by Donald H. Tomlin.
I have asked permission from Donald to reproduce his excellent memories of his time at the Central Secondary School for Boys because they describe very graphically the education process at this time. Many of his recollections are very similar to those of S.P.T.C former pupils - not surprising as they were only yards apart. The histories of the two establishments are closely interlinked as will be evident from Donald's excellent text.
In the Year 2001, a decision has been made to redevelop the sites of the Sheffield Education Offices in Leopold Street, along with the building which originally housed the Firth College and the Central Secondary School, although this started and continued under other names for several years. In October 2001 a series of open days were held on the sites and, in particular, on Friday 5th. of October, the Central Schools were featured. In conjunction with this latter open day, past members of the schools, both staff and pupils were invited to write their Memories of their Days at the Schools in Ochard Lane and Firth College.
This then is my contribution of my time at Orchard Lane (including the Outstation at Hartshead), from my joining the Central Secondary School for Boys in September 1930 until we entered the newly built school at High Storrs in 1933. The account is therefore covering only a short period of the site's 120 years of educational life.
It is now 70 years since the period I am writing about, and although my mind is clear about the events recorded, there are bound to be lapses of memory and errors in the story. I apologise any such lapses, and suggest that the account should not be relied upon solely by readers and future historians without further checking. For instance it is possible that the composition of the forms at Hartshead may be incorrect, i.e. the number and year composition. Certainly, I'm fairly certain myself, but the memory sometimes gets lines shortcircuited... However, the time allowed between the request for contributions and the open day, has not left ant time for research.. IT IS PURELY MEMORY.
The memories are entirely my own and my comments on School, Staff , and Pupils are mine. No slur of any kind is intended and if anybody feels hurt or that I have been unkind, I do apologise. The comments are the memories I have carried with me for 70 years, and clearly if I have remembered them, there might have been cause at some point.
It might seem strange to include a lot about life at Hartshead, but I feel justified in including it because so much of the life of the Central School (Boys), over many generations was intimately tied up with Hartshead. Further, it was an impressionable period of ones life and spent attending the Central School annexe at Hartshead.
I wish to acknowledge the help given by Wilfred C Harrison, in identifying some of the pupils on the various photographs (not reproduced here). We believe the identifications to be correct, but if anybody knows different, PLEASE let me know. Further, if anybody can help identify any of the unrecognised, again I would very much like to know. Copies of the photographs are in the 'Centralians' Archives, and held at High Storrs School. (At 2001 the Centralians Archivist is Mary Hickes)
H. Tomlin (1930-37)
I had transferred from Bole Hill School to Western Road Senior School in 1928, and was entrusted to the 'care' of Charles Shooter, the new Head, who himself had been transferred from Pitsmoor School to Western Road earlier that same year. His deputy was Mr Blower, also from Pitsmoor. Their job was to enhance the already high esteem of that educational institution. This they did with vigour and rods of iron. Well not quite, but Blower's rather thick 'stick' ('Turkey Rhubarb') tended to be wielded at the slightest provocation. There was no room for 'slackers' or 'passengers'. The aim was to push everybody up to 'Scholarship' standard. Unfortunately this meant that the school became a 'Cramming Factory'. Knowledge was pressed upon the hapless pupils, but fortunately much of it stuck. To some, early success and in particular high grades in the Scholarship Exams, was laid on weak foundations, and this crumbled away in the early years in the Secondary School of choice. Most pupils however succeeded and went on to higher things in the years to come.
Late 1929 saw the application forms for the Scholarship Exams being distributed to pupils with the admonition that they be returned the 'following Monday', (or else!). My father only put down 'Central School'. Most parents hedged their bets by including the Firth Park School and even the almost unattainable' King Edwards' the Cream of the Sheffield Boy's Schools, and possibly one of the Intermediate Schools. NOT Dad: It was sink or swim.
First Examination was in March, to sort out the possibles from the non-starters.
The exam took a full day, consisting of English Grammar (written), Essay,
Arithmetic (comprehension), Arithmetic (Accuracy), Arithmetic (Long 'Tots',
numerical, Weights and Measures, and money), Dictation and Spelling, and
a General Knowledge written paper, with possibly four subjects to choose
from. At the end of the day, there were some happy faces and some
glum ones. The results came about a month later, and the successful ones
then undertook a second Examination in May, of the same form, but of greater
difficulty in all quarters. Again a wait, but this time the results came
in printed tables with the positions of the candidates from all the
schools, in order of marks gained. I came twelfth in the City. Charles
Shooter (junior) was 5th, and so on. Altogether almost all the candidates
attained Secondary School places. At Western Road, the Head, at morning
Assembly, read out names in descending order
summoning each to stand on the Head's platform where his desk normally stood. The relief on being called was overwhelming and the disappointment of those who had failed to gain a place was most distressing.
