/ School Days at Mersea in the War Years Part Two

ID: ML2013_006_P47 / Ron Green
TitleSchool Days at Mersea in the War Years Part Two

With the evacuees leaving the island we had our school back full time. The young male teachers Mr Reason, Mr Burt, Mr Davies all went off into the services. I understand Mr Hucklesby was at our school for a short time before going off into the services but I don't remember him until he came back after being a prisoner of war shortly before I left. Myrddin Davies also returned before the end of the war. Head master Thomson had left before the start of the war and William (Wilkie) Wilkinson became acting headmaster until Mr Cotgrove arrived. We had young lady teachers coming in, Miss Vi Chantler, Miss Peggy Calver and Miss Ida Adnams who carried on for several years after becoming Mrs. South. Peggy Calver married local man Bill Brunt and is now in her 90's and living in Lincoln.

East Mersea school closed at about the start of the war and the children came 'Down West' each day by bus. It was about this time as I remember that school dinners were started. The small room behind the British Legion club room became the kitchen and amongst the cooks I remember Mrs Mussett and Mrs Elsie Whiting. The back room behind the club became the dining room. It was decided that the school should have pigs. These were housed in sheds at the top of the school fields which had been chicken sheds. A Pig Club was formed and pupils and teachers were to contribute towards the food by bringing in vegetable peelings and so on. The main source of course was the peelings etc. from the school kitchen. This was collected by senior boys - two detailed to the job each day. They collected the swill by wheelbarrow and cooked it in a copper in caretaker Dan Woolf's shed. Boys being boys this became an all day job and some of the teachers complained that the boys were loosing out on their lessons. Wilkie who organised the rota retaliated by telling them that if they moaned too much they would not get their joint of pork when the pigs were slaughtered. The cooked swill was mixed with meal, wheeled up to the top of field and fed to the pigs. A feeding rota was got out to cover the holidays and one day the boys took in the food and the pigs charged the barrow knocking it over. It turned out the two boys who should have fed them the day before hadn't turned up. The slaughtering was organised by local butcher Ernie Vince and all members of the pig club had their bit of pork which was very welcomed in the days of rationing.

There was a large corrugated iron shed at the top of the playground known as 'The Cookery' where the senior girls took cookery lessons and the boys did woodwork. The woodwork benches had a scrubbed wooden top fixed on for the girls lessons. All senior boys and girls had gardening lessons. The girls tended the flower beds at the Barfield Road end and the boys grew vegetable at the top where we now have Oyster Close. There was an aviary with budgerigars and canarys with a rectangular pond in front. A large circular pond had goldfish. Both ponds have now been filled in. There were beehives and Wilkie used to put on hat with a veil and demonstrate with a smoke gun to make the bees sleepy, how to work on the hives. There was also a small weather station for measuring rainfall etc. Wilkie was also the science master and the science room was in the old part of the school nearest the road.

The photo shows Mr Wilkinson (Wilkie) with the girls gardening class of 1946 - from the left - Betty Spall (Mrs Gasson), June Pittock, Jean Hiskey, Rosemary Fenn (Mrs Spurgeon), Molly Gladwell (Mrs Cousins), Ethel Frost (Mrs Miller), Mr. Wilkinson, Pam Fothergill, Dorothy Brown, Eileen Hedger, Daphne Green ( Mr Harvey). Image courtesy Brian Jay.
These girls were all in my class so were in their final year at West Mersea School.

I left school in April 1946 and started work, after a short break, with builder Cliford White & Co. I was unable to start my bricklaying apprenticeship until I reached the age of 15, so I was officially a labourer in my first year, but I was laying bricks on my first day at work.

Go to School Days at Mersea in the War Part 1

Read more
Farming in WW2
More on Mersea Schools

Published in Mersea Life June 2013, page 41.

AuthorRon Green
PublishedJune 2013
SourceMersea Museum