Friday, 30 March 2012


A 1988 view of my old primary school from the top of the street
where I lived between November '65 and June '72

I managed to arrange access to one of my old primary schools with a representative of the local educational authorities a few weeks back. I wanted to record it for posterity before it's demolished, which is due to happen in the not too distant future. The school lay empty, the pupils having transferred to a new building on the corner of one of the football pitches at the far side of the playground.  I had complete access to every corner of the original building, and I have to admit that it was quite an emotional experience to revisit the scene of what had once been such familiar territory on a daily basis for five years of my childhood.

The corridor outside the headmaster's office.  His door is the one
on the right

I remember my very first day there, standing in the corridor with my father (just outside the janitor's room) along from the headmaster's office, awaiting his auguste presence so that I could be 'processed' and thence delivered to my first classroom. Another boy was also present and my father enquired as to why.  Turns out he had found a ten shilling note and was waiting to hand it in.  "You don't want to be late for your classes," my father said to him.  "Give it to me and I'll pass it on, and you can get along to your room."  The boy did so, and was thus not only robbed of a legitimate excuse for missing the start of lessons, but also recognition for his honesty and any possible reward ensuing from it.  I still feel bad for him to this day, 47 years later.
Room 7 - my first classroom at my new school

When the headmaster had finished overseeing the daily influx of pupils, he came along to his office and my father duly transferred the ten shillings into his custody - and me along with it.  We were invited into his sanctum sanctorum to complete my official registration and it was there that I witnessed something I had never seen before and which I can't see (or do) now without thinking back to that day so many years ago.  As he was speaking, he folded a piece of foolscap paper in half and then used a ruler to slit the sheet up the middle into two A5 sections.  To me, this was comparable to witnessing the invention of the wheel.  Why had such a simple, obvious (and effective) means of paper partitioning never occurred to me?

The stage in the dining and gym hall

Anyway, touring 'round my old school was rather a bittersweet experience.  On one hand, it was almost like I'd never left, what with familiar visions of the past springing out at me from the very walls;  on the other, it was rather depressing to see the state of dilapidation the building had been allowed to fall into since the prospect of a new school was first mooted.  There'd been a few changes over the recent years, but nothing too major to obscure the welcome glimpse into yesteryear.  Pupils from another school will soon be using the building until their new one is completed, and then I'm afraid it's 'curtains' for my old childhood friend - it's possibly got another year and a half at most before it's demolished.  Having served the community so well for 50 years, it's about to be wiped off the face of the map as if it never existed - a sad fate indeed.

The other end.  The kitchen is behind the shutters on the right

However, the school will endure - in name, in memory, in photographs - and also in the hearts of those who once walked its hallowed halls and corridors in the halcyon days of their childhood.  Remember when your parents used to tell you that one day you'd look back on your school years as the best days of your life and you thought they were mental?  Turns out they were right after all.

View of the football pitches.  This scene was eventually obscured
by opaque safety glass

FOOTNOTE:  Incidentally, the photos displayed here are not the ones I took recently.  I decided to use ones taken back around 1986 and 1988 because the school was practically exactly as had been in my day and was in a much better condition than in subsequent years.

View from the playground.  The stairway windows have started to be
replaced with reinforced, opaque glass.  Over the years, the classroom
windows on this side would likewise be obscured


For a similar self-indulgent, rambling reminiscence, click here.


baab said...

ha!,thats the same interiors as the primary and secondary schools i went to..
other than the exterior which is the same as another in my home town.

i ended up working in my old secondary school,when it changed into a government uilding and found its cupboards filled with the stuff of my youth.

i did salvage a desk from my room,which was the desk i stood at as i read aloud my first essay,and the room started to spin..........

It may not be the exact desk,but it was in that room,and nothing appeared to have moved....
i will stick to my story,its better.

liked this article.

Kid said...

Thanks, baab - funnily enough, there's another school in my home town which is exactly the same as the one I went to. If I took photos of it (inside and out) you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference. Only the surrounding scenery gives the game away.

Dougie said...

Chapelton primary school was gutted a couple of years ago Strathaven Academy is unrecognisable. But my memories of both are still very vivid.

As you may be aware, the secondary school I work in is scheduled for demolition. Some weeks ago, we had an open day for the public and there were scores of people who had the same experience you describe.

For my part, I have no nostalgic feelings for that building and can't wait to get into the new school!

Kid said...

What's shameful, Dougie, is the politics of the situation. Most of the original buildings are absolutely fine. They've only been earmarked for demolition to free up land for housing as part of some shady deal which only the building companies benefit from.

In my town a few years ago, a vast area of land was sold to a building company for £1 - yes, £1 - so that 30-odd private luxury homes could be built. Land that could've been sold for at least a couple of million.

Dodgy dealings all 'round methinks.

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