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Fr Jibu's Homily from 70th Anniversary of Holy Name Catholic Primary school

Words of Fr Jibu from Saturday 29th June 2024

As soon as work on the permanent church was well under way, Fr. Bromley and his parishioners gave priority to their concern for Catholic education in Great Barr. Before the Second World War, children had been sent by bus to the Sacred Heart School, Aston, or to Maryvale. Then wartime restrictions led to the withdrawal of essential transport, and it became evident that a school would be needed in the district. In a wartime situation, there was no possibility of launching a building programme, and no financial aid was available from the Local Education Authority, but in spite of this, a far-reaching decision was taken to start an independent Catholic school.

The old wooden church which was being used as a parish hall was taken over for this purpose. Essential equipment was bought or begged. On 3rd October 1940, the school was opened for children up to the age of 14. It began with 60 names, but within two weeks 102 children had enrolled, and by the following year there were 147. There were some pressures from the Education Authority to close the school and disperse the children among local non-Catholic schools. It is good to remember the service of Sr. Helena, Sr. Patrick Murphy, Sr. Pierre, Sr. Rose, and Sr. Aloysius Berchman and teachers like Mrs. M. Owen, Mrs. Lawton, Mrs. Clements and Mrs. Gill. No salaries were paid for the whole 13 years of the school’s existence. Cleaning and maintenance were carried out entirely by the parents. All material resources were the result of magnificent efforts by the whole parish. As numbers expanded, curtains were used to divide the area into four classrooms. There was no heat so the children sat wrapped up in coats during winter. When weather permitted, recreation and games took place in the nearby Redhouse Park. Although one of the first bombs of the war was dropped in Great Barr, the area was for the most part spared the disruption caused by the bombing of the city. This was fortunate since there was no air raid shelter for the children, but when the sirens sounded, Fr. Bromley would sometimes go into the school with his little dog, and sometimes the younger ones would go to the Presbytery.

The first priority after the war was to find a site for a permanent school. Land where the school now situated was owned by three persons but they did not want to sell. It is told that Fr. Bromley threw a medal of Our Lady onto the ground and asked for special prayers in the parish, and the fund-raising efforts went on. Eventually the land was offered to the church and purchased for £1350. On 25th January the newspapers contained the formal proposal to establish a new primary school in Cross Lane, to be maintained by the Education Authority and to be conducted as a Voluntary Aided school. Two years later, on 14th March, 1953, Archbishop Masterson blessed the foundation stone. The opening ceremony took place on Monday January 4th 1954 in the presence of Bishop Humphrey Bright and Julian Snow, M.P. School began on Thursday 7th January with a staff of two Sisters of Charity and four lay teachers, the headmistress being Sr. Therese.

The school has an excellent record of scholastic success. Many went on to do well in the professional fields of teaching, medicine, IT fields. When we celebrate 70th anniversary of our school, let us thank and remember the contribution of all the priests, especially Fr. James Bromley, nuns, teachers, and our parishioners and all who contributed for the growth of our school. God bless you.