Narvel Annable 




Heanor Schooldays

This book deals with the last hundred years but majors on the author's personal experience of the 1950's and 1960's in which he recreates the optimistic social atmosphere of teenagers enjoying the popular culture of the day. You will also gain insights into the gritty, unpretentious, honest character of Heanor folk.

It is a graphic, colourful and emotional journey from the depths of despair to the heights of happiness. Along the way, Narvel Annable honours the memory of teachers, headmasters and headmistresses who have shaped the lives of countless Heanorians. Disquiet is expressed, as discredited modern teaching methods are contrasted to the successful tried and trusted methods of past years.

Forty-five photographs and fifteen documents will rekindle memories. The work is supported by a foreword from His Honour Judge Keith Matthewman QC and contains first-hand accounts from many contributors, including the one-time local lad, The Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke QC, MP, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1993 to 1997. 205 pages.

"I was enthralled. A cracking collection of tales."
John Holmes, BBC Radio Derby

On an iron cold grey day in December 1963, I was trying to hitch a lift southbound on Telegraph Road, Dearborn, Michigan USA. Eventually a large white Chevrolet Impala smoothly floated to my side. The driver took an interest in the English teenager with his thick Derbyshire accent. This man told me that he was a doctor. I was impressed. Some time later I found out that this was not true. His real profession was that of a teacher at the local High School.

Here is a paradox. Yes, I was impressed to meet a respected doctor. A prestigious job with a high salary. But if he had told me the simple truth of being a teacher, he would have gained even more esteem and kudos from the young passenger who dreamed of one day becoming a schoolmaster.

A fascination of teachers and education led me to enter the profession. Even now after retirement, that same drive has caused me to go back through my own schooldays analysing and examining the experiences and relationships of 40 years back. Education today is the subject of much heated political debate and it is to be hoped that this book will generate some local interest in Heanor.

This is a sequel to my first book - Miss Calder's Children - A Social History of Belper, Biography and Critique on Modern Education, ISBN 0 9530419 0 5. 'Heanor' will follow a similar format to 'Calder', in that some of the critique will be duplicated where appropriate; most chapters tracing the experiences of myself and contemporaries, and the early chapters going back to previous decades as much as living memory will allow. Like the first, this book reflects a desire to recapture a world I once knew and loved, with values which now sometimes seem long lost. We of a certain age have seen a half century of change, not all of which is for the better. The decline of respect for adults and authority is set out and documented in these pages.

For the most part, the following is a history of two schools -
Mundy Street Church of England Boys School (1891 to 1958) and Loscoe Road School, which eventually became William Howitt Secondary Modern (1915 to 1960).

My personal experience of these two schools is just a five year span, but from the boyish age of ten years up to the adolescent manly achievement of fifteen years is a huge leap. It seemed like a great age of time, encompassing a journey from the depths of despair to the heights of blissful happiness. Most of the period from September 1958 to July 1960 were the best days of my life, completely unequalled since. These extreme emotions were generated by the violent contrasts of the two very different schools and the sensitivities of childhood.

To me, Mundy Street Boys School was claustrophobic, hateful, cruel, ugly, dark and despairing; whilst William Howitt Secondary Modern School was open, sunny, kind, loving, leafy green and hopeful. In the Howitt days I jumped out of bed in the morning, eager to taste life and cycle to school. At Mundy Street Boys School it was as Shakespeare said in "As You Like It" -
".....the whining school boy....creeping like snail, unwillingly to school."
Every day at Mundy Street was very much a case of the 'Monday morning' blues.

In exploring these two schools I will frequently refer to a third, the large comprehensive where I taught history for the last part of my career (1978 to 1995) at the sharp edge of the chalk face. Contrasting the standards, practices, atmosphere and perspectives of both pupil and teacher in the 1950's and 1990's, on both sides of the Atlantic, should make for interesting reading. As a teacher I carried within myself the idealised models of best practice in the form of - Miss Florence Calder, Mr Peter Crofts, Mr Leonard Smith, Miss Mary McLening, Mr Maurice Brentnall, Mrs Doris Cook and Mrs Maud Buxcey. This book will express a deep sense of disquiet in examining the ever creeping poison of progressive child-centred practice which has undermined the high standards of these excellent teachers.

The story of my comprehensive school is typical of many since the 1960's. The name and town will not be disclosed since this is not a criticism of a school, but rather a 'school of thought'. After seventeen years of service, I have respect and affection for some of my conscientious ex-colleagues and would not wish to hurt them with the expression of sharp philosophical differences.

The Howitt days are remembered with affection by most of its pupils as will be amply demonstrated here in the following pages, and by the annual reunions kindly organised by Brian Brailsford. It was a magical time of youthful hope and happiness reflected by constant cheer and laughter. The school gates will not limit the depth of this book. I hope to recreate the optimistic social atmosphere of teenagers taking their leisure, enjoying the popular culture of the day, and for the record, to explore the gritty, unpretentious, honest character of Heanor folk.

The scope of this work will also attempt to include a wider history of the two Heanor schools well before my time, and also after, up to the present day. I am grateful to a number of elderly Heanorians who have given evidence, and shared their anecdotes and experiences to be preserved in the following pages. It has been important to talk to them before it is too late and thus gives this work the authenticity of primary evidence.

Articles in the local press together with a BBC Radio Derby interview have produced a reasonable response from former pupils who came forward with a mixture of memories of life in Heanor, in and out of school. I apologise to those people (of which there must be many) who have been unable to furnish information, because they could not be contacted personally and were never reached by the media or word of mouth.

The following has been verified as far as time and money will allow, but the story of Heanor Schooldays, inevitably will remain incomplete. Even now after publication, I invite readers to contact me with further information or clarifications they may wish to offer, and could be useful in a second edition. I shall be pleased to hear from you.

Contributors to this work have expressed a wide variety of views about the social apartheid created by the 11+ Exam, and this has given me an opportunity to look at the Heanor Grammar School which has its own proud and interesting history.


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Coming out later this year

Sea Change

Secret Summer

Scruffy Chicken

Lost Lad

A Judge Too Far

Death on the Derwent


Heanor Schooldays

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