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When Mrs Hallard handed over class to artist son Nigel

By john workman  |  Posted: July 17, 2013

Nigel Hallard leads the lesson while his mother looks on.

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NOTHING brings back a flood of warm memories more reliably than an old school photograph.

And we’re pretty confident that a fair few of our readers with Great Bridge roots will be cheered by these.

 They come to us courtesty of regular correspondent, local historian Terry Price, who must by now be familiar with every aspect of life in West Bromwich and its outlying areas after devoting years to documenting its people and places in his popular photo books.

 The pictures were taken at Fisher Street School in Great Bridge in the mid-nineteen fifties, and all feature one teacher in particular, Mrs Rita Hallard.

 Rita, who sadly died just a few short years ago in her nineties, began teaching at the school around 1955, some years after Terry had been a pupil there himself, and she remained there until the school was closed in 1969.

 “ She became a good friend later,” Terry told the Bugle, “and was especially good at providing names for photographs for the books I’ve done, particularly the Great Bridge ones.

 There must be thousands of people who remember her.” Amongst those who almost certainly will recall Mrs Hallard are the boys and girls, probably around seven or eight years old, who are shown in class with what appear to be coloured wooden blocks. Were they learning arithmetic, perhaps? Note the painted brick walls and large cast iron radiators; as well as the rolling blackboard at left.

 The staff photograph was taken, it’s thought, in 1956, and Rita provided Terry with all the names some years ago. They were, from left in the back row: Brenda Hornby, Elizabeth Ingram, Frank Wootton, June Harper, ___ Cutler.

 Front row: Rita Hallard, Margaret Jones, Monica Richards, Bertha Griffiths and Eileen Edwards.

 Painting The third picture dates from a few years later, probably 1966, and while you can see Mrs Hallard at the back of the picture standing against the wall, the children’s attention is actually focussed on her son, Nigel.

 Nigel Hallard was, and still is, an artist, and on this day he was in school to give the children a Rolf Harris-style art lesson — working very quickly and on a grand scale, slapping the paint on in broad strokes with a decorating brush to creat a bold landscape.

 You can see by their faces how captivated the class were. Were you one of them, and do you remember Nigel Hallard’s art lessons? “Nigel became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Artists,” Terry told us.

 “And I remember Rita telling me that he was born in Bangalore, India.

 The family moved to West Bromwich when he was about five years old.” For well over forty years, Nigel has been based in Cornwall, having his own studio and gallery in the fishing village of Moushole. His works have been exhibited and sold all over the world, and former Prime Minister John Major is one of many proud owners of a Hallard original.

 Terry is able to name a few faces on the picture; teacher Bertha Griffiths is right at the back by the cupboards, headmistress Monica Richards is sitting down just in front of her, and the girl second from left in the front row is Tracey Brazier.

 Staying with Fisher Street School but winding the clock back to 1949, we come to our final photograph, which again features Bertha Griffiths, with a group of girl pupils on a trip to Llandudno on the Welsh coast. We have no names, but would love to hear from anyone who could help us out.

    Are you one of the pupils featured in these pictures, and do you remember Mrs Hallard, Mrs Griffiths, or have any memories of Fisher Street School? Give us a call, write in, or email gjones@blackcountrybu gle.co.uk.

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