Chapter XVI

Last Term and Retirement


WHEN WE STARTED school in September 1952, I thought vaguely about retiring at Christmas. In my diary for the first day of term: “Boys very nice and jolly. Wonder if I can leave them.” Various things happened to force me to a decision. One of my unselfish reasons was that I considered it better for small boys to be taught by a vigorous young man, rather than by an ageing woman.

I had a talk with the Headmaster, who advised me to retire: he thought that after nearly 38 years it was time that I had a relief from strain. He made some calculations and told me that my pension would be £239 per annum with tax to pay. This had to be confirmed by the Pensions Board; when I heard from them on 15th October I gave in my resignation.

For years there had been rumours amongst the boys that my retirement was imminent. Perhaps the wish was father to the thought, though I must say that the enquirers always seemed very pleased when they heard that the rumour was untrue. D. M. D—— had been very anxious about these rumours, so I promised him that he should be the first boy to know. I had a good hunt for him at the Main School before I found him.

After I had handed in my resignation, I wondered if I had made a mistake. According to the boys, I had. When I broke the news to them, they nattered me by groaning. R. D. McG—— said: “We shall never get anyone like you again.” Probably not! On the few occasions that I have seen the Juniors since I left, several have said “I wish you’d come back” and they really meant it. Very heartening.

On the day of my decision, I attended a meeting of St. Chad’s Fellowship. One friend who owns a woollen mill told me that only lazy people retire. So I applied for a job at his mill! He promised me one, but I have heard nothing since. I think I was to have been a wool-winder.

THAT TERM the Rev. C. D. and Mrs. Cranmer left Leeds. Mr. Cranmer joined the Staff when Dr. Terry Thomas became Headmaster; and he was much appreciated as chaplain, quiet and sincere and always willing to help. He left Leeds Grammar School and had two country livings, then he and Mrs. Cranmer came back to live in a flat at Headingley. Now they have gone to another vicarage at Eryholme, near Darlington. I went to bid them farewell. I still miss them very much.

Mr. Moore, our Senior Master, was married in November and has a very charming wife. We had always regarded him as a confirmed bachelor!

EVEN THOUGH this was my last term, discipline had to be maintained, specially when two of Junior 1 painted each other’s face during an Art lesson. I had meant to be specially kind and gentle that term, and intended to give no punishments, but I found the truth of the saying about the leopard and his spots!

One morning I found a boy using a padded pen! He had bound the nib to the holder and of course the nib moved as he wrote. His writing was worse than ever. He told me that the idea was his mother’s. I had a better idea!

On Tuesday 7th October, we had some excitement after the chapel service. We saw five buses start off with our C.C.F. (ex J.T.C. and O.T.C.) for Settle, to have a mock battle with Giggleswick School. The Juniors were most interested and thrilled. I should like to pay a tribute to Captain R. Whitmore, all other officers, past and present, and to R.S.M. Young for their excellent work in training and maintaining such a really splendid and smart corps. In my early days I used to attend the annual inspection in Beckett Park, as it generally took place on Tuesday afternoon when we had a half-day. I was always much impressed by the smart turn-out. No one can have any idea how much hard work is done by those in command.

THIS TERM WAS, naturally, saddened for me by the thought of my retirement, and for me and many others by the distressing illness and death of Jack Petty.

What a clearing up I had of an accumulation of 38 years, both at the Junior School and in the mistresses’ room at the Main School. It was a good thing I started the job early in the term. Some of the staff received a present, I think all the boys had more than one. When I gave away numerous picture postcards, which I had used on the epidiascope, the boys wanted my signature, address, and even my telephone number! Several said: “I shall keep this all my life.”

Early in November the Yorkshire Evening News telephoned me to ask if I would grant an interview to a reporter that evening. Why not? I felt I should rather like a little publicity or perhaps a recognition of my long service at Leeds Grammar School. At home that night Mr. Jack Crossley and a photographer arrived. I answered all questions to the best of my ability: it was all a new experience for me. The reporter was interested to hear that I was trying to write a book and asked if he could quote parts from it. The next evening there was a long article, a photograph and a leader all to myself, headed “Thank you. Miss Christie”. I was most grateful for what the editor or sub-editor had said and very much cheered. One boy’s remark on seeing the photograph was: “That’s a very posh cushion”! It is one I bought at a Bring and Buy Sale at Buckden, and is still going strong.

Mr. Crossley has been very good in helping me with this book, I am very sorry to hear that he has moved to Manchester.

