Barton Hart - From Richard Brown

Barton Hart was probably the most memorable of all the teachers from when I attended Mundella. He retired while I was there. He was almost Dickensian with his tweeds, bow-tie and bucolic complexion. He drove an elderly black Triumph Mayflower, with big chrome headlights, running board, leather seats, walnut fascia etc.

Barton Hart was the music teacher, but everything he did, he played to his own tune. He retired in 1960 or 1961, he never played in the new Hall, and I cannot picture him in such surroundings. He was meant to be at his grand piano in the Upper Hall amongst the trophy cabinets, the Victor/trix Ludorum plaques and all the other traditional paraphernalia. But, when he hit those chords on his grand, the school sang like nothing you ever heard! The School Song was written by him, and Barton Hart compiled the Mundella School Hymnal. Each pupil had his or her own personal copy of this little Maroon and Gold tome which was unceremoniously superceded by those "generic" blue books when the Assembly was moved to the new Main Hall.

Throughout my entire stay at Mundella, lateness was one of my consistent attributes. But arriving at a different time to most other people you see a lot of different stuff. The lusty hymn singing on a summer's morning could be heard most of the way down Turney Street. At the school end of Turney Street and on Colligate Road, many of the neighbourhood people would stand at their doorways to listen to the sound. It was an impressive and moving experience. Many of the pupils, I am sure, went on to greater things at the Trent End in the course of time! As a raw fag in my short pants, I remember being overawed and a little scared at the volume of noise from 850 heartily singing souls in that packed Upper Hall.

Why did we sing for Barton Hart? Well, I think we were really fond of him. He was a law unto himself. I cannot imagine R.R. Stevens (and certainly not N.D. Moody) telling Mr. Hart to do anything, I am sure they would ask very politely. That huge music room on the top floor was his domain. We all went there every week, and we knew when we entered that place, that it had a different atmosphere from the rest of the building. He only saw us once a week, and he seldom bothered to remember names, unless you were one of the prettier girls. You, laughing-boy, or face-ache were his usual forms of address. And he was one of the few teachers, apart from the Boss, who ever used the strap, but he did so without hesitation and without malice when he considered it necessary and it was accepted without rancour. Yes, we liked his style and his honesty, but the other reason we sang for him was because he knew what we liked to sing. He always picked the good tunes. His Mundella School Hymnal was full of them. He led with his thundering piano, and he expected every one of us to be a part of the chorus, not to just follow the choir.

We sometimes thought that Barton Hart had always been part of the school, like bricks and mortar. He had certainly been there since the twenties. As a young man he had taught at Trent Bridge Secondary, and quickly earned himself such a reputation that the Grammar School next door lured him away. I know this because my father was at Trent Bridge in those days and still owns a class photo with Barton Hart in it. Hard to imagine a young, slim, handsome and dark haired B.H.!

When Barton Hart retired, it was a very special moment, and he said goodbye in his own unique way. R.R.Stevens set the scene in his usual pompous way and Mr. Hart came up to the Head's dais to deliver the longest and funniest retirement speech that we ever heard. It was full of good stuff about following your talents and dreams etc. but hit so many true feelings and showed such understanding of young people growing up (some almost risqué) that the laughter was uproarious. This was much to the consternation of stuffy Stevens, which only made us laugh all the more. He finished to an ovation, which was all we could do to say "thank you". For all of us, Mundella would never be the same without him.