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:
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 http://www.nottingham-diocese.org.uk/02_Admin/AHP/Final%20report%20(PDF)/Leicester%20East%20Deanery/Leicester,%20Sacred%20Heart(NXPowerLite).pdf.