The start of a
and the Second World War
Our family doctor, Dr Stanley Wood, was a good friend to us
all, he had cared for our health over many years, from minor
ailments to operations. He took an interest in the furniture
that I was making. On one of his visits he chatted to me about
my future and his concern for my health. He recommended that
I should seriously consider another career.
I was trained in 'arts and crafts' I was a highly qualified
designer and cabinet maker. Some of my work had been photographed
and written about for the magazine 'Cabinet Maker'. I had taught
students at Art School - but work was not easy to find. So when
a friend told me that Burnley Education Committee was looking
for someone to teach woodwork in one of its schools, I decided
to apply for the post.
Austin Tourer 1926
My first day as a probationary-teacher I arrived wearing a
professional looking suit - black jacket, striped trousers and
a bowler hat. I pulled up outside the school in my highly polished,
black, Austin 1926 model tourer. There was no difficulty in parking,
which I did find surprising at the time even though I was fifteen
minutes early; the fact was I was the only member of staff who
owned a motor car.
Unfortunately, my new colleagues thought I was just
trying to impress them, but my mode of attire was not of my choosing,
especially for doing woodwork and as for the car I thought most
school teachers had cars, after all, they were much respected
citizens and naturally I thought that schoolteachers must have
the best of everything. I was to discover that this was not the
I received a further shock at my first midmorning break.
I was about to enter the staff-room only to be told that handicraft
teachers were not welcomed in the staff-room amongst the academics.
Surprisingly I was not annoyed by this situation I infact found
it amusing and set about to earn the respect Of my 'academic'
colleagues. Such was the strength of my desire to be a successful
teacher, I did not want to annoy my fellow teachers on my first
day at work and as I saw teaching as my vocation - I was prepared
to do whatever was necessary even if it meant more studying.
I wanted to educate my pupils in the fullest sense of the word
'educate', I did not see my job as training the boys to become
carpenters or joiners or cabinet makers, but to teach them how
to live, how to be good citizens and how to appreciate their
I gained a full teacher's diploma and as a member of the Institute
of Handicraft Teachers, I was advised to take its diploma which
was recognised as an equivalent to a BA or BSc. My classroom
(workshop) became noted for its industry and the quality of the
work produced by the pupils. Not only was the boys' work good,
but so was their behaviour. The room itself had an appearance
of neatness and orderliness. I spent many hours preparing all
charts and other visual aids which were there for the pupils
to refer to in their thirst for knowledge.
Handicraft Teachers at Townley,
It did not take long for me to earn the respect of my pupils
and the friendship of my colleagues. I was accepted as a full
members of the school staff. As a newly appointed teacher I had
visits from His Majesty's Inspectors. I welcomed them into my
classroom where they seemed to look on me as different from the
general woodwork' teacher.
For many years 'woodwork' teachers had been regarded as glorified
joiners, but I put paid to this myth. The task was not easy,
there was no electricity, the equipment was poor but improvements
were on the way. When electricity was installed toward the end
of the 1930's it provided the means to introduce new ideas in
the classroom, ideas which had been in my mind for sometime.
But the second world war was about to force many changes upon
People from all walks of life were being called to serve in
the war effort. Young teachers were enlisted and retired teachers
were invited to return to the classroom. Work in the Handicraft
Departments was threatened with the shortage of materials. I
decided to spend more time in teaching technical drawing and
the history of crafts and whenever possible to use films to help
I introduced a number of projects which kept the practical
side of 'Woodwork' very much alive. The first was a 'Toy Project'.
Toys were in short supply, so, with the help of my pupils, broken
toys were collected and repaired; scrap pieces of wood were found
and I helped the boys to make 'Victorian' toys - a donkey up
a stick, toppling clowns, pecking hens and 'Rizo the Acrobat'.
For the girls, the boys made dolls and puppets. They modelled
the heads in plasticine and covered them with papier mache. During
the term, in which the Toy Project was run, hundreds of papier
mache heads were made, painted and fastened on to the glove bodies
which were made out of scrap materials.
Several years after the 'Toy Project', one of the 'old
boys', on leave from the army visited the school. He told the
class of his hobby of puppet-making. In his spare time he had
given puppet-shows at his Army Camp and he planned to become
a regular 'Punch and Judy man' to raise money for charities.
When 'Spitfire Week' came, the workshop became an aircraft
hangar, there were Spitfires on every bench top, from as small
as a three inch wing span up to five feet. The largest Spitfire
was paraded through the streets of the tow. piloted by Albert
Pearce a young pupil from Coal Clough Infants' School. A Scout
band led the parade and the people lining the streets, dropped
their coins into the collecting boxes or threw the. into the
open cockpit of the model Spitfire.
Fund raising during the war years was an important activity
for almost everyone in the town. For 'Battleship Week' I obtained
photographs of battleships and from these the boys prepared drawings,
collected the materials they needed and set to work to make miniature
battleships. Some were five feet long and became the central
feature in shop-window displays.
After battleships and Spitfires came rifles. When the Local
Defence Volunteers was formed in the town, the men had no uniforms,
no weapons - no rifles to drill with. It seemed that the has
t thing they could use would be broom handles. So I borrowed
a Lee Enfield service rifle, took it to school, the boys measured
it, drew it and finally made plywood patterns.
Then the boys set to work and made dozens of wooden rifles.
Now the men in the LDV drilled with something that looked like
the real thing. The boys were a little reluctant to part with
the products of their labour so I struck a bargain with them;
after they had completed the 'rifle project'- for the Defence
Volunteers, they could make rifles for themselves.
It was always a mystery where all the timber to make
these model battleships, Spitfires and rifles - had come from.
But, old furniture, floorboards, fencing, and shed doors suddenly
Disappeared when Mr Hanna's classes were involved in projects'.
Further enterprise was shown when I turned a Geography lesson,
on 'map-study', into producing contour maps for the Home Guard.
The boy. collected all the cardboard they could find and traced
the contour lines from a 'master' map on to the cardboard. They
cut out the shapes and slowly built up a relief map of the area.
To give the maps shape some were covered with papier mache and
others with plaster of paris .
The whole area of Pendle Hill was modelled and it became a
most useful relief map, at HQ on which troop manoeuvres were
plotted during 'battle exercises'.