I attended Ashton Grammar from 1961 to 1965. I have mixed memories of my time there. I thought I hated it at the time but maybe distance lends enchantment as in my later years I have begun to look back on it rather fondly. It was a strict regime and I still carry the proof of that in the form of a broken thumb inflicted by the PE teacher (I didn't like games) I remember some of my teachers with fondness and respect. Mr. Regan, English, who got me my first job at the CWS Balloon Street when I refused to stay on in the 6th form to do A levels, Miss "Piggy"Higginbottam, Home Economics, brilliant teacher, I think she would be pleased with my skills today. I think I am perhaps as good a cook as she was! Willy Wood, Art (I DID like art, so no broken bones!) Headmaster, Mr Hopkinson, regarded me as a bit of a waste of time, as I cherry-picked my subjects and dropped Latin (God forbid!)
One of my worst memories of AGS was when I was 15 and my mother died from cancer and they made me ask my dad to write me a note to request a day off school - to attend her funeral! Compassion was not on the curriculum!
I had some good friends during my time there. I am still in contact with one, Anne Sidebottam as she was then. She came to my wedding and my daughter was her bridesmaid.
Looking at the photos on your site has brought back memories. I would love too see more. Thank you.
I attended between 1975-1980
My favourite teacher was Mrs Barbara Berry
She,as well as being my first form teacher,doubled up as a German teacher
My favourite memory was of Roger Ambler
At sports lessons he always insisted on calling me Taffy,despite me being a born Scot !
I came back to the homeland in 2004 and now live in a small hamlet called Dunoon
If you get any posts from anyone from Stamford house feel free to pass on my e-mail address
Robert Barrett: email@example.com
Hello, I am trying to trace information about my Father, Ernest Ford, who I believe attended AGS during the 1940s. He was born Mar 12th, 1931 in Ashton-U-Lyne, so would have attended around the age of 13 (1944-45)? I believe he went on to University, possibly attending Manchester, but I am unsure of this. I would be most grateful of any information you might be able to give me. I know the Actor Ronald Frasier, was at the school at the same time, so anyone in his family locally may be able to help.
Patrick E Ford - firstname.lastname@example.org
I am looking for information about Barbara Tovee who was a pupil at the school in the 1950s and who was the daughter of the PT instructor “Major” Tovee. Can you help? Also, do you have contact details of Paul Linaker – he lived with the Tovees at one time.
Amanda Thursfield - email@example.com
I have read with much interest the stories of former pupils of AGS, and my first thought is "are we talking about the same place?"
I must bear in mind though that while our eras were not so different, the circumstances were. To complain of anything in 1943 brought forth the inevitable response, "Don't you know there's a war on?" After six years at Mossley Road Council sch ool followed by a year at Stamford, I was encouraged by my teachers to sit the scholarship exam to AGS. This brought mixed reactions from my family, support from grandmother but some scepticism from other family members. Prior to the 1943 Education Act, the Grammar was a fee-paying school. True, passing the scholarship would waive the fees, but school uniforms and books would still need to be paid for by a somewhat impoverished family. Grandma and I prevailed, the scholarship was passed and I, as an eleven year old, became first acquainted with Ashton Grammar in September of 1943.
Because of wartime rationing there was some relaxation of school regulations, particularly in regard to uniform. Each purchase of clothing required 'coupons', not always available, so the wearing of uniforms was flexible. My satchel was new and not very cool, and my books were second-hand, bought half-price from a previous year's first-former. By the time I reached Form Two, the '43 Act had kicked in and both fees and books were covered by the State.
Very noticeable was the preponderance of female teachers, males were in very short supply. One of the exceptions was Mr Tovee our PT master, 'the Major' or 'Ernie', of whom I have indelible memories. He had the rather sadistic habit of standing in the centre of the gym as the boys circled the room. He would then hurl a heavy medicine ball at them, he was adept at knocking our legs from under us. I never had a regular nickname at school other than from Ernie, he always called me 'Chalkie'
Reading the comments of others, I was entertained by stories of school dinners and quite sorry that I never has one. Since grandma lived just around the corner, that was where I went every lunch time. The redoubtable Miss Higginbottom was around but in less PC times confined herself to teaching the girls. The Art teacher was 'Willie' Wood, he was very proud of his portrait of Head, G B Jackson, completed during the long night hours of 'Fire Watching' duties during the war. In my latter days at school we all took a great interest on our imagined liaison between two newer staff members, 'Robbie' Byrne and the glamorous Miss Bond! We were never quite sure but...
