St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Leeds Centenary Book.1905-2005

After The War
In 1945 after the war was over Mother Placid came to St Augustine’s as a very young nun. She began by taking the place of Sister Theresa, who was an elderly, kind sister who took the first communicants in Standard 1 and subsequently replaced Mother Gertrude as head when she left later that year. She was said to be just like her name, very calm, cool and collected and the school settled down once more to some of the old routines.

Pauline Claydon came to take the reception class in 1951 or 1952 and other teachers who joined the school at that time or later were: Mrs Knight, Miss Coulter, Mrs Farrell, Miss Keane, Mrs Heaney, Mrs Noon, Tony Wedgewood, Miss Kavanagh, Marie Caltieri and Sr Alphonsus who came to teach the senior girls.

Mother St Bride joined the school as the new headteacher in 1956 and was said to be a strict disciplinarian who led a very well run school with well-behaved pupils.

The non teaching school staff also played an important role in the life of the school, and many from those earlier years are still remembered by past pupils and parishioners. Caretakers who always had good fires going early each morning and used to have the school all dusted and ship-shape by 9am; Miss McDermott, described as a lovely hardworking kind person; John Hardiman a young Irishman who came to Leeds during the war; Mr Fulthorpe and Mr Freeman a good worker who had a pet shop on Harehills Road; the school secretaries who took charge of all the administration tasks and the dinner ladies who served the meals and lunchtime in the Congregational Church hall, which stood opposite the school.

The Classrooms
Classroom furniture in the 1920s to about the 1950s, and possibly later, consisted of desks built for two children with two inkwells and a ledge under the top to take reading and exercise books. Pens were the old fashioned type with penholders and nibs. In Junior 1 children started to use pen and ink (a metal nib pen to dip into the ink) and also started to do ‘real’ writing. On Monday mornings the inkwells were often found to be stuffed with chalk or bits of paper, and had to be cleaned and filled with fresh ink from an ink can! Individual pencil-boxes made of wood were supplied and frequently clattered to the floor, so their best resting place often was the floor. They could be painted and decorated and the classroom became a much quieter place when at last they were abandoned. Then came new stacking tables and chairs and little stretcher beds for the infants room. Later tables and chairs were also supplied for the juniors and seniors.

The only form of heating in the classrooms were coal fires with fireguards. Every morning there was free milk. The little bottles had cardboard tops with a circle in the centre to push out for straws. When it was cold the crates of milk were put in front of the fire (the only form of heating) to defrost. The older children paid two and half pennies a week for the daily bottle of milk. Some people were also given malt on a spoon. Uniform was a green gymslip (for the girls) and blazers and hats (berets or caps).

Memories of the Infant classes
“My first teacher in Infant 1 was Miss McGale. To start with we used chalk and small blackboards for our work until we progressed to pencil and paper.” Pat Wilson née Ramsden

Graham Cracknell remembers Mrs Knight as a good teacher and has memories of Beacon Book One with “Janet and John” or for the more advanced “Old Lob and his horse Dobbin.”

“I started St Augustine’s in 1946 when I was five years old and my first teacher was nice. One day she wasn’t there so they sent down a girl from the big girl’s class to look after us. She was gorgeous, with long hair and I had a crush on her. Ann Donoghue she was called. I’d no chance. She married Tommy Steel.” John Ramsden
Margaret Walsh remembers a particular incident in Infant 2 when she asked to go to the outside lavatory. On the way back the big heavy main door had shut and all her efforts to open it were futile; it was just too huge for a six year old, a small skinny one at that. She went back and knocked on the classroom door but no one answered. So she decided to go home to ask her mother to open it for her. She didn’t think that it was a good half hour’s walk across two main roads. She was at the second main road when an old lady asked her what she was doing out of school at this time with no coat on. She told her her predicament and the lady took her home to her astonished mother who rang up the school where everyone had been looking for her.

Memories of the Junior classes
“In Miss Stappard’s class we had a collection during Lent for the Good Shepherd Fund and I walked home from school saving a penny a day plus other bits of money. I raised five shillings and twopence ha’penny winning a prize from the Bishop of Leeds for raising the most money in our class. I got a picture of Our Lady of Lourdes.” John Ramsden

“Junior 1 was the year for First Confession and First Communion. We were well instructed in our faith both in catechism and stories of Sunny a little African boy and his Guardian Angel Wupsy. Wupsy saved him from a lot of trouble especially from the devil who constantly tempted him. The stories are still available and I read them to my grandchildren." Pat Wilson née Ramsden

