In September 2021 Gillie celebrated working at Harston & Newton Primary School for 50 years and many children and parents will remember her kindness and empathy with the children over the years. She had worked for seven different headteachers and seen several generations of some families pass through the school. The school hosted a tea party to celebrate her achievement and she received letters from the Duchess of Cambridge and the director of education for Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council acknowledging her service, as well as a card from the children. She said: “I love my job and have never not wanted to come to work. I hope to continue for a few more years yet.” Sadly she died on 12 August 2022. She did however, chat to us in Nov 2015 about her early career at the school and we have included some of it below.
Gillie remembers, as she was pregnant with her son Jonathan, that Newton School was closed around 1966. After her son started at Harston School she asked the Headmaster, then Peter Shoot, if there were likely to be any General Assistant jobs and there soon was. She started in September 1971, having had to do a few weeks unpaid at the end of the summer term to learn the ‘ropes’. Peter Shoot was very strict and from his office in the middle of the Old Victorian building he would watch everyone going about their jobs in classrooms, playground and hall, making sure no-one skipped off early.
The kitchens and school hall were being built when Gillie started in 1971 but probably completed during the next year. There was very little parking then and the staff would park in the space in front of the school on the High St if there was room but once in you couldn’t get your car out till the end of the day. One day Gillie went out to find her car had been stolen from the front of the school, sadly having to admit she had left her car keys in it!
Although at one time she took on the Secretary job, she preferred and reverted to the General Assistant job. She mostly worked with Mrs Askham in the infants but also supervised lunchtimes.
Gillie has been involved for many years in helping with raising money for ‘Save the Children’ fund that the school supports and has met Princess Ann, its patron 4 times, including in 1985 when she, Mrs Askham and a pupil (in photo) presented the cheque at Jesus college.
New Headmaster, David Burroughs came around 1977/8. He started the first Parent Teachers Association (PTA) and in 1982 encouraged a school drama performance of ‘Carrots’ that many students, parents and staff took part in, Gillie as Dr Barnardo’s wife.
Gillie recalls: “When David Burroughs came he started school trips, money being paid out of PTFA funds for day outings to museums, etc. He also started educational field trips to The Broads during the October half term for the week. This involved three boats, each with seven children (mainly Year 6s) on board and one member of staff, including myself, and with an organised crew manning the boats.
When Pat Legge arrived (1984), the educational fieldtrips continued but we camped on school fields – a school in Walsingham was a great hit. One trip we had a terrific thunderstorm which was a disaster – tents leaking! We then had to retire and sleep in classrooms with blankets being borrowed from Walsingham Abbey, then waking the children early the next morning because the school had to be ready for 9 o’clock. The following year, and many years after, we resorted to Youth Hostels in Derbyshire and also Suffolk for a week at a time”.