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'Miss Bashford', a teacher's tale, by Simon Shaw

While perusing the wonderful memories on this page, you'll be pleased to know that you can listen to some enlightening interviews with Barbara Boyle to accompany the text. To play a clip simply press the play button (Play) next to the relevant section.

Barbara Boyle is now in her 90s. Apart from being a little frail, she is bright as a button and still lives in her own house in Earlsdon. A home help calls a couple of times a week but other than this she remains independent and has successfully avoided being packed off to a retirement home. Born Barbara Bashford, she attended Centaur Road Infants School, which is now called Hearsall Community Primary School.

Centaur Road Infants 1927 Centaur Road Infants 1927 (Click the image to view a larger version)

This picture is from 1927. Miss Williford is the teacher. Barbara is on the back row, first on the left near the open window with her face partially obscured. The blackboard on the back wall has the following chalked on it:
Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I. But when the leaves hang trembling. The wind is passing by.

Remembered names:- Girls Vera Sherwood, Betty Yates, Peggy Fisher, Betty Fox, Alice Crump, Joyce Ward, Marjorie Lowe, Joan Bowey, Brenda Pearson, Ena Causor, Margery Cramp.
Boys:- Harold Rowbottom, Hedley Savage, George Betts, "Curly" Burman, Leslie -?

Barbara said Hedley Savage had or would later have connections with Savage's Bakery.

Of her childhood spent in Earlsdon, she recalls playing in the garden at 71 Berkeley Road South and swinging in a hammock. She passed through a watchmaker's area at the back of the house to reach the garden. All of this is gone now as extensions have been built since. Across the road, where maisonettes were built in the late 1950s, was a large garden that belonged to the big house on the corner of Earlsdon Avenue South / Berkeley Road South. I live in one of these maisonettes and a friend lives at 71 so it was amazing to hear about how things once were.

Her mother was nifty with a sewing needle and a great 'invisible mender'. Barbara told me she supervised 50 girls in a factory at Parkside near the former Swift works. Her father had been "trained for service" and because of this was a softly spoken man who used his words respectfully. At one point he got a job with the Coventry Gauge & Tool Company on Warwick Street, Earlsdon. When the owner Harry Harley discovered his background, he asked him to become a servant at his house - 3 Styvechale Avenue - where they already had a maid. He would 'clock in' to work at the factory and then cycle to Styvechale Avenue to take charge of the house. Barbara recalls that he would take carpets from the house into the garden to clean them, something that really impressed the Harley's. Something that didn't impress Barbara's father was the wages and he eventually left this job to go and work at the Rudge.

Barbara (left) with 'Duffy', Miss Duffield Barbara (left) with 'Duffy', Miss Duffield.

Barbara was taught some of her mother's skills and would be sent off to carry out repair work for the well to do folks of Earlsdon but it never went to her head. She recalls tagging along with her friends and the boys amongst them tying string to two door knockers at a time to play what we now know as rat-a-tat ginger. One particular lady would rush out shouting "You bloody buggers! I'll get you!" which greatly amused them all. Through her mother's contacts, Barbara was taught piano at a big house on Barras Lane. The owners had a butler who would let young Barbara in and take her to the piano room. The teacher would address her as "Miss Bashford" and she would address the teacher as "Miss". When the lesson was over the butler would come in with a cup of tea for the piano teacher but as soon as he was out of the room she would let Barbara have it.

Barbara contrasted this lifestyle with that of Thomas Street, Spon End where she would often walk through to meet her dad at the Rudge factory. Back to back houses with hardly any space at the rear and ladies out scrubbing their tiny yards or bit of pavement in front of the house.

From 1946 - 1947 Barbara did her teacher training at the Exhall Grange Emergency Training College.

Emergency training at Exhall Grange

These next three scenes were taken outside "E" Hostel in the harsh winter of 1946/1947:

Exhall Grange Hostel
Exhall Grange Hostel

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Barbara pictured at St Mary's, Ware

Barbara (left) pictured in her first classroom at St Mary's, Ware.

Flash music player

After completing her training, Barbara wanted to experience life outside Coventry so chose to teach at St Mary's C of E School in Ware, Hertfordshire. Many of the children were from the east end of London and found her accent very strange and thought she was "posh". Barbara found their accents equally strange.

Dance Group at St Albans Miss Smith's Country Dance Group at St Albans Festival, 1949.

Gladys Whitehouse Gladys Whitehouse: "Tall, well built & very, very determined."

