For anyone who has attended school, there are usually one or two teachers you remember forever. The person who I remember with the most fondness was Mr Jurd.
He taught at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School, Witney and retired the year I left the school, 1986. When I was there he taught the class that would now be known as Y4 or Y5 but of course it was just Mr Jurd’s Class then.
The school had five classrooms. Two near the front entrance, which were the infants (Y1 & Y2); one at the front and side; then the big hall; then two more at the back, which due to the layout of the grounds were half a dozen steps up from the infant classrooms.
At that time, you started aged 5 and spent six years in primary school. Because there were five classes, you’d spend two years in one of them. Most people spent their extra year in either the Y3/Y4 class, Y4/Y5 class or Y5/Y6 class (for want of a better naming system) but due to my idiosyncracies, I spent three years in the ‘infants’ and then only one year in the other three classes.
My family moved to Witney before I was born. My sister was two, so it was almost four years before I arrived. My brothers were six, eight and nine. Coming from a Catholic family, Our Lady of Lourdes was the school of choice for my family. Catchments and places weren’t so much of a minefield then so the fact that we lived on the other side of town from the school wasn’t an issue. It was the Catholic primary, so that’s where we went.
Because of this, Mr Jurd had taught all of my siblings before me. My sister was in Y6 when I was in Y1 so by the time I got to his class it had been five years since he taught any of my siblings and yet he would always pretend to confuse me with them. Sometimes he’d pretend my name was Peter-Matthew-James-Bridget-Anne-Marie very fast; other times he’d go through the names from eldest until he got to me. Peter? No? Matthew, then?
I was a terminally shy child and he bought out the best in me. He was the person who told my parents to get my eyesight checked: I’ve worn glasses since then (aged nine). He made everything into games: the class was split into tables of four and he timed each table at the end of every day to see who was fastest to get their coats and outdoor shoes and put the chairs on the tables. It probably wasn’t every day, but it is in my memory.
And he read to the class. He read us Narnia; and The Demon Headmaster; he read us The Ordinary Princess; and Mole’s Castle. He read us tales of witches and fantasy that I don’t remember the names of the books anymore, but I remember the stories. It seemed like he read to us constantly, although I suspect it was once a day. Story times were the best; he’d tell us all to sit on our posteriors and give him our undivided attention. We were nine and ten year olds and he used real words with us. He was wonderful.
He retired in 1986, the year I left the school, one year after he’d been my teacher. Eighteen months later, I found out via a friend that he died of a heart attack. I don’t know how old he was, but presumably in his 60′s. I know nothing about him but my memories, I have no school photos from then. Searching online I found just his name and year of death: Edward Albert Jurd, 1987. You were appreciated more than you’ll ever know.