A Grand Spell of Sunshine - The Life and Legacy of Francis FrithA Grand Spell of Sunshine - The Life and Legacy of Francis Frith

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My Early School Years In Mill Hill 1943 1950

A Memory of Mill Hill.

I have few memories of my primary school which was in a private house in Croft Close a turning off of Marsh Lane, but I do remember being very happy there. This was during the latter war years. However I had a very bad experience at the first private junior school I attended. This was St Georges in Flower Lane, Mill Hill Broadway in 1945 and my father was still in the army. The head mistress, a Mrs Smith, did not believe that anyone could be left-handed. I am naturally left handed and was literally forced to write with my right hand, and button the shoes I had to change into on arrival a the school every morning, again just using this hand. I told my mum what was happening but she did not take it seriously until at the beginning of about the fourth week I broke down with the frustration of it all. I had blood coming from my finger nails of my right hand trying to button some new shoes, and was crying. I then deliberately started to use my left hand in class for everything. This was immediately reported to the head mistress who, as punishment, had me hold out both my hands to be smacked using a ruler. I was in tears again by this time and then refused to eat my lunch. They telephoned Mum and she came down to the school. I had the chance to talk to her alone on her arrival and she at last understood the situation, the stress I was under, and what the Head Mistress had done to me. Mum lost it at that point and stormed into the Heads office and really went for her. It took three male teachers to drag mum off of her. That was the last day I ever spent at that School. However the next school I went to was another private junior school and at the age of 9 was learning, Latin, French, Geometry, Algebra, and had to attend boxing lessons on a Saturday morning. Not the most appropriate preparation for the 11 plus. This was Highwood School in Lawrence Street.

Reaching Highwood School meant a walk down Worcester Crescent, up Glenwood Road, left at the top into Marsh Lane and then up the hill to a point where a footpath started off to the right which went past the back of some huge mansions. This then lead down through some allotments to a gate at the bottom which opened on to Lawrence Street almost opposite the school entrance. I usually did most of this walk with two other boys, Tony Grindrod (a big second year) and Billy Rushworth, a classmate of mine. Now, the top part of the footpath went past the rear gardens of the mansions on Marsh Lane, one of which was formerly owned by the film star Margaret Lockwood and this garden had the most lovely apple orchard. They were Worcester pearmains and absolutely delicious. Tony was not going to miss an opportunity to make a little extra money. So we crawled under the fence, through the hedge and into the orchard. The object of the exercise (scrumping) was to collect as many of the fallen undamaged ripe apples as we could carry in our school satchels and to sell them to as many of our schoolmates as possible. However, we had not ‘cased the joint’, and we had not reckoned on the gardener patrolling the grounds with his large Alsatian dog and his assistant. We were promptly caught and rounded up, then marched down to the school and almost straight into the headmasters office. The headmaster took a pretty dim view of our escapade but reserved his punishment of six of the best on a bare bum with a nasty looking cane for just Tony, deemed to be the organiser and leader. Billy and I were told to watch and it was made quite clear to us both that this would be the punishment if we repeated the crime. Billy and I got a hundred lines each and I did these at home. I was a bit worried about Dads response but all he said was serves you right for not checking the place out. Evidently when young Dad had done exactly the same thing, got caught and subsequently caned for his troubles.

It was at this school I first showed some talent at cricket as a bowler. There was a cricket net in the garden of the school and I bowled our form teacher, a Mr Stone, three times in the space of a few minutes. This was only a 20 yard pitch and at the age of 9. I was still at this school when I had to take the 11 plus exam. I failed having taken the exam with a temperature of 102. Two days later this was diagnosed as yellow jaundice and I spent a long time in bed. Having failed I got sent to Edgware Secondary Modern School in September of 1950, then situated down an alley way next door to the old LNER steam railway station and goods yard.

Ron Sargeant
Aged 83, Southend-on-Sea.

With thanks to rsarge1012 for this memory of Mill Hill

Added 27 November 2021

#758576

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