John Honeyford, The School Board

I was looking through old newspaper cuttings and noticed one dated March 6th 1936 entitled ‘Former School Board Man’s Recollections.’ This reported the 19th birthday celebrations of John Honeyford of 157 Eskrick Street, which is at the end of Thorpe Street, facing St. Thomas’s School. An appropriate address for one who for 36 years had been a School Attendance Officer or as they were known ‘The School Board.’

Originally ‘The School Board’ was the 19th century authority responsible for education before local authority education departments took control. Older people born before WWII will remember ‘The School Board’ as the man who came round to your home when you stayed off school to check that you had good reason to be at home. I remember a School Board. who lived in Rushey Fold Lane before WWII, a shortish man, who wore a bowler hat, a dark suit or coat and carried an umbrella, presumably the standard of dress for the job. Looking back he could have been taken for a stockbroker or chapel elder in his Sunday best. I assume we no longer have a School Board; it would be pointless for unlike the pre-war days many parents are at work and he would not get much satisfaction.

Often ‘The School Board’ could be on one’s doorstep soon after the local schools started, he walked of course, his round was local to the schools, unlike now hen schools are not local. Hopefully, we have a check on school attendance, but it is unlikely to be able to take action as quickly as ‘The School Board’ did.

Occasionally we see cases reported where a parent appears in court for the non-attendance of a child at school. Often this seems unjust when the child is beyond control and our system doesn’t seem to be able to cope. Things must have been different in John Honeyford’s day; he managed to survive 36 years as a School Board. He started when he was 37 years old in 1883 with the old ‘School Board’ and moved to the Education Department in Nelson Square formerly the old Infirmary. When he retired in 1919 he was 73 years old. John Honeyford had a deep love of music. He was a chorister at Christ Church, Deane Road and engaged as a paid tenor, sang at St. Paul’s Church, Deansgate for 15 years. For more than 30 years he was a voluntary tenor and member o Halliwell St Thomas’s Choir during the vicariates of the Revs T. Mitton and A. Glen Bott.

It was with great pleasure that he recalled listening to the great singers of the day at The Temple in Dawes Street, the oratorios and operas. Also he remembered the present Town Hall being built in 1873 and Post Office and circus which occupied the site before it. Election times were exciting and as a member of the audience at a meeting at the Temperance Hall remembered having to duck as brick bats flew through the windows.

John Honeyford had enjoyed good health and was in full possession of his faculties even on his ninetieth birthday. Sadly he died three days after his birthday at his home in Eskrick Street, he had four daughters and one son living and a number of grandsons. Maybe there are still relatives living in Bolton. There are no Honeyfords listed in the Bolton area telephone directory but a few in the Worsley area and one in Ramsbottom, not a common name. There is of course Gloria Honeyford of TV fame but she is Irish and unlikely to have any Bolton connections. Maybe somebody out there knows what happened to the Halliwell Honeyfords, it would be interesting to know.

Since this article was written we have a little more information about John Honeyford. After his death in 1936, he had one son and four daughters then living. We have learned that his son Frank worked in the Legal Department at Bolton Town Hall and lived in Beechfield Road, Halliwell and was married to a Bradshaw of a wholesale fruit and vegetable family. He retired in about 1933 and then took a sweetshop in the Lake District. When his wife died he became a companion to a man who lived in Freckleton. We have no information about what happened to John Honeyford’s daughters. Maybe someone would tell us? I believe a lady called Honeyford once lived at Daubhill but has now died.

By H Jones