AS A RESULT of the articles in the paper many friends either wrote to me or telephoned. Amongst them was Mr. Wright who for many years sold books at Leeds Grammar School for Messrs. H. Walker Ltd. That was before the days when we ran our own bookshop. Many most complimentary letters came from Old Leodiensians and ex-Staff, also one from a friend of my mother. I valued them all very much.

Within a day or two I was much honoured in having a letter from the Editor of the Yorkshire Post, asking me to write an article for possible publication. Owing to the non-delivery of my acceptance letter, the writing of the article was postponed until after I had retired, so it was quite different from what it would have been.

TO MY GREAT grief and disappointment I was away from school from 19th November to 11th December, and was very ill. What a lot I had meant to do at school during that time, chiefly by providing fun and entertainment to all I taught. I intended, when opportunity allowed, to trot out most of my jokes, games and tricks, and my lessons were to be as varied and enjoyable as I could make them. How the boys used to enjoy “Pas d’elle yeux Rhône que nous,” when I told them to read it in French. The solution is a well-known English proverb. As soon as any boy solved it, he would come and whisper it to me and enjoy the laboured efforts of those less quick. When the class read it aloud in chorus, it was obvious to those who had solved it and bewildering to those who had not. I used to try several Latin ones of the same type.

Another favourite one was the singing to the tune of ‘God Save the Queen’ of the Siamese National Anthem— ‘0 WA TA NA SIAM’. J. R—— once sang it all through in a beautiful treble voice and did not realise what he was singing—to the great delight of the rest of the form.

I shall not forget J. T. T——’s unselfish thoughts and actions during my illness. He carried things to and from school, did shopping for me and was most concerned about my health. One Saturday, my first or second time out, he met me and insisted on escorting me to a friends’ house, because he thought I was not well enough to be out alone. His mother, too, helped me in every way she could, and during that time started sending me a weekly present of a home-made bread ‘cob’. She has kept up this generosity ever since. J. T. T—— told me that he intended to come and see me twice a week when I had retired and made an entry to this effect in his 1953 diary. This plan has not been carried out: rather too inconvenient for both of us.

I was very grateful to have visits from Mr. White, who is most attentive in cases of sickness and also to some of the staff who did one or two examination papers for me.

Alas! Owing to my horrid illness, I had only seven more days at school, and I felt far from well all the time, was very busy with examinations, lists and reports and had no time for much fun. The boys, as usual, were most concerned, thoughtful and helpful.

ONE MORNING Junior 4 and I had a surprise visit from a photographer of the Yorkshire Evening Post. He took four photographs, one of which appeared in the paper. The photographs taken were of the boys sitting at their desks, and of me, sitting down, surrounded by boys. I was told to talk to them, which I did, non-stop, jabbering much rubbish, of course with my mouth wide open. This photograph has appeared since in the Yorkshire Post, but out of its setting of boys. I look half-witted. One of the biggest thrills of the photographer’s visit was the disposing of used bulbs. There was a big demand for them, I had to choose the recipients.

On 18th December, I received a beautiful little gold wrist watch, with an inscription on it, from the Junior School. Speeches were made, and I thanked the boys with a somewhat overflowing heart. That watch is a treasured possession. I always wear it for special occasions.

The Staff presented me with a Parker ‘51’ Set: I have used the pen almost continuously since. It has written much of the manuscript of this book. Mr. Moore paid me great compliments in his speech. After my thanks, I expressed heartfelt regret that I had been unable to get to know better the Staff and their wives, owing to the isolation at the Junior School. I was very sorry to say goodbye to all of them, to Sergeant Young and Mr. Elder and also to the kitchen staff who have always been most considerate.

Though the boys had given me the lovely watch, they brought many individual presents as well—Christmas-cum-leaving ones. I was overcome by their generosity and it was a big problem as to how I should get the gifts home. One mother sent me, anonymously, a superb leather writing-case. I was very sorry she would not disclose her name as I was unable to thank her.

Before Christmas, two brothers, C. P—— and J. P—— took the trouble to come to my house with a most attractive picture. I was very pleased to see them and to have the picture, which is now on my sitting-room wall. It reminds me of the two brothers, whose uncle I once taught. I believe his initials appear in an earlier part of this book.

I HAVE FORGOTTEN to say that this term I was form-mistress of Junior 4 instead of Junior 2, though I had many more lessons with the latter than with the former. Many of Junior 4 had been in my last Junior 2, it was nice to have them for another term.