My father was summoned to school and berated for not having put 'King Edward's School' on MY list. His simple answer that he couldn't even afford the uniform let alone the sports gear and books left Shooter rather deflated I went to The Central School, where my father before me had spent 2 years before illness caused him to leave.
August saw several papers appearing in the post. First a summons to school
to hear the Head, Luther Smith, explain the purpose of Secondary Education,
the commitments required, and the signing of a written commitment .Next
came a Clothing List. Fortunately a lot of this was 'permissive' (but desirable):
Dark blue raincoat, Navy short trousers, Blazer with School Badge thereon,
CAP with badge, football shirt, pants, stockings and boots. Singlet
and pants for P.E. a lab. coat and tight working coat for handicrafts (tight
because machinery was involved), WE discovered that it was not essential
to have a School Blazer, but any blue one would do. We HAD to have a school
cap with badge, and the blazer we wore COULD have a purchased badge sown
on. I did not have a regulation blazer that first year, but in the second,
acquired a second hand one. One pair of pants and a singlet did for sports
and PE. A badge on cap or blazer was essential however to pay children's
fares on the trams and buses after one
became 14 years of age. Children's Fares were ½d from any outer terminus to the town centre or the reverse. We could pay this reduced fare whilst ever we remained at School so long as a School Badge was visible. Otherwise we had to pay the full fare (l½d or 2d, dependant on which route).
Next came a Books List. Yes, pupils had to provide ALL the required text books themselves. For the First Year, the overall cost was up to £5, but it was possible to obtain second hand ones at Cadman's Bookshop in West Street, or at one of two stalls in the Norfolk Market Hall. Mind you, there were frequent new Editions of many books, and woe betide anybody with the wrong edition! By the way, £5 was up to two and a half times an average weekly wage at that time. The dole for a man, wife and a child was £1.8s. A VERY GOOD week's wage was £5.
And then lastly, a year's term list of dates, and a summons to attend School for the first day on the day AFTER the other pupils had returned. So on the Wednesday of the second week of September, I attended the Central Secondary School for Boys for the first time. First day of all terms was generally Tuesday.
Why Wednesday of the second week of September? Primary Schools started their school year in March, actually immediately after the one week Easter break. Secondary Schools started in September, but they also had the privilege of having a 6 week summer holiday as against the primary schools 4 weeks. They also had a fortnight at Easter and Whitsuntide and 3 weeks at Christmas. What we didn't get was the half day Friday afternoon holiday if a class (form) had an unblemished attendance record in the previous month....... only rarely attained.
I say above that we attended the Central School for our First Day. Well, yes, we did enter the school via the Orchard Lane entry, were shepherded straight up stairs to the Hall, and there welcomed by the Head, Luther Smith, and then separated into groups of 35 pupils, again following the order of precedence in the exam results, to constitute the Forms lA, IB, IC, and ID. We were introduced to our respective Form Masters, 1A's being Mr. Hattersley. who later introduced himself, 'I'm known to all the boys as Fat Harry, but ONLY between the boys' .
at the end of my Second Year, had a sequel. I had by then my badged blazer,
and went with a cousin on a camping holiday at Bridlington. Clothing generally
was scarce and inevitably I wore my blazer, possibly rather proudly. Walking
on the cliffs, at Flamborough, I was assailed by a loud voice, 'BOY, Where
is your CAP?'. Naturally this was off putting, but a sprightly but elderly
gent approached, held out his hand and proceeded to tell me that he was
'Bobbins', and seeing that this information was received without comprehension, explained that HE was a retired Master from the Central School, of the name 'Mr. Cotton. always known to the Boys as 'Bobbins' , 'Who are the Masters at the school now?'
I told him of Mr Jenkinson, ('Pongo', he responded) and we went through many others, Miss Payne, (Polly), Northeast (Windy), Mr Hattersley (Fat Harry), Head, Mr Smith (Oh Yes, Luther;... Smith is so common!!).. and so the list went on. 'You see, I know all their names, when you get back to School, please go and see Luther, and please just tell him that you met 'Bobbins' and that he is very well. Rather naively, I did just that, and Mr Smith almost exploded, but I told him of more of the conversation, and suddenly he saw the funny side of it, and just said, 'Don't use those names other than amongst yourselves'. It should here be explained that several of our fathers had been pupils at the Central School, and used exactly the same names in conversation with us. What is more, all the staff knew their names , and at a concert at the end of the first term in 1930, (Christmas) our staff all entertained the School with songs and recitations, somewhat removed from those learned in class, including one by Pongo, collecting together almost all the staff by their pet names! as well as one by Fat Harry, based on 'Rule Brittania'. ' Never, never be .... Married to a Mermaid, at the bottom of the Deep Blue Sea ...'