Some have referred to a culture of bullying but I was never conscious of it in my five years a school. There were petty cruelties from some of the teachers, French teacher Mr Fisher had a habit of rapping one's knuckles with a ruler as he passed by but I wasn't aware of the cane or the strap being overly resorted to. The headmaster, Mr Jackson, seemed a very gentle, and gentlemanly man, and possibly his attitudes rubbed off.
The absence of male teachers, and probably the other shortages caused by the war, had quite an effect on sport. On our weekly sport afternoon, only the elite were able to play in the two football (or cricket) teams allowed, the rest had to walk all the way to Ashton Baths. There we were to be taught to swim in the unheated waters. As this consisted only of hanging on to the rail while we kicked our feet, it was many years later before I taught myself to swim.
Schoolboy humour is unchanging, and we were amused for the whole of our first year French by the title of our text book, 'Les mésaventures du famille Pinson'. No class was complete without someone asking "have you got your Pinson". We learnt the text of that book as others can quote Shakespeare - seventy years later I can still remember "honk honk fait le klaxon du taxi......". We got great pleasure from mimicking, and mocking, the idiosyncrasies of our teachers. Mr Leach the Physics teacher required us to write up our experiment of the day in our exercise books in a particular way. As a class started we would chant in unison "Method in the margin".
Like many others I do not recall my years at AGS as particularly memorable. I do though recognise that my education there has served me well over many years, I can only think that something was done right.
Many thanks to Derrick Latchford for this photograph, probably at the Warrington Club on Beaufort Road, Ashton.
The Chevrons were mostly from upper 6A 1963: Frank Taylor on vocals, Roy Smith, Peter Davies(Oscar) and Dave Lewis guitars. The drummer was Peter Harding who didn't go to AGS. Sadly Roy Smith and Peter Davies are no longer with us.
I had already attended two other Grammar Schools, both boys only, as my father moved, when I came to live in Ashton-under-Lyne and to join the Grammar School around 1953. I found the change of school a little daunting initially. On the curriculum side there were problems like all the books I had been doing for English Literature were not the ones being done at Ashton, and I seemed to have totally missed out on electricity in Physics. On the personal side I was unused to girls being in the same classes, and my shyness probably came across as indifference at times. Pity, there were some rather attractive ones in my year!
In 1954, in the lower 6th, I got the part of Cuthman, the boy in an open stage version of Christopher Fry’s ‘Boy with a Cart’, with Marjory Norton playing my mother. This was an excellent production by Miss Berry and Mr Starling, with plenty of supporting cast and not much scenery, but definitely with a cart – which I am sure Marjory will recall with fondness!
I was not a great participant in the sport of the School. I remember playing in the odd game of football, but probably House matches rather than School, and playing tennis. I did a bit of gymnastics during lunchtimes, and to this day have a ganglion on my left wrist from landing on it through slipping from the box during a vault. Curiously I later started hockey in my early 20s, after National Service, and am playing Veterans’ Hockey still at 74. I recall Mr Tovee as one of the PT instructors. He had been an army PTI, so did not put up with any messing about, and loved to show his skills on the horse – the one with the two handles. Another, much younger instructor, perhaps after Mr Tovee left, used to send us boys out on runs rather than taking conventional classes. He later appeared in a local very good Westside Story, which I think may have been one of the first amateur productions.
In the Upper 6th I was appointed Head Boy, with Marjorie Norton as Head Girl. I remember enjoying reading a lesson in the local Parish Church as part of the School’s Christmas Service – wonderful acoustics. I was also involved in the opening of the then ‘new’ library. (see photos elsewhere) I thought Mr Hopkinson an excellent Headmaster.
Then my parents moved again. For a period I stayed on, living for a time with a local friend of my parents, also with Mr and Mrs Tovee, who had two lovely Afghan Hounds, and even with the Hopkinson family for a short spell. In the end it was decided that I should move to join my parents and I finished my school education at Hutton Grammar School near Preston, another ‘boys only’ school. I was sorry to leave, having come in ‘late and gone ‘early’ meant that I had not really been able to maximise my benefit from the school, nor put enough back in, in return.
I can't even remember exactly when I left the school. Probably in 1958, because I joined the RAF in January 1959 to become an Aircraft Apprentice at RAF Halton.
I'm now retired after some 40 odd years as an aircraft engineer. I still think back to my days at AULGS, not with any particular pride in what I achieved, but I think that I did generally enjoy my time at school. Mainly for all the WRONG reasons. Smoking behind the ATC hut and skiving off at times to pursue more interesting objectives.
Mr Hopkinson and I were quite well acquainted by the time I left. He had the most penetrating blue eyes I've ever seen! Best wishes to anyone that can remember me being there. Quite a few are now "Passed On" as they say.
