The Wisest Words

We left Sara Wise about to set sail for the Antipodes as an English Governess.

“My trip to Australia was not eventful. I was to have sailed on the Waratah, but it never got to England on its first trip from Australia – it disappeared off the coast of S. Africa, and its disappearance has never been solved.”

It was named Waratah after the emblem flower of New South Wales, Australia, but this appears to have been an unlucky name: one ship of that name had been lost off the island of Ushant in the English Channel in 1848, one in 1887 on a voyage to Sydney, another south of Sydney, and one in the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1897. Quite possibly the mysterious disappearance of the ship in 1909 (and no, it was nowhere near the Bermuda Triangle!) brought forth the response ‘The Waratah? Again?’

Waratah plant image by CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=857590

SS Waratah photographed in 1909

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=943368

“On 26 July 1909, the SS Waratah, with 211 passengers and crew departed from Durban bound for Cape Town, and disappeared without a trace …” http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/discovery-wreck-passenger-liner-ss-waratah

Emlyn Brown, a marine explorer, searched for more than two decades, once believing he had found it [1999]. However, the above website states “Despite the use of highly sophisticated equipment, Brown was forced to admit defeat in 2004; ‘I’ve exhausted all options. I now have no idea where to look.’”

In 2009, the above memorial was placed by the Queenscliffe Maritime Museum to honour all those lost in the tragedy. http://paulineconolly.com/2014/ss-waratah-australias-titanic/

The SS Waratah being unavailable, as Sara’s memoirs revealed “I came on the Moldavia, P & O.”

http://simplonpc.co.uk/PO_Liners3.html#anchor8156

“I travelled with Mrs Black’s old aunt, a Miss Maria McCauci. She kept a hawk’s eye on me, being determined I should fulfil my contract and not run off and marry the first man who spoke to me. However, I got what fun I could.”

Given that Sara’s memoirs reveal that she could sing well perhaps some of the ‘fun’ was courtesy of the music room on board. Music rooms were a feature of P&O ships from the earliest days. The Moldavia’s Music Room was situated directly above the Dining Saloon.

Image from http://www.poheritage.com/the-collection/galleries/Photographs/Life-on-Board/The-Music-Room-on-board-MOLDAVIA

In 1915, the Moldavia was purchased by the British Admiralty and converted into an armed merchant cruiser. She was sunk on 23 May 1918 off Beachy Head in the English Channel by a single torpedo from U-Boat UB-57. A very full account of this can be found on https://americanlegion142.org/ including a list of the men who died as a result.

But back to 1909, Sara’s journey to Australia being uneventful “We arrived in Melbourne on Cup Eve.” The night before the Melbourne Cup is Cup Eve. The event itself starts at 3pm on the first Tuesday in November and is known locally as “the race that stops a nation”.

Newspaper article from http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/10745037

William H. McLachlan rode Melbourne Cup winners in 1909, 1910 and 1917.

Melbourne Cup Day early twentieth century from https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/148829962659411288/

Image of jockey from http://www2.sl.nsw.gov.au/archive/discover_collections/society_art/races/ephemera/jockeys/index.html

“My first night in Australia, and for all I knew I might be in the middle of the jungle, especially when I heard what to me was a horrible animal sound outside my window. In the morning I was told it was a possum, and harmless. But worse was to come; when being shown around the park like grounds I was warned to be on the look out for snakes, and after that I imagined a snake under every bush, but though I daily saw tracks across the gravel paths, I never saw one.”

The contract under which Sara had travelled to Australia was that if she stayed for three years, the family would pay her fare back to England. However what she found in her new life was that –

“These people lived in the grand manner of the English aristocracy … There was a large staff inside and outside. The children had a nurse and a nursery housemaid, so there was nothing for me to do beyond the few hours K.G. [kindergarten teaching] every day.

I had meals and spent the evenings with the parents, and though all the families around had governesses, no attempt was made for me to get to know them… So by mutual agreement we broke the three year arrangement and I left there in March or April 1911.”

Archbishop Clarke (Archbishop of Melbourne) and his wife and daughter Elsie visited Sara’s employers.

“Elsie and I became great friends … Mrs. Clarke helped me make my decision to leave and invited me to stay with them until I found something. Though the Black [family] offered to pay my fare back to England I didn’t want to go, as I didn’t feel that what I had seen was typical Australia.”

