A Story of my Old School Hall


This is a little story of my old school hall at St Hilda’s in the 1940s

St Hilda’s School Hall 











NO 71

























The old school hall at St Hilda’s has had three tales told about it already: Eric Allen’s one about the old time dancing, Jean (Burrow) Lynley’s Swiss roll incident and my own previous tale about not being able to tell the time by the big Potts hall clock. The reason why the hall has so many tales to tell is probably because it was so versatile. Our first introduction to the hall as St Hilda’s pupils was when we had to get our heads down for an afternoon nap upon our reception into the infants or better known to us as the ‘babies’ class. Later it was our venue for assembly and when it was too wet for us to use the playground we would use it to march up and down – in serpentine lines: ‘The grand old Duke of York – he had ten thousand men – he marched them up to the top of the hill and he marched them down again – and when they were up they were up and when they were down they were down and when they were only half way up they were neither up nor down.’  I suppose it was the teachers’ chance to get us to let off a bit of steam after being cooped up in the classroom. You thought you were a real clever if you nipped from one line into another without the teacher spotting you.

              One afternoon a week we would have singing lessons in the hall. Mrs Duckworth would sit at the piano in her pale blue flowered dust coat, she would use the half moon shaped first aid box on the chair to elevate herself to the level of the keys. Miss Fewster would stand at the front behind an old wooden desk and tap out the time for us with a ruler. She would give us the key to start us of; ‘Mee-me-me-me’, tap–tap-tap. And we would be off, ‘Where have you been all the day Billy Boy, Billy Boy, where have you been all the day my charming Billy?’ Then she would spot someone misbehaving; say I was the culprit, she would shout, ‘Wood’ at the top her voice and bang the desk with her ruler. Mrs Duckworth would cease her playing and make some remark like: ‘I didn’t know Wood was a bad boy Miss Fewster’ and Miss Fewster would reply something like, ‘Bad! He’s darn right wicked!’ Tap, tap, tap with the ruler and we’d be off again: ‘I’ve been courting all the day with my darling, Nancy Gray and my Nancy tickles my fancy… Another favourite of the teachers’ was: A shepherdess was watching – ding dong – ding dong – ting-a-ling – ding dong, her flocks the whole night long – ding dong. We cleverly managed to substitute one of the ‘ding dongs’ for ‘stink bomb’. Occasionally the teachers’ would be really ambitious and have half of us singing: ‘row, row, row your boat;’ and then as we went on to sing: ‘gently down the stream,’ the other half would begin with, ‘row, row, row your boat’ at the same time. Complete chaos!

            If you behaved reasonably well in the singing lessons you would probably make the group who had the doubtful pleasure of visiting the Belgrave Hall or even the grander Leeds Town Hall to hear a symphony concert. It was pearls before swine!

Later a stage was built at one end of the hall the site for future school concerts and of course the nativity plays.

            Regarding the Saturday night old time dancing in the hall: I had a nasty experience one night while taking a breather from my pathetic attempts at the: Lancers, the Dashing White Sergeant and the Paul Jones. I was sat on a wooden bench (they were of course the same benches we used for school) someone came along and said, ‘Shuv up’.  I ‘shuved’ up and a spell went into my posterior; I say spell it was more a stake fit to kill a vampire. I tried to pull it out but it broke off with about three inches left inside me. My dad had to take me down to the dispensary on the back of his motorbike to have it removed and remove it they did but I always thought that they had left some still inside me; sometimes it would prick me when I was sat in the pictures. Fifteen years later I plucked up the courage to go back to the dispensary and they got another two inches out of me, it was bleached perfectly white from being inside me for all that time. No thought of compensation then of course.

            The church held its bazaars and jumble sales in the hall and we manned the stalls: cover the halfpenny and ‘housey – housey’, bran tub. On Thursday Evenings in the late 1940s early 1950s the hall was shared, half each by the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. We with our knobbly knees on show attired in our corduroy shorts that smelt like wet dog when it rained and the Guides who always looked a treat in their white ankle socks, blue tops and navy skirts.

            The school hall will probably be a block of flats by the time this is read but I wonder if sometimes in the calm of an afternoon the residents will ever hear the ghostly sound of ‘tap-tap-tap-mee–me–me’. ‘Can she cook an Irish stew Billy boy Billy boy, can she cook an Irish stew my Billy boy?’

‘She can cook an Irish stew fit for me and fit for you and my Nancy tickles my fancy….

‘You! That wicked boy there! – Stay in at playtime!’…tap-tap-tap.










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