Starting Year 1928

Sylvia writes on behalf of her husband Bob Findlay


The entrance exam for grammar schools was not automatically presented to all pupils in the junior schools in his day. The parents had to put their children's names in for the exam. Consequently not all capable pupils went to the grammar schools.

Bob would probably start at the grammar school in 1928. At the time, the headmaster was Mr Walton. 

He had attended a very poor "elementary school," where the building and some of the pupils could have done with a spring clean! His first impression of the Grammar School was how clean it was! It even had a gym and workshops!

He first learned that he was colour blind when, in the art class, he amused the class by painting a dog green. He had thought it was brown.

Apparently he did very well in most subjects but particularly maths. He had had a "promise" of a place with an accountancy firm and, on matriculation, expected to transfer to an office but by this time work was hard to find, the country was in a slump, and the promise failed to materialise. Instead, he did succeed in getting work in the accounts department of Firth's, the carpet firm, where he remained until called up for the war in 1940.

Along with some others from GGS, Bob signed up for the RAF, hoping to become a pilot. Of course his colour blindness ruled that out and he was destined for ground crew. 

The RAF sent Bob to their engineering school at Blackpool. This was based in a high rise building, destined to be one of the early tower blocks. It had no lifts, which meant that the trainees had exercise every day, climbing the many stairs to the top floor.

Eventually they dispersed to various squadrons throughout the country. Bob happened to be sent to 242 Squadron, the one commanded by Douglas Bader, the "legless pilot." It was a Canadian squadron and Bob recollects going home on leave and being accused of "talking funny." This was because he had started unwittingly to copy the Canadian accent.
The squadron sailed off in a convoy, travelling to Kenya and South Africa (yes, in that order, but the final leg by train) where they had scarcely any pay due to being " in transit." Eventually they were taken to Egypt, for three years, keeping the aircraft flying on raids to Italy and beyond, until the end of the war. It transpired that they had been intended to go to Singapore but, the intervention of the Japanese caused an alteration in plans.

After the war, servicemen were given priority in colleges.

 Bob trained as a teacher, mainly in maths, and taught in Newcastle for several years before transferring to a newly built school in Gateshead, Hillhead, which, has now given way to a housing estate.

Not long ago, while travelling by taxi to a hospital appointment, Bob was asked by the driver whether he had been a teacher at Hillhead. It turned out that the driver was a former pupil and he was amazed to find Bob still alive! Not only that, but the driver himself had retired from his previous work! 

If, by chance, there are any of my husband's contemporaries still around and reading this, do get in touch. Bob is not on Facebook but I let him see it. 
Thank you for your patience.

Thank you, Sylvia

Bob's son Gordon has submitted the following to the GGS Facebook page

I am sorry to announce the death of former GGS pupil (my father), Bob Findlay, who died peacefully at the QE Gateshead on Sunday 28th April aged 102. He had been brought up in Bensham and, after he got married in 1955, moved to Whickham where he'd lived ever since. 
We had tried unsuccessfully to find former classmates from his era so wondered if he had been the oldest surviving former pupil of GGS (front left in b&w photo).
Robert Stanley Findlay 13/09/1916 - 28/04/2019