Some memories of Heath Grammar School: Allan Jackson [1935–1942]

I have for many years intended submitting a contribution in the HOBA annual newsletter but never got round to it. So I will make an effort before it is too late.

At 95 years old I can still remember many things I experienced during my time at Heath Grammar School, particularly some World War Two years. I was 15 years old when the withdrawal of troops from the Dunkirk area became known. Halifax railway station was closed because troop trains were unloading troops into transport and taking them to spread out over Savile Park. They looked very tired and people in the area of Savile Park started bringing warm flasks of drinks for them to have. During the evening the soldiers were found accommodation in houses close to Savile Park. We had two soldiers sleeping in our house at 6 Savile Park Gardens for two or three nights before they moved to Halifax Barracks.

School hours were 9.00–12.30 and 2.00–4.15 to allow time to go home for dinner as there were no school meals. Whilst it was considered possible to have a gas attack we were all issued with gas masks in a cardboard box we carried everywhere. When the air raid warning siren sounded we had to walk briskly to the tram sheds and stay until the all-clear. German bombers were striking some of the nearby towns with incendiary bombs.

As a prefect I was paired on a rota with other prefects staying overnight on the school roof and learning how to use a stirrup pump to deal with a fire should we be hit.

Food and clothing was rationed. Vehicle headlights and cycle lights were restricted to a weaker level. Windows had strips of adhesive tape to act as a cushion to glass breakage and the blackout was everywhere.

A school orchestra was formed under the supervision of the master ‘Tishy’ Holt.

A Summer Camp was organised and I went to help harvest the crop in the fields.

I had started in the Junior School in the middle of the Spring Term 1935, aged 10, with my young brother Howard Brian Jackson ( [Heath 1935–1942]) also starting in the Junior School on the same day. The Junior School had two classrooms, and its own entrance at the far end of the main school ground floor corridor.

The Junior School Headmaster, Bonham Edwards, had boys in three ages in Classes 1A, 1B, 1C and Mr Bilborough had the Transitus Class (with 13 boys in the year I was in it) in the other room. I started in 1A, with Brian in 1B. Peter Phoenix and Hugh Dudley were sons of Mr Phoenix and Mr Dudley, both teachers at Heath, and they were in my Form all my time at Heath.

In the outside grounds there was a square lawn which was out of bounds, unless the Junior School were playing organised football or cricket on it, the cycle shed, gym and changing room, two storey science block and two fives courts. There used to be four fives courts prior to demolishing two of them to make space for the science block. I did play Fives a few times but can't remember if gloves were worn on one or both hands. Did Squash replace it? The noise and dust from the work of enlarging the school affected Morning Prayers and many routine school lessons. Morning Prayers was attended by all boys from 9.00 to 9.15.

Each week the Junior School went walking/running to Park Swimming Bath for swimming lessons, and that was where I learnt to swim.

All boys were divided into three Houses, School, Queens, and Heath until a fourth House, Kings, was established by transferring a few from each of the three Houses. Many groans were heard from several who did not like transferring Houses.

I joined the small Cub Scout Pack and then the scouting group, the 2nd HGS Scouts, which was restricted to those at Heath Grammar School. The school encouraged boys to join the Scouts and allowed them to have an extra day to hand in homework. Numbers increased rapidly making it necessary to have A-Section, B-Section (Beavers), C-Section, and a start of D-Section. A few were also in the Sea Scouts Section.

The Scout group closed when the School closed and several scout log-books were deposited in the Archive Section of the Halifax Public Library.

I enjoyed learning to play rugby union and was good enough to be on the school team against schools at Bradford, Wakefield, Doncaster and Colne. Due to the conscription of many of their players, both Brian and I also joined Halifax Rugby Union Club. I remember signing the application form to join, which had the first question, ‘Have you ever played Rugby League?’ because at that time League was professional and Union was strictly amateur. I later played for Loughborough College, and one of the 10 teams each at Rosslyn Park and Saracens, and finally for Derby.

Both Brian and I left Heath in 1942 and joined the Army Cadet Corp Unit based at Crossley and Porters School until we both started at Loughborough College later that year. I spent three years on a Civil Engineering course and Brian was in the College Physical Education unit until he was called up for military service when he became that age.

Whilst Brian was at Heath he was very good at athletics; so he was posted to the Army Physical Training Corps as a Staff Sergeant and for a time worked at Sandhurst Army Training College. Brian married Jean Thistlethwaite in 1947 at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, and they had two sons, the elder one sadly dying at the age of 51. Brian’s civilian career in youth work lasted until taking early retirement from Huntingdon Youth Centre. He died aged 56, following a heart attack in 1982.

My National Service lasted three years, mostly as an officer in the Royal Engineers stationed in Egypt.

I married Winifred Ashworth in Heptonstall Church in 1949 and we have a son Martin and daughter Janet who both see us every week. Winifred and I celebrated our 71st wedding anniversary in September 2020.

I still have happy memories of my days at Heath, so wanted to share some of them with you.