the five years I was at Heaton. By the fourth year it was very short on me and Mam unpicked it and made a skirt for my fifth year. ‘Make do and mend’ was encouraged by the government during the war and for years afterwards. It was 1949 before clothes rationing coupons were discontinued.

I found the High School a stimulating and enjoyable place to be. Placed in the ‘B’ form I settled in and quickly made friends. There was only one girl in my form who lived near me and the next nearest lived in Byker.

Usually I went to school by trolley bus to Byker and then by tram to the end of Heaton Road at the Corner House. The walk up the hill to the school was most fun in the autumn when the pavement was covered in dead leaves and we would scrunch through them. When it was icy we would slide down, seeing who could slide the furthest.

There were two schools on the site but they used one two storied building, of which each half was a mirror image of the other. Heaton Grammar School was for boys and Heaton High for girls and separation was rigidly enforced. We used separate driveways and entrances and playing fields. Each school had an open quadrangle, around which the classrooms, laboratories and staffroom took up three sides, with the main hall, dining room and Head Teacher’s offices on the fourth side where the two schools joined. At the entrance to the High School drive was an empty space where the Caretakers house used to be. It had been bombed earlier on in the war.

Unlike now when children have to transport their belongings around with them from class to class we used a cloakroom, where we left our outdoor clothes and wellingtons if it was wet. It was unthinkable that anyone would steal our coats, though we never left money in them.

For most lessons the staff came to our form room, but for Science, Art, Domestic Science, Physical Education, Music and Games we went ‘en masse’ to the rooms on the other side of the Quad.

We all had to have a ‘peggy’ purse. This was a brown leather purse on a long strap that was worn over one shoulder, crossing the chest and back and in which we kept any valuables including our dinner tickets. Schoolbooks were carried in a brown leather satchel on our backs.

I can’t say the dinners were good but one didn’t have to use any food coupons to have one. One meal I did like was a crunchy salad that had a lovely mustard sauce over the sliced cabbage. But the mince was always cold and we could literally turn the plate upside down and it wouldn’t fall off. However we were growing girls, always hungry, so we ate almost everything put onto our plates. We had many milk puddings, rice with raisins in we called ‘darkies in the snow’, semolina and tapioca, which was known as frogs spawn. At our first meal the Head, Dr. Constance E. Henstock, gave a talk before we ate, explaining how to use a knife and fork correctly and what to do with them when we finished. I thought this very peculiar, but realised when I saw the trouble some girls had that their parents had never taught them this skill.

The school catchment area was the whole of the east of Newcastle, so there were girls from all walks of life. Some were very poor, a few rich and the majority like me neither rich nor poor. The percentage of girls who obtained places at both Heaton High and Middle Street Technical School was around 33, one third of one years number of pupils. The other two thirds went to Senior Schools. There was an opportunity for pupils to sit a 13+ exam and a few girls came to us in third form from Middle Street school.

There were four forms in each year named A, B, C and D, so about 120 girls were admitted each year. My year was the last whose parents had to contribute by paying means tested fees to the Education Authority. The 1944 Education Act came into force in 1945 and all Local Authority schooling became free. The Authority also paid fees for a number of pupils at the grant maintained schools in the city. Church High, Dame Allen’s and St. Cuthbert’s RC Grammar and La Sagesse for RC girls.

The school building was designed in the days when fresh air was considered a necessity for all children. All the classrooms overlooked the lower playing field and got plenty of light through the windows, which took up half of the sliding wooden partitions that formed the outside walls. Through the spaces in the partitions also came the winter winds. In my five years at Heaton I never once saw these partitions open. The windows and half glass door on the opposite side opened onto the corridors and these were open to the fresh air of the quadrangle. There was always a scramble at the beginning of term to ‘bag’ a seat near the corridor windows because that was the wall the radiators were on.

On the first day of each term our first task after assembly was to polish our desk. We each took some wood polish, a rag to put the polish on and a duster to polish it to a shine. Then the time honoured task of writing an essay on ‘What I did on my holidays’. My form teacher, Miss Hall, commented on the freedom I was allowed when she read my tales of Youth Hostelling and hitch-hiking in my fourth and fifth year.