“In Miss Stappard’s class much more was expected so we moved onto Pounds Shillings and Pence sums then onto Tons Hundredweights and Quarters then long division and long multiplication. It was a very busy year but good preparation for Junior 2.” Graham Cracknell

“Junior 2 worked rigorously to a routine with Miss Molloy. Every Monday morning, dinner money day, Miss Molloy would sit at her desk and set off chanting, ‘I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the Land of Egypt and out of the House of Bondage.’ When the Ten Commandments were finished the whole class would continue with tables, beginning with, ‘One two is two’, and ending with ‘twelve twelves are a hundred and forty four.’ Next came the pounds, shillings and pence, and the weight tables. It is interesting that when my daughter, Marisa, and son, Adrian, were in Miss Molloy’s class they followed exactly the same routine. Not only that, but when I went to teach at St Augustine’s in 1955, Miss Molloy’s class were still beginning the week with, “I am the Lord thy God.” My other memory of that year was of learning part of the poem, ‘Hiawatha’ ”

John Ramsden remembers one particular incident in Miss Molloy’s class. “Well I was cut out to be a film star but we were doing a performance of Alice in Wonderland I was chosen to be the frog footman. My costume was a cardboard notice hung round my neck which said “Frog footman”. So I went home and spent all night making a sign. I cut up a cornflakes box and painted in Big Black letters FROG FOOTMAN and I hung it on a piece of string around my neck. My performance entailed me sitting in front of the cottage after or before Alice had seen the Cheshire cat and whistling. Sometimes I could whistle and sometimes I couldn’t, but no one had auditioned me and I hadn’t said anything. Came the day. I’m sat there and Alice arrives. I’m pursing my lips and nothing is coming out. Everyone in the class is whispering or shouting, “WHISTLE, WHISTLE” but nothing came out. Miss Molloy was not amused! “Right” she said “Take off your costume, and throw it in the fire, you are no longer Frog Footman.” With tears rolling down my face I threw my last night’s hard work into the flaming coals and watched my future theatrical career go up in smoke.” John Ramsden

Many afternoons were spent making puppets out of papier-maché in Miss Molloy’s class and the children would then put on a show for the younger children in the school.

People remember class 3 and 4 and Charlie Dyson who they say was a good teacher. Many days were spent preparing for the dreaded 11+. There were Intelligence tests of 100 questions to be completed in about 1 hour; English Comprehension Tests and Compositions, Maths tests of 50 mental arithmetic questions to be completed in 20 minutes followed by 50 Mechanical Sums again in 20 minutes.

John Ramsden remembers being in Miss Cunningham’s class. “We learnt geography all about down in Dixie picking bales o’ cotton and putting it on paddle steamers to send it up the Mississippi. There was also a fantastic book in the class library that taught you how to drive a car, fly a plane and all sorts of other things. A male teacher took us for a few PE lessons explaining on a blackboard the positions on a football field; centre forward, centre half, inside left etc. then we went to the Soldiers’ Field at Oakwood to try it out. I stuck to my position waiting for someone to pass the ball but it never happened. Michael Morley was the best player and he was kicking the ball around the field and everyone else was chasing him.”
When Joan Sarah Murphy (née Selby) was in the senior school there was a statue of Our Lady and an altar “It was my job to look after the altar and flowers which I had to do every day.”

John Lodge remembers that in those days children would stay at school until they were 15 or they would leave after the 11+. Many children did leave after the 11+ mainly because of the efforts of people like Marie Caltieri. He remembers many children packed into tiny classrooms sitting on iron benches with tip-up seats. John says what brilliant children they were. “There were children from Italy and Poland with unpronounceable names who had arrived just after the war and for whom English was not their first language and children whose parents could not read English.”

Marie Caltieri was married at St Augustine’s in 1951 and soon afterwards came back to the school, but this time as a teacher. “It seemed strange to be on a par with Miss Molloy and Miss Moloney, but my fifteen years at the school were incredibly happy. I taught the same children for two years at a time; the first year was always hard slog, preparing them for the eleven plus. Once that was over, in the February of the second year, I tried to give the children all the things they had had to forgo the previous year, lots of art, music, drama and dance. Every two years I was saddened at the thought of losing my class, and I always used to think I would never have another class like that one. But I always did, each new group soon became special, and I remember every child I ever taught with love and affection. The rewards for all the hard slog they had to endure were evident, as the eleven plus results were always excellent, the highest in the whole area, forty-six out of forty eight entrants was the very best we ever achieved.”
“Even though classes were in excess of 40 or more children’s behaviour was exemplary. Academically very few Leeds schools could match its eleven-plus pass rate. Today it would have ‘Beacon’ status.” John Roberts