But I'm still around with three grown up kids and four grandchildren, although we're fairly well scattered. We're in Sussex with the Granddaughter and son, and I have one daughter in Devon and another in Cornwall. My son lives fairly close in Crawley. (Flies for BA out of Gatwick).
Best wishes(again) to all "Old Ashtonians". Norman Hirst September 2009 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE summer of 1999 seemed to see most of the country go eclipse crazy.
It was often billed as a once-in-a-lifetime experience but Ashton man Wilfred Hodgson could remember the century's previous eclipse back in 1927.
Then, 13-year-old Wilfred got the morning off school from Ashton Grammar to view the rare natural phenomenon. He and his pals set off before 8am to trek to Hartshead Pike in the hope of getting a good view.
"But it was a really cloudy day and we saw absolutely nothing," said Wilfred.
I'm always proud to say that I attended. I will always remember the school very fondly. Met some grand friends and kind people
I loved Mr Petford... Science, and was inspired by Mrs Hetherington/English.
Was inspired also by Mrs Varley/ games. Did well at sports
Despised Mr Cutts, too authoritarian!! reminded me of Batman
Did sociology,,, a "NEW !" subject just started at the school for O levels for the kids that were poor at languages. Well I did that and totally loved it. Still do. Will always be passionate about the school for setting me on the road.
My claim to fame was staring in the school performance as Toad of Toad Hall, I was Toad, and painted green. Loved it. Can never wear green now though!
Left school with only 4 o levels, left at 16. Worked hard to later get two degrees and the good job that Mr Mack said that I'd never get( as I'd live on a council estate and smoke fags all day....( Nothing wrong with council estates or fags) Well I guess I showed him!! I suppose that was his intention, so thanks to the best teacher I ever had my form teacher Mr Mack ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,AND...Thanks to you for the site.
Warm Regards Jude Goddard, July 2008
I LOVED school dinners! Yeah, I know, I must be the only person ever. But Grammar school dinners 1976-1980 were YUMMY!
I remember a square of suet pudding with mince under it; thin slices of what I was told were heart; meat & potato stew (tater 'ash) with red cabbage - God, I'd give anything to eat a brimming plate of that again.
I didn't like the puddings much - sponges with custard (with a skin on like an armadillo), or that highly suspicious white sauce with a sheen on it: what was that stuff?!! And soggy boiled pears: ugh.
Things were a bit different by the 70s - for one thing the custom of serving others had vanished. We still had the militant dinner ladies - ours was a sharp-faced shrewd lady called Mrs Smart. It was worse for me because she was a big friend of my grandma and, believe me, there's nothing worse than having to discuss your family with a dinner lady in a queue of about a hundred starving pupils!!
The trays were always wet, often with something that wasn't water. The cutlery was encrusted with weeks' worth of old food. The trays of steaming food always smelled dank. I remember the water jugs (were they aluminium?). The little squat water glasses made of the thickest toughest glass imaginable, with 'France' or 'Made In France' written underneath. I can't remember the plates at all, unless they were white with a half-inch grey-green band around the rim? The place always smelled so off-putting, but the food was great.
Sitting here in my silent living room, 41 years old, I can still hear snatches of the echoing sound of the canteen - chairs scraping back & forth, voices rising & rising to be heard over everyone else, barrages of laughter, the clanging of metal utensils against metal trays as the dinner ladies banged globs of food off them, the erratic squik of rubber-soled shoes jarring against the floor, the banging of the doors at either end as endless pupils came in & went out.......
I remember queuing at either end of the middle corridor on a Monday morning to buy a strip of dinner tickets. Long, long queues & everyone shuffling anxiously forwards aware that they were going to miss Registration if they weren't careful. And the misery of First Year dinners! When you didn't know enough to realise that you didn't have to go to dinner exactly when the bell went at 12.10pm. No, all the First Years would bolt off punctually as if it was another lesson, & by quarter past twelve there'd be an immense queue of 11 & 12 year old kids in stiff new uniforms from the canteen doors back to the boys' tennis courts, in a loop round the courtyard, in through the door of the bottom corridor, up the stairs, & in another loop to double back into the start of the middle corridor. I remember queuing like that for ages, miserable & hungry & freezing cold, under a black sky that was throwing icy rain down on me; it took months to realise that we could go to dinner whenever we wanted within that hour & ten minutes. The canteen was gorgeously quiet after one o'clock.
The teachers' area in the canteen wasn't actually a separate area, it was just half a dozen tables after the cutlery stand that had a sort of invisible unspoken barrier round them. I didn't much care for unspoken barriers, & by around the Third Year my friend & I (inseparable) always used to sit with the teachers for our dinner. If for some reason, we sat across in the main body of the canteen instead, you could guarantee one of our 'pet' teachers would come over & join us
The Tuck Shops were murder! There were two hatches, each with a triangular wedge of clamouring pupils surging into them. I was usually too timid to broach such a yelling clawing melee, but once in a while a bolt of bravery towards the end of the 15 minute Break would earn me a 7p bag of chicken flavoured crisps, or maybe a Banjo bar (aka Trophy).
