High Oakham Girls' School - My Memories

Junior Choir 1948
July 21st 1950
Valance, Church St. Mansfield
June 1951
Univeral Pictorial Press Agency London

I commenced High Oakham in September 1947 in a class of 40 children. I had failed the 11+ and was known as a border-line case. Two years later I was recommended to take the examination for the grammar school again, but I was perfectly happy at High Oakham and so didn’t tell my parents about this, and obviously they weren’t contacted. So I continued my education until July 1951 after which I took a year’s secretarial course at the West Notts Technical College. At the end of my school career in 1951 I was awarded a book prize for four years full attendance.

High Oakham was divided into two more or less separate schools. Even the playing field had an imaginary line drawn down the middle and we weren’t supposed to mix. Extra pre-fabricated classrooms were built on this  field, the girls one side and the boys the other.

Our headmistress was Miss D J Weddle who was very strict, but also very fair. We had a lecture telling us that we had to wear our berets at all times when out of school but in our uniform of navy and red. When queuing for the bus we had to let adults go on first and give up our seats when necessary. Also young ladies should not be seen eating fish and chips in the street or throw litter down!

The motto for the Girls’ School was “To thine own self be true” and at first our inter-house names were Keys, Clarions, Torches and Oaks. In my last year when the school integrated with the Boys’ school the house names became Sherwood, Clumber, Hardwick, Southwell., Trent and maybe one other.

Our teachers were Miss F Sissons (later to become Mrs Harpham) for English and Secretarial subjects; Miss J Pollard – English and Drama; Miss B Hubbard – French; Miss J Ullyatt – History; Miss D Hall started us off with Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry (thank goodness by the summer of 1949 the last two subjects were dropped, I hated them!) then Mrs G Kent took over teaching Arithmetic. Miss N Brown – Needlework and Miss G Hay – Cookery. These two teachers lived in the flat attached to the school and we had to take turns in cleaning the flat for them – very convenient I thought! Mrs C Reid – Art; Miss D Hall – Physical Training; Miss H Barker and Miss F Murden – Music.

I still have my school report. My very first end of term exams showed me in fifth position in the form which merited me with the remark of Miss Weddle as “Well done! Keep it up Shirley.” The second term ending I had dropped to 9th with several teachers comments as “Disappointing exam result but good term work” “Fair, more effort needed” “Disappointing, should be much better than this” “Good conduct on the whole but inclined to be talkative” so the remark from Miss Weddle says “A little less than your best I think, Shirley”. We had to take our reports home for a parent’s signature, and my father always signed so I got a real telling off. The next term I pulled up to 4th in class and I got a star for effort ! What did Miss Weddle put …”Ah! I thought you could do it. A much better result.” Thinking back, this shows the interest that she took in each pupil.

One memory I have is having my blouse sleeve rolled up by the teacher and she slapped my arm whilst telling me that I had not listened to her, and this was because I had creamed my marg and sugar together and then added the egg without the flour and so the mixture curdled. I’ve not done it since !

High Oakham Girls’ School Choir was renowned in the district and county, winning many cups and trophies. We were trained by Miss Hilda Barker and Miss Weddle was the accompanist and later Miss Murden accompanied. On the 15th July 1950 the choir broadcast on the north regional radio programme. During that year a visitor named I think Herr Hoya who might have been from the Proteous Prisoner of War Camp, asked if he could compose a new setting of the 23rd Psalm to show the versatility of the voices of the choir, and it was eventually made into a gramophone record – I believe it took up two records because it was so detailed. Unfortunately my parents wouldn’t purchase a copy for me because we didn’t possess a gramophone at the time. I really regret this but I don’t suppose a copy could be traced now after all these years.

In May 1951 two of us from the choir, Janet Richardson and myself along with two others from St John’s School and one from Teversal were chosen to make up fifteen scholars from Nottinghamshire to participate in the choir of 1,150 massed voices taking part in the Schools Music Association Concert in the Royal Albert Hall, London in connection with the Festival of Britain. This was a great thrill for us to be conducted by the great Sir Adrian Boult and accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Dr R Vaughan Williams composed a cantata “The Sons of Light” especially for the occasion.

Later in the June, because we had won the Midland Championship in Nottingham, the choir of 40 voices travelled down to London in a special coach on the “Master Cutler” train to take part in the National Choirs Competition for the Festival of Britain at the Central Hall, Westminster. During our visit we were taken to the Houses of Parliament where we were met by Mr Bernard Taylor, MP for Mansfield, and later in the evening we went to the Festival Ballet at the Stoll Theatre. The whole of the next day was spent at the South Bank Exhibition.

Two or three ex pupils are still in touch with Miss Joyce Pollard, and she told them that Miss Barker and Miss Hubbard both died on the same day, and two cherry trees were planted up on the field where the prefab buildings were in their memory – a lovely thought.

On the 26th July 1951 my time at High Oakham came to an end, and I can say that I really enjoyed my school days.  The school has seen many changes since the day I had to take an examination to become a pupil there in 1947.  My husband, who is also an ex High Oakham pupil and I have been back to the school open days many times and enjoyed reading the headteachers weekly reports.  I believe these may now have been placed with the Nottingham Archives

Comments about this page

  • Hello,
    My Mother also attended this school and I can remember the choir recording and listening to the 2 records as a child.
    My Mother’s maiden name was Elsie Lillian Eardley, she has now unfortunately passed away but if anyone remembers her and could point her out in the pictures it would be lovely.
    Thank you.

