JOYCE BELL (nee Lightowler)
I loved the
years I spent at Ropewalk School and had no fear of the ‘big school’
as most of my friends from the Church School were going up also. The
headmaster was Mr. Luke, a lovely caring man, a lover of nature and all
thrilled during my first year to be chosen to be in a short play to be
performed at the Pontefract Music Festival. Mr. Luke was our tutor. There
were only three of us in the play which was ‘The Chimney Sweep and the
Shepherdess’. We were supposed to be three figurines on a mantleshelf
who came to life at midnight. The chimney sweep was a good looking boy
called Bill Brown. I was the Shepherdess and a boy called Ernest Rowett
was a Mandarin who during our ‘Human Hour’ solved all our problems. We
won our category at the festival and Mr. Luke invited the three of us for
tea at his home.
most lessons at Ropewalk and got on well with all the teachers. I thought
it was great having a different teacher for each lesson.
we had Miss DeHaviland who we nicknamed ‘Olivia’ after the film star.
She had lovely red hair. For sewing we had Mrs McMichael, a very strict
‘no talking’ formidable lady. It took me two years to cut out and
hand-sew a plain nightdress. It cost my mother two shillings to buy, and I
wore it for years.
Exercise, was taken by a bundle of energy called Miss Speight, who
certainly knew how to put us through our paces. Indoor and outdoor games
always left us breathless and limp. I envied the girls who were good at
the high jump, the horse and the box, but I must say I wasn’t bad at
The boys PE teacher was Mr. Sam White, a very athletic young
man, not very tall but very good looking. He was strict in discipline with
the boys and swooned over by the girls.
I enjoyed the
music class, our master was Mr. France (Proddy) I could trill up and down
the scales and sing in tune, so the boys nicknamed me Alice Faye.
knowledge of science escapes me but I suffered the bunsen burners, the
awful mixtures and smells, because I had a schoolgirl crush on our science
master Mr. Barton. He was what we would term ‘dishy’. I remember in my
yearly school reports for science it would say; "never misses a class
but shows little interest in the lesson". No, because I was too busy
For art we
had Mr. Billbrough. He was nice and a brilliant artist. I remember
painting a picture of Cinderella and thought it terrible but after one or
two touches by him the picture came to life and was displayed on the wall
for the rest of the term.
Geography were very boring lessons but we had a big scrap book where we
could stick any interesting pictures so most lessons I would be there
pasting away my latest collection of what I thought to be historical or
geographical. The master was Mr. Coward.
teacher I did keep in touch with was Dorothy Wilson, who must have come to
Ropewalk from College because it’s only three or four years ago since
she died. She must have been well into her 80s. Miss Wilson took any class
who’s teacher was unavailable. Pe English, Maths, Sewing. I liked her. I
remember going on holiday with her and another teacher, Miss Godley, to
Keswick in railway caravans. It was wonderful. There were eight girls and
in a caravan further up there were eight boys, so you can guess a good
time was had by all.
Science, ie Cooking, cleaning, washing, was once a week taken by a
no-nonsense teacher, Miss Flemming. You had to wear a Persil white apron
and woe betide you if your apron wasn’t white! After a year of cleaning
knives and forks with the dreaded bath brick, we had our first attempt at
cooking. My effort was oat cakes. My dad said it was like eating
cardboard. My second cooking lesson was fruit scones, much better! Of
course, there was woodwork for the boys as well as metalwork, taken by Mr.
After a year
at Ropewalk I was given a second chance at the 11 plus but I failed and it
was given to Jean Pearson. Maybe she was better at science and history
than me, or maybe it was the fact that I was late for the examination as I
had got off the bus at the wrong stop and had a long walk to the Girls
High School at Pontefract. The failure didn’t bother me as I didn’t
want to leave Ropewalk although my mother was disappointed.
Ropewalk school was demolished and in its place is a group of very nice
bungalows namely St. Botolph’s Close. I can honestly say that my years
spent at Ropewalk School were very happy and memorable.
Joyce Bell (nee Lightowler)