The hatches were tiny framed holes in the thick wall: from the inside we must have looked like frantic sweating portraits appearing one at a time and gasping out what we wanted while surges from behind kept thumping us forward.
I remain very fond of most of the teachers at AGS - time for a fond salute to my German teacher Mr Fraser, who died far too young, & who was a fierce & entertaining man that I always remember with a smile. Sandy coloured suits, pale green ties, & a formidable mouth: nice man .
And my English teacher, Mrs Farley, remembered with love, a magnificent woman.
I was in Warrington House, and a member of the AGS Chess Club, & also the AGS Geog/Sci Society - many happy hiking memories to be had there! Lack, Mack & Finnegan, what a trio.
Who remembers Mr Cutts striding down the corridors with his gaunt face, piercing eyes, & black cloak swirling behind him? Boy he was scary.
And who remembers the marvellously eccentric Mr. Petford (Biology)? Bushy white mad-scientist hair, and he used to talk whilst staring up into the top right-hand corner of the back of the room. He was a wonderful character. I'd give anything to see some of these people again.
Mr Regan took us for English in 1977 & 78. He was a smashing bloke. We used to write short essays for him about things we'd done. I already loved writing then, and he often used to perch on the corner of a desk and read my stories out with great passion and relish. We had Mr Quarmby for main English lessons (the world's only living Womble). In later years we had the eccentric Mr Lees. Later still the equally eccentric Mrs Farley, who had 'buried three husbands'. I loved all English lessons, & thought the world of my English teachers.
For Geography I had Mr Lack, & then later Mr Brayne. Mr Coulson (?) who took Religious Studies was a bit..... odd. And how about Mr Block who took Physics? very tall & thin & scientific.
By my time at AGS Miss Greenwood was Deputy Head for the girls: last line of defence before you had to face the vampiric Mr Cutts! Do you remember Cutts lecturing us about his allotments during Assembly, using them as analogies for various situations in life? I was petrified of Mr Cutts: he was a total personification of grim authority, and I always seem to glow with guilt like the “Ready-Brek kid” whenever he was around.
Chemistry: Mr Cheshire sitting in the back room parp-parp-parping on his tuba while left to our own devices out in the lab we all inhaled the aroma of Bunsen burners and blew up test tube of various chemicals.
History: Mr Proctor, brown suits with trendy 70s flares, and a beautifully precise way of pronouncing the ‘Isthmus of Corinth’.
I never took to poor Mr Weston because I HATED French; he always seemed to remind me of Stuart Hall.
And did anybody else notice Mr Houlker's over-friendly ways in Room 4 for Maths? He was always putting his arm round us, or sitting with us during lessons, & getting really close to talk to us. I liked him, but something always niggled at me that he wasn't behaving in a very teacherly manner.....
The Prefect system was phased out about a year after I started at AGS, which was a relief - I was scared to death of the teachers in the early days, I didn't need promoted students to be scared of too!
To get back to food for a minute, what did everyone else make in Domestic Science? I remember making orange juice for our first lesson (that was a challenge! ), and scrambled egg on toast the week after. I can't honestly say that Domestic Science has helped me AT ALL in running a home!! I was too scared of all those ovens to be able to concentrate on home economics & budget plans.
Oh I LOVED Mr Clarke!!!! Vespa vulnerat nautam. He entranced me speaking Latin. He entranced me full stop. He was so quiet & neat & self-contained. And he spoke Latin........
The art teachers Mr Merger & Miss Butler both knew a Barry Germain as a professional artist and were over the moon when I said “ yes that was my Dad”. They each announced me to the whole class and made it plain that they expected Great Things of me.
My first steps into Ashton Grammar School were taken in 1951 and I felt as lonely as Meg's vivid description of her first day at the school. Being an Audenshaw girl it was expected that those who passed their scholarship would go to Fairfield High in Droylsden but for reasons best known to my parents they decided that route was not for me and the authorities were persuaded to allocate a place for me at AGS. This meant of course that I didn't start my secondary education along with my friends from junior school and felt isolated on that first day. In common with most children I made a few new friends quite quickly and soon settled down to being a small fish in what seemed to me to be a very big pond.
