Photograph and details courtesy of William Bennett.
Bill Burnett has written his memories of his time at St. Gerard’s school for my album project and I thought it may be an idea to use his words. Bill was at the school in the early to mid 1950s.
‘There were just four classrooms in the school with folding partition ‘walls’ between them; infants at one end, the seniors at the other. When the folding partitions were opened up a fair sized space was created, which had been used in the past for Sunday mass; though I don’t remember it being used for that purpose while I was there. Miss McNamee took the infants, Mrs McGloghlan took the next class, then Mr Carroll took the third class, and finally the headmaster Mr. Morrisey took the senior class. I have a clear memory of my first day at school and being paired with another boy – his name long forgotten – who was very tearful after his mum had left. We were given a toy ‘shop’ to play with. At some point in the proceedings Miss McNamee asked if anyone could count to more than 10. My hand shot up and I confidently counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace; my parents and grandparents were keen card players and I was all too familiar with the hierarchy of a pack of cards! Miss McNamee was highly amused but my mother was mortified when she told her. On another occasion we had an inspector visiting the school he wrote the initials B.Sc on the chalk board and he asked if anyone knew what they stood for. Muggins responded with “British Sugar Corporation”. Well – at that time if you went shopping and bought sugar it came in blue paper bags with British Sugar Corporation printed on the side; a reasonable mistake to make I think.
Behind the school there was a playground with a toilet block and to the side a sloping playing field, which was out of bounds in wet weather.
The lower part of this field was largely devoid of grass and after rain we would often find small coloured patches on the surface of the mud, indicating that there was a metallic object buried beneath. These would be eagerly dug up in the hope of finding a coin. In those days we used to have free milk delivered to the school in 1/3 pint bottles. In the winter the milk often froze and pushed the foil top off leaving the creamy top part sticking out of the bottle – ice cream!’
Courtesy of Bruce Coleman and Bill Burnett.
Many thousands of people passed through this establishment learning scientific, engineering and artistic skills and went on to many different occupations, teaching, acting, engineering and much more besides.
As a child I remember it being built and it was a terrific playgound for young boys, heaps of sand and gravel, piles of bricks and holes filled with water,we could get dirty and damp within a few hundred yards of our homes, sheer magic.
In later years I did evening classes there, night school as we called it, at both the Billingham and Oxbridge sites and also went to the theatre a number of times, including the opera ‘Don Pasquale’ with my school music club, my first and last foray into the world of opera.
It had most likely past its usefulness with the rise of University education for all and a lesser requirement for technical skills as industry faded away and administration and service work increased, still, it is always sad to see something you have grown up with disappear forever.
Photographs and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.
Front Row from left to right: Pauline Jackson (Head Girl) and Eileen Alderson (Deputy Head Girl).
David Clish became a doctor, both Pauline Jackson and Eileen Alderson became teachers, the latter appears in the Billingham Roseberry Teachers photograph on this site.
I am sure there are many visitors to this site who will remember Mr Phillips unusual military style of running a school. This photograph of the head pupils at Billingham North School was loaned to me by Pauline Jackson.
Details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.