Sunday, 16 October 2011

MRBCS -- more

A question and a comment:

What are those pictures (prints?) on the wall of the ‘top class’?

And the comment: when I worked in the successor school in the 1960s -- Walworth County Secondary School, comprehensive -- you could see the boys as the central school scholars’ direct descendants: still smart, well dressed, happy and alert, except for that poor or neglected minority that would never have got into the central school and for the most part were in the ‘remedial’ classes, though these classes, too, had thoroughly wholesome-looking children. The introduction of mixed-ability classes in the second half of the ‘60s was a welcome and successful reform.

Mina Road Boys Central School

These photographs were kindly sent to us by Darien Goodwin. The portrait is of his father, Eric, who was at Mina Road Boys Central School between 1917 and 1921. The class photographs are of the first form (Eric top row, far right) and the top class (bottom row, far left). According to the system in central schools, the first form boys were aged 12 and the top class 15 (called fifth year in my time and year 11 these days).

Schools like this were selective elementary schools and some, including Mina Road (it seems), were very successful. Although they had a vocational emphasis, academic subjects were taken seriously, including, according to Eric’s reports, the ‘English subjects’, Mathematics (Arithmetic, Geometry and Algebra), History, Geography, Science and French.

We know a bit about the school around this time from Herbert John Bennett’s I Was a Walworth Boy (London: Peckham Publishing Project, 1980). At least in his slightly earlier day (1913-16) the headmaster was Edward P. Paul who in the first assembly explained the school motto, Agi quod Agis, ‘What you do, do well’. ‘I do not think he was liked by the masters. There was certainly little affection from us boys’ (32).

A Mr Dawes is remembered with respect and affection: ‘[Dawes] had seemingly realised that the best prospects for us boys from working class families lay in our entry into the Civil Service, and he specialised in putting his boys through the Boy Clerks examination.’ The attraction was the promise of a pension to escape ‘the insecure world of poverty that surrounded me’. Dawes’s friendliness is remembered; he used to play football with the boys (33-34).

Perhaps someone can even today tell us who were the teachers in the photographs.

‘Mina Road School was not a large school. There were only six classes but in addition to the six classrooms [there were science, art and woodwork facilities]. Next door [he seems to be referring to the layout of the playgrounds] was a girls’ school and contact between the two was forbidden.’ There was a school production, though whether it was Shakespeare is not clear (32).

The building is the one that’s still there on the site of what is now Walworth Academy. I wonder when the tiered seating was taken out?

Mr Bennett had ‘no regrets… [It was] a good school with some wonderful teachers’ (9-10).

One can indeed imagine the well-turned out boys in the photos, in their jackets, waistcoats and ties, being receptive to a good education, especially when the size of the class reduced from about 41 at the start to 15 in the final year. They look quite ready for good clerical jobs. (If you were going into a trade, would there have been any point in staying for a fourth year?)

I suppose one can’t judge by such photographs but it doesn’t strike me as an unhappy school.

The National Archives at Kew, by the way, have inspection reports on this and the girls' school from the 1930s.  Both are highly praised.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Andrew Salkey at Walworth/Mina Road

We’ve been given a lovely letter of sympathy and good wishes that was written by a pupil to Andrew Salkey, her English teacher, who was then in hospital with bronchial pneumonia. It’s dated 24th October 1957 and was evidently never delivered. We would love to contact the writer, Barbara Allen: does anyone have her address or email, please?  (Send it, please, to

We’d like also to learn more about Mr Salkey as a teacher. He was later a notable novelist and poet who dealt with themes relating to the Caribbean where he had grown up.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Country hikes from Walworth/Mina Road, 1950s

We’ve just had this from Pip Piper -- Mr L.B. Piper, a New Zealander, who was a supply teacher at Walworth in 1957-58, partly substituting for Andrew Salkey (English) who was in hospital with bronchial pneumonia.

Harold Rosen, he tells, used to organised Sunday hikes in the country for Walworth pupils. Adults went too. Shown here (click to enlarge) are, left to right, Harold Rosen, Alex McLeod (also NZ), Gillian Murray (wife of Mike Murray, biology, another New Zealander), Mrs Rosen (Connie) and Pat Darby (PE; married Pip Piper).

Anyone who went on these jaunts (via the ‘Ramblers Special’ train), do get in touch: Or add a comment here if you can work the system.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

O'Reilly plaque at Mina Road/Walworth

I mentioned before about a ceremony on 31 August to unveil a plaque to commemorate the first head of Walworth (comprehensive) School. It took place at Walworth Academy, who have now published their own photos of the event.