After three years in Hertfordshire, Barbara felt the call of home and returned to Coventry, taking up a teaching role at Holbrook Girls School. By happy coincidence, this is the school that my late mother and Aunty Helen attended. Barbara remembers the head teacher Gladys Whitehouse clearly.

Flash music player

Staff Photograph 1951 Staff Photograph 1951.
Back Row: Mrs Woodford, Scott, Marston, Lee, Edge, Rogers, Copson, Dicker, Brown
Front: (Miss) Rees, Harris, Dickson, Whitehouse, Black, Bashford, Sidley
Photograph taken by A W Flowers, 11 Churchill Avenue.

When I emailed a copy of this picture to my Aunty Helen it brought back some very bad memories of one teacher in particular:

"Miss Rees was a sadistic teacher. She was our form teacher in our 2nd year at juniors and gave every kid nightmares. She then followed us up to the last year. She used to use the side edge of a ruler in the crook of our knees on the flimsiest of excuses; i.e. some child couldn't finish her bottle of school milk, she made every one of us stand on our chairs and then just went round and round, continually whacking every child until somebody cracked and owned up."

My Aunty Helen also remembers Miss Whitehouse for other reasons. Helen took part in the "Maypole" dancing (pictured below) and recalls:

"Maypole dancing requires more skill than people imagine. We were practising very hard for it and I remember making a little mistake. Miss Whitehouse grabbed me by my hair and dragged me from the hall before beating me with a ruler. Also, because it was for the Coronation, the Coventry Boot Fund or something like that provided us with new shoes. Of course in those days you got what you were given. Mine didn't fit and killed my feet, so I complained to Miss Whitehouse. She went mad, shouting; "How dare you complain! Wear them and be grateful!" which of course was followed by another thrashing! These days at least five social workers would be involved and she would be packed off to prison!"

Maypole Dancing Maypole Dancing, Special Sports Day to mark the Coronation, 1953.

Coronation Sports Day Special Sports Day to mark the Coronation, 1953.

Teacher's Obstacle Race Teacher's Obstacle Race, Special Sports Day to mark the Coronation.

Miss Bashford teaching her class, 1953 Miss Bashford teaching her class at the time of the Coronation in 1953. I believe my late mother (Catherine) Kay Scott may be in this picture at the front, 2nd left.

Miss Sidley's Choir
Flash music player
Miss Sidley's Choir with a shield they were 'ordered' to win every year at Leamington.

Holbrook Girls School visits London 11 July 1952. Holbrook Girls School visits London. (Click the image to view a larger version)
My Aunty Helen is in this photograph but has absolutely no recollection of the trip.

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Pictures from a trip to Rhyl & Chester in 1953 or 1954.

Rhyl 1953 or 54
Rhyl 1953 or 54
Rhyl 1953 or 54

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Flash music player

In 1959 Barbara moved to Stivichall Mixed Junior School, where she would stay until her retirement in 1980. One young boy she taught would go on to great things - David Moorcroft OBE.

National Savings presentation - Click to enlarge 1962. Director of Education W H Chinn presents a "National Savings" banner to the school.
Can you spot Dave Moorcroft? (Click the image to view a larger version)

Staff: L-R: K Tole, student, E.Lewis, student, B Bashford, P Shipway, Miss Morewood (headmistress), two visitors, W H Chinn (Director of Education).
Children include: D. Moorcroft, J Lippitt, R Dargie, M Lawson, D Chilvers, J Kerry, S Jones, Georgina Key, Catherine Moss, Valerie Howden, Wendy Spriggs, June Rafferty, Julia Gregory, Daphne Robinson, Jane Thomas.


Flash music player

In 1964 at Whitsun, third and fourth year pupils from Stivichall went to France for a week. This was so they could practice and 'enhance' their language skills. Barbara recalls some highlights from the visit:

Coventry Station, Whitsun 1964 Departure: Coventry Station, Whitsun 1964.

France, 1964 Stivichall pupil's enjoying ice creams in France, 1964.

Versaille, 1964 Stivichall pupils at Versaille, 1964

'Miss Bashford' at Versaille, 1964. 'Miss Bashford' at Versaille, 1964.
Mr McComb A clearly exhausted Mr McComb, who acquainted one of the pupils with the lake pictured above!

Miss Bashford became Mrs Law in 1973 when she married for the first time. Tragically her husband died suddenly just nine months later. Before the wedding children at the school staged an 'operetta' to mark the occasion:

Mrs. Harrison's class, 1973
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Garden Parties:

Garden Party, 1969 1969. Garden Party. How many balloons are in the bag?