Getting back to that first day, after meeting up with our Form Master, we were informed that we should only spend a few hours each week at Orchard Lane, since most of our schooling would be at the Friends Meeting House at Hartshead, to which edifice, we were then marched off, in crocodile... the only time we transferred from one to the other in such a style!!
'Hartshead', as our 'outstation' was generally known, turned out to be the home of 6 forms, the four first years and two second year Forms who studied German as their second language, 2Gl and 2G2. The corresponding Latin scholars transferred to Orchard Lane for the second year. I'm afraid I cannot recall who all the Form Masters were, associated with which of the six Forms, but certainly included Hattersley (lA). Jenkinson (lB), Miss Payne, Herr Tuschmidt, and possibly Pamment (Music). I don't think a Specialist without a Form could be afforded even in those days.
had to go to Orchard Lane for certain lessons, such as Chemistry, Physics,
Art, Geography and Handicrafts. Otherwise all other subjects were taught
'in house'. It was then that the versatility of many of the older teachers,
dating from early century, became apparent. For instance Hattersley taught
his own Form lA, English grammar, English Literature, History,
Mathematics, and Scripture. French was taught by Miss Payne, who's headquarters was Hartshead. Likewise Mr Jenkinson of Form lB also taught English Grammar and Literature, Mathematics, History and Scripture. Lessons were all 40 minutes each, with practicals taking a double period, viz. Handicrafts, Physics and Chemistry. Physical Education was given at the YMCA at the corner of Fargate and Norfolk Row, by an ex naval instructor. The transfers from Hartshead to Orchard Lane and the reverse, were always a bone of contention. Even if one RAN all the way, it took at least 8 minutes, and was dependant on the traffic in Church Street, which we had to cross, and also to the YMCA, which took five minutes from Orchard Lane and seven minutes from Hartshead. NONE of the teachers gave an inch, or should i t be a second. Frequently a lesson over-ran and at its conclusion, one had to collect up books etc. for Homework, because there was no way of getting back into Hartshead after school closing time. Lugging satchels or attaché cases full of books meant that there was no way we could run, and consequently we invariably arrived at our following lessons late. One teacher invariably awarded Form Detentions for lateness, and although the Form Captain protested on our behalf, the answer was that the 'other' master should finish EARLY. NO WAY! The situation eased slightly after said Form Captain raised the problem with the Form Master, but even so a small set time was allowed for transfer, after which individual detentions still resulted for any laggards.
Sports were taken at High Storrs, on the field where the present High Storrs School now stands, (Football pitches) and in the field to the immediate North (sloping sideways down hill). This field was also used by the Girls of the CSSG, but somehow, there was no overlap. It is assumed that Miss Jackson (Head of the Girl's School) saw to the time tabling to avoid such a catastrophe! (Never shall Boy meet Girl in. the school or its environs.) This became even more strict in later years when both schools were transferred to a new building at High Storrs, but that is a different story.
There was always a problem about Sports. Only one form at a time went to High Storrs, and it produced out of 35, two 11 man teams, 2 linesmen and up to 11 'spares', who were always those who were not proficient at kicking, hitting or catching a baIl or running. I was one of these. How I loathed football or cricket. We were usually enjoined to 'PRACTICE' whilst the others played. Well, we did, to no avail, and generally we were miserable, and some would inevitably end up around the match goal posts, talking to the goalkeeper, and distracting him from the game, sometimes with disastrous results.
Referee of course was generally the form master, who, if not capable of
running with the hounds (c.f.Fat Harry or Pongo Jenkinson), officiated
from the sidelines. We had no showers in the changing hut (Pavilion) or
even any form of heating.
WE WERE MISERABLE.
general, life in those early forms was somewhat humdrum. Subjects like
History and Geography and Arithmetic (as part of Mathematics) and even
English Grammar tended to be mostly embellishments of what had been taught
in the senior elementary schools. Chemistry and Physics were of course
new subjects and mostly enjoyable because of their breaking new ground.
