North Street School

When I came to live in Leigh in the 1940s, I was sent to North Street School, it was very different from the little catholic school I had been used to. The classrooms were big and gloomy. The double desks were in tiers and bolted to the floor, we had tip up seats, and an inkwell with a brass sliding lid, inside was a small white porcelain pot which was filled up with ink each day from a large jar, by the ink monitor. We had a wooden pen with a detachable nib, woe betide anyone who managed to get a blot on the page. We practised writing every day, we had one hand on the page, the pen pointing over our right shoulder; deviation meant a slap over the knuckles with a ruler from our teacher, Mr Harvey.

The ten times tables were printed on the wall and every day we chanted the tables. All written work was carried out in complete silence. While the boys did woodwork the girls learnt to knit and sew. Our teacher, Miss Cobley was as fierce as a maggot, knitting was a mystery to me, sewing a nightmare. a lost needle was a cardinal sin. I remember pretending to sew with a pin once when I lost my needle.

PE physical Education meant standing in rows doing exercises, game was rounders in the playground.

The most dreaded happening was the arrival of the nit nurse, we were lined up outside the staff room, one at a time we went in to face Nurse Butcher, who was tall and thin, with long bony cold thin fingers. Occasionally a child was kept behind; we all knew he or she had fleas.

Once a year in May, came Empire Day. The parents were allowed to come and watch as we danced round the maypole and country danced to Irish jigs, Scottish sword dances, some of us had welsh hats and little aprons and dance what was hoped to be welsh.

Before the morning break we were all given a bottle of milk sometimes in the winter if we were lucky the milk had been put by the radiator the de- freeze,We went out to play whatever the weather. When it was frosty the boys made huge slides right across the playground, health and safety would have something to say about that nowadays. We played skipping games, hop scotch, ‘what’s the time Mr Wolf?’ Hopscotch, and doing handstand up against the wall, out skirts tucked in our knickers.’ We visited the cold outside toilets only at playtime going during lesson time was strictly forbidden

The day started and ended with the whole school assembling in the hall for Prayers. Mothers didn’t come to school to collect us, we took ourselves home usually stopping at the greengrocer’s shop on Rectory Grove to buy a penny apple.

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