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News > 35 Years of Co-education > Co-Education Memories from Allister Fugill, OH 1973-1980

Co-Education Memories from Allister Fugill, OH 1973-1980

There’s a Girl in the School!

Maybe we all eventually get to the age where we can remember 50 years ago in glorious technicolour, but can go to the kitchen, and before we get there forget what it was we went to get! But I remember the first few days at Hymers College in September 1973 like it was yesterday, when I turned up that first morning to join the throng of new arrivals at the E Block doors wearing my brand-new uniform and school cap (which, to be honest, I don’t think I ever wore again). Then being sorted by the equivalent of the Hogwarts sorting hat, to then be marched upstairs as the freshly minted Form 1B. It all felt like another world to a kid from Wyke Junior School who had squeezed past the entrance exam by the skin of his teeth!

The school was steeped in history even 50 years ago. Grand oil paintings hung on the walls alongside lists of old boys lost to wars. Classrooms were filled with old wooden desks that had holes for traditional inkwells and bore the names of previous generations of boys carved into the wood. Masters robed in traditional black gowns glided through the hallways and up and down stone staircases polished by thousands of pairs of shoes. And in lessons, they had an uncanny accuracy with chalk, flung at boys who should have been listening not talking. And if you were unlucky, you would get the board rubber thrown at you and not just a stick of chalk!

Not many would consider their school days to be the best days of their lives, and there were plenty of difficult times for sure, but I’m still grateful for my years at Hymers. Thankful for the life choices it opened up for me, and for the sense of value and purpose with which I left.

But what seemed other-worldly during those first days at the school, soon became the norm in a life filled with the normal stuff of education. Until, there was a rumour that there was a girl in the school. Apparently in the Sixth Form!

As a kid in the lower years, I never really understood what the Sixth Form was all about. The point of prefects as they were called seemed mainly to be about a black-coated mafia who kept the dinner line orderly and handed out lines!

But it was in the Sixth Form that girls first started to appear.

They were a bit of a mystery in more ways than one, and I cringe to say that, as a young teenager in an all-boys school, I saw them as rather worrying. My only experience of the fairer sex at school back then were the dinner ladies. They were nice folk, but it wasn’t a lot to go on!

But when we entered the Sixth Form ourselves in 1978, we were joined by two lovely young ladies, Jenny Friend, OH 1978-80 and Susan Latimer, OH 1978-80.  Both had sibling links to the school and their presence among us was quite transformative. Gruff, loutish, testosterone-loaded lads found that they had a remarkably polite and considerate side to them, and several discovered deodorant!

At the time, I thought: well, look at that, girls can be useful after all! I must add, that being married to the most wonderful lady for the last 33 years, I’ve long since realised that most of us guys are pretty useless without them!

Jenny and Susan quickly became part of our close-knit school lives, and I think we were all better for having them there. Perhaps they made the spaces we occupied a little less competitive, and a little softer and more thoughtful instead.

That was all a long time ago now, but because we were in the Hull area recently, me and a friend from those years attended the 35-year anniversary of when Hymers College became fully co-educational. It was a great afternoon, and amazing to see how much change has come in 50 years. And I’ve no doubt that, for those who studied at the school from the 90s onwards when girls were fully integrated into the community, Hymers would have become a gentler, fuller, more inclusive, and well-rounded school. It’s still steeped in history, but I doubt even the teachers from my era would have felt comfortable chucking a board rubber at a girl, so perhaps the place has become that little bit safer, too!

Allister Fugill, OH 1973-1980

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