Mostly we had had no prior exposure to them. Mathematics now included Geometry,
and Euclid was taught rigorously. I personally enjoyed Geometry more that
any other subject in that first year, since the generation of rigid and
non dependant proofs stimulated my brain so thoroughly. The logical reasoning
has remained with me, whatever problem I have been
faced with .Physics and Chemistry were taught in a very matter of fact manner, and of course the subject matter was new, but nothing connected any matter to other matter in any other subject. At the present time, there MIGHT be some reasoning in teaching Science as a unified subject. Unfortunately, the text books and such educational lectures I have attended, have failed to convince me that the potential is being exploited.
Hartshead, really consisted of two buildings, with an open space (the playground) in between. On the one side, a towering three storey building, bleak and forbidding was the main school. Our first year form rooms were on the ground floor, progressing in order along a narrow corridor on the west side. On this side, there were no windows to the rooms. The rooms themselves were wide but shallow from master's desk and blackboard to the back row. I believe there were three rows of desks, all of the platform seat type, (some with backrests, some without), a fixed sloping desk attached to the iron frame which also supported the seat, and under the desk, a narrow shelf, which had to house our books. Pulling a book out from a pile, almost always produced a shower of all our other books.
The second floor contained the two second year forms and a staff room, and the third floor, a large low ceilinged hall, but with a stage. It might be assumed that morning assembly might be held there, but no, we had individual assemblies in our own form rooms. ..no hymn singing, simply prayers and announcements. When the first lesson for any Hartshead form was at Orchard Lane, the members of form attended the main school assembly. The only other uses for the hall at Hartshead was for special assemblies, such as Armistice Day, and the Christmas Concert and examinations. The other building more resembled a chapel, and was probably the Friend's actual Meeting House, but we never had any contact with the Friends. However Mr. Pamment ruled there, and music lessons (mainly singing from the 'National Song Book') took place there. Music as such can hardly be said to have been taught. We were given good instruction in singing, using mainly 'Tonic Sol Fa', but our attention was drawn to the stave below and its interpretation was 'suggested', but not pressed. Pamment was a good pianist and singer, and that sufficed.
French of course was new to most of us. In fact, at Western Road, AFTER the final scholarship examination, we did have some elementary French lessons, mainly introducing a few words, such as 'plume', 'avais vous' and similar. It was sufficient to introduce us to this strange language. Remember that there were few people in the 1920's and 30's who could afford continental holidays or travel, so there was little exposure.
The Head of French was, and had been from the 1900's, Polly Payne. She was a sweet lady, but who's efforts to teach French were somewhat constrained. She NEVER spoke French unless correcting faulty pronunciation in translated passages. Her only effort to get us to speak or understand pronunciation, was by teaching French folk song 'Au Claire de a Lune' and similar, from a little red French song book. Unfortunately. as in many languages, sung words did not necessarily have the same pronunciation as spoken ones. Grammar was strictly by rule from the Grammar Book, and vocabulary was learned in 'tabular' form. I don't think many of us really learnt any useful French in those first two years.
How wonderful however, it was to be taught the THEORY of woodworking and metal work, not merely 'Watch me do it and copy me', but 'We do it this way because.. ..'. I was fairly good at wood and metal working from exposure at home, but this was an eye-opener and I became absorbed in it. Unfortunately, handicrafts were only available in the first two years, and there were no more real lessons. However, there was opportunity for anybody who wanted to, to go to classes after school, where the subjects were not formal, but one could make whatever one wanted, and there was sound advice available from the Masters, on how to do anything one was 'stuck' with, or advice on how to better what you were doing. Alf Ridler a Science master took advantage of the evenings and embarked on constructing a superb 'Easy Chair', which took him several years, but lasted his whole lifetime, so well was it made. In the Metal Shop, there was a good selection of top grade metal working machines, screw cutting lathes, Drill presses, a small planer, a metal forming press, with a supply of seasoned holly branches, to make forming tools, and a hand blown (or rather, foot blown) forge. How I loved it all. We started by learning how to use a FILE to make a true cube. Not so easy!
was taught in the first year, by Mr Shaw, who became known as 'Carrrdigan'
on account of a series of holes held together with wool, totally shapeless,
worn as a cardigan, and explained away as being the result of chemical
corrosion. 'Always wear a lab coat'. However the first time we were introduced
to the Junior Chemistry Laboratory, the second one of three on the top
floor, and with entry via the first lab, where interesting looking asseblies
tubes, condensers, tripods and Bunsen burners, were to be seen on the benches, we found ourselves spread over a long length of bench, facing the long wall. No, it wasn't a brick wall, but a long glass partition. The third lab, did have a door on the left leading in to it , but there was also another at the far side of the room, with entry from a staircase beyond. In this lab there were GIRLS...obviously from our corresponding Central School for GIRLS. There was an immediate instruction. "Do not look through the windows and DISTRACT the girls".I wonder who were the more distracted, us or them, after all we both faced the same partition where the blackboards were. There we were introduced to simple chemicals, first to observe
what different elements looked like, such as zinc, copper and iron sulphur, carbon (soot), and so on, and through the gases, 'Which you cannot see', to reactive elements, such as sodium and calcium, and on to compounds. We spent some three or four lessons in this way, before
being introduced to reactions, and Indicators, acids and alkalies. All good stuff, but how boringly presented. Several boys determined there and then that Science was not for them.