Miss Higginbotham was already the domestic science teacher and we soon learnt that she was one to be feared. She was my reason for the one and only time I 'bunked' off school. Normally I went along with the flow and wouldn't have dreamed of rebelling but this day I had forgotten my cookery apron, a sin to be avoided at all costs and the consequences quite terrifying. As cookery was the first double period after the lunch break I forfeited my dinner and dashed home to collect said apron. The bus journey there and back took longer than I had calculated and on the return journey it dawned on me that I wouldn't arrive at school until after lessons had begun. This would have been even worse than turning up on time without my apron. As the bus wound it's way slowly through the centre of Ashton I was getting more frantic by the minute but suddenly my way out of this predicament came into view in the shape of the Pavilion cinema on Old Street. I dashed down the bus stairs and we came to a stop outside the entrance. I have no idea what the film was that I had paid the last of my money for, I was so scared of being discovered, obvious in my uniform, that I couldn't relax enough to enjoy it. Thankfully, none of the teachers noticed my absence that afternoon and I got away with it.
Miss Berry, who taught biology, was made Senior Mistress during my time there. She was preceded by Miss Moss. Miss Moss was to be respected, she was very strict but fair. Miss Berry on the other hand put the fear of God into us. I had to smile at Gay's comments about her walking around the playing field during lunch times trying to separate the sexes, she was doing that when I was there and must have walked miles in her time. What I never quite understood was that in the first year when the Christmas party approached we had to pick names out of a container to decide who would be our partner at the party. So after being encouraged to fraternise with, dare I say it, the opposite sex, everything was then done to keep us apart. It obviously didn't work, my husband and I started our romance there as did many other couples who went on to marry.
Boys were sometimes discovered smoking cigarettes secretly behind the canteen, apparently the consequences of being discovered by a prefect were worse than if caught by a teacher. On a school report one of my husband's teachers wrote in the comments column, 'smoking is bad for a child' which my husband managed to alter to 'shirking is bad for a child' before handing it over to his father. Was his father fooled? Not a bit of it.
Miss Simpson (Latin) was click-clacking her heels down the corridor when I was there too. Mr.Stead (History) also doubled up as a Latin teacher, a nice man but I recall one of his Latin classes being the one and only time I fell asleep in school. Mr. (Bobby) Burns was one to be feared especially by the boys, if anyone reading this had experience of him they will know exactly what I mean. Mr.Tovee (ex army) was one of the PE teachers, some male expupils may remember his penchant for throwing medicine balls at them while they were running around the perimeter of the gym. Chemistry was a total mystery to me, the periodic table being a foreign language I never got to grips with. Our teacher was Mr.Jackson (Chemi Jacko) who didn't have a hair on his head, rumour having it that this was the result of a chemistry experiment gone wrong. I wonder how truthful that was. Miss Bainbridge (French) was one of the nicer teachers I remember but my favourite was Miss Greenwood (English) who was able to pass on her love of the subject to her pupils. Today she is a loved neighbour of ours, in reasonable health and still active. When we moved here over twenty years ago it took my husband a long time to stop his arm from shooting into the air whenever he wanted to speak to her. Mr.Hopkinson was the headmaster, a strict but very fair man. What a pity that he didn't live long enough after his retirement to enjoy his later years as he so deserved.
I noticed that the school cap for girls is mentioned by both Gay and Megs. This cap came about during my time at the school. The school uniform called for a beret for the girls and a cap for the boys. Everyone, including the tall sixth form boys had to wear their cap or beret on the bus to and from school with always an eagle eyed prefect around to make sure it stayed on their heads. Sometime between 1954 and 1955 some of the girls decided that the beret was not for them. A small contingent was allowed to go into the hallowed ground of the Head's office to see Mr.Hopkinson. They told him that they wanted something different to wear on their heads. He asked them if they had anything in mind and one of the girls produced a boys cap as an example of what they wanted. Surprisingly their idea was accepted and the girls cap came into being. I seem to remember that the crown was deeper than on the boys cap and the neb longer. I never graduated to a cap because, due to family circumstances, I left in 1955 and we had been allowed to keep using the berets until we needed a new one when it would be replaced by the cap.
Sport was not for me either Megs. I can remember playing hockey in the freezing weather until my fingers cracked and bled while the teacher was wrapped in warm clothing. I was once asked to play on the rounders team but the first match took place on the same day as my sister's wedding, which was not an occasion I could easily miss. Despite my valid excuse this was the end of my team selection.
John Savident (Fred Elliott, Coronation Street), was at AGS while I was there, although two or three years ahead of me. He was always prominent in drama, usually taking the lead in stage productions. His future career was mapped out even then.
Happy times? No, I wouldn't say they were the happiest days of my life, in fact I couldn't get away quickly enough if the truth was known. I do have some happy memories and I had some good friends. So why am I struggling to put names to faces on the class photograph? It was a long time ago.