The Archbishop suggested that Sara might join the staff of a private girls’ school but she decided to take her future into her own hands.

“So I went to an agent that I was personally recommended to go to, and there I met Amy – Mrs Germain McMicking.”

This, it turned out, was Fate.

Having negotiated an employment deal, the party set off for what was to become Sara’s home.

“I will never forget the drive through the gum forest and hills … I felt I was entering a different life and beginning to see the real Australia. And I have loved the smell of gum trees ever since.”

http://treepicturesonline.com/gum_tree_pictures.html

[And in an interesting twist, there is a eucalyptus tree in the Garth of the present RMSG although Sara would not have known the School on this site.]

One who travelled with them was Gilbert, the half-brother of one Cuthbert McMicking. When Gilbert went home the following day, Cuthbert got the news about the new English Governess…

“He turned up at Manus on his motorbike to see Germain [McMicking] on business – he said.”

Cuthbert became a frequent visitor and by January 1912 he and Sara were engaged. [I told you it was Fate!] The last school record of her was ‘married by 1912’. In fact it was exactly 1912, on 18th September, in Parramatta, Cumberland, New South Wales. Curiously the original name for RMIG was The Royal Cumberland Freemasons’ School, although that Cumberland was the Duke of Cumberland, George III’s brother, not his uncle Cumberland, the Elector of Hanover after whom the NSW area was named. There is also Baulkham Heights not far away from Parramatta and there today can be found the buildings of the William Thompson Masonic School (closed 1978), a kind of sister school to the one in London. So in Australia, Sara was both a long way from her school home and not very far at all!

https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/ahf_event/william-thompson-masonic-school-walk/

Germain [Sara’s employer] had bought Pullitop, a large estate between Wagga Wagga and Holbrook, to subdivide, and naturally wanted to sell as many blocks as possible, and got other McMicking boys including Cuthbert involved. Unfortunately, this turned sour and all too soon they were all broke:

“They were growing wheat, and the first season there was a late frost which destroyed the crop, and the next year a disastrous drought, and there were not enough returns to pay the interest, nor the payments on the very expensive machinery … These were the first years of our married life… The conditions were very harsh, I would almost call it pioneering.”

Maps from Google Earth

Life remained difficult with Cuthbert working extremely hard but events conspiring. There were times when Sara and Cuthbert and their six children were having to depend on family support but they stayed together as a family unit.

“Looking back over the long difficult years from the calm seas of the present, I feel the truth of the saying ‘There is a destiny that shapes our ends, rough hew it as we may.’ [Hamlet, Act V, Scene II]

Family was always important to Sara. Her memoirs are littered with references to her brothers and sisters, her parents’ brothers and sisters and, of course, her own children. Despite the hard life they experienced in Australia, all six of Sara and Cuthbert’s children lived to full maturity. Despite the geographical distance that separated Sara from her own siblings, they remained in contact. In 1955, they met together in England, the first time they had done so since 1909.

Images supplied by family

Sara wrote her memoirs in the year she died. Cuthbert had died in 1968 and Sara followed him in August 1970. The McMickings have a private family cemetery at Manus and Sara’s ashes are interred there.

 

http://www.australiancemeteries.com.au/nsw/tumbarumba/mannus.htm photo by Faithe Jones

But the last words should be Sara’s:

“… I don’t think, given the same circumstances, that we could have ordered our lives any differently. I am proud of the way my family has turned out – children and grandchildren alike – and I hope you can remain a well related family group and live in harmony.”

Wiser Words

(This continues the story of Sara Wise, former pupil)

Sara’s own memoirs of her time at RMIG give us a valuable and unique insight into her life at school. The School at this time was at Clapham where it had been since 1852.

RMIG Clapham

Sara describes her time there as being uneventful with a simple, but thorough, curriculum. It culminated in public exams set by Cambridge University, known as Cambridge Local Exams. As any modern practising teacher will affirm, at some point in their teens most girls switch overnight from being sugar and spice into monsters. This is clearly not a new phenomenon as Sara writes “We all went through a troublesome stage at about 13”. In her case, it coincided with “a certain class with a very ineffectual teacher. The poor thing was just a sitting duck” and Sara admits to being something of a ringleader in making trouble.