Miss Hall, our form teacher, was also my Maths teacher and tried to teach us Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry. During the first year Dr. Henstock would sail majestically into the classroom for one Maths lesson a week. I realise now that this gave her an opportunity to get to know her pupils, but we were too much in awe of her to appreciate her tuition. This was her first Headship and she was a good Headteacher. Miss Hall taught some games, but when we were given a choice of games I chose cricket in the summer and lacrosse in the winter, which were taught by Miss Raby the P.E. teacher.

I coped reasonably well with most subjects, English, History, Geography, Biology, Music and Art being my favourites. French made no sense to me. How could articles of furniture or windows be male or female? I think it would have helped if I had known anyone who spoke the language

Miss Charlton and Miss Priest were our English teachers and Miss Strong taught History and was the oldest member of staff. I still smile when I remember her sitting on the edge of her desk, pulling up her skirt and taken a hankie out of a pocket in her knee length navy knickers. All the staff wore black gowns and looked like ships in full sail as they swept along the windy corridors.

Miss Priest was the youngest and caused gossip among the girls because we were convinced that she didn’t wear a bra. Miss Weedon taught Geography and came from the South coast of England. Sometimes I think she felt she was among barbarians. She was continually correcting our pronunciation.

Biology included Botany and I remember a field trip we had looking for spring flowers when I first smelt and saw Ransoms or wild garlic. That trip started my interest in wild flowers. I enjoyed the Biology lessons very much and think I could still draw the digestive system of a rabbit. We did some dissecting including a bull’s eye, but a worm I had escaped the knife by disappearing down the back of a work bench and though I pulled hard on its tail it broke in two, leaving the saddle and head out of reach. We were taught that the atom was the smallest particle known to Science, even though the Atomic bomb had been invented. The textbooks hadn’t caught up with the real world.

Miss Sinclair taught Art and I was very fond of her. She had a soft Scottish voice and wore a Sinclair tartan skirt most days.

Domestic Science was very different. Each of us wore two pinnies during lessons. One was the usual pinnie made of cotton but the other was made of sacking and was to be used for jobs such as washing floors and scrubbing tables. I wish I’d kept my note book from the early lessons. We were given recipes and made soups, scones, cakes and stews, after shopping for the class at a local shop for any items which weren’t rationed. Cooking fats and meat we had to bring from home. We made Scouring Powder and polish and grated soap to make soap flakes. We ironed with flat irons, which we heated on a special range and learnt how to use crushed eggshells to clean the irons surface. We scrubbed the wooden tables at the end of every lesson and hand washed teatowels. All tasks were meticulously written up in proper sentences showing the break down of the tasks in correct sequence. How to iron a handkerchief and how to wash a hairbrush and comb were the first tasks I remember writing out.

Instrumental classical music had been a closed book to me until I went to Heaton High and the music teacher played Dvorak’s New World symphony to us on ‘78 ‘ gramophone records. Each ‘house’ had a choir and there was a school choir too with which I sang. The choir took part in competitions, music festivals and the annual Empire Day concert at the City Hall.

Drama was also important. I had parts in two Shakespeare productions and was the Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. But acting was secondary to singing, which I enjoyed much more.

In July 1949 I sat and passed the University of Durham School Certificate examination.

When the results came out Miss Weedon, the Geography teacher wept at my pass mark. She had expected me to gain a distinction. I tried to explain that the first question had thrown me. It was all about weather maps and isobars, depressions and highs. This subject had been introduced into the geography syllabus in September 1948 and we had barely covered it and not many of us understood it at all.

I left the school and started work in the Newcastle Education Office and had the experience of being sent to Heaton High as temporary secretary when the secretary was ill one time. Quite a role change.

Susan HUTTON (now Edwards) (1966 – 1973)

I went to Heaton High School from West Walker Juniors and was the only girl in the school to pass the 11+ for the "Grammar" School. Two boys, Gary Marshall and Terence Costello also made the grade and went to Heaton Grammar. Trouble was, this meant I knew no-one at the girl’s school and I spent the Summer Holidays stressing out my parents by saying I wasn’t going to go! Eventually I actually went knocking on doors of the girls at a neighbouring school, who had also passed, to introduce myself so I would know someone when I got there. That was when I met my great mate Margaret Walker who is still my best friend.

I can remember buying my school uniform from Isaac Walton’s and being horrified at the HUGE navy knickers I had to wear and of course the hated hat. Although my mother bought me a velour hat I refused to wear it and donned a navy beret instead – trying desperately to look chic by perching it on my head at ever more outrageous angles. We even had to wear our hats on the bus to and from school and I got lines from a prefect (Linda somebody) for not wearing mine on several occasions.

