How ice creams slowed South Shields cross country runs

South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys new swimming pool. in 1965.
South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys new swimming pool. in 1965.

Cross country runs were, and probably still are, a staple sport for pupils at South Tyneside’s secondary schools.

But as amateur historian Andrew Grant reveals in his latest look-back at local education, it wasn’t all hard slog.

Memory lane social flow   January 1967  ''Pupils at South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys in the new "carol" private study booths, which has been delivered to the Education Committee - the first in the country to be supplied.

Memory lane social flow January 1967 ''Pupils at South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys in the new "carol" private study booths, which has been delivered to the Education Committee - the first in the country to be supplied.

For one person featured in Andrew’s most recent instalment, John Curry, explains how he and his classmates took a breather – to polish off a Minchella’s ice cream!

Andrew said John attended the South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys from 1958.

The school was built on a 13-acre site at Harton, replacing the South Shields Boys High School, which cost £60,000 to build.

“John attended the school two years later than the average pupil,” explained Andrew, “because he passed the 13-plus exam. He was a late developer, and like other late developers, was grateful to be given a second chance to attend the grammar school and to have such good facilities.

“The school had a sports field, tennis courts, as well as football and rugby pitches.”

Andrew said pupils who didn’t pass the exam remained at their secondary modern schools.

During his time at the grammar school, John and his fellow students spent many a lesson doing cross country runs, as Andrew explains.

“When the grammar school boys did their cross country runs, John and the rest of the running group encountered an obstacle to running up and down Cleadon Hills – the house to the foot of the hills.

“This involved crossing Prince Edward Road. Just a few yards from the crossing point was Minchella’s ice cream shop. John’s running group took a long time to eat their ice cream cornets before jogging back to school ... looking very fresh!”

Andrew goes on to say that at the end of John’s fifth year at school, as he was waiting to receive the results of his ordinary level exams, John decided to look for employment – and was offered a junior post with the council.

“He still sings the old grammar school song to himself, Alma Mater we revere thee.”

In an article published by the Workers’ Educational Association, history student, Elizabeth Coffrey, writes about Dean Road School.

She tells how the school was built in the year 1900 and was at the corner of Dean Road and West Park Road, in South Shields.

Elizabeth attended the school from 1953 to 1957.

Andrew recounts Elizabeth’s memories of her time there.

“There were standards A, B, C and D, with about 42 pupils in every class.

“Elizabeth stated that during the First World War, Dean Road School was used to billet soldiers.

“She felt she had a good education there, with the teachers being firm but fair.

“Mr Hub, the headmaster, instilled loyalty to the school in all the pupils.

“Elizabeth writes how over the years there were quite a few articles and pictures in the Shields Gazette praising pupils for their ‘savings totals’ (would these have been paying in bank books?)”

After standing empty for two years, Dean Road School was demolished by South Tyneside Council in 1975.

Andrew’s research uncovered that two well known “old boys” attended Harton Comprehensive School – the footballer Nick Pickering and comedian Chris Ramsey.

“Nick Pickering says the school’s sports facilities were so good that this enabled him to become a professional footballer with Sunderland.

“Chris believes help from the teachers helped him to become a comedian.”

What were your school days like? Which teachers inspired you to become the person you are today or chose a particular career path?