“She daily threatened to report me and finally did, and I waited for the blow to fall, but the H.M. [Headmistress] didn’t send for me. Instead, one day as I passed her office she casually called me in, and had a quiet little talk with me, from which I emerged feeling rather ashamed and a bit unsporting at having taken advantage of the poor old dear.”

The H.M. Sara refers to would have been Elizabeth Hutchinson, a former pupil herself.

RMIG Staff 1886, Elizabeth Hutchinson shown by arrow

“Anyhow the salutary little talk bore fruit, and I ended my school life as Head Prefect, and also winner of the Silver Medal for Good Conduct – with £5 bonus!”

In equivalent value, that bonus would be worth £560 today so not an insignificant amount. Sara was very surprised to have been awarded the prize as, according to her memoirs, both she and the rest of the School had decided it would go to someone else.

“Again the H.M. had to take me to her office and explain why I had been given this prize. She knew I was surprised. She laid great stress on the difference between active and passive goodness, and the fact that whereas the worthy girl was very good, she just lived a quiet passive life that had no influence on anyone else. It seems that I, on the other hand, had influence on the girls under my charge – in my dormitory, at the table and the group of girls that were my special charge as a prefect.”

Of course, there is a moral here (and, in case you were wondering, the other girl won a different prize!) and after her prize, Sara discovered that

“Life wasn’t terribly easy after this. It wasn’t enough that my charges behaved themselves, but I had to be careful not to put a foot out of step, and to remember that I was expected to set an example.”

In Sara’s own words, the Headmistress was “a wise and discerning woman” who clearly knew how to get those with leadership qualities – well OK then, potential rebels – on her side!

Sara’s silver medal would have been presented at prize day, a momentous occasion then as it still is today.

“Prize Day was held in May. We prepared for months and put on quite a show. Calisthenics and figure marching for all, choral singing for different age groups, and finally the most spectacular item – a piano recital with eight pianos across the end of the hall and a series of performances. First solos, with one girl at each piano; then duos – one at each piano, but playing in complimentary parts in pairs; and finally, trios – three at each piano, and in which I managed to qualify as bass in my last year. It was fascinating to watch the performance, with all the girls’ movements in rhythm, especially the trios with 24 girls.”

Until very recently, these duos and trios were still a set piece on Prize Day and Drill is still very much a feature.

Duos, Trios and Drill

The value of the prizes, it has already been seen, were large and pupils were asked to select what they would like. Today the girls receive books or book tokens but then, even those who selected books didn’t just receive a single book but perhaps a set of complete works, all beautifully bound.

“The year I got the silver medal I got another prize, I think for French, and I asked for what was then called a Sat-Monday bag – in other words a weekend bag, brown leather, and do you think, dear Head Mistress, that I could have a silver mounted umbrella as well?

She didn’t know if there would be enough money, but she would see. I got it, and there was some silver on the handle. So I went to receive it, with my medal on a pale blue ribbon round my neck, and came marching proudly down with the bag in one hand and the umbrella in the other.”

This Prize Day occasion would have been Sara’s last as a pupil. Due to leave school in 1905, she was retained as a pupil teacher in the Junior school: “My job was to teach the very junior pupils the 3 Rs – with no instructions on how to set about it.” The switch to pupil teacher brought not just a different status but also a small income. All the pupil teachers received two outfits and £1 a week – equivalent today to £112 so a bit more than pocket money. If they were kept on as teachers – and many were – they then became salaried staff with that salary rising incrementally as their experience and seniority grew. Most of the teaching staff had been pupils at the School; it was rare to find a member of staff who wasn’t. Sara’s headmistress, and the Headmistress before her and the one that followed (the redoubtable Bertha Dean) were all former pupils.

Meanwhile, across the Channel:

“With us all away at school, Mother was joined by her sister Agnes Humphreys, and they started a small finishing school for girls from England … They were both very well educated and very accomplished at such things as music, singing and painting etc. A French and a German governess visited and the results were very satisfactory. When the girls went home for the holidays their place was taken by English paying guests, who came over to the Continent for the summer.”

But all that changed when Sara’s mother died at the age of 49. “This made the greatest change in all our lives, because it was no longer practical to live in France.”

The British Chaplain in St Servan was able to place Sara as a pupil teacher with a group known as the Kilburn Sisters.

