Flashing blades

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WITH half-term coming up many parents will be wondering how to occupy their children and hopefully finding a few ideas in the pages of the Mail.

ANDREW LEVETT discovers that organised holiday and after-school activities were a big success at a Hartlepool school back in May 1961.

A FENCING club was the latest addition to a long list of after-school activities at Henry Smith Grammar School.

It joined a drama society, music society, choral society, recorded music society, chemistry society, folk dancing club, art club, chess club and gym club.

The new fencing club was run by the school’s physics master, on two days a week, when the school gym rang with the traditional cries as the amateur fencers wielded their foils.

The group’s captain and secretary, Melvyn Hope, of Belford Street, Horden, told Mail reporter “Orion” there were 25 members, including eight girls.

They ranged from the lower school to the sixth form, and all were said to be “very keen”.

Fencing wasn’t the cheapest hobby, with the equipment costing around £10 in 1961, made up of £5 for the fencing jackets, £2 for the foils and £3 for the rest of the outfit.

The girls’ representative on the club committee was Sylvia Skeldon, then aged 17, from Billingham.

She told the Mail: “I had been watching the boys fencing and became interested – so I decided to have a go.”

They boys’ teams had already entered competitions but the girls were “still building up their strength”.

Earlier in May 1961 a team of three Henry Smith fencers took part in a competition with rivals from as far afield as York and Newcastle.

David Clark fought his way into the second round, Melvyn Hope reached the semi-finals and George Sandor reached the finals, finishing fifth.

The team as a whole were third.

What are you memories of the fencing club, or the other after-school activities at Henry Smith? Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@northeast-press.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.