Canon Charles J Murray, Governor and parish priest of the Yeadon parish, negotiated with the West Riding County Council and Department of Education and Science for forward planning of the school and had by 1960 secured a site. In October 1960, it was announced that a school would be built in the 1962-3 building programme, and the governors invited Weightman & Bullen, to prepare plans for a three-form entry secondary school. At that time no more than 75 boys and girls per year were expected so the plans were for a building for 360 pupils in the initial contract, with provision for extension to 470 later on. West Riding County Council acquired 13 acres (53,000 square metres) of land from the Regional Hospital Board and work started on the site in July 1962.
The building was built on a concrete frame and clad in heather-coloured facing bricks to blend with the surrounding moorland. Because of the large number of pupils who would stay for school meals, dining had to take place in the Assembly Hall (which it still does today). Special emphasis was given to the Assembly Hall and Chapel by gabled roofs of plywood sections, brought to the site ready made and lifted into position. Owing to the bad weather of the winter of 1963, the project was delayed by 12 weeks but the contract was still completed on time.
The name of the school when it opened was St. Mary's Catholic Secondary school
The Blessing of the School took place on Sunday 22 November 1964. A very large number of parents, friends and children thronged the Assembly Hall and corridors to witness the ceremony which was followed by Benediction.
School opened to pupils on the following day, Monday 23 November 1964 with an intake of 158 pupils. The contributing schools were Horsforth, Ilkley and Otley, Guiseley and Benton Park.
There were five forms in the school, the second year being streamed. The numbers in each form averaged 30 and classes were mixed.
The first Head Boy and Head Girl were David Walker and Rosalyn Doran (Fisher).
School began daily at 9:15am with assembly. There were eight teaching session per day, each lasting 35 minutes. The lunch recess lasted from 12.05 to 1.15. Classes ended at 3:45pm. The opening times were dictated by public transport timetables. Otley and Ilkley children travelled on service buses and there was a special school bus provided for Horsforth children.
The inadequate central heating system in 1964 meant that, in cold weather, one Science laboratory and the Rural Studies room could not be used because of the low temperature.
In December 1964, Mr John Dalton (headmaster 1964–1987) was "already very pleased with the spirit which is already evident in this school. Our pupils have settled in remarkably well and there is a happy purposeful atmosphere prevailing."
The original buildings were officially blessed and opened by the Rt. Rev. Mgr. George Patrick Dwyer, Bishop of Leeds on 3 July 1965. The first chairman of governors, who presided was the Rt. Rev. Mgr. E. Malone.
The opening of St. Mary's was front page news in the Catholic Herald. In the article, Bishop Dwyer came out in full support of the Catholic school system. Ss Peter and Paul, Yeadon was opened on the same day as St. Mary's. St. Mary's opening led to a reorganisation of Catholic schools in the area, as they became primary schools. St. Mary's Menston was a Secondary Modern when it opened.
The UK number one single on the day our school was officially opened was I'm Alive by The Hollies
Subjects available in 1965 included:
Art and Craft
The Morse building (named after Saint Henry Morse, one of the Catholic Forty Martyrs of England and Wales) can be seen as the school is approached from the main road. The three units comprised the hall, small hall, Chapel, and gymnasium, a three storey academic and administrative block and practical areas. The total cost was £185,000 of which the Local Authority contributed £39,000. The Chapel, financed without grant aid, cost a further £9,000.
The uniform of 1965 had a purple blazer (which was to be deemed impractical) and there were berets too.
By September 1965 there were 200 pupils and 15 staff. Throughout the 1960s the Diocesan Schools Commission and the West Riding County Council recognised that the only sound future for the school would be as part of a comprehensive system, and to provide a sufficient range of facilities it would have to grow.
Canon Charles J Murray
Canon Charles J Murray deserves a special place in the history of St. Mary's Menston. As a Governor and parish priest of the Yeadon parish, he negotiated with the West Riding County Council and the Department of Education and Science for forward planning of the school and had secured a site by 1960. He was also one of the Governors when our school opened in 1964.
Born in Belfast in 1912 and ordained in Carlow, his first appointment was as a curate at St. Patrick’s in Leeds in 1938. He became renowned for his interest in providing education for the children of the diocese after opening a Catholic primary school in Yeadon, and "after a long struggle", St. Mary’s Menston. This was barely completed when he was transferred to St. Augustine’s, Harehills, Leeds in 1970. The following year he was made an Honorary Canon of the Diocese before setting off to represent the Diocese on a short visit to Peru. He was later appointed as the first chairman of the Peru Commission.
In 1980 he suffered his first stroke and after his recovery in 1981 was moved to a much smaller less demanding parish. Due to ill health he retired in 1985 and died on 24th January 1988. RIP