School’s out of this world

Former pupils and staff from St Patrick's School in Heckmondwike. From the left Molly O'Driscoll (nee Robinson), teachers Pauline Walsh, Bill Harrison and Maureen Senior, Helen Thom (nee Mawson), Valerie Atkins (nee Palethorpe) and Peter Brierley.

Former pupils and staff from St Patrick's School in Heckmondwike. From the left Molly O'Driscoll (nee Robinson), teachers Pauline Walsh, Bill Harrison and Maureen Senior, Helen Thom (nee Mawson), Valerie Atkins (nee Palethorpe) and Peter Brierley.

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Pele in the playground, astronauts in the classroom!

These were just two of the puzzling questions raised at an open evening for former pupils of St Patrick’s School in Heckmondwike.

The event was held as part of the Holy Spirit Church’s centenary preparations.

Past pupils and staff were invited to the old school in Darley Street to have a last look round before it closed its doors for the last time.

The building was last used as a school in 1968, before it moved to Bath Road and changed its name to the Holy Spirit, and it then became the RAFA Club.

However dwindling numbers forced its closure as a club last weekend, but committee members agreed to open up specially for Monday’s event.

More than 100 people packed into the building to rekindle memories and catch up with former classmates and teachers. Peter Moreland, who is heading next year’s centenary celebrations which include a book, said it had been a phenomenal success.

“People looked at the old school registers and the old photographs we have already amassed,” he said.

“They brought along even more pictures and other memorabilia. One interesting item was a First Communion certificate given to Teresa Sheard in 1905. This is the oldest piece of memorabilia we have and the only thing which actually says St Patrick’s Church – further evidence that the school was also used as a church, before the Holy Spirit Church was built.”

Also on display were items relating to the Holy Spirit founder Father John O’Connor who was a great friend of the author G K Chesterton, and Father Paddy Roche, chaplain to the Ryder Cup golfers, and friend of Bing Crosby and the Apollo astronauts. The schoolchildren even wrote their own prayer wishing the astronauts luck on their lunar voyage.

“What is particularly interesting is someone suggested that Father Roche once brought two of the astronauts to the school along with a piece of moon rock and their Snoopy mascot,” said Peter.

“And someone else said they had heard the Brazilian footballer Pele played football in the playground while on a visit to Mileta back in the 1960s.

“It would be very interesting to know if either of these are true.”

Anyone with information can contact Peter on 01924 501774 or email petermoreland@hotmail.com.