Memories of Malta

Submitted by: Pam Skeet (nee Cossins)

I joined the Staff at Tal-Handaq in September 1949. It was then known as the Royal Naval School and although Verdala had been opened to accommodate the Infants and Juniors, not all these classes had been absorbed, so Tal-Handaq had not only a Grammar and Modern side (the word Comprehensive was not known in those days) but four classes of Juniors and about the same of Infants - the staff consisted of Naval Instructor Officers - and locally entered teachers, many of whom were service wives.

During the war the school had been an Army Ack Ack Site and most of the ground floor windows were iron barred - all rather sinister. Very few of the buildings were two storied and there was nothing beyond where the Hall is now - just the fields and no through road. The buses all parked in what is now known as the Staff Upper Car Parking Area so the size of the school can be gauged by this fact. Some of these buses are still on the road.

Captain Miles was the Headmaster and his time was marked by the building of the present School Hall. Until then the ground floor rooms of Block 2, still separated by folding doors, accommodated all the school at assembly.

In 1950 just before Captain Miles was relieved by Commander Bellamy the present hall was completed. Soon after this the first Tal Handaq Musical Production, "The Princess Ju Ju" was produced by Mr Walker. Later, Mr Cresell produced "She Stoops to Conquer" and "The Rivals". From then on Tal Handaq continued to put on a major show annually at either Christmas or in the Spring Term. For many years it became the tradition for school and staff to take part in Gilbert & Sullivan operas - these were very successful.
I can remember the visit of the first HMI's; as there were still Junior Classes in the school it fell to my lot not only to take English in the O and A Level classes but once a week I descended to Form I Junior where I taught Geography. One day during their visit I had an inspector at my VI Form lesson in the morning and that afternoon, the same gentleman visited me in Form I. At the end, he greeted me with "Miss Yule you are a very versatile lady" - an unsolicited bit of praise I felt.

We had many more inspections while I was at the school and as Senior Mistress it was my duty to accompany the senior woman inspectress round the girls' cloakrooms, etc. To my horror I found one lady's principal interest was the length of the chains in the lavatories. By and large, I doubt if we ever found these visits too overpowering.

I cannot count the number of staff who came and went - most stayed for several tours but one domestic science teacher - came, saw she had to cook on oil stoves and requested to be released from her contract. This department had many homes and it was not until the present new block was built that they graduated to gas and electric cookers - at one time the department was housed in what is now the men's Staff Room and cooking was done on a Raeburn-type stove!

We have had pupils of all nationalities. When NATO was based in Malta we had Americans, Greeks, Turks and Italians - at one time the American element was very strong. Not only were there NATO pupils but also non-entitled ones whose fathers worked on the Libyan Oil Fields. We then had an American teacher whose special job was to teach American History and Spanish; she also had to work out the "Grades" to be sent back to the schools in the States.

I must also mention the school dinners, which for many years were provided by NAAFI. My chief memories were of often being on duty on Fridays when there was a positive rush for the fish and chips. Another speciality was a sort of jam sandwich fried in batter - a bit more substantial than the couple of prunes and custard which often appeared.

There were also the occasional "Dramatic" events. During one chemistry lesson there was a slight explosion and most of the VI Form joined in the general upheaval - but one studious type solidly went on with his work. I need not add that he is now a Research Chemist. On another occasion during a Christmas concert two very gifted boys were performing on the piano and violin - suddenly the pianist threw a faint and collapsed on the floor - the violinist went on playing. Both have taken up musical careers.

These "Random Memories" cannot close without a tribute to the industrial staff without whom the physical appearance of the school would never have been maintained. For many years they were controlled by Mr Plant, an ex-British Serviceman who went out of his way to help us all - before his retirement he was awarded the BEM. To those individuals who remain I should like on behalf of us all to wish them happiness and success in the future.

Jacquee Yule