I found my early days at AGS quite intimidating. It started even before I set foot in the place because I was, at the time, friends with someone already there, who gleefully told me of the "delights" which would accompany my First Day-ie being made to sing solo on the school bus by the 4th formers, and being "flushed" ie having one's head pushed down the loo in the boys’ toilets receiving a gratuitous hair wash! He also told me about a lot of the teachers, especially those with a penchant for violence, so at least I was forewarned, if not forearmed.
The Headmaster, Mr Hopkinson, known as either "Henry" or "the Boss" was to this puny eleven year old a most terrifying figure. He seemed enormous and with his shiny head, his flowing master's gown and his steel-capped shoes he strutted the corridors like a latter-day Emperor Ming the Merciless (remember "Flash Gordon"?).He was indeed merciless with transgressors and his cane seemed to be in constant use - it was known as "getting the whack". I can remember being part of a whole line of boys waiting in terror outside his office to receive this medicine after being caught snowballing the girls - the big crime being doing it in the girls' yard! With forty years' hindsight it seems to me that the whole regime and school ethos at the time was firmly based on stick (literally!) rather than carrot. I'm sure many of the younger teachers were equally in awe of JHH.
I hated the school bus. It was provided for the pupils living in Mossley, and set off on the dot at 4.10pm. So when a teacher decided to run over time it would be hit and miss whether you managed to catch it. The downstairs was kept for the girls and the upstairs for the boys. There were never enough seats and when you were a first former you were right at the bottom of the pecking order, and often ended up standing. There was a lot of bullying, even after the compulsory song recital on the first day.
For me Games "sucked". I was, I must admit, equally hopeless at all ball games, not through lack of application - I was just born without the right coordination. "Jock" Stewart, the dour games master tended to view this inability as a crime which could be remedied with sharp words. It also diminished one's street cred with those boys who actually liked and were good at sport. If it was raining on games day the alternatives were equally uninviting - either dancing lessons with the girls, or falling asleep over one of Jock's 90 minute monologues. Those of us who had an excuse not to participate in games were sent to help "Rocky" Groves, the irascible groundsman, which was slightly more fun.
I used to dread Speech Day. There would be interminable rehearsals, including the prize winners having to practice time and time again going up on the stage for their prizes and being clapped by the audience. Being a regular recipient ( this isn't meant as boasting - it's to explain the particular source of my angst) I used to stand in terror at the foot of the platform steps waiting for my name to be called (shades of Sydney Carton in " A Tale of two Cities"), expecting that no-one would clap, such was my lack of self-esteem in those days. Incidentally I recently researched the old Reporter archives for old Speech Day articles and photos. One of the photos showed a friend of mine in the audience obviously giggling (he was a notorious giggler, easily provoked by his sidekicks, and used to get banished to sit with the 1st and 2nd forms in the Gym for Assembly for this "crime"). I recently asked him what the source of his mirth was and he told me that his pal had just whispered that the Bishop of Middleton's (prize presenter) flies were open!
Segregation of the sexes was strictly enforced in my days, and I used to find it unfair that the girls were called by their first names whereas the boys were always addressed by their surnames. Girls were also spared the pleasures of "the Whack", and this fortunately worked to my advantage on the occasion when Ernie the caretaker caught a group of us, including one girl who shall remain nameless, red-handed smoking behind the Air-Raid shelters.
School dinners were often fraught occasions, certainly if Miss Higginbottom ("Piggy") was on dinner duty. She would bawl and scream the whole time - we were always the most badly behaved pupils she had ever encountered. Every so often a dinner table of six would have to act as waiters for all the other tables, bringing out the food and collecting the dirty dishes - the latter being particularly disgusting; I used to finish-up with my blazer full of smelly leavings after this chore. And woe betide you if one of the bullies asked for more food and you couldn't oblige.
I liked most of my teachers, even though I must have tried some of their patience to the very limits at times. All my O-Level mentors were very good .My favourites were Mr Regan (English) , Mr Savage (Latin) , Mr Stead (History) and Mr Kenyon (Physics). They possessed the happy knack of making their subjects enjoyable, whilst maintaining discipline without recourse to draconian measures. In my early days I tangled with Miss Simpson ("Sammy") the diminutive Latin teacher - it was terrifying the way she would get hold of the hair on the side of my head and shake me like a terrier would do with a rat. She had taught both my older sisters and thus had a rather prejudiced view of me from day one. Even though I liked him and thought him a good teacher, for some reason I used to "lock horns" regularly with Mr Gabbott (Geography-known as "Jughead"). I once drew a very unflattering caricature of him and was stupid enough to get caught in the act. He called me to the front of the class, made me hold out my hands in the form of a cup, ripped the drawing into tiny pieces, dropped them into my hands, then hit my hands, causing the confetti to fall all over the floor. I then had to pick up the pieces. Quite an apt punishment, it now seems to me. The most inspirational teacher I encountered was Mr Pratt (Maths), then very much a rookie; I’m sure that over the years since he made the difference between success and failure for generations of maths students.
