Greenhill Grammar school, Oldham

Life at the (East) Oldham High School in the Late 1940s



Derrick McGarry originally contacted MSN from Canada regarding his 1949 class photo.  While working on this it became apparent that he was actually in the same year as Joyce Pinder who loaned the '46 photograph. Though boys and girls were so segregated that Derrick always refers to them as "the boys school" and "the girls school".    He later added his potato picking photo.  The following are extracts from a mail he sent in response to my request for a few words about the photos, and the school at that time.    More detailed versions of these photos can be seen by clicking the picture.    KD

Lend a Hand on the Land - In 1948, there was an appeal for students to volunteer to pick potatoes for two weeks during school summer holidays, on a farm just outside Ormskirk, .  About 20 of us volunteered.  Our sleeping accomodation was basic we slept in bell tents, out in the field.  We picked 'taters from what seemed dawn till dusk and our appetites were keen.  Sadly, the food, cooked by the father of one of the boys (and so inhibiting complaints), was terrible!  Potatoes, as I recall, featured prominently.

I am on the extreme left of photo, in the front row, in white shirt and shorts.  The only other name I know is the boy fourth from the left, in a grey shirt and gray shorts, holding a white mug, with his arm up to his collar.  That would be my friend David Hart, who is named on the 1949 Va photo.

On Joyce Pinder's 1946 class photo, the girl at 46jp_111 is the same girl listed on my 1949 photo as "Margaret ?"  Joyce must have been a contemporary of mine, since these two photos must be of the same boys' and girls' classes with a three-years interval between them.

Further proof is that as I reviewed the 1946 photo, I remembered the girlat 46jp_201. She's Jean Muncaster.That year, 1946, I was 13 going on 14 years old.   About half a dozen of us went to the cinema and Jean was my "date."  I remember her because although we were very innocent in those days, in an uncharacteristic act of depravity on my part, I put my arm around her shoulders, as I had seen courting couples do.

My arm was there for the entire film show and when we came to leave, it was completely numb.

In the late 1940s, East Oldham High School was without a Biology teacher.  In 1948, they hired a Mr Jones to teach the subject.  Headmaster Mr Ashworth told students entering Va for the school year 1948-1949, that they would have to catch up on two years' studies and they would not be allowed to take Biology unless they needed it for their prospective future careers, or if they had had previously good marks in the subject.

The chosen ones were Brian Millward, bent on a career in medicine, me (previous good marks and a fierce desire to drop the alternative subject, History), and the young lady from the girls' school ("Margaret ?"), who appears on the 1949 class photo (46jp-111). Since there were only three of us in the class, we didn't always use a classroom.  Mr Jones (just out of university) had rooms in a terrace house opposite the school on Churchill Street and often we took our lessons in his parlour there.  It was like having a private tutor and with the amiable but strict young Mr Jones, we fairly sailed through the two years' work, leaving several weeks for revision. It was the most enjoyable experience of my high school years.

The boys' and girls' schools were, indeed, completely separate.  The only time we met the girls (officially) was at an annual school dance at Hill Stores (I think that was around Christmastime), and "Speech Day" (also at Hill Stores), when the old "School Certificate" -- junior and senior matriculation certificates -- and prizes were presented to pupils with top marks in class subjects, from both schools.

The dances began awkwardly, since the boys were on one side of the ballroom and the girls on the other -- two groups that were strangers to each other.  Invariably, the teachers partnered each other, starting with an accumulation waltz, where partners separate during the dance and each choose another partner from those not dancing.  That got things going.

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I remember Mr Higson striding briskly into the classroom, obviously disturbed about something, and saying  "Boys -- I suggest you read 'Alice in Wonderland' as a preparation for life."  Observing this sometimes irrational world over the years, it is a remark that has come to my mind often.

Derrick McGarry 19/02/2007