Being from a relatively poor part of the city, when I got to Heaton I was amazed to find that almost everyone in the more "upmarket" schools had passed for the Grammar School – my first lesson in class politics. I can also remember feeling suitably humbled when the eccentric headteacher Dr Henstock referred to the "Poor people of Walker" in one of her assemblies!

The afore mentioned Dr Henstock used to take us for Maths in the First Year and we had to take off our cardigans for her lesson so we would look smart. She would go around the class asking us to stand up and recite a mathematical fact – I always used to say "Four eight four nought square yards, one acre" as this was one of her mantras. Sometimes girls were chosen to sit at her table in the dinner hall (to make polite conversation?)– a truly scary ordeal.

Who can forget the communal showers after PE lessons? We used to be so embarrassed as Miss Graham herded us into them - wisely refusing to listen to us as we pleaded pneumonia. This was not my worst memory of the school however, that lies fairly and squarely with Miss Harbottle, the needlework teacher. What a temper that woman had! She once ripped my friend Margaret’s sewing into pieces because she had done French Seams on a collar. As Margaret cried, I tried to cheer her up by making faces behind Miss Harbottle’s back as she ranted and raved – god I hated needlework!

In my second year we became co-ed. and we were put in classes with the BOYS! And what a disappointment that was! They seemed tiny in comparison to us (but they did improve over the years!). I was put into 2R and can remember in particular Jill Stuart, Cheryl Goodwin, Cynthia Mynott (who I met again at the reunion and she is still as witty as ever) Gillian Bates, Kathryn Webb, Ingrid Hudson, Anne Harley, Vivienne Copeland, Jeff Tait, Graham Cowie, Piers Lesser (also at the reunion).

I went on the SS Uganda Cruise in 1970 – what a great experience that was, I still have a photograph of myself, Linda Mcteer & Christine Rooney, taken by some lemon trees. It was probably this experience that gave me my passion for foreign holidays.

Really funny memories (as a teacher myself I can’t believe I dared do these things!) are linked with Mr Stenner (music) and Mr Armstrong (chemistry). In Mr Stenner’s lessons we used to slip away one by one, hide behind the curtains in the hall and climb out of the window into the quadrangle!

Mr Armstrong never seemed to know who I was and Margaret and I used to arrive late to his lessons just for the sheer joy of seeing him confused as to who we were and what we wanted! I remember when he lost his temper he would threaten That "for two pins" he would "blast you’s all sky high".

In sixth form, whiling away hours in the sixth form centre, Linda Snaith and I wrote to Blue Peter pretending we were only six and saying we had made giant chess pieces out of paper mache – a complete fabrication. We were the envy of the upper sixth when our Blue Peter badges arrived!

Eric Shepherd’s parties were legendary. We would go to Eric’s, listen to Wishbone Ash and watch the lads playing air guitar! Ken Mawhinney also had great parties and my first date with my husband – to - be ( Peter Edwards Form 5A in one of the photographs on this site) was at one of his parties. We have been married 26 years and have two children who both attended Heaton School.

In amongst all this we did do some work and thanks to some great teachers I got my O & A levels. I remember in particular Micky Good and Freda Crabtree who taught Biology, Mr Laidler, who did a fantastic job in getting me through my maths O level, Mr Kier (with his quiff) & Mrs Ponton who taught me a great deal about Literature. But best of all was John Barker, my form master and Russian Teacher. Mr Barker was perfect at merging the roles of teacher, adviser and enthusiast. He made you feel like the world was there for the taking and that you could achieve anything if you were prepared to work for it. He always had such confidence in us (and us in him) and he was always so cheerful and positive. He has retired from Teaching now but doesn’t look a day older than he did all those years ago AND he still has all his hair!

On leaving school I went to Newcastle University to study Psychology but dropped out after two terms when I decided most of the people on the course were mad! No common sense at all. I worked for the Inland Revenue (which is full of Uni drop outs) until I had my children. In 1987 the lure of school was too much to resist so I went to the University of Northumbria to qualify as a teacher. I spent 8 years at Holystone First in North Tyneside, then the last 2 as an Advisory Teacher for Newcastle LEA. In September I start as the Deputy Head of Westerhope First School.

I loved Heaton and really feel it provided me with opportunities I might not have had under the present system. Meeting old friends at the reunion, I felt 18 again - it was as if we had never been away.

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