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

School Activities
Weaving was taken by Miss Brickell, an excellent and expert teacher, who also took a great interest in needlework and knitting. The children in her class produced some high class work especially weaving on the small looms. On Friday afternoons, when the partition between two classes was drawn back, two teachers attempted to teach needlework to upwards of fifty little girls. “I hated sewing, still do, but I always managed to evade the lesson by sliding down under the desks, sitting on the floor, and reading a book. To their credit, no fellow pupil ever gave me away, and if the teachers noticed my regular Friday afternoon absence they never attempted to discover the reason. They were probably only too relieved to have one child less to cope with.” Marie Caltieri née Cooksey

One of the teachers remembers when the School Inspector Mr Kellaway, who was the music and singing specialist and Choir master at the Cathedral, came to inspect the music. Most of the teachers in St Augustine’s in those early days were able to play the piano well for their own classes but later with so many changes of staff they used to amalgamate classes and have classes of 90 children at a session. Eileen Leaney used to bring her violin. Just before she left the school Eileen took a choir of about 30 children to a gathering of Leeds schools at Belgrave Hall and received a very encouraging report.

Sport and Dancing
The country dancing encouraged by Mrs Lain was good fun and Eileen would play in the playground in the summer. Later Marie Caltieri took dancing lessons in the top yard, with an old gramophone on a long extension from her classroom, balanced on a desk, and she still remembers having nightmares until all the boys eventually mastered the intricacies of ‘set and turn single’.

Apart from the English Country Dancing, Marie used to teach Old Tyme dancing. Wet playtimes and lunchtimes were the signal for all the desks in the prefab hut to be piled up, and the floor cleared for dancing. “It was a delight to see the children choose a partner for such dances as the Veleta, the Square Tango, and so on, and then to see the boys escort their partners back to their places with a courteous “Thank you”. Marie Caltieri née Cooksey

This hall opposite to the school was on loan and was used for gym when it was raining and P T was done by the girls in large bottle green knickers and vests.

John Lodge remembers when he returned to the school for a short time he was asked to take a rather hastily chosen football team to play in the Bishop’s Cup against St Phillips – the best team in Leeds! The captain was a Peter Hardcastle, a very good footballer who eventually became a professional.

The older boys from time to time in summer went to York Road baths and later the girls also went. Children had to be escorted. Then Roundhay Park Open Air Pool was opened and the younger children aged 9 to 11 went there. The snag was the transport. They went to Oakwood on the tram and walked along Wetherby Road (about a mile) to get to the bath. Then they had a short lesson before returning back to school very tired and hungry.

In spite of concentrating in the pre-eleven plus year on Maths, English and Intelligence, Marie Caltieri says she was always anxious to do sports and dancing with her classes. She tells us that they always competed in the Catholic Schools Sports Day at Bracken Edge. At first they didn’t have any such sophisticated apparatus as spiked shoes or identifying strips. So they never excelled in athletics or relay races. “But we nearly always won the sack, the egg and spoon and the obstacle races. What the children lacked in equipment they supplied in determination and enthusiasm.” Marie Caltieri née Cooksey

Other activities included school bulb planting. Leeds Council supplied bulbs in October to grow in the classroom. During the war and later, this activity developed into school gardens.

There was a lot more than academic work that went on behind the scenes in teaching the children. Every year since before the war the teachers would organise an annual School Concert for the parents which took place in the Clayton Hall lent to the school by St Aidans. The money went to the new church. Every class either performed a play or did some dancing. The teachers and children would be preparing for this concert throughout the year.

One past pupil tells us “I don’t remember a great deal about those early years at Gussies, as it was affectionately called, but I do remember being in a concert there, where I was required to tell a joke. Miss Maloney had emphasised that I must speak loudly and clearly, so when my turn came around I stood on the stage, opened my mouth, and bellowed at the top of my voice, which caused the audience to laugh out loud. Of course I thought they were laughing at my joke, and I was highly delighted.” Marie Caltieri

Everyone who went to St Augustine’s School between 1943 and 1956 will remember the Christmas parties at the Astoria Ballroom. These were held every year from 1943 until Fr. O’Flaherty left and were a wonderful treat and a great honour as no other school had this privilege. The parties were arranged and paid for by Fr. O’Flaherty and the mothers and other parishioners would all help with the teas and the entertainment.

We are told that in the early days, Henry Alban Chambers FRCO, an old boy of St Augustine’s who had been the Cathedral organist at the age of 11, came to play for the children. and they had lots of musical fun.

Above& Left: Children on their way to the Christmas Party at the Astoria Ballroom in 1952.

Right: The Christmas Party at the Astoria Ballroom in 1945.

Father O’Flaherty would also go round all the classes with big tins of Quality Street chocolates or jars of sweets like sweet shop jars giving a few to everyone. Sweets were on rationing and he would never disclose where he got them from.