Emily Ayckbowm

image from http://sistersofthechurch.org/about-us/our-founder

Founded by Emily Ayckbowm in 1864, by 1875 it had opened an orphanage for girls known as the Orphanage of Mercy. It housed 500 girls by 1892. The Sisters established schools in many London parishes and at one of these, St Hilda’s in Paddington, Sara received kindergarten training.

During the holidays, the six Wise children tried to be together as much as possible. They stayed with cousins on their mother’s side and they always tried to be together at Christmas which “we spent with the Aunts in Ireland.”

The picture below, taken in 1907, shows the three girls of the family together.

 

“The Aunts had a wide circle of wonderful friends who were all very impressed with [them] taking on the responsibility of this large family and were very good to us. They mostly had estates and after a shoot always dropped in with contributions of game and other produce from their estates.”

One of these friends had a relation who was over from Australia on a visit with her husband and children. They wanted an English governess for their children, and “as I had almost finished my K.G. training it was suggested I might like the opportunity of coming to Australia.”

Thus it was that, in 1909, Sara went to Australia as a Governess. We will follow her there shortly but for now, we will leave her on the cusp of a new life on a different continent.

Wise Words

The first twenty one years of this former pupil’s life could be subtitled ‘The Case of the Mysterious H’. From 1909 onwards, she was consistently Sara but the spelling of her name before that appeared down to the vagaries of whoever was writing it! Born in St Servan, Brittany, the consular record of her birth gives her name as Sarah Elizabeth Wise, daughter of William Wise and his wife Sarah Ann Wise, nee Humphreys. After her father’s death in 1898, Miss Wise became a pupil at the Royal Masonic Institute for Girls, then at St John’s Hill, Battersea, London. In 1901, her name appears in the census return, quite clearly written as Sara.

In 1903, she was confirmed at St Paul’s, Battersea and recorded in the Chaplain’s book as Sarah. St Paul’s church no longer has services but for many years it served the community and was one of a number of churches RMIG used for services.

In the Matron’s book in 1905, when she had been delayed in returning to School after the holidays (because she had been in contact with measles), her name is given as Sarah. In that year too she was awarded a prize and her name entered on the School’s honours boards, where she is recorded for all time as

From 1909, when she began her life in Australia, Our Girl used the spelling Sara and, as this appears to be her clear preference and the name her family and descendants know her by, this is the name this story will use.

But let us return to the beginning. Sara was the third of six children of William & Sarah Wise. All barring one had been born in St Servan, Brittany. Helen, the oldest, had been born in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, the hometown of her father and where her parents had been living since their marriage in 1880.

Mrs Wise, formerly Miss Humphreys, was not from Ashbourne but from Llanddulas in North Wales. “a village and a parish in St. Asaph district, Denbigh. The village stands on the coast, adjacent to the Chester and Holyhead railway…” (from John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales 1870-2). Her father was the Rector of St Cynbryd.

Map from Google Earth; St Cynbryd church from CWGC website

How the couple met is not recorded but it is worth noting that the daughters of Erasmus Darwin set up a school for girls in Ashbourne and perhaps, maybe, who knows, Sarah Humphreys became a pupil there and thus met her future husband?

Aerial image copyright G.Hobster from http://ashbourne-town.com/villages/ashbourne/index.html.

In 1880, Mr & Mrs Wise were living in Church St which is the road leading (bottom left) out of the aerial view above.

William’s father was also a lawyer in Ashbourne and the family plans were that William and his father would be in practice together. Unfortunately, after his father died, William and the partner in the firm did not see eye to eye. William decided that he would sell his assets in the practice, bought an annuity and he and his little family went off to St Servan in Brittany to live. They were there by 1886 as the next child of the family was born there.

Sara’s own recollections, written in the last year of her life, pick up the story.

“In S. Servan there was what was called a “British Colony” – consisting mainly of retired Indian and other Army officers and others of their kind, who found living abroad congenial and cheap (free from British tax) and within the limit of their means or pensions.

Father did not practice his profession, but joined in the pleasant life of the Colony – who passed their time in the usual activities of “Gentlemen of Leisure,” such as tennis, golf, boating, fishing, musical and whist evenings etc.

There was a very nice English Church with a chaplain appointed in England. Mother played the organ and Father sang in the choir.”

