In terms of swimming, until the school swimming pool was opened in 1914, the school swam at the open air pool in Marygate. Sidney Kemp Brown remembered the opening of the new pool. “The school of course did not wait for the official opening before starting to use the bath, and No. 12 bedroom claimed the first bathe, decidedly ‘unofficial’ and taken at dead of night while the ‘tank’ was being tested, before even the glazed lining tiles had been laid. There was of course no filtering plant; the water got steadily dirtier and biologically more interesting until it was impossible to see the bottom, and then the whole lot had to be emptied and the bath filled afresh with cold, which took several days to warm up.”
In January 2015 I did a talk as part of the Thursday lunchtime recital room series. It was entitled ‘Memories from the Archives’ and I talked about a number of memories from Old Scholars. I’ll share the photographs and text from the talk in several parts on the blog. Below is the final part of the talk. Read the previous part here. On Thursday 25th February I will be doing another talk as part of the Thursday lunchtime recital room series, see here for the full programme of talks (the talk starts at 1.05pm, entry via the front door of No.45 Bootham).
The new swimming baths, opened in 1914
Henry Kenneth Fisher was at Bootham between 1909 and 1914, and remembers the then-new swimming baths. They were opened in 1914, so it was the centenary of the baths two years ago. “Then in my last year came the cutting down of the trees to provide for the building of the long awaited swimming bath. The teams of magnificent horses that dragged away the tree were the subject of my first photographs and I still have them. What a joy that splendid new bath was after the horrors of the old open-air Marygate Baths where the water was covered with leaves, soot and algae, and the surrounding slabs were so slimy as to constitute a veritable ‘death-trap’ to the unwary.”
Moving a little further forward, Douglas Stewart Jackson, who was at Bootham between 1939 and 1943, recalled his time at school during the Second World War. He remembered that: “I don’t think life at school was affected to any great extent by the war. The school staff may have had different feelings about the situation, some were called up for service in the forces and some pupils got involved in routine jobs that could be handled safely by those with a limited knowledge of the work and necessary safety precautions. A couple of us became ‘school electricians’ and having learnt the skill required to change lightbulbs, moved on to mending fuses and attempting to find and repair the cause of the problem. I do not recall either of us receiving an electric shock, but I am sure we did many minor jobs that would have been considered far too dangerous by the modern ‘Health and Safety Executive’.” He goes on to remember the air raid on York in 1942. It happened while the school was closed for the Easter holidays, and the main damage to school buildings was the destruction of the old ‘Lodge’ (the Bootham term for the health centre) at the school end of Portland Street. Douglas says that “At about this time there was discussion regarding ways in which pupils could become involved in activities which could help the people of York to overcome some of the adverse affects of the war. This was looked upon as a Quaker equivalent to the Officer Cadet Training Corps run by most boys schools. It started off with a series of practical training classes in bricklaying, cement and concrete manufacture and on a more basic level an attempt to salvage a high proportion of the undamaged bricks on the site of the Lodge. I thoroughly enjoyed this training and I think it was some of the most useful skills learnt at Bootham.”
This has just been a few snippets from the memories of a few people about their time at Bootham, but I hope that it has given you an idea of the extra detail and insight that can be gained from people’s memories, particularly if you then integrate that with other records.
“Some of us had almost forgotten that there ever was such a thing as a bath—those of us, at least, who are beyond the region of its influence. It is a pleasure, therefore, to be reminded of that great achievement in the verses which we publish on another page. They were written in those other days of long ago when the bath was uppermost in our minds; they were of necessity omitted from the last number, because that other matter had taken hold of our minds, and the bath was forgotten, as belonging to the former era; but let us remember that every war has an end ; that no war ought to absorb us to the exclusion of every other matter ; and that the bath will still be a treasure of our School when the war is ancient history, and when we are able to look forward without the deadly oppression of the present encircling us like a nauseous London fog.”
From ‘Bootham’ magazine, March 1915. The school swimming baths had been opened in June 1914.
The official opening on 1st June 1914. Those standing at the front are (l-r): R.W. Thorp (Architect and Bootham Old Scholar, 1899-1900), Arnold S. Rowntree (Secretary of Schools Committee and Old Scholar 1883-89), Francis C. Clayton (Old Scholar 1855-58) and T. Edmund Harvey (President of OYSA and Old Scholar 1887-91).
The Bootham swimming pool will be one hundred years old on Sunday. On 1st June 1914 the new Bath was handed over by T. Edmund Harvey, President of OYSA, to the school. According to the magazine, Arnold S. Rowntree ‘was glad…to have the opportunity of embracing the bath to his bosom, and of thanking as heartily as possible all those who by their generous contributions had enabled the Association to make this noble gift to the School.’ He hoped the the bath would be of help ‘in increasing the health and vigour of all those who passed through its doors.’
To finish, here is the first verse from a poem by Alfred Morgan Hughes (Old Scholar 1905-07) about the appeal to Old Scholars. The poem is called ‘The Building of the Bath’ and it was published in ‘Bootham’ magazine in March 1915.