A Schoolmaster's Century

9th December 2005 at 00:00
A Schoolmaster's Century: the autobiography of Horace Walter Pooley MA, BSc, DipEd

pound;15 plus pound;1.50 pp from Antony Rowe Publishing Services, 2

Whittle Drive, Highfield Industrial Estate, Eastbourne BN23 6QH. Tel: 01323

500040.Email: customer.services@ antonyrowe.co.uk

So many books like this look as if they're going to be boring (a cover photograph of a stern man in a suit looking through a window isn't a good start). Persevere because, like this one, they're often gems of social and educational history. Pooley was a teacher and headteacher for a great swathe of the last century, and the events of his life are described in a style that tells you much about him. ("We finally settled on a Volvo 244DL automatic, a substantial car, a good safety record, resistant to rust, a capacious boot, and good quality workmanship.") He worked for a long time in Norfolk, where he was head of a small school during the fearsome winter of 1947 when his home and his school were short of fuel. "Kirman, the caretaker, had the greatest difficulty in preventing the lavatories, which were outside the school, from freezing up. Day and night, braziers were kept burning and for two or three days it seemed as if we would have to close." You didn't, though, in those days.

From Norfolk, Pooley went to Oxfordshire, where he worked as a leading head through and beyond the move to comprehensive schools, and was active in teacher politics. The book brings to life many names and memories of former colleagues, particularly in Oxfordshire.

Horace Pooley died in 1997, aged 87. His book was seen into publication by his son Andrew who adds an affectionate but honest introductory portrait of a stern family man, and also a poignant epilogue.

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