Review of ‘The Spirit of North Road School Fairfield’, by David Owen

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 11th September 2006, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

THE SPIRIT OF NORTH ROAD SCHOOL FAIRFIELD

With his diligent interest in recording the history of his home village of Fairfield, it was almost inevitable that David Owen would eventually turn to the story of his old school. In the beginning, he writes, there was an educational endowment made under the terms of a will of 1662, although the story really gets under way in the 1880s. This was a period when social conditions were locally very poor and school attendances were hit by epidemics, truancy, appalling winter weather, and probably child cruelty.

Many readers will relate to schooldays of the more recent past as they turn to David's experiences at North Road School from 1968 - 1972. He recalls a succession of variously respected and terrifying teachers, one of whom bellowed at 7-year-old David at their first meeting: 'I didn't like your father, Owen, and I don't think that I am going to like you.'

In the hands of most teachers, the cane was far more impartial than words, until the advent of a more liberal headmaster who favoured the slipper. One or other weapon will have left its mark on quite a few of today's parents and grandparents. Many will recognise descriptions of classrooms with cast-iron radiators and lines of desks furnished with inkpots, and dipstick pens with metal nibs. Some may share memories of buying a weekly National Savings Stamp; school dinners and puddings with pink custard; and lollipop ladies armed with an ambiguous 'Stop Children' sign.

David mentions dozens of former pupils by name, along with parents, staff and dinner ladies. He reels off the titles of rival gangs and the games they played (for years one boy pretended to be a Bristol bus) and dares to name the girl who gave him his first kiss.

The Spirit of North Road School Fairfield is obviously a real nostalgia trip for anyone connected with the school but is sure to strike a chord with a whole generation. Priced £6 the book is available from Best Sellers in Bridge Street, Buxton. Monies raised from sales are to be shared between Fairfield Endowed Junior School and the Fairfield Endowed School Trust.

Review by Julie Bunting


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