Eric Youle (1946-52)

Memories of Nether Edge Grammar School:
Eric Youle (1946-52)

My recollection of Nether Edge School are at best fragmented, but hopefully once I start they will take better shape.

The Teachers

My recollection of first year revolve only about our form master Mr Chambers (RI) his somewhat violent belabouring of students when provoked, and my constant troubles with defective ball point pens (I guess in those years they were a novelty and the quality control not the best). And our Form room being on the second floor of the Main Block at the rear.

At the time I started the school had a mixed male and female staff, a number of the normal complement of male teachers being away in the forces. Over my early school years, the men came back from the war, and teaching staff again became all male.

In the first year we had a female French teacher and the form made singular lack of progress, which was not necesssrily her fault, we then had an exchange French teacher to whom we demonstrated a complete inability to understand a word she said or respond in any sensible way.

In later years, when Mr Simpson had returned from military service, to teach French, the good leasons when we could distract him into talking about his time driving DUKS in the Pacific?

The School sports ground was at Springfield Road, Carter Knowle. Sports afternoon entailed a walk across Brincliffe Fields, to get to the grounds. At the ground there was a pavilion, two? football pitches, track facilities, tennis courts and on a lower level, down the hill, further football/cricket pitches. The major sports were football and cricket, and I guess I must have participhated, regularly, although I can’t remember such. Cricket team c 1950

The adjacent photo suggests that, apart from the players in the school teams, the sports were quite informal, for the rest of us, and we played in our school clothes.
I suspect that I may have played tennis, on our sports afternoons, in my later years at Nether Edge, but I can’t recall for sure.

There was an annual sports day when the various school houses competed with each other, this featured the normal round of races, athletics etc. Also a tug-of-war which found me as anchor man. And one must not forget the cross-country run, through Ecclesall Woods. Most of the school participhated in this event, and in the practice runs leading up to it.

Speech Day
Victoria Hall

The annual speech day was always held at the Victoria Hall, Norfolk Street, with a big turn out of parents. The entertainment was provided by a choir drawn from years 1 and 2.

It appears I was tone deaf, so early on, I was instructed not to sing in assembly, or at Speech Days, thus at the practices at school I was excluded and then I was sent to watch the practices from the Victoria Hall gallery.

Our tormenting of the poor geography teacher Mr Raynes; one explote springs to mind, we connected all the pendant lamps in the class room, with black cotton. Then when he started the lesson, members of the class pulled on hanging cottons causing all the lights to sway violently. Poor Mr Raynes dashed about the room waving his arms trying to catch the cotton and stop the lights. Also the time the filing cabinet way gently tilted forward and returned upright, so all the contents fell out when the doors were opened. We were regularly in strife with the headmaster, for the noise we made, Mr Raynes would only speak in a loud whisper when we were being disruptive, which made things worse.

When I was in the fifth or sixth year, and our form room was at the back, right corner of the extension, I recall making Tri-nitroiodide crystals. Crystals which went of with a crack when detonated. The aim was to sprinkle the crystals around the floor before the teachers came in and watch their reactions. They all took it in good part, particularly Mr Wilkinson, who stamped around setting it off.

However, all was not well, the crystals were formed wet and had to be dried before they would detonate, this was done by putting them on pieces of paper and standing them on the radiators. Unfortunately some of the pieces fell down behind the radiators and were forgotten.

Until the cleaner came through in the evening and detonated the crystals with her hand, the crystals would dono harm, but left a stain of Iodine, which looked like a burn, and the cleaner went home for the night. This resulted an uncomfortable session with Mr Wilkinson, in his capacity as deputy head.

When I was in one of the early years, a quantity of cordite, in strands, started to circulate the school, leading to som informal experiments in how it burnt etc. Shortly afterwards the school received a visit from the plain clothed police, to interview some of the boys, regarding the source of the cordite.

The science seniors had the run of the chemisty lab, including helping in the store, shifting chemicals to the lab etc. Normally no problems. However, at one point the class had experimented with the distillation of alcohol. Which left a quantity going spare. For a while we amused ourselves with alcohol “flame throwers” made by using alcohol filled wash bottles, the kind you blew into to produce a stream of liquid, in this case alcohol, which was then lit from a bunson burner. This amused us for a while, then the emptied the left over alcohol down one of the sinks and lit the resedue the the sink and left locking the door behind us.

We had forgotten two things, one the sinks emptied into a catch basin under the bench and secondly the first experiment we ever experienced, namely the explosive nature of gas at a critical air gas mixture. Thus we had haedley started down the stairs when the critical mixture was reached, under the bench. The result a sizable explosion which blew the bemch doors open, but fortunately did no serious damage.
School Life

I can’t recall my first day, in 1946, other than anticiphation and worry at starting the new school. I at least knew two of the teachers, already, Mr Wilkinson, maths and Mr Kershaw, English, they had been my tutors in the lead up to the 11+ exam.

Then and throughout my time at Nether Edge, I cycled to school each day, and home for luch, also.

In the senior years I usually stayed on after school, playing table tennis or just talking, before meandering my way home, usually with Tommy Coupland,via Lyndhurst Road, and a small park, with a very good conker tree, and through the quarry to Psalter lane.

As mentioned above I was tone deaf, and no doubt the music teacher Mr Biltcliffe found me a dead loss, when in addition to being excluded from all the choral practice, I found the rythmic tapping of the board rubber and “taffatefy tars” (sic), beyond my understanding. The teachers eventually recognised my lack of musical abilities and I was allowed to join the Art classes, which proved far more to my liking. Conisbrough Castle

Also in the Art/Craft block, I studied Architecture, a subject I enjoyed, and recall a trip to Conisbrough to study and draw the Castle, also to Haddon Hall, I have a vague idea we also went to Hardwich Hall. Under second floor art room, was the woodworking shop, where I produced a few, somewhat indifferent pieces, I suspect, including a toothbrush rack.

© Eric Youle

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