South Tynesiders hark back to their school days

The wonderfully evocative old photo of children in the cloakroom of Biddick Hall Junior Mixed School, posted on Facebook, certainly brought back a lot of memories '“ some good, some not so good.
Biddick Hall  Junior Mixed School in 1958.Biddick Hall  Junior Mixed School in 1958.
Biddick Hall Junior Mixed School in 1958.

Linda Connolly remembered: “The little pegs for your coats in infants” while Leanne Jay posted: “The cloakroom in Harton juniors, looked just like the pic x”

When asked what she liked about her time at school, Carol Walsh went online to say: “Everything, wish I was back to there just for a week!”

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However, others, it seems, woould not be so keen to go back to those days.

“Kate Thompson recalls: “Walking to school in the freezing cold and not being allowed to wear trousers in comp, awful school lunches and forced to carry a heavy backpack around all day, just like being in the army really ha, no nice memories at all!”

Susan Sinclair says: “Frozen milk, getting lines for talking in class, detention for being late, not being able to wear trousers when it was freezing and snowing and oh I forgot getting the cane for chewing gum!”

Nikki Ratcliffe was equally dismissive of the “good old school days” remembering: “The awful cold toilet block at St. Gregory’s Infant and Junior school plus the toilet paper that was like tracing paper. When we went to St Wilfrid’s Comprehensive School we had proper indoor toilets bliss!” while Jean Reay told us of “The smell of sawdust in the hall when someone always threw up during assembly! Ugh!” and Mark Hannard of “warm school milk”.

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But Hazel Love’s memories were more pleasant. She posted: “Having lessons outside in the summer weather” while Michelle Whale recalled the morning assembly.

South Shields’ documentary-maker Gary Wilkinson is well known for recording the towns’ past and presenting it in films that have proved incredibly popular over the years.

So it’s exciting to learn that his latest work is to be premiered in The Word early next month.

Local historian Hildred, who runs the Wednesday Heritage Club, Whale explains more.

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“Next month’s presentation, at The Word, on March 8, will mark International Women’s Day, and will feature local ‘strong women.’

“The main event will be the premiere of Gary Wilkinson’s new film, ‘Westoe Rose: the Chronicles of Miss Flagg.’

“Amy Flagg is fondly remembered as the lady in a hat and trench coat, who quietly went about photographing buildings and recording the history of the town she loved. But, who was Amy?

“By the Second World War, both her parents had died, plus the town she loved was falling apart from the German raids: her life was crumbling around her.

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“When the bombs dropped, she captured the scars with her camera. This is the story of the courage and determination of a unique woman who captured some of the most devastating images of South Shields in the twentieth century.”

The 15-minute film is narrated and introduced by Tom Kelly while former Gazette nostalgia writer Janis Blower provides the voice of Amy Flagg.

“She will also give us some insights into Amy Flagg, the woman, following the film,” adds Hildred.

“Additionally, we will be showing ‘Wildflower,’ Gary’s very successful film about the life of Eileen O’Shaughnessy, the South Shields born wife of George Orwell, and there will be poetry from Kath Kenny.”

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Tickets for the event, which starts at 2pm, are £1.50, and are be available from The Word, in South Shields.

With tickets selling fast, there are plans to hold a second screening. Also copies of the films are available to buy on DVD from Hillhead Farm, Lizard Lane, in Whitburn, and at the Framer & More Art shop on Westoe Road, in South Shields,