The Maltonian Web

Maltonians' Memories

Jean Evans (Jean Bielby)

In Spring 2002 Jean sent her memories of Malton Grammar School in the 1930s.

I started MGS in 1929 when I had passed the scholarship exam at eleven. My two older sisters, Doreen and Freda, were already there so I knew quite a lot about what life was like.

It was a much smaller school then, about 120 pupils I think, some of which were fee-paying, some had County Scholarships, East for where we lived and North Riding for others, and Governors' Scholarships. No difference at all was made by staff between those on scholarships and the fee-paying people, in fact it would have been difficult to tell which were which except that one or two of the latter would never have scraped through the exam.

The original buildings are still there but at that time that hollow square was all of MGS. Now, the new extension (new to me) has added a great deal more. The original Hall is now, I think, the library, which would fill a gap as the only source of books, other than textbooks, was a small collection in the Headmaster's study. As well as a much larger hall, the 'new' kitchen, much bigger and up to date in equipment, has replaced the old kitchen-dining room where there were six or seven at a big table - staff table - at one end, and memory says, about eight or so tables for pupils, with the actual cooking and dishing up being done there, at the far end. Senior girls acted as waitresses and there was no choice - main course and sweet. It was always good, well cooked food with Mrs Barker in charge. Some of the ingredients came from the school garden, grown by George, husband of Mrs Barker and caretaker, and we did wish the rhubarb wasn't so prolific - you can get too much rhubarb!

Some of those who lived in Malton went home to dinner and a few from villages brought packed lunches and one table was set aside for their use. Grace was said by the Head in Latin!

There was assembly in the hall every morning with prayers, a reading and a hymn and any notices read out if, for some reason, unusual happenings were taking place.

The extension to the original building was built over the land occupied by tennis courts and the open-air stage. Towards the end of each Summer Term there was usually a Shakespeare play performed on that stage. I remember being a fairy in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in my first year at school, then later "As You Like It" and "The Tempest", probably chosen because they were the set plays for the exams of that year. It was certainly a good way to memorise the text.

The stage, grass grown, was raised by a built up slope from the end of the tennis court and privet hedges and apple trees formed the wings, with a taller privet hedge for the backcloth. I never found out how an old field gun came to be behind the back hedge close to the hedge that bordered Middlecave, but it was useful to sit on if you were waiting for a cue to go on stage.

Mr Watt was Head all the time I was there and he taught English Literature and Latin but now and then he was delayed by parents, governors or some urgent incident in school affairs and didn't get to the class or arrived late for it. He was not a person who believed in physical punishment, in fact I don't remember anyone in our form getting caned, and we were not noted for being too obedient! By overwhelming vote we, as a form, decided that Latin was a waste of valuable time to us, and a deputation of one boy and one girl was appointed to tell Mr Watt this. I think we were 3rd Form at the time. Gordon Cooper, a quiet, inoffensive boy was picked and I was lumbered to be the girl, but it can't have been for the same reason! Anyway, instead of a good telling off for our impudence, we were allowed to drop Latin.

Mr Williams (T.A. being his initials his nick-name was Taw) took Science, Chemistry, Physics and Agricultural Science which had a special paper in the exams, as not many schools needed it, but being a farming area, we did. Mr Williams was an excellent teacher and also was responsible for Boys P.E. and Games during my first two years.

Mr Barty (Bart to us or A B) taught History, Geography and occasionally, Music. He was also a good teacher and could use biting sarcasm to effect. "North or South on a map please. Chicago is NOT at the bottom of Lake Michigan".

Miss Turner taught Maths, and though she was no doubt highly qualified and a good teacher given a chance, one or two of the fee payers gave her a hard time in our third year. The least able one was given a Junior Arithmetic book in the end, with the words "If you don't bother me, I won't bother you". But she had a sense of humour, having patiently tried to explain a geometry question she said "It's as plain as the nose on your face", to which the answer, with horribly crossed eyes was "Well, Miss, I can't see it!" She joined in our laughter.

Miss Foley taught French and deplored the fact that some of us "would always speak French with a Yorkshire accent".

Miss Douthet took Art and Architecture on Wednesday and Friday, and was never seen without a hat - should be HAT as they were solid jobs, covering all the hair, or had she any hair? One of school's fascinating mysteries, unsolved to this day. Though she was elderly, she quietly made it plain that little of the mischief went unobserved, and her teaching lingers still - we never pass Whitwell-on-the Hill without looking at the church and chanting "Broach spire, lychgate".

Miss Slipper came Wednesdays and Fridays too, and took Girls PE and Games, tennis in summer and hockey and netball in winter.

In our third year a new member of staff joined. Mr Rolls, fresh from university re-joined his old school to teach English and Boys PE and Games. He was young, good looking and athletic and how the Senior Girls drooled over him. Not so the tougher lot in our form. We gave him a hard time at first. His nick-name was Soss, as in sausage Rolls. He was very much in charge on Sports Day, remembered for the phrase "Oh, it never rains on Sports Day", and indeed memory says it never did.

Typhoid struck the area in 1931 (or was it 1932?). The water supply became contaminated and it was only when a pupil at MGS died of it that the pollution was traced! By this time many of us had developed typhoid, me amongst them, and as the isolation wards in Malton and York were already filled with victims, I went to Driffield and even here we were in the Diphtheria block as, even with extra beds, the typhoid block was full. I was in hospital from November 4th (missing firework night) to the end of January the following year. Visitors were not allowed into the hospital, only doctors and parsons could visit but as I was on the danger list for a while my parents could sit outside the window (in December) and watch me sleep. A very good sister caught the infection and died of it, as did my own doctor Dr Parkin.

When I was well again and finally home, my sisters told me how awful it had been in Malton; streets deserted, town crier with his bell going round ordering everyone to boil all water, shops empty of all outside customers. Lists of patients in hospital were posted at the old Messenger office, now a furniture shop at the corner of Railway Street and Yorkersgate, to tell those who had people in hospitals how they were, as visiting was not allowed. The Malton Messenger was a local weekly paper then.

Schools who normally played MGS at hockey, netball and soccer not only would not come to Malton but had no desire to have our players visit them. It had one privilege - those who had missed school were excused exams that summer.

MGS was a happy school, we all agree that we were fortunate in our education there. I know of only six of my Form still alive - unless the Grim Reaper has been busy recently. May Anderson (Skinny) now Fitt by name, Tina Prest now Hope, Stan Kendall who with my sister Freda celebrates 60 years of married bliss in June this year, Arthur Nendick, living near Hull, and Bob Prest who attended this year's O M reunion. There may be others, I hope so, but looking at the school photo of 1934 it is sad to think how many on it died in the Second World War or since.

Jean Evans (Bielby)

Spring 2002