Looking back I can't honestly say that I regard my time at AGS as the best years of my life - there are too many things which, with the gift of hindsight, I should have done differently, including my disastrous choice of A Level subjects. Neither am I totally convinced that AGS was a "good school" - the exam results from that era tend to back this hypothesis. I do think, looking back at press cuttings of Henry's scathing criticisms of pupils in his Speech Day addresses, that not enough was done by that particular regime to win the hearts and minds of their charges, to make the school a welcoming place, and to persuade people that learning was a good thing to be doing. But perhaps this merely reflects the general approach to education prevalent at the time. It will be interesting to see what other former pupils think. It was, most certainly, a memorable, and formative six years of my life to date.
I attended Ashton Grammar 1956-1961 when Mr Hopkinson was
Headmaster and Miss Berry was Senior Mistress, and spent a very
enjoyable 5 years there. It is nice to see this site up and running and
I`m sure it will get lots of attention from past pupils once it becomes
more widely known.
When I saw Sandra's photo it reminded me of those horrible summer dresses. Weren't they just soooo flattering! When I started some of the older girls used to try and make them look a little sexier by wearing 4 inch wide white belts, pulled in tight and wearing sticky out paper nylon underskirts. There were also lots of beehive haircuts around, and the girls' cloakrooms downstairs used to stink of cheap hair lacquer. Very black eyeliner and pale lips were in and panstick to cover the clearasil - the aim to wear as much makeup as possible and still escape Miss Berry's notice. School caps had to be worn at all times outside school, but the older girls had somehow managed to misshape them so they perched at the back of their bouffant hairstyles. Then the shoes - it was somehow cool to wear flat shoes with trodden down backs and worn down heels, mine were very sensible lace up that wouldn't have looked odd on a building site and my feet just wouldn't grow. I didn't manage to outgrow them until the third year and felt such a dork!
The uniform had changed to navy blue when I got there (to match our regulation knickers!!!). It was Miss Berry when I was there, and she too was a tyrant, pulling underskirts down in the corridor if they were too exaggerated and dragging girls along to the cloakroom and taking a wet brush to their beehive haircuts. On sunny lunchtimes we would sunbathe stretched out on the fields behind the school (and kind of accidentally!!! form mixed sex groups). So there she would be walking the imaginary demarcation line disentangling the groups and putting them back where they belonged.
Despite the attempts to seggregate the sexes relationships thrived.
I started at Ashton Grammar School in September 1958 at the age of 11. I wore a navy blue serge skirt, white shirt, navy and red tie, navy V-neck cardigan (hand knitted!) white socks and lace-up black shoes. To complete this attractive ensemble, I wore an over-large navy gabardine raincoat and delightful peaked cap. The uniform was obviously designed by sadists who wished to make teenage girls look as unattractive as possible. When I was in the 3rd year (year 9) we were allowed to wear black stockings but as soon as these became fashionable, we had to wear white ankle socks again!
On my first day at the Grammar School, all the new boys and girls were herded into the main hall to be addressed by Mr Hopkinson, the Headteacher and Miss Berry, the Senior Mistress. Then we were divided off into our different forms. I found myself in 1D which did not sound too good! The size of the school, probably about 400-500 pupils compared with schools of over 1000 nowadays, seemed daunting and I remember getting lost quite a few times in my first week, trying to get used to moving between classes for different lessons.
I have memories of some great teachers and some not so great. We all enjoyed Mr Regan’s English lessons- his reading of ‘The History of Mr Polly’ and the day he sprang through the classroom door, dressed in red rugby socks with yellow cross-gartering, the manifestation of Malvolio, from ‘Twelfth Night’ which we were studying for ‘O’ level. I remember tiny Miss Simpson, our Latin teacher, who had the boys cowering at her rage. Mr Eyre was our long-suffering French teacher, despairing at the crude attempts at pronunciation. I loved ‘library’ lessons with Miss Greenwood who read to us and instilled in us the mysteries of the Dewey Decimal System. Little did I imagine that I’d have a career in libraries! We drove ‘Tappy’ Hanson berserk in Music lessons’; he was unable to keep control as we played ‘Beatles’ records instead of rehearsing for the latest Gilbert & Sullivan production.
