School celebrates its centenary

23:30, Sep 10 2012
Alan Gibbons
OLD SCHOOL DAYS: Alan Gibbons was the first pupil of 97-year-old former Redwoodtown School teacher Edith Crispin. They visit a vastly transformed Room 7 classroom leading up to the Redwoodtown School centenary this weekend.

On Friday it will be 60 years since Robert Burr, of Blenheim, stepped foot inside his first classroom at Redwoodtown School.

And what better way to celebrate the special milestone with an even bigger one - the school's 100th anniversary.

Mr Burr, who is on the organising committee for the centenary celebrations this weekend, went to the school in 1952-58.

Lining up for school assemblies before the headmaster Willy Clark, with his hands in his pocket and thumbs forever sticking out of his sports coat, and marching to class to the tune of Colonel Bogey blaring out of the loudspeaker are things Mr Burr will always remember.

Everything always seemed to be far away, including the toilets, which pupils could only use at playtime and lunch, he said.

Edith Crispin (nee Harnett), who taught at the school from 1955 to 1970, is among the throng attending this weekend's celebrations.


The 97-year-old was realistic about who she would catch up with, despite Mr Burr assuring her that she would be inundated with past pupils she had taught.

"People won't know me. They'll say, ‘who's that?' " she said.

Apart from "those rotten sports days" and getting home exhausted, the companionship of wonderful parents had been the most enjoyable thing about teaching, Mrs Crispin said. "My whole life's been dedicated to school teaching."

Mrs Crispin's position at the school involved looking after new entrants; recording their name, address and other personal details when they first arrived and then sending them on to the headmaster.

Mrs Crispin knew how to manage her pupils, but also to care for them. Though she never taught him, Mr Burr recalled her keeping dolls and underpants for girls who had just began school.

Controlling a large class such as the 52 standard one [year 3] pupils Mrs Crispin had in 1955 had been a cinch. Asked how she managed to keep control of so many students, she said: "They call me the lion tamer."

The Marlborough Express