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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories

ROPEWALK SCHOOL
1938–1942


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 wild things.

I was 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.

I enjoyed most lessons at Ropewalk and got on well with all the teachers. I thought it was great having a different teacher for each lesson.

For English 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.

P.E, Physical 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 rounders.

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.

Now the 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 watching him!

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.

History and 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.

The one 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.

Domestic 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. Rhodes.

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.

Sadly 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)

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