There were many English communities in places on the continent as shown in this rather waspish extract from the Westminster and Foreign Quarterly Review of 1843:

The family resided “a mile or two out of S. Servan, real country with farms around – small farms, with peasant type farmers and we got on well with them and were always welcome to watch the milking and cider making and pig killing and any other activity.”

The address was Le Petite Villalie, Le Treherais, St Servan but it was known more formally as Manoir Tréhérais. In 1955, Sara and her sister went to visit St Servan “and found this house again, and were happy to find it wasn’t just a dream … It was, or is, a lovely home with lots of nice garden.” It had been restored but there was still “the same solid cedar staircase”. The biggest change had been in the kitchen “which we remembered as being rather primitive, with flagstone floors”.

http://www.infobretagne.com/saint-servan-sur-mer.htm [in translation] states that the “former mansion Treherais or Tréhairais, Route Saint Méloir of Waves … once had a private chapel … rebuilt in 1653 and restored in 1769.” The area called Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes today is connected by a road to St Servan and it seems likely that the Wise residence was on or near this road.

 

Map from Google Earth

The house does not appear to exist today but it could have changed its name and therefore be ‘invisible’ to searches. According to infobretagne, the chapel of the house was used by the Daughters of Charity established in Tréhairais but the owners retained the rights to the building and lands. “The mansion served as a school to the Sisters of Saint – Vincent – de – Paul from 1697 to 1781” but the French Revolution altered everything.

The house that was occupied by the Wise family was three storeyed “and our nurseries were on the top floor, I suppose in deference to my father’s idea that children should be seen and not heard, and not too often seen.” Very Victorian! There were six children in total. By 1898, their ages ranged from 2 to 15 years old. As Sara recalls, “[we] made our own fun, mostly out of doors where there was plenty of scope with lots of good climbable trees, and yes – even in those days – we played such things as cops and robbers, Indians and cowboys with bows and arrows and built forts and even started to build a tunnel so as to be able to get from A to B without disturbing the master of the house.” So they sound a fairly lively bunch.

The servants also slept in the attic. Sleeping quarters for six children and room for servants implies a not insubstantial building. The servants would have been hired for about 5 francs a month and they would have been “country girls who had to be trained … We picked up French from them, but it was the rough ‘patois’ dialect, which had to be knocked out of us later, along with being made to speak English.”

This idyllic childhood was slightly marred by “a lot of ill feeling for a time between the English and French. I was too young to know what it was about, something to do with the war in Soudan, and the ‘Dreyfuss[sic] Case.’”

Alfred Dreyfus

 

 

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=183917

Quite why the Dreyfus Affair caused bad feelings between English and French is unclear as it turned the French nation into Dreyfus supporters and anti-Drefusards rather than setting the French against any other nation. However, the infamous matter went on for 12 long years and perhaps the bitterness had an overspill: “Groups of cheeky French boys used to waylay us and throw stones and abuse us” Sara recalled.

But the childhood really did come to an end in 1898 when William Wise died. He was buried in St Servan on 1st June 1898. William’s annuity ended with his life.

“We left our lovely home and moved to a house nearer the town; another nice three storey house, and Mother had to find a way to make some money, and also for us to get more education – a necessity now we had no provider.”

Sara’s older sister became a pupil teacher in England and later gained a place at the Royal Academy of Music; her younger sister went to a school in Wales run for the descendants of Welsh clergy and Sara became a pupil at RMIG. Her father had probably first become a Freemason whilst he was at Trinity College, Oxford and then continued as a member of St Oswald’s Lodge in Ashbourne. Upon his death his children became eligible for support from Masonic charities and Sara and her brother Tommy went to Masonic Schools in London.

And here we will leave them and pick up Sara’s story in Part II.

Leading (Guide) Lights

Image from http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com

This posting continues the theme of Guiding starting in Guiding Lights, parts I and II. This, the final part, the third section of the Guide trefoil you might say, looks at some of the principal characters of the early School companies.

The very first School Company had, as its Captain, Dorothy Churcher. Her father was a ship’s steward and died at sea off the coast of Japan in 1902. Dorothy became a pupil in 1908 as eight was then the age of the youngest pupils. She left in 1917 and obtained a post as clerk in the Marine Assurance Office. Ten years later she went to work at the Headquarters of the Girl Guides Association. We are not told in what capacity but as her first post was clerical and a later post (in 1939) was as clerk to an accountant, one assumes it was similar. She was a member of the Old Masonic Girls’ Association in 1933 and possibly had been since she left school. Her continued connection with the school meant she was in situ to lead the first Guide Company. Machio 1929 carried this picture of her in her uniform.