F. M. B—— in my form, made a pad, with the names of all the form, one name on a page, and at my request a little message from each. On the first page was mounted a photograph of H. M. King George VI in uniform. Most of the messages wish me a Happy Christmas and a happy retirement, also express sorrow at my leaving. Many of them told me I had been very kind to them; that pleased me very much, even though I felt it was hardly true. J. M. B——’s message: “I am very glad you have been at the school. I wish you could stay.”

P. A. B——just wrote: “She is very good!”

P. J. C——, a great friend: “I hope you have a nice Christmas and a Happy New Year, and a nice and comfortable retirement”.

M. J. M——who left to go to boarding school that term: “I hope you have a happy retirement and you penshon goes up. Anyway, I hope you have a happy Christmas.”

I have had one letter from this boy at his public school. He wrote: “The Staff are all very decent, but none of them as nice as you.” An unsolicited testimonial.

G. D. S—— wrote simply: “I hope you have a happy life”!

IT WAS HARD and even bitter to give up my life’s work on 19th December after 113 terms. Yet it was good to feel that my departure was regretted by the majority. Many boys promised to come and see me. A few have been; I am always delighted to see them. It is not at all easy to keep much contact. In less than two years’ time from the day I left, there will not be a boy whom I know in the Junior School: it is extremely difficult to find an opportunity for meeting friends at the Main School.

That last day I came sadly home, hardly believing what had happened. When I reached home, there were a dozen beautiful carnations and a letter waiting for me. A most timely and generous gift from a great friend, not an Old Leodiensian.

I had a pressing invitation from Mr. Whitmore to the C.C.F. dance that night. I wished very much that I could have gone, but I did not feel quite well enough. I was so pleased to have the invitation.

I was most grateful to R. D. McG—— and his father—also in my form long ago—for their bringing by car a huge wooden box containing many of my possessions.

Two nights before Christmas I heard some very good carol singing at my door. There were nine boys from Leeds Grammar School choir, five big ones and four smaller. I invited them into my tiny sitting-room, which holds comfortably only three or four. Somehow I got them all in. They sang two more carols for me; one was my choice—without thinking, I chose a very long one and I heard a groan or two. I gave the boys refreshments, I had to lower the lid of the desk to deposit the tray. The choir, led by Richard Morrish, was collecting money for the Wounded Warriors Fund. It was grand to see the boys, I felt it an honour that they should visit me.

BEFORE I RETIRED, Mr. Kelsey asked me to suggest a present I should like from the Old Leodiensians. Early in the Spring Term of 1953 I was invited to have lunch at the Great Northern Hotel, with the Old Leodiensian committee. I must say they ‘did me proud’. After the lunch, which was delicious, Mr. Raymond Tebb, on behalf of the Old Leodiensians, presented me with a travelling case: the best I have ever had and the most beautiful I have seen. My initials are on the outside of the case and an inscription inside. Also there is a tab attached to the handle. But that is a secret! I am much amused and delighted with those who thought of this. I was presented with the case four or five times before I was allowed to keep it! This was owing to the Press, who wished us to pose for photographs. I am deeply grateful to the Old Leodiensians for this generous gesture. I should like to thank all members of the Association. A happy and final touch after the gathering was the fact that J. H—— brought me and the case home in his car.

Later I had a letter from E. A. L—— saying he had lost touch with the school, as he lives far from Leeds. He thought he might have missed some presentation, so he enclosed a present of 10 guineas for me, spoke about his happy days in my form, about 35 years ago, and gave me a pressing invitation to visit him and his wife. You may imagine my feelings.

Lately I have had several letters from D. E. M—— who at present holds an important post in Tasmania, and had much to do with the landing of the Gothic at Hobart; he was in charge of the Guard of Honour at St. David’s Cathedral. He wrote first wishing me well in my retirement, he mentioned the nickname I had conferred on him. Then I had a vivid picture of him as he was at eight years old.

N. P—— has written from the Argentine and has promised me gifts which are now on their way to England.

It was good to hear from them.

I am rather proud of the fact that Godfrey Talbot of the B.B.C. was once in my form. In fact I am proud of all of them.

I HAVE HAD an extraordinarily happy life nearly all my time at Leeds Grammar School and for this great blessing I thank all the boys I have taught. I feel sure that no other teaching post could have given me such happiness.

Now, as I write, Leeds Grammar School has started its first term under a new Headmaster—T. G. C. Woodford, Esq. I wish the school happiness and great success under his rule. My heartfelt wish is

Floreat per saecula
Schola Leodensis.


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