To enter a secondary school in the fifties, pupils had to pass a Common Entrance Examination that they sat to at the school of their choice.
New boys to the Grammar School reported to the school on the first day of term in January for registration in either Form One or a Preparatory Class for boys who were thought to be too young for Form One.
The Grammar School was then located at Fourah Bay Road in buildings later occupied by Bishop Johnson Memorial School. Each class was assigned a Form Master, and class prefect will be either appointed or elected. In the first few days boys would have been told about the school and about what is expected of them. They were also put in houses and a House Master appointed.
During this era, the school calendar was the same as the calendar year. It was a five year school from Form One to Form Five. School started at 8:15am with roll call in respective classrooms followed by chapel. Boys attending chapel must have their shirts buttoned right up to the collar. Classes were of forty minutes duration with a forty-five minute lunch break between the morning and afternoon sessions. There was another roll call at the beginning of the afternoon session, although some difficult masters would do one before their lessons began. Lessons ended at 2pm.
Subjects taught included English Language, English Literature, English History, British Constitution, Religious Knowledge, Latin, French, Geography. Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, General Science, and Music, it was during music lessons that new boys were taught the words and singing of the School Song.
Promotion examinations were held in December and only those acquiring the set percentage marks were allowed to move up to the next class. The beginning of the decade saw two public examinations in place, both were set by the Cambridge University Examination Board. The Junior School Certificate was sat to at the end of the third year, and the Senior School Certificate sat to at the end of the fifth year. The Junior School Certificate was discontinued in 1953. There was a tradition for the dioko badge worn on the ribbon of boaters to be distributed when boys got promoted to Form Five. This was a coveted achievement and some boys felt their objective had been achieved so they left school on the day after the badges have been distributed.
At the beginning of the 1950 decade, the teaching staff was all male most of whom were Regentonians, later on, non-Regentonian teachers joined the staff and, by the middle of the decade a few female teachers were appointed. About the same time also, some expatriates were recruited from overseas to teach science subjects. Among the teachers in the earlier years were SEE.Taylor, Prof. NJ Balanta, Revd. JT. Anderson, The John brothers, Ned and Freddy, Dan. E. Decker, Prince Nicol, Titus Fewry, JA. Reffel,
Jonas Richards, Emile Thompson-Davies, Lemon Johnson, Donald George, Miss Northway and Mrs Dawes. The last two were expatriates. Two other females, Miss Nadette Metzger and Miss Gladys Small later joined the staff.
Up to the early fifties, there was no day uniform. Some boys whose parents could afford it went to school dressed in suits complete with ties, particularly those in forms four and five. Head Boys and School Prefects were selected from boys in Form Five, and they did carry respect. The day uniform of Khaki Shorts and White Shirt became compulsory in the second term of 1952.
As well as from Sierra Leone, pupils came from other West African countries including The Gold Coast (now Ghana), Liberia, and The Gambia. Among those who wore suits in the early fifties were Donald Smythe-Macaulay, Beccles Davies, Egerton Williams, Huxley Knox-Macaulay, E Suru Davies, Joliffe King, Eben Cole, Bankole Jarrett form Liberia Nathaniel Heward-Mills from the Gold Coast, (Now Ghana) Louis Mahoney from The Gambia.
Entering the Grammar School was very exciting, it was quite a change from primary school. For instance, having your own desk, a master for every subject, having all those text books. Going to chapel and seeing the portraits of Past Principals. Looking up the Boards of Honour and Heads of School, recognising the names of some important people in the community gave you a sense of belonging. Perhaps best of all, wearing the ceremonial uniform on Thanksgiving Day and singing the School’s Song as of right.
Among those in my class were Ade Palmer, Godfrey Coker, Ade Caesar, Arthur Wright, Pythias Bart-Williams, John Songo-Williams, Jonathan Lisk, Katib Iscandari, Eugene Terry, Rogers Jones Freddy Noah. Some others in school at the time included, Victor Richards, Francis Edmondson, Magnus Cole, Simi Weekes. Wilman Cole, The Anderson Brothers Johannes and John, The Jones Brothers Teddy and Ulric, William Wright, Ahovi Kponou, Abel Stronge, Arnold Gooding, George Tregson Roberts, Lemuel Johnson, Omotunde Johnson, Gipu George, Thomas Aitkins, (AKA TADA Aitkins) Farrell Cuthbert. Duvernet Davies.
Celebration week calendar included Foundation Day, Speech Day and Prize-Giving Ceremony, Inter-House Sports Day, and the Annual Thanksgiving Service, the service is always held at the St. George’s Cathedral. Foundation Day, march 25, also known as Penny Day, begins with a service round the flag post when the school’s flag is hoisted by the Head Boy. This service is attended by the school and by some old boys. In the afternoon the reminiscences is delivered by an old boy and a penny is given by the Principal to every pupil and old boy present. This day is unofficially also known as Initiation Day when new boys are given a crack on the head or whipped with small twigs by boys already established in school. Inter-House Sports Day took place on the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day. Apart from the competition between houses in track and field events, there was a Masters’ Race, an Old Boys relay, and an Annie Walsh Girls’ Relay. There was also a Dressing Race where small boys in Form One were selected to put on the ceremonial uniform as quickly as possible. The first person to complete the process was declared the winner. It was entertaining to see them dressing themselves from hose and shoes to boater in a hurry.
These were the important changes that took place in the 1950s. The first one already mentioned was the day uniform in 1952. The second was in 1953 when science teaching was expanded from General Science into the three branches of science. Three masters who specialised in these subjects were responsible for the change, Mr Dan E. Decker a Cambridge trained Biologist. Mr Lemon Johnson a London trained Chemist, and Mr Gustavus Williams a Cambridge trained Physicist. Perhaps the biggest change was the introduction, in 1958, of the first ever sixth form in Sierra Leone offering courses in Arts subjects. This innovation led to another historic change when a girl from the Annie Walsh Memorial School (Daisy Decker) became the first girl to be admitted as a pupil in the Grammar School in January 1960. All these changes came about during the principalship of Frank B. Wood. M.A (Oxon)
John Peters. (1951-1955)