I was born at Thornton Rust in 1947. There was no school in Thornton Rust, it shut in about the 1930s, so Bainbridge was our primary school. You went the term that you were five, so for me it would be September because my birthday is in November.
There was no cars, nothing like that. There was no play school or nursery. Just the term you were five, off you went to Bainbridge School. We had to be taken up the village to catch a bus, the United Bus. No mum at the gate to take us or wait for us or anything like that. And when we finished our day at school, we came home on the bus. But we played on the village green for half an hour, because we come out of school at half past three and the bus didn't come till four o'clock. There wasn’t a member of staff with us as we waited. We were turned out of school. And we played, and we waited. So that was fine.
There was three classes at Bainbridge. The school on the top of the green, which is now the old school, had the top two classes but the little five-year-olds went in the room underneath the Congregational Chapel. There’d be 70 or 80 children at Bainbridge and we had good times.
When we got up into the top class we had Mrs Hardisty and she was quite a notable teacher. She had good things and bad things. The bad things were that if you did anything wrong you got a rap across your knuckles with a ruler or you got a clip under the ear, or a bit of a scuff on the back of your head. I never got the cane or anything like that, but she was a frightening person in one respect. But on the other hand, Mrs Hardisty took the top two classes on a trip every year. We went on a coach to Halifax looking at carpet making, we went to the Creamona Toffee Factory. We went to Leeds to watch them make the Yorkshire Post, we went down the Tyne on a boat. We did all these things. Askrigg School were quite in awe of us and quite upset that they didn't get these trips. Mrs Hardisty was in front of her time for doing things like that.
I don't know where Mrs Hardisty came from. I wasn't old enough to know whether she'd always lived in Bainbridge, but she did seem to know how to entertain us and keep us right. And I think about this still, we all go on about exercise and how good it is for children. We went into that school at nine o'clock when the bell rang. We probably even had assembly, and we always sang hymns - I still know all the words to the hymns. And then she would say, right, I want you to do two laps round the green and then come back in. And we would go out and run round the green and then go back in to start working. I used to think, ‘Oh flipping heck, I can't be doing and bothering with this.’ But it got us going, it worked really well. Yeah, I wouldn't know it at the time.
At lunchtime our lunch was made in the Quaker Meeting House. There was a kitchen and there was a cook and there was Catherine Metcalf the dinner lady. Why the Quaker Meeting house? Well, we didn't have anywhere else. That was a good as a canteen as you can get. So we had to line up in twos and walk down to the Quaker Meeting House, have our lunch and walk back up. And when you're five, it's an awful long way to walk back, or you don't always make it if you need to… and we will pass by that bit! And we all had a proper lunch. And it was always meat, potatoes, veggies. Our age group are in awe of all the choice they get these days, all this different stuff that they get. Give them what we had, we never went wrong.
We’d be chucked out on to Bainbridge Green at lunchtime, absolutely. In the snow, we would sledge down the green to see who could get as far as the road because it didn't matter. There wasn't much traffic. We played, we just played on the green - a lot of the time we would play with balls and just throw them against the wall and catch them, that kind of thing.
Mrs Hardisty was quite stern. If you didn't like leeks, she made you eat them and you might be sick. I didn't like the raisins that swelled up inside the ground rice, they kind of just didn’t turn me on for some reason. But I managed always to eat mine. But there was one or two people that would say, ‘Well I didn't like broad beans and I was made to eat them and I still can’t eat them.’ You know, people will say that. But we got a good dinner.
We paid for our own meals. I can remember us paying ninepence. I don't know if it was ninepence a day or nine pence a week, oh I can’t remember. But I know on a Monday morning we had dinner money in a purse and we paid it in at the beginning of the week. It wasn't much but it was a lot to my mum and dad because there was four of us. And we were going to school in homemade clogs. And we didn't have very much at all.
We didn't pay for the milk. We got milk every morning. And I know a lot of people don't like milk. There’s a photograph of me in class, doling out the milk (main picture). We would take it in turns, I'm sure we would. Because we all wanted to do it. But some people are maybe more up for things like that than others and I was always up for things like that.
Mrs Hardisty was the headteacher and there were three teachers for say 80 kids. Bottom class, middle class and top class. That's what we called each other. Girls and boys were all together. There was no division or anything. The only thing that ever makes me teeth grate now – the dentist came to the school. And if you had to have teeth out, he brought all his stuff into the middle class. And you're lined up and the doctor came and you're lined up and you waited to get your teeth out. And then you had to come out and sit there and not know how to be. And whether I would have to go home or not…. gas always made me sick. I do remember that. And I would not want anybody ever to go through that. It put me off dentists forever. It’s unimaginable now – unimaginable for the dentist to bring everything into the classroom to do the job.
In the summer we would sit outside to do lessons. And we did go on nature walks. Yeah, Mrs Hardisty did get us out, she was good. Some people thought she was hard. But I think looking back, she must have been quite good. She licked us into shape really, and you need that.
The clip under the ear could come… Mrs Hardisty just did it as she walked around. She came behind you to see what you were doing. I remember when we were doing art and Mrs Hardisty said, ‘I want you to draw a picture of the willow pattern, and I want you to paint it…’. And then the leaves - she said, ‘Don't fill them all in, I want you to just paint around the outside and leave a space in the middle.’ And she was giving us instructions and of course I was just flapping about and it accidentally all got filled in. Well, I got a clip behind the ear and told straight, ‘What did I just say to you?’ A rap of the hand with a ruler happened quite regularly. Yes, it would happen.
In my era, when we got to 11 we took the eleven-plus and if we passed we went to Yorebridge Grammar School. I didn’t pass, and I was right in the middle of everything [a period of change]. Leyburn school opened in 1959. The first year they only took what would be today’s Year 8, 9 and 10. They didn't take any Year 7s because they were getting acclimatized. So that's the year what I missed. So I had to go to Hawes Primary School for my first year after the eleven-plus…
So I went up to Hawes for one year and it was John Henry Steels [headteacher] and I did absolutely nothing. I went backwards in my schoolwork and spent me time going to the shop to buy his bread and his cigarettes. ‘Just pop down to shop for Mr Steels will ye Eleanor’, and all this. And I did a lot of that. And I was happy enough. But I did waste a year. My parents would not have sent me anywhere else because we couldn't afford to go anywhere. They were too busy working.
John Henry Steels, he had a slipper. It wasn't a slipper - we used to call them a pump. He kept one of them in a box. And he used to get that out if any of the lads [were naughty], and he would have a cane as well. I think if you were going to get the slipper, you would be called into the headmaster's office and it was serious and he was in a cloud of smoke in his office. I can smell it now. And if you were doing something wrong, you would have to go in there to get your punishment.
Even back then there was some children going away to school in other towns or to boarding school. But I always thought that the children who went away never actually much came back to start businesses in the Dale. If you went to Leyburn school, I can think of all our age group that have all run successful businesses in the Dale and kept the Dale going. And I worry that when we send our kids away they don’t come back to keep the businesses going. And I think if they go to school in the Dale it does tend to maybe hold them a little bit. We are probably coming to the end of the generations that want to be in the Dale and stay and open businesses and run things. You know. I don't quite know where we'll go now. Because a lot of our children are going much further afield, including me own. Richmond, Kirby Stephen, Sedbergh, they might go to Leyburn, they're just going to the four winds. And it kind of to me spoils the community in a way. I'm not saying that anybody shouldn't send the children away because everybody wants to do the best that they can for the children. But community life is never going to be the same. That's what I'm thinking.
Pictures: Eleanor Scarr pouring the milk at Bainbridge School in 1958, and below Eleanor in 2020