John Skipsey (1844 - 1933) - Respected and beloved headmaster of East Ham.
The first East Ham School Board School was High Street School, located in High Street South, opened in November, 1874. John Skipsey was the first headmaster of the Boys' Department. (His counterpart was a Mrs Overal, headmistress of the Infant Department)
Skipsey was a man of marked individuality who, in addition to teaching, was also choir-master of the then new church of St. John's and an accomplished musician. Allegedly, he could play any instrument given to him; he also composed some pieces of music.
Together with his wife, Matilda, they were the prime movers in sports, picnics, entertainments and were good friends to the poor of the area. He enjoyed joining in games with the children - as they floated their small boats on a lake in Wanstead Park, or made flew kites. Throughout the summer, in evenings and on Saturdays, he would lead rambles in Wanstead Park, on the Flats and in the Kent hills. During the winter months, there were drawing and painting classes, chess and draughts and entertainments. These would be led with enthusiasm by Mr Skipsey, with Mrs Skipsey carrying out all the preparations and supplying the necessary materials and refreshments.
Matilda (born 1845) and John Skipsey had four children: Joan, Alfred, Ernest and William.
John Skipsey retired from teaching in 1909 and died in September, 1933.
(Text adapted from East Ham from Village to County Borough by Alfred Stokes 1933)