Garden Party, 1973 1973. 'Garden Party' at Stivichall School.

'Oliver', 1977 The cast of "Oliver", 1977. Barbara helped with the costumes for many of the School's plays. Her partner and future husband John Boyle would help with make-up and take photographs. Fellow teacher June Williams - later Pickerell - was in charge of productions. June also helped with many productions at Earlsdon's Criterion Theatre.

Silver Jubilee, 1977 1977. Silver Jubilee decorations in Mrs Law's classroom.

Retirement from Stivichall Junior School 1980 - Retirement from Stivichall Junior School.
On the same day that Barbara retired, Mr Jennings (seated, centre) also retired.
Standing (L-R): June Williams, Chris Oddy, Sheila Bennett, Val Martin, Chris Baker, Eileen Lewis, Ann Butcher, Gail Green.
Front Row: John Owen, Tina Hughes, T Jennings, Barbara Law, Maurice Jones.

My last class "My last class." 2nd year 8-9 years old.
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Retirement Presents and Cards:

Retirement 1980 Retirement 1980 Retirement 1980

In 1994, at the age of 74 and after many happy years together with John, they finally tied the knot at All Souls Church in Earlsdon. John had been married previously and was divorced so they had to speak to a bishop to get permission to marry. At the meeting, the bishop was telling them why the Church could not marry them. John quoted relevant verses from the bible to prove that the Church could indeed marry them. The bishop was impressed and asked John where he had acquired his knowledge of the bible.
John replied; "The same place as you, St Colman's Seminary in Violet Hill, Newry!" This clinched the wedding - at one point in his life John had been training for the Priesthood in Ireland.

Barbara never converted to Roman Catholicism despite a number of attempts by the more over-zealous members of All Souls congregation. Whenever John found out about these he would storm off to tell those concerned to leave his wife alone - she would make her own mind up about matters of religion. Barbara didn't mind and maintains strong affection for All Souls and the work that it does for the local community.
Her Irish in-laws used to refer to her as "The wicked English Protestant!" but Barbara took it all with a pinch of salt. She recalled that John had spent some time working in England and had returned to his native Northern Ireland. He found a job in Derry / Londonderry, many miles from his hometown of Warrenpoint. While doing this job, a fellow worker armed with a hatchet lunged at him and said "No Catholics should work at this factory!" Fortunately other workers stopped him before he could reach John. This was typical of the discrimination faced by Ulster's Catholics in those days. Although assurances were given to John about his safety, he thought it would be better to return to England. Like so many of his countrymen, he made his home here in Coventry.

John passed away in January 2009.

As an organiser of the 2012 Earlsdon Festival, I am very grateful to him for capturing images of the original 1978 "Earlsdon Village Festival" which marked 125 years of the foundation of Earlsdon. These are pictures of the "Earlsdon Carnival" which weaved it's way around Earlsdon on 1st July 1978:

Earlsdon Carnival 1978
Earlsdon Carnival 1978
Earlsdon Carnival 1978
Earlsdon Carnival 1978
Earlsdon Carnival 1978
Earlsdon Carnival 1978
Earlsdon Carnival 1978

Update: Barbara May Boyle passed away on the 18th of August 2015 aged 94. It was a privilege to have met her and to learn about her fascinating life. Rest In Peace.


Further memories:

20th August 2015: Mark Boland has written to add his grateful memories of Miss Bashford and colleagues....

"Miss Barbara Bashford, Aka Mrs Law, taught me as a 2nd year during 1970-71 at Stivichall. Having arrived from a lesser establishment, close to illiterate having completed my 2nd year primary education as one of the youngest in my class, it was decided that I would have another year at Stivichall at 2nd year to catch up with my peers. Miss Bashford changed the course of my life with her help and encouragement. What a lady, whom I owe a great debt for the life she made possible. My third and fourth year were with Miss Wooly, a Canadian Lady who also did her best for me. I remember we did a ramble along the canal at the end of our fourth year and she cooked us skinny chips (now known as French fries) at the Canal Basin where she had a boat. I also have fond memories of June Williams and taking part in her production of Snow White, playing the part of a servant and singing "When ever I feel afraid I whistle a happy tune"; great women who I hope are still with us."


 
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'Miss Bashford', a teacher's tale, by Simon Shaw
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This page last updated on 4th May 2017