Annie Simpson ne Stables

It was a very different time in 1925. The industrial towns of the north were experiencing up to 70% unemployment. Economic problems led to more political strife and The 1926 General Strike. Families in the UK suffered from losing loved ones in the Great War and The Flu Pandemic of 1918. Students going to college at Bingley would be regarded as being very privileged as they lived in grand halls with luxurious bedrooms, bathrooms on every floor and dining rooms to serve each hall.


Annie Simpson Simpson was born in difficult times at Worsbrough Bridge, near Barnsley in March 1905. She was the second of six children; four girls and two boys, born to John and Jane Simpson. John was a postal worker.

The family lived in a cramped two-roomed cottage. Annie was one of three girls who shared a double bed, which stowed away by folding into the wall of the living room. One brother slept on the sofa and the remaining two children shared the bedroom with their parents. Money was tight and the children usually wore hand-me down clothes passed on from the vicarage.

Annie attended West Street Primary School in Worsborough. At school she saw a notice, seeking candidates for a scholarship examination to gain entrance to Barnsley High School. Annie really wanted to continue her education rather than leave school to go to work as her elder sister had done. So one day as the children filed into the school hall after the lunch break, Annie saw her chance. The headmaster stood there chanting, “left, right, left, right” as the children marched in. 

Annie broke ranks and stood before the head master. “Can I take that exam?” she said. The headmaster looked down at her and replied, “ If your parents agree, then you most certainly can”. Annie asked her parents that evening. They discussed it when they thought she was asleep with her sisters in the big double bed. But Annie wasn’t asleep and she heard them say “ We may as well let her. The Doctor says she has a weak heart and won’t be capable of doing much else”.

So Annie sat the exam. She was the only child of those from her school who sat the exam and passed.  At the Barnsley High School for girls, Annie proved to be a high achiever and it was a natural step for her to go into further education and fulfil her ambition to be a teacher. She sat the entrance exam for Bingley College and gained a place.

Now Annie is 102 years old! So much for her weak heart!! Her memories of the college have dimmed over the years but she says they were some of the happiest days of her life. She was a student there between 1924 and 1926. For the first time in her life she had her own room and her own bed. She studied English, French, Art and Crafts. She enjoyed playing cricket, tennis and netball. One bad memory is the stodgy rice pudding that was served! It was enough to put her off rice for the rest of her life. When she joined the school she weighed 6 stone but she left weighing 10 stone!!

On leaving Bingley, she started teaching at Birdwell primary School, Sheffield Road, Barnsley. She was put in charge of a large class of boys. (see photo)

She taught at Birdwell until she married in 1933 and moved to Hornchurch in Essex to be with her husband, George Stables. Annie and George had two children, Kenneth and Barbara. When both children were old enough to go to school, Annie returned to teaching at Rainsford Way Primary School (now known as Wykeham School).  

She settled there as a Reception Class teacher until she retired in 1969 (see photograph taken about 1960). Then she and George retired to Barnsley.  A few years ago Annie attended an open day to celebrate the centenary anniversary at Birdwell School. She was most amused when a very old man approached her. “Hello, Miss Simspon” he said,  “You used to be my teacher!”.

From – Daughter in law Christine Stables, 50 Cavendish Road, Stockport. SK4 3OP