Sacred Heart School…

I mentioned in an earlier blog that some of the children living in the Charnwood Street area attended Sacred Heart Roman Catholic School on Mere Road, which was opened in 1884 next to the church. Paul Dorrell started there around 1954 or ’55, when:

Gareth Thomas, 'The 1950s' (Parragon, 2003)

Gareth Thomas, ‘The 1950s’ (Parragon, 2003)

the head teacher was a nun called Sister Columba. The ‘reception class’ was taught by Miss Burdett. From there I progressed through classes taught by Miss Veal, Miss Caulfield, Miss Bunting and finally Mr ‘Pop’ Riley. His claim to fame was that he was on HMS Dorsetshire when she fired the torpedoes which, allegedly, sank the German battleship Bismark. That sort of thing was very important to young boys in the post-war period. He was also a strict disciplinarian – which was also very important to young boys in the post-war period. He was in charge of corporal punishment in the school.

I recall being taught to write in Italics using a ‘Black Magic’ pencil. This had a thick lead which was sharpened to a chisel shaped ‘point’. The hours we spent writing a single letter over and over again! Being a faith school, a lot of time was also spent on religious instruction. The school week always ended with Benediction in the church on a Friday afternoon. I can still smell the incense now. Monday morning classes always started with a discussion of the sermon from Sunday morning Mass. If you couldn’t answer a question when asked you got the cane – simple as that. I got caned a fair bit…

When Sister Columba retired she was replaced by Mr Blacklock, and eventually – after I had left – ‘Pop’ became the head teacher. In the late 1950s two temporary classrooms were erected to the left of the church. These were occupied by Miss Bunting’s class and ‘Pop’s’ pupils. In the 1960s, when I was at Moat Boys, the school was closed and became a social centre – but I do clearly remember walking to and from school along Sherrard Road and then Mount Road to get to school.

Arthur Beyless also attended the school: ‘I was “The Terror of the Neighbourhood” according to the name designated to me by Sister Columba, the person in charge, which name stayed with me’ – though he can’t recall why! I’m not sure if he ever got the cane – but in an interview recorded in 1985, Les Boulter (born 1903) talked about being caned by the nun in charge of the school in the early 20th century, who used to travel to the school on the tram from the convent at Dane Hills, on the other side of Leicester. She had spotted him on Humberstone Road walking through a puddle in his new boots, and he got ‘six of the very hardest she could give me’ on the hand. ‘From that day to this’, he said: ‘if I’ve seen a pool of water I walk round it, I never walk through it, and they say that the cane don’t do no good!’ (East Midlands Oral History Archive, 810, LO/174/125).

I don’t have a picture of the school, but there’s some information about Sacred Heart Church at,%20Sacred%20Heart(NXPowerLite).pdf.


9 thoughts on “Sacred Heart School…

  1. Hi Paul….I attended Sacred Heart for just one year….1957/58…the year of my 11+exam and I was in Mr. Riley’s class with Arthur…I don’t recall him being a terror at all! Sure I would have remembered that! 🙂 I was born in NJ USA and we had just moved back to Leicester and lived on Mere Rd …Mr Riley would tell me how he was off the shores of NJ during the War.(presumably in a submarine?) In the late 60’s visited his pub a number of times…King William the IV…(I think!) in Barsby. I remember he had twin girls…

  2. I went to Sacred Heart for a few years. My teachers were Mrs Golding, Miss Burdett, Miss Veal, Mrs Tomlinson ( who used to sing pop songs) and then a man who I seem to remember was called Mr Burdett but I could be mistaken. Mr Blacklock was the head and Mr Riley taught the most senior class. The local priest was Fr Murdoch, I think.

    • I went to Sacred Heart School for just one year…..1957/58..and had Mr Riley for my teacher. Father Murdoch was the Parish Priest at the time…and Sr. Columba was head. I am still friends with a couple of my classmates from those days. 🙂 Lovely simpler times. I lived on Mere Rd and my Nan lived on Forest Rd.

