Tag Archives: school uniform

Memories of a Hillhead infant⤴

from @ blethers



It was this picture that started it. I've been rummaging among my old teaching materials and came upon a small buff book, with cartridge-paper pages that are half blank, half ruled in light and heavier red. This pre-dates all the other stuff I found, as it comes from my childhood. From 1952, I would say, when I was in Infants 2 in Hillhead Primary School in Glasgow. A chance remark on the Facebook conversation that followed its publication there brought memories flooding back - far too many for that medium. And it struck me that this is social history as well as my history, and I find it fascinating. That's what brings me back to Blethers after so many months. I want to write it down before I forget, or before no-one who was there is around to remember with me.

Let's begin with Christine Findlay, pigtailed in Primary 2. By this time she will be almost 7, because her birthday is in September. This meant that she started school in January, already 5 years and 3 months old and able to read. She is no longer playing with Plasticene and lacing cards (the latter, for some reason, a great thrill; something never seen at home).
Presumably for reasons connected with accommodation - and perhaps staffing - her class was called 1e and the school day began at 1pm and ended at 4pm. She travelled by tram from her top-flat home in Hyndland along Great Western Road to the foot of Cecil Street, where she crossed the main road with the help of a traffic warden. (He was once knocked down while she waited beside the road - perhaps this story will reappear). The lunchtime journey cost a ha'penny - the "Ha'penny Special" for school children; the return a whole penny. A yellow ticket at lunchtime, a blue to go home. Six months later her class became 1a and attended school in the morning. I cannot recall - see: it's going already - if the beloved Miss Buchanan survived the transition to morning class or if it was then that Mrs Reilly appeared, a red-haired, vivacious woman confusingly addressed by older pupils as Miss Forrester.

It is her class that provides this book, and some of my clearest memories. I can actually remember writing some of the legends in it, drawing the pictures to go with the writing exercise. In the course of it, we moved on to joined-up writing, copperplate. But before I go there, a vivid, stressful moment...
We were writing the letter l, lower-case, on the same kind of ruled paper as is above. And I couldn't work out how long the letter l (lower case) should go on. How many lines? Two thick and two thin? It looked far too long and wavering. I was distraught. We were forbidden erasers. Even when I saw a friend - was she a friend? - doing what looked a more correct version, there was no way I could hide my shame. I was a fool, and I blushed. That perky child in the picture - wearing, I notice, the regulation school winter jersey with the collar (striped in school colours) through which one threaded the school tie under the gym-slip - was feeling anything but perky.

But I progressed. My writing became fairly spectacularly neat copperplate - an example occurring in the day we learned about Diogenes. There is a wonderful picture of someone else's vision of how he might live here, but this is what I drew.

On other days we drew such things as the Glasgow coat of arms (so hard, these fish!) and a cuckoo which still looks quite convincing. All with this amazing writing underneath. Of other learning I remember less; I was bored much of the time during reading lessons because I was already a fluent reader and became cross at people who read aloud each individual word. Clearly, I was not destined to be a patient person.

I think there were forty children in my class, boys and girls equally distributed. The "a" designation referred to our birth dates, and all of us had our birthdays between September and December. We were the oldest class in the year group, we had had two terms of education more than the rest of the year. We felt superior, and no doubt we acted that way. We had embarked on our Hillhead journey. And the next time it's raining and I have little more to do, I'll regale the waiting world with a few memories of the next stage of that journey ...