Domestic Science was a joke! Like the 3rd year exam when I had to make currant scones. I’d mixed everything together before I realised I hadn’t put in the currants. My attempts at poking them into the mixture came to nought as they just burned during the baking! I was also in dreadful trouble with Miss Higginbottom when she caught me using her chairback covers as an oven cloth. I think it was the same lesson that Alice Hand, using her apron to take a pan off the gas, caught fire!
I hated P.E. and Games and my least favourite time of year was the annual sports day. I used to hide in the ‘drying rooms’ when teams were being selected. I even took double Latin to avoid playing tennis or netball. Miss Clucas, the PE teacher, made us play hockey in the freezing cold in shorts and PE shirts, our legs and hands turning purple, whilst she ran up and down the touchline wearing track suit and sheepskin coat!
With the hospital just across the road, at least accidents at school were quickly dealt with and I remember our excitement when a helicopter landed on the school field one day to pick up someone from the hospital with a back injury and fly him to Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
In the 2nd year (Year 8) our form room was in the ‘demountables’ (a temporary set of three classrooms which were still temporary 30 years later!). Away from the main building this gave us ‘carte blanche’ for bad behaviour. After some of the lads were caught selling ‘fags’ and ‘girly mags’ from the air-raid shelters, we were all in the gym before the headmaster whilst he berated us for being ‘the worst 2nd year he’d ever had’.
I looked forward to school Christmas parties which, in Years 1-3 (Years 7-9) took place during school hours, with jelly and icecream and dancing the conga through the corridors and up and down the stairs. Amongst the girls there was great rivalry over what you wore and whether you were ‘allowed’ to wear nylons. I had the ignominy of still wearing ankle socks well into the 3rd form. From the 4th year on, we had Christmas dances and, for weeks beforehand, we had to rehearse ballroom dances with the boys during P.E. lessons. In most cases it was like dancing with a broomstick! I can still remember the awful embarrassment of one Christmas dance when my stiffened net petticoat fell down whilst I was on the dance floor and the red dress I was wearing leaked dye under the arms so that my upper arms looked as though they were bleeding profusely!!
GCE ‘O’ levels came round all too soon. Sitting in rows in the main hall with the bright sunshine beckoning through the window, we dissected a shrivelled fish, listed the main causes of the French Revolution and rifled our memories for the meaning of ‘la plume de ma tante’.
Then it was off into the big wide world, with just a return visit on Speech Day to receive a certificate.
My first day at school (written in Sept 1961 when I was in Form 4A)
The alarm rang shrilly and I awoke to find a damp, gloomy day awaiting me. Gathering my wits together I remembered that today was my first day at a new school. Jumping out of bed, I dressed in my new uniform. I hurried downstairs to breakfast, feeling rather strange in the tight collar and tie.
I felt too nervous to eat much so I grabbed the shiny new leather satchel, plonked the school cap on my hair and fastened up the navy gabardine raincoat before setting off for the bus-stop. The bus was full of shrieking children; everyone seemed to know each other already. The bus pulled up with a lurch and everybody stampeded downstairs on to the pavement. I followed the crowd, feeling very conspicuous. I gazed at the huge building which was to be my second home for the next five or six years. It looked very large and forbidding in the dreariness of the morning.
Feeling very small and incredibly alone, I followed the general stream through the gates and down stone steps, past a netball court and then into a yard. I huddled against the wall, watching other girls greeting their friends, relating stories of happenings during the holidays. Edging into a corner, I began to wish I was back at home.
Suddenly a loud bell rang and there was a stampede for the doors. I followed on more slowly. Once inside it seemed even noisier than before. Girls were hurriedly taking off hats and coats in the cloakrooms and others were already filing upstairs. Then, when the bulk of the crowd had gone, all the new girls were left eyeing each other curiously. At that moment a fearsome looking teacher bore down on us and herded us upstairs into a hall. We were told to sit in the rows of chairs at the front. Boys were filing in from the opposite door. The Headmaster greeted us from on high, standing behind a desk on the platform. I hardly took in his words. I was feeling very hot and sticky in my heavy raincoat so I was relieved when we were divided up into groups and taken off to a classroom. The boys were seated on one side, separated from the girls who were on the window side of the room. We were given home work diaries in which we had to write our timetables. A different room and a different teacher for every subject! Would I ever find my way around, I wondered.
Our form teacher seemed very nice. A prefect came to take us to the cloakroom so that we could hang up our coats. There was a wire basket under each peg where we could keep our gym stuff.
By the time dinner break came I was not feeling quite so strange and I had already made a friend. We had to walk across the playground to another building for dinner where we sat on tables of eight with a prefect to serve at the head of the table. The dinner was not very nice and the noise in the canteen was tremendous but we had time to play outside before afternoon lessons began. At last it was four o’clock and I found I was quite looking forward to the next day!