  3. Hi this has brought smile to my face 🙂 Just having look at what my “Pop” got up to through the years. He ended up being a Naval officer before teaching.
    He was on HMS Norfolk when he helped sink the Bismark.
    He also use to teach inmates in Welford road prison in his spare time.
    He also played Rugby for Northampton and Leicester Tiger before the war.
    I attended Sacred Heart and was taken by him until he retired. He also retired from the pub and lived in Melton Mowbray.
    Sadly he has passed away now a good few years back.

    • Hallo Richard, I was in the same class as Pat Katona Zipf and we are still in touch, Mr Riley got my brother and me and both my sisters through the 11 plus and I went on to become a teacher myself and as an honour to my memory of my time with ‘Pop’ Riley as he was affectionately and respectfully known I blue tacked number facts all over the ceilings of my classrooms since I recall your dad teasing us whenever he asked something from the times tables ‘It is not written on the ceiling!’ he would always say. In my classes it always was ‘If they knew where to look they could find the answers’ to the daily number facts tests they did whilst I did the register and dinner tasks! Just to show how good a teacher Mr Riley was he got 25% of the 44 children through the 11 plus in 1958! What an amazing record, I owe him so much for the foundation he provided me with.
      Roger Warner

  4. Hello Richard…..did you have twin sisters? Mary and ? I had no idea your Dad (Pop Riley) did so many diverse things before teaching and running the pub in Barsby..King William IV (?) was it? I was there last in the early 70’s so you can see I am no ‘spring chicken’ 🙂 i know there was a fire many y ears ago. Knew your parents were gone but not sure when they died. I was your Dad’s American student 1957-58 at Sacred Heart. He used to tease me alot. 🙂 Knew he was on a submarine at some point during the war….I am still in touch with some others from Sacred Heart and they will surely be interested in what you have told us about your Dad….Your Dad was a great teacher and prepared us very well for the 11+ Exams of the time. somewhere I have photos of your parents taken at the pub will try and find them and see if I can post them here somehow after the holidays. Merry Christmas to you and yours

    • Hello Pat, I am his Grandson and my mother is Mary. My Aunt is Anne (Twins)
      My Granddad brought me up and knew i wasn’t going to be any good academically so concentrated on getting me to do things like welding when i was 13 and working on his car..
      He would also take things apart to component level and the get me to put them back together again.

      I left school much to his disappointment with no qualifications when i was 15 but made up for this by chasing money around the country as an electricians mate.

      Some people like myself learn differently and in different ways.
      I still have no formal qualifications but hold an very important and responsible role as an Continuous Improvement Engineer for a major Automation and Robotics Company.

      My Granddad was a very clever and wise man who could see what people could or couldn’t achieve but would find a way to bring out the best of what they had with their ability’s.
      He told me some story’s about his time at the school and he was very strict ( 3 Canes to choose from) . I know that from being brought up by him.

      He told me about two brothers who’s name i wont mention but were very successful before they were in a tragic accident.
      He said he knew those boys and the family was so poor they couldn’t afford to by them shoes and they turned up at school without any. My Granddad went and got the boys both a pair of shoes to help them out.

      Its nice to see and read things about my Granddad and although he was very strict and a disciplinarian it was all for our own benefits.


      Richard Rushton.

      • Dear Richard. thank you very much for the interesting reply. Of course, I should have realised that you were their grandson. 🙂 My daughters are 43 and 41. 🙂 time marches on! I forget that i am 69! 🙂 Yes, I do remember the cane…..the first day i was in his class, i didn’t want to go back after lunch. But soon I knew he was a great teacher and brought out the good in his students and apparently his grandson. 🙂 when did your grandparents die, Richard? Last saw them about 1970. good for you to have done so come from good stock as they say. Wish you and yours a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2017.
        best regards, Pat Katona Zipf

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