Poplar’s Mayflower Primary holds reunion for ex-pupils back 60 years

PUBLISHED: 17:30 06 May 2015 | UPDATED: 18:12 06 May 2015

Reunion at Poplar's Mayflower Primary school

Reunion at Poplar's Mayflower Primary school


Former pupils as far back as 60 years ago who went to a school in London’s East End turned up from all over the world for a reunion bash.

Poplar's Mayflower Primary school, in the shadow of Canary Wharf TowerPoplar's Mayflower Primary school, in the shadow of Canary Wharf Tower

Some hadn’t been back to the East End for decades, but met up again for an evening of swapping memories and stories about Poplar’s Mayflower Primary, once the scene of a German air-raid in the First World War.

Pat Mills, now living in California, was in nursery class in 1956 at the same school her mother went to in 1917.

“I remember dancing round the maypole in the playground,” she recalled.

1917... Wrecked classroom after air-raid at Upper North Street School [Tower Hamlets Archive Library]1917... Wrecked classroom after air-raid at Upper North Street School [Tower Hamlets Archive Library]

“I loved Assembly where we sang hymns and listened to Miss Johnson rattling away at the piano.

“I was kind of a teacher’s pet, although I wasn’t a very good scholar!”

But sadder memories of the school go back much further. Pat added: “My mum also went there and survived the bombing in 1917.”

1917... Funeral procession press picture [Tower Hamlets Archive Library]1917... Funeral procession press picture [Tower Hamlets Archive Library]

The school is mostly remembered for the tragedy when it was hit in a German air-raid attempt on the nearby Millwall Docks, which killed 18 children as well as their teachers on June 13, 1917. A Memorial Tribute was later erected in Poplar Recreation Ground.

Maureen Locke, from Phoenix, Arizona, recalls playing cricket as one of only two girls on the boys’ team in the 1950s. She said: “I remember breaking a window in the gym practising my cricket batting!”

The original Upper North Street Elementary, which opened as long ago as 1843, was renamed Mayflower Primary in 1951 and visited a year later by the new Queen Elizabeth.

Memorial stone recording names of children killed in 1917 air raidMemorial stone recording names of children killed in 1917 air raid

Brian Moss remembers being given “a small Union Jack to wave at the Queen” during that memorable visit 62 years ago.

The alumni group has set up a Mayflower Primary school Facebook Group for ex-pupils to share old photos, stories, memories and to rekindle lost friendships.

Another reunion is planned in October in “a well-known historical East End venue” that’s still under wraps.

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