 

There was also a 2nd company in the Lower House with Miss Grandjean as Captain. Dorothy Octavia Grandjean was a member of staff between 1928 and 1929. Trained at Northfield College, Stamford Hill, Dorothy had posts in ten schools between 1916 and 1931, of which RMIG was one. Her resumé indicates that she rarely stayed more than a year in each place. Perhaps she was building up a lot of experience as in 1942 she was appointed headmistress at a school in Dorset followed by a school in Somerset. Born in 1894, rather exotically, in the Seychelles, she was the daughter of John Grandjean, a British clergyman born in Belgium & Sarah Grandjean born, rather less exotically, in Bow, London. One of ten children, Dorothy was born, as were most of her siblings, in Mahé, Seychelles which became a British Colony in 1812 and remained so until 1976.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1963552

http://en.seyvillas.com/html/mahe-beaches/turtle-bay

But back to the more prosaic and sedentary, rainy day, grey skies Clapham 1929 [sigh], Jessie Hunter was Lieutenant of that second guide company. She was an Old Girl and then a member of staff and you can read about her in Hunter Gatherers.

Cecilia Goss and Enid Love were the joint authors of the first article about the Guides in Machio 1929. Cecilia was born in 1911 and officially left school on 13th December 1928 but was appointed as a pupil teacher in the Upper School. In 1930, she went to Bedford College on a scholarship and gained an Honours degree in Classics (Masonica 1934 [1]). She married in 1937 and Masonica records the birth of a son in 1939. She died in 2002.

Enid, also born in 1911, left School on the same day as Cecilia and was also appointed as a pupil teacher. Remarkably, she also went to Bedford College on a scholarship in 1930 but reading History. Gaining a BA Hons in History in 1933, she began teaching the following year. In 1939, she became Senior History Mistress at Honor Oak, London. Enid then taught History (1942) at St Clements Danes Boys’ School while it was in Oxford having been evacuated from London. Just two years later, she was appointed as Headmistress of Wokingham County School for Girls, the youngest headmistress in the country. But in 1949, she changed tack, joined the BBC and worked in educational broadcasting which ultimately earned her the OBE (in 1973). By 1952 she was Assistant Director of Broadcasts to Schools. She returned to teaching in 1963 and was headmistress of Sydenham Comprehensive School but when Yorkshire Television was created in 1968, it enticed Enid back to educational broadcasting. Described as a “distinguished educational programme-maker”[2] she took charge of education at the new company. In 1980 the Enid Love Educational Television Scholarship for secondary school television programmes was set up, sponsored by Yorkshire Television.

 

The Stage 15 October 1981

In 1965, Enid married Geoffrey C Whitaker, RN. She died in November 1979, an obituary appearing in The Stage 15th November 1979.

Two other pupils named in Machio articles about the early days of the School Guide Company were: Cecily Rodway (b 1914), who left School in 1930 but was retained as a pupil teacher at Weybridge (Junior School). In 1932 she became a probationer at Clapham. The Matron’s report of February 1933 requested a salary of £114 pa for her as she had demonstrated her capabilities. In 1934 she was appointed to the Matron’s staff in Rickmansworth, leaving to be married in 1935. By 1939 Mr & Mrs Mugliston were living in Mangotsfield, Gloucestershire although Cecily also lived in Belfast and West Kirby during her married life. She died in 1967 in West Kirby.

Phyllis Newnham, like Enid and Cecilia, was born in 1911. She joined the School as a Weybridge pupil in 1918, one of the first intake to the Junior School on its moving to Surrey.

 

Ten years later, by then in the Senior School which had remained in Clapham, she became the Gold medallist, leaving school in December 1928. Like Enid & Cecilia, she was appointed pupil teacher in the Upper House and then took a degree in Geography – at Bedford College. Is this beginning to sound familiar?

