Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sir Is Pleased at Changes; Former Pupil Who Made History Returns

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sir Is Pleased at Changes; Former Pupil Who Made History Returns

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Tully

MORE than 60 years ago, on the windswept roads north of the Roman Wall, a small farm boy walked the three miles to school and home again each day.

Philip Hunter then made history by becoming the first schoolboy in Britain to be provided with a taxi to his village school at Humshaugh in the North Tyne valley. Those were the first steps towards a notable career, which saw Philip become Schools Adjudicator for England and Chief Education Officer at both Inner London and Staffordshire Education Authorities.

He has also worked as Principal Private Secretary to Education Secretaries Shirley Williams and Mark Carlisle.

Now Sir Philip Hunter, he yesterday returned to his former infant school for the first time since 1950 to officially open newly-built facilities a world away from what he experienced in the austere post-war years.

Sir Philip, 71, was invited by current Humshaugh First School headteacher Angela Steele to perform the official opening of a new library, staff-room, head's room, cloakrooms and an outdoor area. He travelled from his home in Stafford, stopping along the way to collect his elder brother Richard, who after continuing to work the family farm for 40 years became a Methodist Minister in Barnard Castle.

"It was a great honour to be invited to the school," said Sir Philip, "and I was delighted to accept.

"I knew it would be fascinating to see the changes in the old school, which I had not been back to since I left in 1950.

"I remember the little wooden desks and the slates that we used to work on, and the teachers, Miss Baker and Mrs Civil, plus the headmaster, Edward Waite. There were just two schoolrooms for the pupils then.

"Our family lived and worked at Blackcarts Farm, three miles west of Humshaugh, and Richard and I used to walk to school and back every day.

"But when I was seven the Government passed a new law that children beneath a certain age who had to walk such a distance to school were entitled to paid-for taxis. However, Richard, who was two years older than me, did not qualify so I would pass him in my taxi while he was cycling to school."

Young Philip had the distinction of a place on the national BBC news on the strength of it.

"John Snagge, who later became the Boat Race commentator, was the newsreader and he actually pronounced it as HumSHAW, rather than HumsHOFF, as it should be pronounced."

Passing his 11-Plus exam at the age of 10, Philip won a Grammar School place but because of travelling difficulties to the nearest Grammar School, at Hexham, he was sent instead to Ackworth Boarding School near Pontefract, in Yorkshire - where he had the great fortune to meet his future wife, Ruth.

After studying zoology at Kings College, Newcastle, and working for two years at the University of Khartoum in Sudan, Sir Philip went on to the major educational posts. …

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