West Leeds High School: Do you remember your former masters?


West Leeds Boys’ High School old boy Glenn Broadbent continues to delve into the past of the old school. This week, he asks: Do you remember your West Leeds masters?

If you attended West Leeds Boys’ High School can you remember any stories about your former teachers? Here are a few memories from some Old Boys’.

Christopher Darling: The first headmaster was who served from 1907-1926.

Thomas Curzon took over and introduced rugby as the schools winter game in his first year, he continued in post until retirement in 1949.

Dr David Keir Mackie was headmaster during the transition from Grammar School to Comprehensive. Known for his cape and mortarboard, he cut any impressive figure when entering the Assembly Hall. He later went on to Matthew Murray and Roundhay High. Such was his impact on education in Leeds he has a Primary School named after him in Gledhow Lane.

west leeds high school crest

Phil Willis was Deputy Head 1974-78 Now Lord Willis, the former Burnley FC player went on to become Lib Dem MP for Harrogate and shadow spokesman for Education.

Some former pupils returned to teach at the school. Here are a few of them.

Dave Emmett taught woodwork from 1964 – 1971.

J J Wilson was the first former pupil to return, he taught physics in 1957 and was known for turning up in two raincoats whatever the weather.

Alistair Duckworth taught English for one term in 1958.

J S Wilson (Stan) Taught PE from 1947 and threw the javelin for Great Britain in the 1936 Olympics.

Colin Wilkinson. As well as being a maths teacher, Colin was head boy in 1953 and appears on the photograph of the prefects of that year. He also taught at Wrekin School. Died Novemberr 2012 at his home in Bramley.

Thanks must go to all who contributed to the Old Boys’ website and helped to produce these articles.


  1. Do your records go back to the forties! My late Husband Roy Clarke was a pupil at West Leeds Highschool, and left in 1948. He won a scholarship to Durham University, but was conscripted in to the Army in 1948. I know he loved his time spent at West Leeds Highschool, and was always reminiscing about it. He would always go and see his school when we visited England.

  2. Know a lot of the faces here. Head was Barnshaw, to his right was ‘Chunky’ Watts, the deputy head. To Watts right was the woodwork teacher. Front row 2nd from right is Leverton, taught Latin, and had a size 14 black plimsol for administering justice in detention. Middle roe 2nd in from right is, i think, Basil ?, music teacher. Middle row 5th from left taught french. Front row, 2nd from left, Mountford?, art?. Back row 4th from left King, maths.

  3. 1943 TO 1949: When it was still a grammar school: in addition to “Thos.” Curzon, I remember “Basher Bainbridge, Music Master “Non nobis domine…” hymn among others one never forgets; Miss Overend, can’t remember first name, but very ladylike; “chunky” Watts, terrific maths master, but it was all lost on me;
    Mr.Griffiths, Geography; Mr Cox, who slapped me on the face once for pushing in the corridor; “Nunc” the Latin Master, forgot his real name;
    Mr. Savage, the French master; ‘f I remember any more ‘ll let you know. Also, Alex Lyon the Labour MP for York(?) was my best buddy till 1949. After that I lost track of him (or he of me) and I came to Canada in 1957. Geoff Redshaw (only made the second team in rugby)

  4. I well recall Mr J. J.Wilson – & to this day wonder why he always wore the shorter of his two raincoats over the top of the longer one. He was my form master in V Sc, my final year (1954) at WLHS, as well as attempting to teach me Physics. I had no idea until now that ‘Long John’ Wilson & ‘Stan’ were, themselves, old boys – nor that ‘ Stan’ would have been a ‘celebrity’ by today’s standards. Here is a link to a short story about my time at WLHS.
    https://yorkshirewitandwisdom.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/abide-with-me/ …should anyone be interested.

  5. I was amongst the first boys to enter this school having passed the 11-plus in 1946. My form-master was – and I am sure that I remember his name correctly – was Milverton, He was also in the Cadet Corps. His main aim in life was to terrorise and make like miserable for the boys in his charge. Does his name ring a bell with anyone ?

