Donald (Polly) Morewood Hallowes: 1915?– [Heath 1947–1978]

Donald Morewood Hallowes joined Heath Grammar School in 1947 as Senior Mathematics Master, later becoming Deputy Head until his retirement in 1978. He took great pleasure and satisfaction from his work with the Maths section of the Science Sixth Form.

A native Yorkshireman, having been born in Sheffield, Donald Hallowes went to Cambridge where he took the Maths Tripos. After graduation he taught at Huddersfield College and, on the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough where he worked on the Mosquito fighter bomber and later the world’s first jet bomber, the Canberra.

While he was at Farnborough, he married Ada and in 1944 their son, John, was born. On release from his war service, he returned to Yorkshire and teaching in Huddersfield but in 1947 he and his family moved to Halifax when he joined the staff at Heath.

A man of many interests, Donald Hallowes was a photographer, walker and gardener. He was a member of the Mathematical Association and the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications. Locally, he was a member of the Yorkshire Branch of the Heraldry Society and, for over fifty years, he was an active member of the Halifax Antiquarian Society. He had held a number of offices in the Society and, at the time of this death, was a Vice-President.

Donald, or as he was affectionately known by many years of Heathens, ‘Polly,’ died peacefully in the Halifax General Hospital on 23rd March 2001, aged 85. We extend our deepest sympathy to his widow, Ada, and to his son, John, and his family.

John Allingham [Heath 1945–1952] writes:

‘Polly’ Hallowes taught us mathematics in the fifth form while we were studying for the last sitting of the old School Certificate in 1950. A small group of no more than seven then progressed to the Science Sixth where ‘Polly’ taught us Advanced Maths ready for ‘A’ and scholarship levels.

We were joined in these lessons by two young ladies from the Princess Mary High School for Girls as that school did not have a teacher of Mr Hallowes’ ability. This was in the early days of the school welcoming young ladies and I believe ‘Polly’ coped well with the distraction caused to the class by this incursion.

Mr Hallowes was a teacher with natural authority, needing no form of punishment or sanctions to maintain discipline. He was never bored with this chosen subject and his enthusiasm was contagious, bringing life to what many might consider a rather tedious subject. He lessons could even be competitive; his delight and praise when a student could produce on a rare occasion a more concise proof than his own could not help but inspire the rest of the form. Although it is now almost fifty years since he last taught me, yet I remember some lessons quite clearly.

David A. Greenwood [Heath 1952–1959] writes:

I would like to put on record that Donald ‘Polly’ Hallowes was a most inspiring teacher to a whole generation of future scientists, engineers and mathematicians and will be long remembered by us all.

First appeared in the Newsletter dated

Geoff Shearing [Heath 1947–1954] writes:

I was in the Maths section of the Science Sixth which he taught in 1952–1954 — ‘maths specialists’ as he liked to call us. The other two were David Ashworth and Peter Furness. However, our classes had previously enjoyed his excellent tuition at the more elementary levels during earlier years.

Looking back all these years later, I realise how much influence he had on my life. He was an expert at bringing to life what many people would regard as a boring and irrelevant subject. I vividly remember three examples:

  • The first would be in about the third form when he was teaching us the geometry of circles and triangles. He was proving to us that a circle could be drawn through any three points which were not in a straight line. In this class was one, Russell Sunderland, who, although quite brilliant in all arts subjects (he later became one of the country’s top civil servants and had an entry in Who’s Who?), didn’t have a scientific aptitude to the same degree. RS wasn’t convinced by Polly’s proof; so Polly invited him to draw three points on the blackboard and he would show him. RS came to the front and drew two dots very close together, then the third at the far right corner. Polly triumphantly proceeded to demonstrate that there was such a circle and, using ‘perpendicular bisection,’ constructed it — at which point Russell admitted that he now accepted the assertion.
  • The second example would be around the same time when he introduced us to a thing call π. He prepared us for this by telling us in the previous lesson to bring along some kind of cylindrical object and a piece of thread. He had us all wind the piece of thread around our cylinders ten times and then measure the diameter and the length of the thread used and finally work out the ratios.
  • The third occasion, which would I think have been in the Lower Sixth Science class, Polly was teaching us a concept called the ‘coefficient of restitution,’ which is the degree to which a solid object recovers after being deformed by impact. To demonstrate, he had borrowed a large medicine ball from Harry Birchall’s gym. He climbed on a table at the front of the class, raised it high above this head and dropped it on the floor, with one boy observing how high it rebounded. He repeated this for various measured heights. From these observations and a few calculations, it was possible to work out this value for the ball.

Hi middle name (Morewood) had been a mystery to us for years and he would never let on. However, we found out after some boys had been to Cambridge for an interview and looked up the records. In the next edition of the Heathen there duly appeared in the regular feature ‘Who said?’ the entry, ‘Put more wood on the fire.’ In a class a day or two later, some wag piped up, ‘Stoke up.’ He then knew that we knew but pretended not to and got on with the class without comment. In those days, you see, teachers and most adults were almost always referred to as ‘Mr This’ or ‘Mrs That’ and first names were only used by close associates.

He gave me my very first introduction to electronic computers. One day in an advanced maths lesson, he showed the three of us a new book which he had borrowed from the public library. It was called Faster than thought by B.V. (later Lord) Bowden and was published in 1953. It must have made a big impression on me because, after graduating in maths at Manchester University in 1957, I did a postgrad degree there in computing and, until recently, have worked with computers full-time throughout my career — and am still involved since I am writing this on my home PC. I actually mentioned the fact that he had showed us this book in my retirement speech at the Computing Service of Newcastle University recently.

He also introduced me to chess in my first year since he ran the school chess club. During this after-school club some of the younger boys would sometimes get excited which would be a cue for Polly to raise his voice and say, Chess is a quiet game, in his own inimitable way. Here again he was initially responsible for one of my main lifelong interests since this has been one of my main hobbies, on and off, over the years.

Chris Nestor [Heath 1958–1965] writes:

Many must remember his quiet presence in the classroom before a lesson, drawing on the blackboard. It was not streams of numbers but some creature. Upon completion, this emerged as a pre-Monty Python dead parrot: a polygon.

First appeared in the Newsletter dated