Many will also remember Fr. O’Flaherty’s kindness in providing the whole school with presents at Christmas. The children would be taken a class at a time into one of the classrooms where the presents filled the room and each child was invited to choose whatever present they liked. This was a wonderful treat as in those days most children would get only a few presents at home. One teacher remembers Father O’Flaherty as “a wonderful priest, gentle, humble, and with a great love of children. His annual Christmas Party at the Astoria, for the children, was legendary, the highlight of the year, I wonder how many readers remember it now?”

After Fr O’Flaherty left, Christmas Parties were held in the school and as well as dancing, there were noisy games. Unlike the other classes, Marie Caltieri’s class party always took place after school “I think that made it much more of an event, even though I used to go home quite shattered.” Marie Caltieri

There were outings to the Gaiety cinema to see wildlife films, to the theatre to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the children had been trying to act the play within the play and to other schools such as Gipton and Harehills and Talbot Road to see the pupils’ plays

Eileen Leaney remembers that all through the year they were busy getting ready for Children’s Day in June or July when the whole City of Leeds went to watch the children on display. It was a wonderful day and a lot of hard work. Marie Caltieri remembers they did excel in dancing. “On Children’s Day we were one of the few schools that entered a mixed team of boys and girls, where most of the other Leeds Schools only had teams of girls.”

Ann Cunningham remembers running in the relay race at Roundhay Park on ‘Children’s Day’ and also of been chosen to display some of her handwriting. To her disappointment, as a punishment for being naughty in class, the latter honour didn’t happen.

The other activity that was a big part of Marie Caltieri’s time at Gussies was the annual Youth Hostelling Trip to Swaledale. They used to stay at Grinton and Keld Youth Hostels at first, but later, as they became well known in the Dale, they spent the five days at Keld. Many readers will remember the other “grown-ups” who came along, John and Pat Lodge, Anne and Pete Hill, Gretta and Jim Sharkey, and of course Margaret Cavanagh, who also taught at the school. “And everyone will remember ‘Uncle Eddie’ (Pickard) a dear friend, now dead, whom the children adored.” They were wonderful holidays, the children’s behaviour was a credit, and for many of them this was their first real experience of the country.

The other activity that was a big part of Marie Caltieri’s time at Gussies was the annual Youth Hostelling Trip to Swaledale. They used to stay at Grinton and Keld Youth Hostels at first, but later, as they became well known in the Dale, they spent the five days at Keld. Many readers will remember the other “grown-ups” who came along, John and Pat Lodge, Anne and Pete Hill, Gretta and Jim Sharkey, and of course Margaret Cavanagh, who also taught at the school. “And everyone will remember ‘Uncle Eddie’ (Pickard) a dear friend, now dead, whom the children adored.” They were wonderful holidays, the children’s behaviour was a credit, and for many of them this was their first real experience of the country.

Marie says they walked for miles, climbed, paddled in (and fell into) the Swale, had sing-songs, collected fossils, and generally forgot about the constraints of school and just enjoyed every moment. There are too many memories to recall, but she thinks each child gained a great deal from those trips: “I know I did, in the fifteen or so years they took place. I still visit Swaledale, and some of the older inhabitants of Keld remember the Concert we put on at Keld Village Hall one year. It was the talk of the village for some years afterwards.”

John Lodge, who as a student teacher accompanied the staff and children on the Dales holidays, remembers how they would go to Richmond on the bus and then make their way to Keld or Grinton hostel. Each day would be spent out walking in the country but one particular year the weather was so bad, the snow so deep and the clothes so wet that the party were eventually allowed to stay in the hostel during the day and all the clothes could then be dried out.

“Marie says that her teaching days are long gone. “but years can never erase the happy memories of St Augustine’s, which I will always treasure, and I hope that these recollections will bring back equally good memories to anyone who still remembers me.” Marie Caltieri.

The End of an Era
By the late 1960s, the school building had become old and ‘out of date’. It was a very old school with a large number of pupils, approximately 650 five to eleven year olds. It was so full that Mr Paddy Crotty, a Leeds councillor, on visiting St Augustine’s remarked, ‘If you open a store cupboard children come tumbling out.’

Top left: The caste of Sleeping Bueaty in 1955.
Top middle: Trip to Bolton Abbey in 1956.
Top right: Youth Hostelling in the Dales circa 1960.
Far Left: Youth Hostelling in the Dales.
Left: The staff and helpers who took the children youth hostelling in The Dales.

The following was printed in the Yorkshire Evening Post in July 1974:

Pupils rallied round to give a good send off to two Leeds Headmistresses who are retiring this week. When Sr. St Bride (pictured right) leaves Harehills St Augustine’s Primary School, she will end a 75 year tradition of a nun being in charge of the school. Mrs B. Fleming, formerly at St Charles R.C. school is to be the new headmistress. Sr. St Bride has been headmistress for the past 19 years. The pupils bought her a portable typewriter and cassette recorder. Pupils pictured presenting gifts are from the left: Joanna Marshall (8), Michael Gaughan (8), Ann Todhunter (9), Anthony O’Keefe (9), Shane Gallagher (5), Josephine Miller (5), Christine McHale (10), Aidan Reilly (11), Caroline Redmond (10) and Jeremy Toher (10).

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