MEMORIES HELD IN BRICKS AND MORTAR
THE potential loss of the old Wath Grammar School building brought this response from a dismayed reader. By a (very) Old Wathonian - his description
CONTEMPLATING the disappearance of the main building of Wath Comprehensive School and Language College is like experiencing the imminent death of an old friend whose birth you so specially remember.
"Meliora Spectare" - Look to better things. I feel few, if any current or future students will ever be aware that the vital "better thing" between 1923 and 1930 was this building, which was to afford Secondary School facilities for students from Bolton, Darfield, Rawmarsh, Thurnscoe, Wath, Wombwell, Brampton Parish and Houghton Magna and Parva parishes.
The school had its inception at a conference of representatives of various bodies, called in 1922, and began life on September 17th, 1923, at Wath Park Road Infants' department following alterations and additions to the building. Until then, the industrial area of nearly 100 square miles between Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham had been chiefly served for Secondary School purposes by the school at Mexborough.
From the early roll of 77 students and staff of four was created a school with a roll of 520 and a steadily widening field of development and achievement. Before completion of its
permanent "home" in May, 1930, the main difficulty for Governors, Head and staff had lain in the waste of time inevitable when the school was scattered over buildings in various parts of Wath (my first Form Room was at Wath Mechanics Institute "shared" amusingly by a large skeleton used for instruction by the SJAB, who used the same premises) and the slow growth for the same reason of the corporate school spirit. Subsequent creation of that essential was a rewarding tribute to Headmaster A.T.L. Grear M.A. and his staff who undertook a tremendous amount of extramural work on complements to school work, creating an imposing list of school societies including a particularly flourishing art club and a literary and debating society. The introduction of the House system additionally served to spur emulative rivalry in play and in work.
The Head's abiding belief, as outlined at the formal opening ceremony, was that one of the most important parts of a school's work was the training and development of character and that one of the finest means of achieving it lay in school games which, he held, developed team spirit, a sense of fair play, courage and stability. It was essential that students should leave school willing to think of others, determined to play the game, ready to carry on a source of action they believed to be right and able to bear success of failure without undue pride of depression. As games taught these things, the now available playing fields offered excellent facilities towards that end. Education, as he saw it, was the play of personality upon personality and he said that they were particularly lucky to have a staff so willing to give time and labour voluntarily for the good of the students. However, all they could do was to make smooth the path: it was the boys and girls who must travel over it.
Many have, with success which must have greatly pleased him.
Chosen from 212 applicants for the Headship, he came to South Yorkshire from Warwick, and once told me he'd have missed his stop if he hadn't heard a porter shout "Wath", as the trains on the then Leeds-Sheffield line pulled in to the small station, euphemistically called "Wath North", high on an embankment opposite what is now Wath's extensive garden centre.
He had commanded a Company of the Gloucester Regiment in France and Italy during the first World War and was in the RAF from 1941 to 1945 during the second. Much later, during his time at Wath, his only son was killed in a gliding accident in Gloucestershire and shortly afterwards he was ordained and had for his Title a week-end curacy in Doncaster. He subsequently spent 14 years as a Rector at Whitbourne, was for seven years at Dymock and later held the living of Quedgely, Gloucester.
An Old Wathonians' Society which began with a membership of about sixty, celebrated its Diamond Jubilee on September 17th, 1983 and a delightful letter from Her Majesty the Queen, sending her "warm good wishes", set the seal on the pleasure of the occasion.
Sadly, the Association was disbanded shortly after the Jubilee through a lack of interest among then current leavers and a growing shortage of the old. Ten years earlier there had been a re-union dinner with a record attendance to welcome back a greatly esteemed Head.
Sight of that original building forever conjures up a host of these memories for a generation, which was part of those early days. The replacement building will inevitable create its own, for that is the natural pattern.
Nor will ever be forgotten the tremendous service afforded by the greatly revered educationist, first Chairman of the School's Governors and additionally a member of the Governing Board at Mexborough, Alphas J. Thompson.
Building costs? Money values have changed out of all recognition, but for your interest, contracts for the building destined soon to disappear amounted to 33,643.
* HAVE you any views on the demolition of the old Wath Grammar School. Why not write in and tell us to Letters Page, South Yorkshire Times, Dolcliffe Road, Mexborough S64 9AZ, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org marking your correspondence "Letters".
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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