Hillhead High School Web Page for class of 1954
My attempt to find out what became of all my classmates after fifty years
I was a pupil at Hillhead from Primary 1 in 1944 till Secondary 5 in 1954. Out of 99 classmates in fifth year, I was one of 41 who obtained sufficient Highers for a chosen career (including university) at the end of fifth year so did not stay on for a sixth year. Of the 58 who stayed on to sixth year many could have left at the end of 5th year but chose to stay on and most of them took additional or advanced subjects.
For all practical purposes, the “final” year for me (and approximately half of my contemporaries) was therefore my fifth year, leaving Hillhead in June 1954.
A few years ago I made a half-hearted attempt to find out what had become of my classmates. I knew how to contact about 10 and assumed that if everyone I contacted could put me in touch with a similar number, we would quickly have all the answers. However that was not the case. Generally when I got in touch I found that most knew only a very few others, and they were often the same classmates that I already knew about.
In the spring of 2003 I decided to carry out an in-depth research project and it took about six months to reach a point where something was known about all but 6 of my classmates.
The first step was to contact the School which led to a very interesting meeting with Mr Cunningham the Headteacher.. Unfortunately the School retains virtually no records of classes from my era, but he was able to supply some lists of those who sat Highers in 1954 and 1955. However these lists were of only limited use since they contained candidates in 1954 who were in 5th and 6th years (i.e. my year and the year above) whereas the 1955 list contained those of my year who had gone on the 6th year together with pupils who had been in the year below us.
The next step was to visit the Mitchell Library Archives where a lot of useful information was to be found. Hillhead was a fee-paying school 60 years ago and the fee registers listed all pupils who enrolled, including details of date of birth, address, father’s name and occupation. There are also admissions registers which show the class entered in first year of secondary, the date of leaving, and in many cases (but not all), a note about the intended occupation or career.
Armed with the above information it was then possible to draw up a fairly comprehensive set of class lists. In our fifth year there were four classes; 5A contained the top stream of boys taking two languages: 5B contained the top girls: 5C and 5D contained boys and girls respectively taking one language. In 6th year there were only two classes, 6A for boys and 6B for girls.
The next step was to contact those former pupils I knew and this enabled me to obtain a set of the four class photographs which had been taken at the start of 4th year in October 1952 (they were taken only every four years in these days). From these photographs it was then possible to put names to faces.
As stated above it was disappointing to discover just how few classmates still kept in touch with their fellows so each contact extended my information base very slightly. However the process was progressive and after a few months I had at least some basic facts on about half of my year.
In the Fifties, a large proportion of students who opted to go on to further education, stayed at home and went either to Glasgow University, The Royal College of Science and Technology (later to become Strathclyde University) or Jordanhill College of Education A visit to Glasgow University archives revealed registers giving details of graduates and their current addresses up to 1995 when the Data Protection Act prevented the preparation of further registers. .Unfortunately Strathclyde University and Jordanhill College do not have Alumni registers.
By now the success rate was growing, and the number of names about whom nothing was known was reducing. Further research took me to the Family History Research Centre in Park Circus, Glasgow, where a trawl through marriage records found a few of the missing names. This exercise revealed married names of several girls and from Internet Directory Enquiries it was possible to make contact with several of them. The records were also checked for deaths and this produced some further information.
The use of the FriendsReunited web pages was not very helpful. Relatively few of those listed for 1954 and 1955 had been in my year and many of the names related to pupils who had left Hillhead during these years for various reasons from Primary and lower Secondary classes.
My contact with former classmates met with a wide spectrum of reaction. Some were very interested and tried their best to recall even tiny scraps of information about our fellows. The majority were mildly interested but a small number were distinctly cold and dismissive.
However it quickly became very obvious that there was a total lack of interest in holding a reunion. Furthermore, during my discussions, I had broadly indicated my intention to create a web site for our year but this raised very serious concerns particularly among the ladies some of whom did not wish even their names to be listed on a public site.
Accordingly the web site is set up containing only broad references, copies of the class photos (but without a key to those in the photos) and a synopsis of statistical findings. By logging on to the site, there is an e-mail address at which classmates can contact me if they wish further information. I supply full research details only to classmates.
The site was set up in July 2003 but the free hosting ceased in mid 2008 so it is no longer available on line.
The research was most satisfying and there were many surprises. In most cases, “those most likely to succeed” certainly did so, but there were notable failures. The opposite also occurred. Some are far travelled, but a surprising number like me remained in the Glasgow area or have now returned to live here. At least 12 have died, and when I last did a check in 2004, about a dozen were still working either full of part time.
In the last few years I have had cantact only with the small group of friends from 1954 and I have no plans to carry out a follow-up study.
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