Bolton School Former Pupils

Rita Joyce Garthwaite

Rita Joyce Garthwaite (née Shipperbottom ) Former Pupil 1957 – 1964 and Former Girls’ Division Staff 1976 – 2006

I attended my local Primary School – Turton Methodist School in Harwood, when Harwood was just a small village. If you passed the 11+ you went to Darwen Grammar and if not you went to Turton School. However, at that time Bolton had four Direct Grant Schools that you could apply to, and on the advice of my Primary School Headmaster – Mr. Alston – I applied to Bolton School as my first choice. I was awarded a free place. No other member of my family had attended Bolton School, but in later years my daughter went right the way through from Beech House to the Upper Sixth.

So in 1957 I went to Bolton School Girls’ Division, and on leaving in 1964 I did a degree in French at Hull University, followed by a PGCE at Nottingham. My first teaching post was in Durham and then I moved on to Dalston near Carlisle. I was appointed to the staff at Bolton School to teach French in 1976 and retired in 2006.

Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at school?

As a pupil in the Girls’ Division, my greatest inspiration was Barbara Morley – my French teacher. I found French the easiest of all the subjects I did, and it was only when I got to university that I really appreciated how well we had been taught! We had always spoken the language in lessons, which was quite rare in those days – of course there were no tapes or film strips. These only ‘appeared’ when I first started teaching. We had always studied real works of literature for ‘A’ level for which I have always been grateful.

What are your fondest Bolton School memories?

Miss Higginson was Headmistress when I first came to the School as a pupil, and she taught our form English when we were in the Upper IV (Year 9). She was appalled to discover that most of us had never climbed Winter Hill – so she arranged a trip! There was neither Health nor Safety in those days of course. I think that she chose a Saturday in February, so I got the number 7 bus into Bolton and then another bus to Doffcocker (we didn’t have a car). I actually cannot remember much about this outing other than it was raining and very foggy and we got lost in the fog and extremely wet! We never found the Scotsman’s stump, which was our aim; I do not think that I have ever seen it!

My parents were always pleased that Miss Higginson treated them well at Parents’ Evenings. Later when I came to teach here Miss Higginson invited them to stay at her cottage in Muker on a couple of occasions. I think that my parents, like me, were much in awe of their surroundings in School. Many of the other parents were well known local vicars and doctors etc. whose names often appeared in the Bolton Evening News – the height of fame in our house! Miss Higginson was shocked that this was our only source of news. I remember introducing my Mum to Mrs Spurr some years later. My Mum said of me ‘She’s never been a minute’s trouble’! – which Mrs Spurr found hilarious and she would often refer to it!

I have many other memories, especially of the Moulin Exchange, and Cautley in the Lake District – no Health and Safety again, not to mention having to buy all the food at Tesco before we went to Cautley, and trying to keep the Rayburn alight. Staff in the Boys’ Division were given extra main courses and puddings made in School for their trips to Cautley, but we were women, and therefore this facility was not on offer to us – we could do all the cooking ourselves!!

In 1993, Princess Diana came to open the Arts Centre and needless to say, her visit took a lot organising. Half the School stood in the Centre Quad, and the other half looked down from the Great Hall. Diana was late and it was drizzling and so we ended up sending those who were outside in and those who were inside out! I don’t think that Princess Diana would have noticed the chaos. The little girl with a posy was also bewildered as she presented the Princess’s flowers to Mrs. Spurr!

It has been a pleasure to meet up again recently with girls from my own year group and I thank the Old Girls, and especially Carol Haslam, for organising the Reunions that has made this possible. It may also be of interest that my friend and colleague from our exchange school in Moulin, having seen the activities and events that are organised for our Old Girls and Old Boys, is encouraging their former pupils to keep in touch and support their school. I have kept in touch with many good colleagues (and pupils!) at Bolton School Girls’ Division.

What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?

The best careers advice I feel that I can give, is to be flexible and open minded and to remember that a good work-life balance is essential. Miss Higginson was always very concerned that we should give back what we had been given in our ‘goodly heritage’, which probably explains why I agreed to be a Governor at a local state Primary School in Bolton.

What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?

Bolton School has given me a tremendous amount, and as someone who benefited from a Scholarship, I support any campaign that aims to broaden access to Bolton School.

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