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  Memories of Tickhill Schooldays in 1920s


Tickhill and District Local History Society was very fortunate that Ronald (Ron) Hill, then aged 92, offered to meet a group of the Societyís members in the autumn of 2007 to record his memories of Tickhill, especially his schooldays. The timing of the interview was all the more poignant because Ronís health deteriorated soon after and he sadly died on 25 January 2008. This Paper is published in his memory with the Societyís appreciation both for the effort he made in recording his memories and also for the subsequent help given by his family in preparing the transcript of his interview and this paper for publication.


Ron, pictured right, attended the Infantsí School in Tithes Lane from 1920 before transferring to the Mixed or Senior School in Back Lane, now called St Maryís Road. Both these schools were departments of Tickhill Church of England School, also known as the National School. Ron remained at the Senior School until, aged eleven, he won a County Minor scholarship to Doncaster Grammar School. In many ways Ronís school life in Tickhill was different from that in the present, from the style of the school buildings with their high windows blocking pupilsí views of the world beyond, to the types of lessons studied and even playground games.                                                                      

 Photo courtesy © Mrs Betty Hill

Ronís memories of schooldays not only reveal contrasts with today, but also a continuing reality: the hugely beneficial impact of good teachers on youngsters. Ronís tributes to individual teachers and indeed his whole experience at school in Tickhill show how much he was inspired and his subsequent interests awakened. For example, two teachers in Tickhill fostered his abiding enthusiasm for the classical world, which later saw him succeed in classics at secondary school and become a classics scholar at Oxford University. Ron won several scholarships including a Senior Scholarship tenable at Merton College.  

Living memories, sometimes called oral history, provide an important personal perspective on the past. Ronís account gives us a whole range of insights into schooldays and life in general in Tickhill. Learning poems, sections of plays and Biblical texts by heart was common-place in Ronís childhood, so that it was not seen as in any way remarkable for labouring people to be able to quote them from memory. Although people were aware of differences in the status of local inhabitants, Ďnobody was better than anybody elseí according to Ron. At school, most pupils thought twice about stepping out of line, the threat of their parents being told of any misdemeanour usually being sufficient deterrent. The cane was used very occasionally, although Ron never suffered this punishment. Ron was an avid reader and recalled which books from school stayed in his memory. He remembered playground diversions, special events, and, like so many pupils, he remembered the walk home from school with his friends with particular pleasure.

Remarkably, Ron remembered clearly many events in his schooldays, more than eighty years previously. Sometimes, though, memories may not contain much detail or can fade and this is where other sources of information can be useful. For instance, Ron mentioned celebrating Empire Day. The specific details of the celebrations in Tickhill were recorded in the local press. Ron had no recollection of inspections, although they took place annually as mentioned in School Log Books and parish magazines. Ron enjoyed cricket but he thought physical education may not have had much place, if any, in the timetable. Sport certainly featured in some pupilsí lives, reflecting the enthusiasm of the Head Teacher, Mr Shaw, a keen athlete in his youth. Various extra-curricular activities took place. Although there were no Nativity Plays, the Senior School staged concerts towards the end of the Autumn Term most years. Perhaps the most ambitious out-of-school activity was a three-day visit by 52 pupils to see the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in August 1924. Possibly Ron was just too young to take part in this visit.

Ronís widow, Betty, who also grew up in Tickhill as a member of the well-known Rawson family, has kindly added a few extra details to Ronís memories. For example, Betty remembered seeing the six-years old Ron, with dark curly hair she admired, acting as a crown-bearer to the May Queen. Bettyís schooldays were spent at the private school on Northgate run by the Misses Goodwin. The photograph to the right shows Ron and Betty on the occasion of their Seventieth Wedding Anniversary in 2006. 

                                                                                                Photo courtesy © Mrs Betty Hill 

In his retirement from the Civil Service (it was for his work as a civil servant that he was awarded the Imperial Service Order), Ron did much research into Tickhillís history, especially the Middle Ages, where his knowledge of Latin enabled him to read many documents. In the acknowledgements to Tom Beastallís book Tickhill: Portrait of an English Country Town, Tom wrote that Ronís knowledge of Tickhillís topography and Medieval background had no equal, and that without Ronís work, the Tickhill book would not have been attempted. Ron also delved into records of his old school in Tickhill, looking especially at the School Log Books. Information he gleaned about schooldays before the 1920s features occasionally in some of his memories. Recognising his commitment to local history, the Society is proud to note that Ron accepted its Honorary Membership.                                                                

This Paper begins with an edited transcript of Ronís recollections. It then draws on other information, including that in School Log Books, notes of School Managersí meetings, parish magazines and local newspapers to find out more about 1920s schooldays in Tickhillís National School, especially the teaching staff, pupils and selected events. These records also give a few more details about Ronís own experiences. He was, for example, too modest to mention that he was the first winner of the Robinson Shield for Ďconstant effortí in 1


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