  6. One small thing that I do remember was the painting which hung on the rear wall of the room used for ‘ detention ‘ – it was a copy of ‘ The Age of Innocence ‘ by Reynolds ( I think ! )

  7. I was at West Leeds Hugh School from 1930 to 1939, when I left to go to boarding school.

    I remember Mr Savage ( French), Mr Fox (Latin), Mr Bishop (Maths), Mr Osborne ( Woodwork), Mr Blamires and Mr Bainbridge ( Junior school) and Mr Gould ( History)

    Kenneth Hargreaves

  8. nowt on Mr Bainbridge then, he and I Ray Foster got on very well at Armley Park Council School.
    He was straight out of University and taught geography, so well I never forgot any of it.
    Even then, in 1937 I knew that NZ was the best place in the world and have lived there over 60 years now.

  9. I was a pupil at WLHS from 1932 to 1943
    The Head was Thomas Curzon deputy “Buck” Jones, Latin Nunc Fox, French Mr Savage ,Maths “Willie” Watts (also i/c Air cadets) Physics Mr Rose, Chemistry “JocK” Euart I played in the 1st team rugby with
    Harry Gaythorpe, Norman Cooper ,Dennis Thompson . I was a member of De Lacy House and Nunc Fox was the housemaster. I remember Jeff Benson, he lived near me in Bramley. Also remember the evacuation in which I took part but didn`t stay in Retford for the whole time.

  10. You don’t have to be a household name or significant in a particular field to be important. I know that my late wife , Moira Emmett who was at the school from 1953 to 1960, had a huge influence on the lives of people she taught during her career. I’m sure she is not the only one who, after completing their education at West Leeds , went on to influential careers that benefitted society. One of my contemporaries. Dave Sawden devoted his life to working for people in need overseas.

    • Hi Dave. Not sure if you will see this but I wanted to let you know that Mrs Emmett, as I knew her, was the best teacher I was ever blessed to have. Arch Bishop Cranmer, 1988 to 1992. She was my Teacher. The one. The one you always remember as that teacher who changed your life every time you were in their presence. A beautiful lady with a heart of pure gold, and I loved her so much. She brought magic and love to our classroom. She had such faith in me and challenged me to push myself and step up with confidence. To not be so shy….. and I loved that she once made us watch Stand By Me in class when we should have been doing proper lessons. I dont know you Dave, but you must be one amazing gentleman to have been married to a star like Moira. ✨️ ❤️ ….

      • Thank you Anthony for you wonderful tribute. Every word you have said is true. You can imagine how much I miss her.

  11. Sorry to hear of Moira’s passing Dave.
    I remember her well for her support of the Saturday morning rugby fixtures.
    You were both one of the very few fond memories I have of the place.
    Stay well

  12. I remember Messers Convery,Firth,Stan Wilson,Marsden and woodwork teacher Mr Stead. Mr Marsden had a reputation for being fierce but as I was good at art we got on well My twin brother and I started I 1957 until I 1963 and there was another set of twins there too.

  13. ” J S Wilson (Stan) Taught PE from 1947 and threw the javelin for Great Britain in the 1936 Olympics.”
    Much as I would like this story to be true, Stanley Wilson the 1930s English champion javelin thrower and our PE teacher are different people.

    Stanley J. Wilson competed for England in the javelin at the 1934 British Empire Games in London whereas W. S. Wilson ( Stan) joined the staff at West Leeds school as a PE Teacher in 1947.
    Neither of them threw javelin at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 because GB did not enter the male javelin competition at that event.

  14. Re Mr. Wilson I only remember that in a rugby period in 6th form in 1948 the PE teacher tackled me from behind with likely a 30-40 lbs weight advantage. When I asked him why he just grinned. It took me some days to shake it off. Not quite end of story…. In 1994 in London, Canada, a year before i retired, an orthopaedic surgeon looked at X-rays and MRIs and said my back problem was caused by a sports injury over 40 years earlier.
    Footnote: through specific treatment I was lucky enough to escape a lower back fusion operation with only a 50/50 success rate.. Another win for the good guys, and I’m still upright ( at least physically).

  15. I have just noticed a comment above from John Swash, who was at the school when I was until 66. If you are still operating the ways web site John, I would be pleased to hear from you.

  16. I was at West Leeds from 1953 to 60, when I left to study medicine at St Andrews ( to the astonishment of my teachers.)
    West Leeds has a very famous old boy; Alan Bennet. I knew he lived near the school and when he signed a book at an Evening Post event I asked him why he didn’t go to West Leeds. He told me he did until he was evacuated , and on his return to Leeds went to Leeds Modern

  17. I remember mr makie hen gave me the cane twice and mr willis dep head old stan mr reader the evil english teacher who could throw a board rubber at 100mph


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