Physics, with Ridler, was much more interestingly taught, with the relationship between everyday life and experience being coupled to whatever he was showing. Levers, i.e., weighing scales and lift bridges: pullies, i.e.. cranes, window sashes etc. and so it went on. However, his first entry was somewhat dramatic. There was nothing on the demonstration bench, but a length of wood. He picked it up and asked what we thought it was. No response. After several attempts, one soul piped up, rather weakly, 'Please Sir, a cane to thrash us with'. Even Ridler laughed. 'No it is a RULER to measure length with. That was our introduction to the metric system of measurements, Alf spent three lectures on 'Length', 'Weight' and 'Volume'. He made it interesting. Physics can be the dullest of academic studies, but if offered properly as an introduction to the world around, it can be fascinating.
However we in Form lA showed a certain initiative, probably sparked by a comment from Hattersley during English Literature (i.e. reading a Shakespeare play), that the only way to appreciate Literature, was to try to write oneself. 'Even if it is only articles for a newspaper'. We embarked on a Form Magazine. We decided that it should be a monthly one, and that we would only produce one copy, containing the individual items as written. Somebody was to design a cover. The items would be put together by an Editor, and that this should change each month. Wilf Harrison was to be the first Editor. The finished magazine would be circulated round the form, each pupil only holding it for one night or a weekend, and then passing it on. Wilf still has the original which he edited, and I have a photo copy of it, containing a preface by Hattersley, decrying the lack of articles from some members of the form, and of the quality of some contributions. He had however offered a prize for what he considered the best offering.
The other innovation, was that being interested in postage stamps, I had looked for a Stamp Club in the School, but found none. I asked whether we could start a Form Club, and Hattersley readily agreed. I had to tell the Form what it was all about, and about ten showed an interest. Of course meetings had to be after school, and this meant Harry H. had to stay with us, and also an arrangement had to be made with the Caretaker, not to lock the doors until we departed. We set the meetings to be one hour long. The Club flourished, and we continued into the second year, now admitting the new first year boys, and so on up the school, until at the time I went to University, the club covered the whole school, with a membership of around fifty. In the third year, we became affiliated to the Sheffield Philatelic Society, and had regular lectures and exhibitions from their members.
second year saw a great upheaval. We all were to learn a second foreign
language, with a choice (to be made by parents) of German or Latin. The
advantages of each was explained in a letter to parents. 'It is desirable
for those embarking on a scientific career to learn German, whilst for
languages or a history based careers, Latin is almost essential, and for
a medical career, compulsory. For some totally inexplicable reason I was
thrown to the Latin side. From
the very first, there was some antipathy between Harry Hawker and myself. If nobody answered a question, he pointed to me to provide the answer, only to receive a blank look or if pressed, 'I don't know, SIR'. Yes, I learnt the declensions etc., I could even construct simple sentences. but I could NOT build up a vocabulary. I might have usefully given up Latin and learnt something useful... But strangely, words and derivations have been an adult interest over many years, and Latin of course is the base of most English words, whether directly, or via other languages. Other languages, French, Spanish and Italian derive almost directly from Latin but I confess, that I only have a smattering of each...
The original four forms in the First Year, were now combined and two each of those to study Latin or German constructed, with the contents of the two being now an amalgam of the original Scholarship order and the results of the first year examination results. Thus to all intents and purposes, Forms lA and IB, provided the first Latin and German forms, 2Ll and 2G1 and 1C and ID, 2L2 and 2G2. One or two individuals were put to learn an unselected language, where the numbers were not equal, but generally, things worked out evenly.
The division however meant a breaking up of the second year grouping with a split between Orchard Lane and Hartshead. The two German Forms stayed at Hartshead, where Herr Tuschmidt had his headquarters, whilst the Latin Forms went to Orchard Lane. In fact I never entered Hartshead again.
