Post Memories: Former pupil looks back as school prepares to celebrate 100 years

Heather Boorman, Shirley Barlel and
Joyce Petchey

Heather Boorman, Shirley Barlel and Joyce Petchey - Credit: Archant

Earlier this summer three ladies made a nostalgic visit to Ripple Primary School in Suffolk Road, Barking, where they were pupils more than 60 years ago.

Heather Boorman, Shirley Barlel and
Joyce Petchey

Heather Boorman, Shirley Barlel and Joyce Petchey - Credit: Archant

Joyce Petchey, 91, Shirley Barlex, 84, and Heather Boorman, 86, were invited to take a tour of the school and meet present pupils as Ripple prepares to mark its centenary in September.

“The place hadn’t changed much at all,” said one of the pensioners, Joyce Petchey, who went to the school between 1931 and 1933. “The fire places which were used to heat up the school in the winter, were even still there and the old school bell. Though neither are used any more. The other main difference was that girls and boys are in classes together”

Joyce, of Upney Road, Barking, has fond memories of her time at the school, especially of the teachers.

“They were very good,” she said. “There was my headmistress Miss Harrison. She was lovely. When I left she said I should remember that there are three things that never come back: The sped arrow, the spoken word and the neglected opportunity. That saying has helped me through my life.

“Other teachers I remember was Miss Meek. We all thought she was having a liaison with Mr Spooner. My last teacher was Mr Ryan. He was very strict but good.”

“My mother was actually a supply teacher there. She had been a permanent teacher but in those days you if you were a woman and got married you couldn’t carry on in that role.”

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One of Joyce’s favourite tasks at school, which opened in 1913, was polishing the brass ink wells. “On one Friday every month we were asked to bring in some polish, like Brasso, and polish them up”, she explained. “We used to have a competition to see who could make theirs the brightest. I never managed it unfortunately.”

Another strong memory for the retired teacher is the annual Cambridge and Oxford Boat Race. “We didn’t really know what it was all about, but you would always choose a side to support. We’d buy these little celluloid dolls, in either pale or dark blue to represent the teams, from a little shop nearby.”

In 1931 children at Ripple and neighbouring schools got the chance to see Prince George, the present Queen’s uncle, as he paid a visit to Barking.

“Barking had received its charter to become an Essex borough and we watched Prince George plant a tree as part of the celebrations,” said Joyce. “I remember we were all given a bun to eat and a medal. I’ve still got my medal.”

After passing her 11 plus exams Joyce went on to Barking Abbey secondary school, but returned to Ripple during the war when it was used as a an air-raid shelter.

Asked what questions the pupils had prepared during her recent visit, she replied: “They asked us about homework and school uniform and were quite shocked when we said we had neither when we were at school.”

During their tour of the building, Joyce spotted an honours board, featuring the name of a former classmate. “It said Doris Robins, who I remember well. She moved to Rhodesia I recall. It was a nice to see her name displayed after all these years.”

On September 19 the school is holding a celebratory event to mark the centenary. It is keen for as many past pupils and staff to attend and is urging anyone interested to get in touch. To book your place or for more information call Mary Steel on 07792319704 or 020 8270 4670 extension 204 or email