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Madam Chairman, Old Scholars and friends,

Maeve Hird delivering her 2005 Presidential AddressWhen I was first asked to be President of the Old Scholars’ Association I was very much surprised and privileged. The first question to myself was why?

Since accepting and now arriving at the terrifying bit which is the address which all old scholars will read, I am beginning to wonder why I did accept. It’s one thing standing in front of a class of children, it’s another talking to people I have heard of and known and those who have had such a great impact on my life.

The first thing I did was look through all the past Presidential addresses in the Old Scholars handbooks. That made me even more terrified! People know so much, don’t they, and everyone has talked about their time at Ayton and people they have known.

Well I suppose I'm not going to do anything different. It’s some of these people I want to talk about today and the impact they have had on my life only, I'm going to start from the very beginning! Yes, many years ago, I can hear some of you say!

I was born in Northallerton in February 1952 (yes I'm that old!). My brother, who didn't come to Ayton but went to Northallerton Grammar School, was born eighteen months before me. He was always the clever one!

I went to nursery school when I was about three years old, but not for long. I was expelled! Miss Peacock, the teacher and I didn't’t agree on the layout of the classroom and so I moved all the furniture . She suggested to my mother that I came back when I was older! The interesting thing was she always charged more for boys because they were more trouble!

I started piano lessons when I was four . Music ran through the family . My father was particularly musical and my mum could sing although she never learnt to play an instrument.

Maeve Hird receiving her AOSA Presidential Badge of Office from Robert CampbellI started Primary School the year in which I was five. We could walk to our local school. There were no lollipop people to see you safely across the road and parents in those days didn't take you and then stop for a good old natter and gossip at the school gate. In fact, I don’t think parents were ever welcomed into school. They were only called in if you were naughty!

My first day was a disaster . I took the teacher some flowers. She told me to put them in a jam jar with water. I dropped the jam jar, cut my finger and she smacked me!

I think it was maybe this that really decided me that I wanted to teach. Never would a child I taught suffer like I did that day!

From then on my primary education was non-eventful, apart from the usual Christmas Nativity, and I was never picked as Mary, always a sheep, donkey or a shepherd. Sports Days came every year and I always seemed to come last in all races, although I was just a bit better at the egg and spoon than the flat races.

The 11+ was around in those days, and this was bad news for me. I worked hard but found exams a problem . My concentration was limited and an exam was not going to do anything for me at all . I passed the first half, which was a shock to me and probably to many other people! The second half was a different matter. I can remember running out of the exam and saying to my mother ‘Easy. It was really easy’ and her reply as she looked at me was, ‘No exam is easy, Maeve.’ Yes, you can guess, can’t you - I failed!

Transfer of Presidency, Robert Campbell to Maeve Hird, sealed with a kiss. My parents were particularly concerned that both my brother and I should have a good education. They had, and so they believed their children should also have that opportunity. When you are young you never see that but I am now grateful for their foresight and the encouragement and support that they have always given me. If it hadn't been for that support I would not be here today standing in front of you all.

At that time in Northallerton it was either the Grammar school or the Secondary Modern . The Grammar was out for me and the Secondary Modern didn't do what were then known as O levels. I can remember my parents asking me if I’d like to go away to school .

No hesitation, I said ‘Yes’. I was basing everything on my reading of the Famous Five, Secret Seven etc. Midnight feasts and adventures would occur all the time .

What more could I want? I had to sit the entrance exam, which I have to say I don’t remember much about, but I was accepted so I can’t have been that bad!

I had no idea, at this time, what my parents were going without in order to give me this privileged education, because that is what it was . All the people who have had the opportunity to attend Ayton School are both lucky and privileged. From my first day at Ayton I loved it. Yes there were things I didn’t like (games on cold days, slave drives every Sunday afternoon, some of the food, especially fried eggs that seemed to be made of rubber. You could nearly jump up and down on them!) But it’s funny how those memories stay with us .

Staff at Ayton cared about people. We were made to feel important and valued. What I did was acknowledged . What I was good at was nurtured, hence my music. There was time to think and develop, become your own person with your own views.

There were rules to be followed as there has to be in life. Some passed me by at times . There was a rule that during village leave you should not eat in the street . Rules didn't always apply to me, or so I thought, until John Reader told me I had quite a pretty face except when I was trying to fill my mouth with a Mars Bar while walking down the street! I was in the school choir, but singing was not allowed during meal times, as I discovered when I was sent out of tea by Vasantraj Pande. Working in the library wasn't always accepted as a reason for not playing hockey on cold days. As my report said (written by Judith Duncan or Batman as we used to call her) ‘It would be nice if we saw a little more of Maeve!’

‘Nick’ we all remember her and how could we not? She was a very special person and when you were called in front of her in her quiet way she made you feel not exactly ashamed but humble. ‘Harry’ (Miss Harwood) - do you remember how she used to swing backwards and forwards on her toes and heels while she was giving out notices? I can also remember at one of my mock interviews prior to going to college, being told to uncross my legs as it wasn't lady like! Taffy (Mr Morgan) - he made history come to life . I was never convinced that all his stories were true but they were certainly entertaining and it was always a good day when Wales won the rugby.

John Reader, a quiet and respected man who once said to me when I had made a decision as deputy head girl and was worried about it, ‘Always do what YOU believe to be right’. I have often thought about those words especially when I was a Headteacher because with the best will in the world you can never please everyone and there are times when you do make decisions that upset people.

Mary Reader - her beautiful flower arrangements all over school that made me feel as though there was always sunshine . Dorothy Easton (Dawson as she is now) - the times we played duets and the times I practiced those scales before breakfast. The practice room was below her bedroom. Being allowed to use her music room was a privilege but the trouble was she always knew when you’d played something wrong! Mary Atkinson the art teacher who took a look at my paintings and decided I’d be better if I posed for the O level class rather than take the exam! Mind you I did make some very interesting things in pottery and my mum has them displayed in her house . According to some friends, you would pay quite a lot for them in Spain!

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