Friday, 2 September 2011

Blue plaque for Miss O'Reilly

Miss Anne O'Reilly was the first real head of Walworth/Mina Road interim comprehensive school, 1947-1955. Her niece, Pat Jones, and my colleague on the Walworth history project, Pat Kingwell, persuaded Southwark Council to award her a blue plaque for her war work (for which she was given and MBE) and her headship of two schools, Peckham Emergency Central School during the war and the new Walworth School after it.

The four-year-old Walworth Academy (principal Devon Hanson) hosted the ceremony, the plaque was unveiled by the mayor on the wall of the only surviving building (from 1905), Simon Hughes MP spoke and we all went inside for refreshments, mingling, and more short speeches, including by two impressive ex-pupils from Peckham, then David Harris from Walworth, Pat Jones herself and Pat Kingwell and me for our project, Social Change and English: A Study of Three English Departments 1945-1965, appealing for more information and stuff. Lots of reunions and, for Pat K and me, a chance at last to meet people with whom we’d had only email or postal contact.

Some decent photos will be up on the Academy site in due course; in the meantime here’s my petty offering.  (Click to enlarge)

1. On Mina Road facing the school and the plaque.  I'm sure there were more people than that when we eventually got inside.

2.  Here I can recognise on the right John Sparrow (English) talking to Simon Clements (late 50s and early 60s, English and Social Studies).  Of those present, John must have been the teacher who taught earliest at the school (1952).  I also see Mary Lou Thornbury who taught World Studies in the 1960s and 70s.

3.  I'm sure there will be a better photo of the plaque forthcoming. You can at least see Miss O'Reilly's dates, 1891-1963.

4.  Finally, the one surviving original building (1905: the Mina Road Higher Grade School) which only now can we get a decent view of, after the demolition and new site layout.  Here the only people I'm sure of are, on the right, Kim James, who I taught in the first and second year and hadn't seen since, and Bill Metson on the left, who we met and interviewed through the project.

I'm looking forward to some decent pictures taken by Tony of the Academy.

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