Art, we were introduced to figure drawing, whereas the First year had been
devoted to inanimate objects, buildings and landscapes, in particular involving
perspectives. But don't get
'figure' wrong. We had NO LIVE models., but a series of plaster casts, not necessarily of figures, but of legs, feet, heads, arms and hands, so that we could understand their structures. We even got references to 'machines' with cross references to Physics. We occasionally were
issued with postcard copies of some Great Masterpiece by one of the famous artists, and would discuss the attributes of bits of the painting. This was probably not the best way to introduce Art Criticism because it took a long time to recognise just which feature Mr Gatty was talking about. Gatty was totally immersed in Art, and could not stand any criticism of his opinions on any related matter.
other respects, the Second Year was not of great note, within the school,
but outside, things were happening. Sheffield had seen the depths of the
1929 onwards Depression
and to bring the City to the notice of the World, it was decided that there would be a 'Sheffield Week' in 1932, with world wide publicity.
major building programme started. After the destruction of the Albert Hall
at the top of Barker's Pool, there had not been a large Concert Hall, the
second best being the Victoria Hall, The City embarked on the building
of The City Hall on a site on the opposite side of Barker's Pool from the
Albert Hall, involving the demolition of a large complex of small cutlery
workshops, much to the dismay of the cutlery trade. It was claimed that
this negated the purpose of 'Sheffield Week', but decisions in those days
were FINAL. From the Chemistry Lecture Room, we watched the walls of the
new Hall going higher and higher. Nineteen thirty two also saw disruption
of the High Storrs Playing field, to provide the site of the new Central
Schools Building. This covered the First class and second class Football pitches. Our Games periods were transferred to a site between Bents Green and Ringinglow, the Nether Edge School playing fields. with a vicious slope both sideways and length wise. It also meant a longer walk to get there and back, effectively shortening the playing period. The nearest we could get was Bents Green, meaning either a bus from town, via Nether Edge to Bents Green or a tram to Ecclesall and then the aforesaid bus from there, meaning also additional tram/bus fares. Most of us walked from Ecclesall It at least meant we started warm, because the field appeared to be the bleakest in the district. I cannot recall whether there were any changing facilities, but I do remember seeking the shelter of some tall trees in downpours of rain.
The School sported a Science Society, and we in the second year were invited to join and go to selected lectures. I certainly joined and went to one lecture about the Derwent Dams and the supply of water to Sheffield and Derby therefrom. I remember it was well illustrated with lantern slides, and included pictures of the inside of the long tunnel carrying water from the Yorkshire Bridge pumping station to Hollowmeadows. I shortly afterwards went to look at its outfall at a gate protecting the end of the tunnel, at the side of the Hollowmeadows to Wyming Brook Road. Later years produced some very interesting lectures, including Bakelite (One of the few Plastics available before the War), and Liquid Oxygen, When the current chemistry teacher Percy Lord volunteered to hold a cigar, the end of which had been dipped in the liquid, and which exploded as a taper was applied to the end. Percy was left holding the stub end! But all this was later, at High Storrs.
Nineteen Thirty Two, was also the year when we were introduced to The Central School Shakespeare Society. It had existed for a very long time, but not made available to the junior school. After the first year at school, we were considered suitable for theatre going. (The Membership of the Society was limited to the fifth and sixth forms) I'm not certain which play was which year, but I saw MacBeth in my second year at school. I was impressed with the use of ultra violet light to illuminate the otherwise invisible dagger and Banquo, and by the ingenious staging. The Great Hall on the top floor of the school in Orchard Lane was transformed by the building of a large stage across one end of the room with a massive proscenium arch in front, with side drop curtains. The stage was built up on some of the desks normally used for the forms normally in the hall. The stage top was made of planking and blackboards!. But for MacBeth, last act , a superstructure had been built above the stage with a balcony along the side and a staircase leading up to it. The magnificent roof beams were used effectively to hold scenery.
This performance of MacBeth I believe was the last of the Shakespeare plays to be offered by the Society. The following year, the school moved to High Storrs, and the opportunity was taken by Luther Smith, to break the (by then) tradition of a massive Shakespearean production, and he closed the Society. It is true that it had been kept going for years by the supreme enthusiasm of Benny Marshman, a retired English teacher in the school. He came back year after year to design and produce the plays. That one proved to be the last. After being told of Luther' s decision, it is said that Marshman never came near the school again. It was also a long time before another Shakespeare production appeared on the School Boards.
On April 25th, 1932, The Central School for Boys Shakespeare Society was honoured by being given a prime place in the procession in Stratford upon Avon on its way to the opening of the rebuilt Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, the previous one having burnt down in 1926,... .one of the last acts of the Society.
The School also sported a Dramatic Society, and again during my second or third year, they performed 'Outward Bound' which I enjoyed considerably.