    By Steve Eardley (08/12/2019)
  • Hello Shirley…. I am the former pupil who added Mrs Weddle to the Arletty theatre patchwork quilt.   I still feel her around, I cannot eat outdoors (thats for animals she would say.   Human being eat indoors.  I wonder what she would have to say about the too casual approach these days.    She also sat in the choir stall at St Peters Church and I as a young girl guide had to read the lesson from the Golden eagle lecturn.  The congregation never fazed me but know she was at my shoulder sent shivers to my toes.   Whatever lesson was read on Sunday I had to read once again at the School assembly  .  Rae McGee,

    By Rae Gray (01/06/2018)
  • Hello,

    What a lovely write up!  I’m wondering if, perhaps you or family knew of another young girl who was at the school at the time, her name is Pamela Moakes and she lived in (what is now) Meden Vale?

    My sister in law, who is American and now living in Mansfield has only just discovered that her mother had a pen-pal from England when she was young, and what a coincidence…the girl was Pamela Moakes from Mansfield!!!!

    We are trying to locate her or her family.  Any help from someone who might know, would be greatly appreciated!  

    By Ana Smith (06/10/2017)
  • I would love to know if anyone remembers the first girls school choir which I think was formed in 1945?


    By Marian Greenway (09/09/2017)
  • I am currently writing my memoirs and was delighted to find this excellent document about High Oakham – which I attended from 1949 to 1954. Naturally I discuss this in my memoirs and have just downloaded a great photo of the school.

    I certainly enjoyed my time at the school – particularly the sporting side as I had 2 winters being coached at Trent Bridge by Bill Voce and Joe Hardstaff.

    In 1954 I commenced a 6-year mechanical engineering apprenticeship with S A Monk Ltd in Sutton-in Ashfield – managed to fluke a few exams whilst there and received a very sound understanding on various aspects of engineering.

    I completed the apprenticeship in 1960, married in 1961 (to Sylvia from Alfreton) and we emigrated to New Zealand in October 1962, where I had nearly 30-years in industry and education before establishing my own company in the Wairarapa region – just north of Wellington, where we have a small rural block.

    We have been fortunate to visit the UK (and Italy) on numerous occasions.

    Having spent what seems like several centuries working for the preservation of the NZ environment and its unique wildlife I was awarded a Queens Service Medal in 2005.

    Best regards

    Neil Hayes


    By NEIL HAYES (09/05/2015)
  • I have just attended a play by the Arletty Theatre group about women who have been an inspiration and their names have been written on a patchwork quilt by individuals.  Imagine my surprise when a lovely photograph of Miss D.J. Weddle, my headmistress at the time of my school career at High Oakham Girls’ School came up.  She had inspired someone and the story about her could have been in my era as our lecture on deportment was just as I remembered.  Yes, she was a brilliant headmistress, very strict but always fair and a great disciplinarian.

    Shirley Blythe (nee Gardner)


    By Shirley Blythe (31/05/2014)
  • Hello Shirley, You are right Shirley, I am sitting next to you on the photo. I have seen the picture of our teachers, it is really good, I think Miss Hubbard was one of my favourites. I don’t have a lot of news , other than I see Maureen Hogg( now Peatman)and Molly Lishman( Now Staton) Molly ‘s husband died a few years ago. Any new news I will pass on. Good to hear from you. Best Wishes From Eileen(nee Parrott)

    By Eileen Keeling (11/01/2014)
  • Hello Eileen, it is great to get a comment from someone who was in my class. If my memory serves me right you are next to me on the 1949 and 1950 photographs. Over the years I have been in touch with Josephine Noble and last Christmas I got a card from her twin Lilian to say Josie had passed away. I and my husband (also ex HO) have attended many open days at the school over the years during its changes of age entry and really enjoyed reading Miss Weddle’s entries in her weekly report book. I think this has now been deposited at the Nottingham Archives. Some years ago I wrote a letter in the Chad asking if anyone possibly had a copy of our choir record but got no response. Like you I’d just love to hear it once again. Have you looked at the photograph I put on site of our High Oakham teachers. Miss Pollard has just recently gone into a retirement home. The photo was given to me by a lady I met on holiday when we both started reminiscing. She wasn’t in our class or in the choir. Needless to say, it is now in my personal history file which I’ve compiled for my grandchildren. I hope other classmates key into this site to relive our memories of our great school. Shirley (nee Gardner)

    By Shirley Blythe (30/12/2013)
  • Hi Shirley, It was great to see details of the choir and photos. I really enjoyed taking part in the competitions etc. Also I failed to get a record at that time , and regret that. Would love to know IF it is ”out -of- reach ”or NOT.

    By Eileen Keeling(Nee Parrott) (24/12/2013)
  • Hello Shirley. Have just enjoyed looking at the old High Oakham school photos. They certainly brought back some memories! I recognized many of the faces!

    By Millie Hurst (nee Hatton) (20/03/2013)
  • Hello Alan, Yes you are correct, my husband is Roy and both he and his friend Eric were in the same class as you at High Oakham. Both he and I read your account at High Oakham and enjoyed it, and this inspired me to write about my time at the Girls’ School. Eric and his wife moved to Nottingham and he died there many years ago. We often see another ex pupil named Cedric (surname unknown) who was in the other class of the same year and exchange anecdotes. Kind regards.

    By Shirley Blythe (22/04/2012)
  • Hello Shirley, Very much enjoyed your memories of your time at High Oakham School….The School at that time had an excellent choir …and looking back, our time at the School was most memorable ….A thought has struck me and made me wonder….Is your husband’s name Roy ?… and was one of his close friends name Eric Sheppard ?….If this is so, I believe your husband and I were classmates..Best Wishes..

    By alan curtis (19/04/2012)

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