Old Uffingtonians Association (1994)

   Willesden County Grammar School                         Ex-Pupils 1924-1967                    


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Irene Hough (nee Riley) -War Memories of the School

Between 1939 and '43 many of us had been shunted from school to school because of bombing and subsequent evacuation so we came from all quarters.  I joined 1c in 1943 and had the art room as a form room and Miss Hastings as class teacher.  Only one other girl came from my Wembley primary school and I remember being impressed by what I thought of as an exotic mix in my new environment.  In the second year I was again evacuated up north to a girl's High School housed in the basement of the local technical college.  This contrast made me realise how lucky we were under the benevolent rule of Mr. Wallis and surrounded by a playing field.  On my return, walking with Miss Edgell from the trolley-bus at Jubilee Clock she asked where I had been.  Upon hearing I had been at a girls high school she replied, “Ah! I thought you were less flighty than before”.  I was shattered by this judgment.  I thought I was a good girl.

Games, with cold cloak-rooms and no showers were nevertheless enjoyable, and though we didn't appreciate it at the time, school dinners were a daily miracle.  Supplies were so limited and fuel sometimes intermittent so the dinner ladies had a thankless task.

Our air-raid drill consisted of going to the front corridor between the hall and the library where there were blast walls by the outside doors and sticky tape on the windows but I remember looking at all that glass and feeling not safe at all.  Miss Edgell took needlework as well as P.E. and I remember learning to darn and patch to such a high standard that it would have satisfied a Victorian governess.  Later Mrs. Smith was our form mistress when her children were small and I recall her cycling around with a toddler in the baby seat on her way to some child-care before registration.

Sixth form memories are the most vivid.  Miss Moffatt taught Botany and Zoology, nearly half of my Higher Certificate course and I owe her a great deal.  Not only because of a mutual love of the subject, but also because she made me WORK and she also made me think about my vocabulary and clarity of expression. (Another cutting remark:- When I got engaged a couple of years after leaving school her only remark was “What a waste”).

Miss Stevenson taught us Geography and I think did all the work for us in that she made it all seem so logical and easy.  The only thing I can remember puzzling over was map projections.  She was also careers mistress and was a great help with advice about various medical schools.  (Her brother was a doctor at St Mary's Paddington if I remember rightly.)  A most cultured, industrious and elegant lady.

School games teams, drama and friends made the sixth form a rich experience.  Table tennis in the prefects room was also a highlight.  We did prefects duty conscientiously, but I'm not sure how effective we were.  I followed Margaret Gibbs as Head Girl for a short time.

David was doing National Service when we married, so after working for the MRC in the biophysics department at Kings (the spiral helix was being assembled in a side room at the time), I became an RAF wife. We had been 'marched in' to officers' married quarters at Scampton two days after we were married, and a year later joined the occupation forces in Germany.  I developed a taste for teaching whilst doing a bit of untrained emergency supply work on airfields and we both learned Dutch whilst living over the border for a couple of years.  This made a difference to the way our lives developed.  On return to a UK posting I trained as a teacher and on demob, after seven years, David returned to his original love of books and languages. (He can tell his own story).

I taught primary and some secondary (mainly general science and biology) but ended up teaching physically handicapped children.  Then Manchester offered a new degree in Special Needs at the time of the Warnock Report, and Manchester Education Committee generously let me have a sabbatical to take it.  From my pupils I remember most the extremely bright children trapped in non-functioning bodies.  By 1980 single-switch programmes for computers were being developed at UMIST and this was a boon for such children. They could not only do their work by merely rolling their heads, but they could also be naughty for the first time in their lives by playing games when they thought I wasn't looking.

We brought up three children (I had nine years off) who are all married with families, and we now have five grandchildren aged from six to twenty-four.
We have had a good 18yr. retirement so far, with many interesting holidays and are just beginning to slow down a bit. (Walking holidays are beyond me now).

Irene Hough (nee Riley)