Canes, war planes and a good sound education

Memories of regular canings, hiding in bomb shelters and inspirational teachers were resurrected during a reunion of a former Great Yarmouth school.

About 40 past pupils of Priory School gathered in the Time and Tide Museum on Friday to reminisce about their time there.

The school closed in 1959 and is now the site of the Priory Centre by St Nicholas Church.

Smiles and laughs broke out as the former pupils recognised each other after not seeing each other for many decades.

Colin Browne, who helped to set up the event, could not believe his eyes as he noticed his second world war fellow pupil Bob Wynes in the crowd.

The pair had not seen each other since the late 1940s.

Mr Browne, 73, from St Neots, Cambridgeshire, said: “Because of the war a lot of teachers were brought out of retirement.

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“They were all very, very strict. It was usually three times on the hand with a cane if you misbehaved or six if you were really bad.

“One teacher would let fly every now and then with a piece of wood he used to clean a blackboard with.

“It is fantastic to see so many old pupils here today. I never expected so many.”

Mr Wynes, 75, of Norwich, recalled who he was regularly caned for getting into fights.

He said: “It was a very good school though. I was captain of the swimming team and enjoyed my time there.”

The oldest former pupil at the reunion was 90-year-old Arthur Brough, who lives in Norwich and was a prisoner of war in the second world war.

He bought a photograph of his class from the late 1920s and remembered his headteachers were a Mr Thornton and a Mr Cox.

Looking at the photograph Mr Brough said: “I can not really remember anyone from my class. It was so long ago. I do not suppose any of them are around anymore.”

Ronald King, 78, from Gorleston, recalled how pupils had to take cover in a shelter in the school playground during air raid alerts in 1941 and 1942.

He also remembered how a nearby street was strafed by a German plane.

“We used to sing green bottles in the shelter. It was a bit terrifying at the time.

“But Priory School gave me a good education.”

Norman Balls, 68 and a retired policeman from Caister, went to the school from 1949 to 1957.

He said: “The teachers did not tolerate any messing about, they really did not. You have to remember it was the days of corporal punishment then.”

David French, 71 from Grantham, Lincolnshire, left Priory School in 1952.

Mr French was so inspired by his class teacher Peter Warner, who helped him to get into technical school, he went to be come a teacher himself.

“Everyone of those teachers at the school knew how to bring a cane down. My friend Geoff Hewitt and I sat right in front of the teachers and were always getting called out for talking.

“Schools today lack discipline and children are not given a good grounding in their education.

“Straight after registration we had to do a minute of mental arithmetic and had 60 questions on our times tables - that does not happen today.”

Yesterday’s reunion was also attended by women who went to neighbouring Priory Girl’s School.

For more photos, see this Friday’s Mercury.