Public Spirited act of the Shakespeare Society, was to stage an Annual
Lecture in the Montgomery Hall, at which a Literary celebrity was invited
each year to talk about Drama, Literature and allied topics. One of these,
in old age, was L. Du Garde Peach, to who's lecture I went, without much
of memorable content being produced. As I said he was getting old, and
was forgetful of what he was saying, and it was altogether rather
The Sheffield City Hall opened in the Sheffield Week, and there were several special concerts in the Hall. I managed to go to the second one and heard the fine organ.
What else during that second year?. The Latin forms lived at Orchard Lane, whilst the German Forms had their headquarters still at Hartshead. Polly Payne still instructed us in French, but she came to the main school for the purpose. We continued musical instruction by Pamrnent, but now in Main Hall. He brought a wind up gramophone with a horn and some records. The intention was to introduce us to musical appreciation, as well as to continue singing lessons. We had only one period a week as in the first year. Musical Appreciation was to be by studying 'The Thieving Magpie'. We never got to the main opera. In three and a half minute stretches, we listened to the Overture, but never even completed that, since we ran out of time before the necessary three 'sides' were completed. However I still know the early part of the Overture by heart...
One thing of note however, that year in Music, was the discovery of a superb pianist in our Form. Young Nichols, as he was usually addressed was entirely self taught, but was always under threat of withdrawal from the School, on the account of cost. His mother was a widow, and scraped to keep him at school against all odds. He was however found one day in the Hall, playing the piano, and rather than being hauled lover the coals', was listened to by Luther, and promptly installed as the Assembly pianist. He continued in this position until Summer 1934 when he left to get a job, after the School Certificate examination.(Another of our Form, Cocker, took his place).
mathematics, we were introduced to 'Opp' Thenior, Mr Senior to be correct.
He also had been known to some of our parents, and his red nose and (afternoon')
slurred words were a constant reminder that he lived on a liquid lunch.
He was however a superb teacher of mathematics, and introduced us to trigonometry
and algebra. He stayed however with the basic proofs of geometry and trigonometry,
without explaining their uses in the wider world. It was not until our
fourth year, now with Pongo Jenkinson that the use of trigonometry in
surveying was made apparent to us in very impressive ways.
Ridley now taught us Chemistry, and Shaw, Physics. and we were introduced to a military man Caddy, for English. He loved to introduce us to some of the First World War Poets, and what a waste of good people the war was. It was then so easy to divert him from his lesson material and discuss his wartime experiences. We heard about artillery, draught horses, gas, charges and of course, the trenches, He was in his element in recounting his experiences...
Now we come to the third year. The major change here, was the re-amalgamation of the forms into a (current) merit order of four Forms, each one now of mixed Latin and German content, and all the original 1930 entrants were now in the Orchard Lane School.
I was now in 3B. Well, Latin and History proved my downfall. We had an isolated Form room, just inside and to the left of the Boy's entrance to the school. Everybody entering or leaving the school, or going into the playground, came past our door, and the noise was often deafening! It was also very dim, since the lower part of the windows were slightly below the outside pavements, as Orchard Lane sloped up from Leopold Street.
followed the same pattern however as in the second year. but with some
further changes of personnel. The one to produce the most dramatic effect
was that Polly Payne had at long last retired. Her place as head of French
was taken by a tall thin man, Alan Clayton, who introduced himself to us
by crashing noisily through the door with a loud cry of 'Bo'jour Messieurs'.
What on earth was he talking about? It really was the first time in our
two years plus that we had been subjected to CONVERSATIONAL French. He
waited however, expecting a response, until somebody responded with a weak
'Bonjour Sir.'. He blew up. 'NEVER MIX LANGUAGES' followed by what we gathered
was the same in French. We slowly learned that either you had a correct
response or kept quiet. In any case ALL conversation in class was in FRENCH.
He only lapsed into English when he felt that a close explanation of some
point was necessary. A really faulty translation into French might readily
be followed by a cry of 'imbercile', and the imposition of a detention.
