I would go when I was five years old, to the Aysgarth School. Me two cousins would take me, just on their own, we used to walk on. Where the surgery is now, that was the school. And we had a teacher in one room, Miss Heseltine, which you started at, and then you moved up to Miss Crow’s room which was bigger. When Miss Crow left we had a Mrs McLean. And you used to come home at dinnertime for your dinner for an hour, and then you walked back on again. We had a proper dinner in the middle of the school day. I can remember fried things, bacon, and then for tea I had jam and bread.
When I was eleven I took the scholarship exam for Yorebridge. And I didn’t get a scholarship, there was a few of us didn't get it. But then you could sit a [separate] entrance exam for Yorebridge. So David Watson and I sat this entrance exam, where your parents had to pay to go if you passed it. And I passed, so I went to Yorebridge after that. I suppose you could only do that if you were not too badly off. I mean Mother and Dad wouldn't be very well off really. But me dad had a shoe business, he was a cobbler. And so I suppose if they had enough money to send you, you could go.
Children who didn’t pass would stay on at Aysgarth School until they left at 14. Did they feel left behind? Well y’see they didn’t all maybe want to go to Yorebridge. They wanted to leave school a lot of them. I left Yorebridge early because my grandma fell ill in ’39. I would be thirteen then. She fell just across the road and broke her hip. Dr Pickle said she had pleurisy and she wasn't going to get better. So we brought her over here [home] and she lived ten years bed-fast. Me dad had the post office and his shoe business. And Mother couldn’t manage so I left school then and worked at home.
There were no bus drivers to take you to school, you walked, you had your two legs to walk on, and you walked to school. Come whatever the weather you walked. And after that when you went to Yorebridge you walked down the fields to Aysgarth Station to catch the train to Askrigg, and back. Cause the station was just opposite the school. You never ever had the car. Me dad never came for us, no, never. I can never ever remember me dad bringing us from the station, or taking us down to the station. What was the train like? Oh it chugged away, y’know, slowly (laughs).
Aysgarth School was just two rooms. Cause if I go to the doctor surgery I kind of think to myself - now where am I sitting? Am I sitting in the big room or the small room? And there was porches. There's a bit of it still there. The younger ones had the little room, and it had a great big stove in it. A big one. There would be a big stove in the bigger room as well presumably, yes, there must’ve been cause they’d be no heating but the stoves. The toilet was outside. The boy’s toilet was through the gate and just up Thoralby Road a little way. There’s a building there. Can you imagine boys going out to a toilet now on a main road? Well not a main road but it’s a road (laughs).
When we came home and played out at night we played rounders and things like that, across the road from one side to the other. We were all friends and there was a crowd of us, boys and girls. We all played together. Y’know sledging together. All of us. Oh goodness me there was a lot, a lot. Well there was so many families. There really was a crowd.
Dennis, my future husband, was one of those boys in the crowd. He was younger, was Dennis, but later on, about ’50, ’55, I somehow fell for him (laughs). But that was well after school time. We grew up together, we went to badminton and we went to tennis…we had dos in the village. And so we were all together really, you know, there was a crowd. The village was full.
I wasn’t much good at school really, but I still say that even if you’re not very brilliant… I had a good job, I got a good job. I helped at the post office, and then I got the post office meself in ’62. I worked till I was 60 and then I did relief work till I was 70, and then I gave it up.
Aysgarth School would close in 1944 when Dennis was 13. He was the last scholar, him and a John Percival from Yore Mills, and then he went to Hawes School. The community was very sorry it closed really because it takes away a little bit of village life, doesn't it? It stayed empty a long time. And then eventually the doctor’s bought it you see.
Well the whole of the Dales is a community really isn’t it. You know everybody. Well, you used to do. You don’t now, cause there’s so many houses empty, holiday cottages y’know. Aysgarth used to be a village with a community where everybody knew you, you would walk into anybody’s house, shout hello. But they don’t now. If you go to somebody’s house and you knock on the door they have a bolt up at the top to undo, and they’ve a bolt at the bottom to undo, and then a key to turn. Cause they’ve come from towns where they had to do I suppose - keep their doors locked. But here you never thought about it.
Can I remember any mischief at school? I’ll have to think a minute….
Pancake Tuesday’s a very happy day
If they don’t give us holiday we’ll all run away
Where will we run to? Up Thoralby Lane
Here comes Claney with a big fat cane
I don’t know who made that up, I didn’t make that up (laughs), but somebody did. I think it must’ve been pancake Tuesday. There's only me left you see anyway of all that crowd. But that’s a rhyme we used to sing. Who was Claney? Our teacher - Mrs McLane. I can see her to this day, a tall, elderly lady. Did she actually have a cane? I don't think so. Well, I don’t know I think she maybe had. I got the cane, once.. But I'm not going to tell you why (laughs). I’m not going to tell you why.
Pictures: Jean Cockburn in 2020, and below at Aysgarth Church of England School (middle row, far-right)