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Memories of Eglinton Road School 1943-1949

and the area and life in that era.

by Roy Earnshaw

VE Day Party, Donaldson Road, Shooters Hill
VE Day Celebration, Donaldson Road, Shooters Hill, Woolwich.
I am on the first bench from the left fourth from the front, that is the left hand side of the bench nearest the edge of the photo. My brother Eric is on my right hand side and next to him Peter Gale and his brother Derek. Opposite Derek on the same bench is Keven Walker and 3 along from his right is Howard James. My parents are amongst the adults and this photo is i think typical of street photos depicting a war weary nation especially the adults.

I was born in a nursing home at Blackheath and lived in Donaldson Road, Shooters Hill. Incidentally I was only recently informed that Shooters Hill was so named because Archers trained there in days of yore. My first day at school I particularly remember because I was feeling very insecure and during a break my elder brother Eric, who was in his last year at the school, sought me out to check that I was alright and cheer me up a bit.

The strongest recollections I have though were the time spent in Miss Fisher's class. She was a very strict no nonsense lady and I don't ever remember anyone stepping out of line. There were about 34 in the class and I believe something like 30 of us passed the 11 plus exam which is some testament to her teaching ability. Miss Richards was the headmistress during my time .

Eglinton Road School - Nativity play 1948 Photo: Roy Earnshaw
(Click on photo for a larger view)

L to R:Alan B?, John Tunstall, Roy Earnshaw, Pat Dillon
Note: I did not perform in the play but stood in for the "real" King for the photograph as he was absent, sick.

Playtime of course was spent playing football and cricket in the playground and I particularly remember one lad bringing three stumps in a wooden block as a wicket which was some advance on the usual wicket using chalk on a brick wall. We also had very occasional school trips after the war and I remember a day out to London and also a local visit to Eltham to a horticultural centre . In my later stages at the School in about 1949 I ran in the Woolwich Schools District sports held at the Royal Academy Ground and finished second in the 10-11 age group in the 100 yards

We children were all from working class families and initially the war was still on and the early years after the war were still very lean times. Ration books still dominated shopping and my parents kept chickens and rabbits to supplement our food supply. We also benefited from the occasional food parcel from an aunt living in Canada and as children we were told about exotic fruit such as bananas and could only wonder what the taste would be like.

We also had an air raid shelter in the back garden known as a Morrison shelter I think but many of these became water logged and I remember in the middle of the night going to the dry shelter of a neighbour. Later in the war we were supplied with an indoor one called I believe an Anderson shelter which we had installed in the living room. We were very lucky that we were never bombed out of our house but Doodle Bugs came very close and I also remember a Barrage Balloon called Maggie getting loose from her moorings.

I saw my first professional football match during the war, aged about aged five I was taken to the Valley by my father and brother to see Charlton Athletic. For me it was the beginning of a love affair with the "Addicks" which lasts to this day and although I have long since left Shooters Hill, since retirement I am now able to attend home games on a regular basis. Crowds were vast all over the land in those days as very little other entertainment existed. We always walked over Woolwich Common to the Ground although sometimes Dad's shoulders carried me along.

Shrewsbury park, WoolwichSport dominated many lives and we were fortunate to have Shrewsbury Park not that far away and played there for hours and hours. The Shrewsbury Park area was also memorable to me for another reason. The first bike I ever had was a very old secondhand bone shaker which my Dad renovated for me, but I was forbidden to ride it until the brakes were fixed. However when my dad was at work I could wait no longer to use it and went up to the Shrewsbury Park flat area with a friend to try it out with the intention of getting off and walking down the very hilly part back home. However my judgement was faulty and I before I could dismount I had gathered too much pace and was soon speeding down Eglinton Hill. I knew at the bottom it was crossed by Herbert Road and its traffic. On the way down a lady stepped off the kerb to cross the road and I managed to swerve a bit and avoid her calling out an apology as I sped by. Fortunately the traffic along Herbert Road in those days was very much quieter than by modern day standards and I shot across unscathed gradually slowing down near a Convent school I think. I did not remain unscathed when my Dad found out though.

Our house also backed onto Shooters Hill Grammar School and playing fields which was a regular illegal playground for nearby children. We were often chased off by the school keeper and his Alsatian dog but always lived to tell the tale. Saturday morning pictures was hugely popular and I used to go to the Granada Woolwich which would be packed out with children watching Cowboys and Indians with much cheering and booing. Powis Street, Woolwich was the main shopping area plus Beresford St market. But daily shopping, no refrigerators or freezers in those days, was carried out in Herbert Road.

Another source of entertainment, although very modest by today's standards, was a trip on the Woolwich Free Ferry and to marvel at the workings of the big engines. It was all pretty simple stuff but we were also fortunate to have several other parks and woods as nearby playgrounds.

The Bull Hotel, Shooters Hill, c.1950Many things of course about those days are long forgotten but very few of us, if any would ever have imagined what our lives would be like in the 21 first century. Thank you for reading my recollections and I very much look forward to reading those of others to rekindle the past.

Nov 2006

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