Such detentions became common, always on Tuesday nights, which was the
evening of the Stamp Club meetings. We held a conference and then went
to Mr Hattersley and requested permission to invite Clayton to join our
club and permission was given without question, Mr Clayton was dubious,
but we showed him a few leaves from our stamp albums, showing the great
educational value of collecting. He agreed, and we in turn agreed to help
him start. Mr Hattersley was our Chairman, from the outset, and continued
as Life President until I left School. He had taken to collecting Greek
Classical picture stamps, and after a few weeks, Clayton opted for United
States stamps. It was not long afterwards, he awarded a class detention,
and then exclaimed, 'But you can' t be there because it is OUR Stamp Club
evening, and cancelled the detention, with the remark that we had bettered
him. We had little further problem. I knew that he continued stamp collecting
long after leaving the CSSB. Mr Clayton continued as our French Master
for the two years to School Certificate, and somehow we all passed to various
degrees. In 1934 he left the school, to become the Head of a brand new
Grammar school at Barnet, and I never expected to hear of him again. However
in the 1950's, My wife's brother's children attended Barnet Grammar School,
and he (Geof) became Secretary of the Parent Teacher Association. One day
he asked me whether I knew an Alan Clayton? 'Yes, he was French Master
at CSSB in the 1930's'. I then heard an amazing story. Alan had discovered
that Geof came from Sheffield, but had not attended CSSB. Alan had then
said something like, 'If you didn't go to the Central School, no matter,
I was going to ask what happened to Donald Tomlin and his wife, who I think
was called Bond, like you'. 'Oh', he replied, 'That is my sister and husband.
Did you know them?'. 'I never met her, but I taught Donald' .Geof carried
a suggestion from Clayton that I should go and see him when in London.
To my shame I never did. My visits to London, although almost weekly, were
programmed almost to the minute. I was at the time a 'Committee Man', and
flitted from Air Ministry to Ministry of Aviation or whatever the current
name was of the wartime 'Ministry of Supply', to the Board of Trade, to
National Air Traffic Service as well as commercial offices and the Institute
of Standards etc. I never had time to go elsewhere, but on one occasion
a meeting was cancelled at short notice and I had two hours before moving
to the next venue. I rang the Barnet School. The Secretary was very defensive
and asked why I wanted to speak to Clayton, but when I said I was a former
pupil, hey presto I was straight through to him. I told him who I was and
he said 3B and 4B. You went to Sheffield University and then to work on
Air Defence. You married a girl from the Girl's school. After further introductions,
he told me where almost every boy from my Forms were at that time, and
those who had been killed in the War, and much more
than I knew of the School or pupils. I expressed surprise about this deep knowledge, and he went on to tell me, subsequently confirmed by Geof, that he knew where almost all the former pupils of Barnet School were, and that he attempted to go to every pupil's wedding (and unfortunately, occasionally to a funeral). He asked me about a few at the school of whom he had no information, and explained that he kept up his knowledge by enquiry of any he did meet or speak to.
What a man.
The conversation took over an hour, and I was feeding shillings into the phone box slot in Russell Square all the time. Finally I told him that I had to go to a meeting, but would attempt to either call him again or go to see him. I never did. He died about six months later, and Geof told me that over 4000 people turned up for his funeral.
to Clayton still at CSSB. He always appeared in class in a swirling gown,
and carrying two or more books. There were the books he required for our
lesson, mainly the texts for translation etc, but also another one, nothing
to do with us. He would have both open, and appeared to follow exactly
what we were saying, interjecting corrections to our words, pronunciation
or grammar as necessary, all the time reading the other book. We discovered,
(I can't remember how it came up), but the strange book was a text or grammar
language. He set out to learn a new language or dialectic variation EVERY year. He then went to that country or region for his summer holiday. Even after the War, this continued, and Geof related his proficiency with a story from Barnet. (Barnet has a fairly large Jewish population). A pupil in translating French for homework, intended to be in English, turned in his work in Hebrew. Clayton made no comment but returned it with corrections both to the Hebrew, and the whole thing in an Armenian dialect.
What else of interest in 3B?. English was still Caddy. Scripture - Jenkinson. Maths - Senior. Physics - Shaw. Chemistry - Jimmy Brown, who was to retire after our fourth year, an internationally known Biologist (Botany). Art - Gatty, who now introduced painting, impressionism, and pointilism and no doubt other -isms. Music and Handicrafts had disappeared from our curriculum. Latin - Hawker. Geography - Campbell, who was one of the few who had taught us right through the School. In this third year, there was another choice to be made, Physics or Biology. Almost all chose Physics, but a few went to Biology under Brown.
We still went to the YMCA for our P.E. and to the Nether Edge fields for games. The Science Society was a bit more interesting with a visit to the Neepsend Electricity Power Station, and to Vicker's Steel works. Both were VERY noisy locations, and the verbal explanations almost inaudible, but the visual, very interesting. And so our time at the Central School for Boys in Orchard Lane came to a final end. What happened later at High Storrs is a totally different story, and so far, has not been written down by this scribe...
Another time, maybe.
Donald H. Tomlin 2001