There was a story about Minnie that I left out of the 'Bespoke Taylor' article. I'm not quite sure why, I surely can't be still smarting after all these years - can I?
But it all came back painfully clearly after reading various exchanges on the subject.
I'd done an essay. Whether it was 'on any subject you like' or a set one I can't remember. Judging from the content, probably the former.
I'd written something about furnishing any house I might happen to have in the future, where every room was a different period in history. (What was I on I hear you say?) Anyway the lesson came when our books were handed back and not only did mine have 'Rubbish' scrawled all over it, it was held up to the class as such.
If it had been rubbish grammatically or due to writing style I could have accepted it, although even then there would have been no need for the public humiliation. But it was quite clear it was rubbish because she couldn't grasp the idea.
The written piece (see 'English' in 'Tales from the new Forrest') she so vehemently denounced was just a very new and different way of looking at things. She couldn't see that. I had moved on and she hadn't.
It's a real pity because after that incident I couldn't remember her for the good things she did for us, such as the poetry-reading (Macavity, Macavity, There's no-one like Macavity!) sharing her knowledge of Shakespeare and other literary wonders and explaining the complexities of the English language.
By the way, I never thought - as Mike implied - that it was my red hair that did or didn't do it for Minnie.
These pieces were submitted in response to Mike's Staff review and subsequent correspondence about Minnie. I have received a couple of other emails suggesting that this may not be the end of the topic.
I read with great interest the opinions and observations of others regarding Miss Moorhouse. My experiences of her were confined to English Language and English Literature. In both subjects I found her knowledge to be extensive and deep. She could explain the structure of our spoken language very thoroughly and in a way which generated my interest and enthusiasm. Her diagnosis of every Shakespearean line was a revelation. She had vast knowledge of her subject which she could, at times, instil into our young minds.
I agree that she could be a real tarter with the girls. I was always in a mixed class and probably saw her at her most mellow. It is a great pity that she was so hard on the girls. She must have been at her most venomous when dealing with an all-girl class or one-to-one with a girl. From some of the reports (Maggie in particular) her behaviour could be outrageous.
I was amused by Merry's correct observation of Minnie's tiptoe walk and ample bosom. I was also mesmerised by the fact that her left calf was considerably bigger than her right calf. Don't ask why I noticed this - I must be a 'leg man'.
Minnie came from a much earlier era, about two generations earlier than us. She had grown up in a completely different world and had doubtless been influenced and moulded by her peers, tutoring and experiences in that period. The hangover from Victorian chauvinism was still evident in her formative years and I suspect set the blue print for the rest of her life.
I was one of Minnie's golden boys, being literate, literary and a bit of a creep. I hung on her every word and was hungry for more knowledge about literature. Imagine, her father had been criticised by Matthew ARNOLD (The Forsaken Mermaid) before he died of a heart attack running for a tram in Liverpool. Six degrees of separation or what?
She WAS rougher on the girls and, I think, lucky in the boys she met. In those far off days, before anyone was burning bras, women were subservient and any advance was made by stealth. She wanted the best for her girls and thought (often mistakenly as it turned out) she was doing the best she could to enable girls to attain the very best they could. Her criticisms seem to me to be aimed at dissuading girls from settling for shop work or mere clerical drudgery.
As with the boys, who suffered physically in the cause of improvement, the times demanded strong measures to keep pupils on the ever upward path. Standards had to be maintained. Modern education is big on praise but the saying goes "He who praises all praises none". In my active teaching I carried the belief that criticising the bad was the way forward. Wrong! The real answer, as always, must be the middle way. Praise where praise is deserved and criticise where you are sure criticism will be taken as constructive. This demands an intimate knowledge of the individual pupil which was certainly not the case in our time in Hathershaw.
I'm glad I was a male in Minnie's class. Transferring my shortcomings into an equivalent female I would have been everything Minnie hated. Comparing the past with the present is a barren exercise. There are just too many variables. Would Stanley Matthews have been a superstar among today's pampered prima donna footballers? We cannot tell. He thrived in the spartan conditions of his time. Similarly our teachers, Minnie, Nori and Dennis Taylor were creatures of their time and viewing them through the filter of fifty years of social and educational progress is not really fair. I think the real question, in each case is,"Did they believe they were doing the best for the children in their charge?" They are not around to defend themselves so a fair trial is impossible to achieve.
Jessie Moorhouse was wonderful to me for reasons stated above. She was always willing to provide a reference at short notice but I was one of the privileged few. I appreciate we each have different experience of the people who cross our path.
I'm surprised I didn't notice Minnie's thighs (too fixated by her overhang?). Perhaps she took holidays speed skating on Dutch canals. Those who do so are similarly deformed. On a more serious note Minnie was the captain of the female half of the school and probably felt the whole responsibility of keeping the girls on the ever improving standard Charlie wanted. A technical school by definition was probably full of men who's knowledge of dealing with the fair sex was limited including Charlie. Jim Mills was probably typical of the teachers I'm thinking of. In her own way Minnie was HEAD of the girls and acted as such.
When did girls first come into the tech ? Have I missed this important data?
The answer to Vinnie's question is that girls were first admitted in 1951 when the school moved to Robin Hill. Just out of interest the first two teachers to join Charlie at the Junior Tech in 1943 were Nat and Ron, followed a year later by Killer and Ben Vaughan.
If you go to the 1956 magazine on the website you will see the following:
At the end of C C Bell's description of the early days he refers to the presence of girls from 1951 on.
Further down the GCE results for 1954 and 1955 show that about one third of the pupils were girls.
Another, perhaps little known fact now, is that around that time some girls clad in black and green uniforms appeared at Hathershaw - they were imports from Greenhill Grammar to take commercial subjects. I particular remember one of them as we became quite friendly - teenage love and all that!
We girls, were definitely encouraged strongly to go to teacher training college by Miss Moorehouse; I think that Jane Armstead, as an arts 6th former, was one of the first to break ranks and go for university. We didn’t hear of much else at that time. The Civil Service was a vague option, as was “going into a bank”. We were given little information about anything.
Because I ditherered, Miss Moorehouse sent me off on two occasions to visit primary schools, in order to convince me; I was neither convinced nor discouraged and anyway, it went along with what my dad had asked of me. His reason was that if ever I made a bad marriage and wanted to get out of it, I would have a profession to fall back on and not be dependent on some brute of a husband. He’d seen the seamy side of life and we all knew what happened frequently on Friday nights when the pubs closed.
Certainly, I think that Miss Moorehouse wanted to see us with a profession too although she wouldn’t have voiced the same reasons as my dad. Going to university for three years didn’t necessarily give you a job. Three years teacher training did and it was a pretty secure job at the time. I suppose she was right in her idea.
We were mainly from working class families and even though there were grants available, there was usually something left for our parents to pay out and any lengthy projects could have lead to an early abandon.