Monday, 22 March 2010

Walworth School / Mina Road after the war

When I went to teach in Walworth in 1964 Mr Ash -- Wilf Ash to colleagues -- was one of the few who had been there since the school opened in 1946. I never knew him well enough to talk to properly but used to get his stories of the early days second-hand, as relayed by Paddy Price who’d arrived a year later in 1947 (came for a day’s supply teaching, stayed for forty years, ending up as a deputy head in charge of the Lower School -- the old Nelson School in Trafalgar Street).

According to Ash according to Paddy, when school opened in September 1946, the teachers turned up at the shabby, bomb-damaged old building and reported to Miss O'Reilly, the headmistress. (There’s a question straight away because Miss O'Reilly came only in summer 1947; the first head was a Miss Plastow, who no sooner than appointed was whisked off to do something in the Home Office.) Miss O'Reilly handed the teacher his or her register which immediately proved to have no names in it. Asked about this she explained, ‘There’s the streets -- go out and get yourself a class.’

So Wilf Ash had to go and gather in a class of pupils, most of whom had probably spent the war running free and playing in the bombed out buildings. Once in the classroom with his captives, you shut and locked the door (from the inside), took your jacket off, rolled up your sleeves and said, ‘Right, who wants trouble?’

Trouble there was - whether for Ash himself I doubt. One class was known for removing the blackboard from its easel and circulating it round the room over their heads at ever-increasing speed.

By all accounts Miss O'Reilly was a match for all that.

What was the truth of the re-opening of schools after the war? If the kids hadn’t been attending school, how did they even know which they were to go to? September 1946 must have been chaotic. Not only were the pupils from the previous school there -- if they turned up -- but also many from other schools that had been closed or reorganised.

Who remembers any of this? who was in that first lot to join Walworth (Mina Road) in 1946? Any memories, please email them to Then I'll post it here if you’re happy about that.

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