Bedford College was founded by Elisabeth Jesser Reid in 1849 as the first college in Great Britain for the higher education of women. In 1900, it was admitted to the University of London. Noted alumnae include novelists George Eliot, Ivy Compton-Burnett and Richmal Crompton, and Professor Helen Cam, the first female professor at Harvard. In 1912, the College appointed Margaret Benson as Professor of Botany (the first female professor in Great Britain).[3] Today the College has merged with, and is known as, Royal Holloway but the campus of Regent’s University is the site of the Bedford College RMIG pupils would have known. (It had moved there from Bedford Square in 1911.)

Image from http://www.pinsdaddy.com/regents-university-london

With her newly acquired BA Hons Geography Phyllis joined RMIG staff in September 1933 for the School’s final year in Clapham. When the whole kit and caboodle transferred to Rickmansworth in 1934, Phyllis became Head of Geography and assistant housemistress in Sussex boarding house. In 1945, she became Housemistress of Alexandra and retired in 1968 having spent her entire career at the School. After she died in 1995, OMGA made a presentation to the school in her memory of a barograph and a seat for Chapel Quad.

For those of us who haven’t a clue about these things, a barograph is an instrument that measures and records pressure.

 

This is one. Their use nowadays has mostly been superseded by digital technology.

The early Guide companies at RMSG had patrols named after birds. In 1931, the patrol leaders were identified as: Joan Williams (196-1953) – Bullfinches; Joy Sarsons (1917-1992) – Kingfishers; Kathleen Harrison (1916-1981) – Blue Tits; Freda Beckwith (b 1917) – Swallows; Mair Davies (1917-1993) – Nightingales; Joyce Morris (1916-1996) – Robins; Joan Thompson (b 1915) – Chaffinches.

In 1931, Kathleen Bareham became the Lieutenant. Born in 1913, Kathleen officially left School in 1930 as silver medallist (the medal is still in the family), with prizes for drawing and history, and was retained as a pupil teacher until old enough to train as an art teacher. In 1931, she went to Clapham High School Training Department for Teachers of Art in Secondary Schools. From there she obtained her Oxford Diploma for art teaching (design, object drawing, life and perspective) in 1933 and was appointed to the School as Art Mistress in 1935. Her niece was later to write of her:

She “… was a Renaissance woman able to make beautiful clay pots; [she] studied and won awards for her pottery glazes; upholstered in fabric and leather; had green fingers and was keeper of the family Christmas cake recipe!”

In addition to all these, she was also a skilled tailor – “I have a photo of my grandmother wearing a dress made by Aunty Kitty … which I’ve owned since she died and which fits me perfectly.” During the war, she attended Silversmiths and Goldsmiths College to study silverware – “I have a silver teapot, jug and sugar bowl she made”.

She was the youngest daughter of the family and, as was the way then, she remained at home to look after her elderly mother but bought a Cornish mine count house just outside St Agnes which became her retirement home until she died in 1988.

A Count House was the hub of the day-to-day running of the tin mine and also where the miners collected their pay. The remoteness of the tin mines is shown dramatically in the picture below (from https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wheal-coates).

 

Other girls who were Guide leaders in the 1930s were Joan Morgan Thomas, who left school in July 1934 and went to Cardiff School of Domestic Science and gained a diploma in needlework and dressmaking. She was appointed as Domestic Science mistress to Caerphilly Senior Girls’ School; Joan Addyman and Patricia Ralph both became clerks in Civil Service departments and both died in 2004; Pamela Rottersman left school in 1940 to take a commercial course at home in Brighton and, in 1942, was in the Home Guard there. No doubt her skills learned as a Guide stood her in good stead.

Of course, there were a lot more girls who joined the School Guide companies over the years but later Machio articles rarely name them. So these Leading Lights are selected to represent them all. And given that the pupils from the School came from all over the world and went all over the world, it seems appropriate to conclude with the symbol of the World Girl Guide Association.

[1] The magazine of the Old Masonic Girls’ Association (OMGA)

[2] Potter, Jeremy: Independent Television in Britain: Volume 4: Companies and Programmes, 1968–80, Macmillan 1990

[3] https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/aboutus/ourhistory

Guiding Lights II

In Guiding Lights, we looked at early Guiding both nationally and at RMIG. By the time WWII had come to its weary conclusion, the world had changed. And it continued to change, sometimes with dizzying speed, so things like the Guide Movement offered  stability whilst it also embraced change itself.

“Girlguiding has always changed as the lives of girls have changed since it was founded …”[1]

In 1945 Agnes Baden-Powell died (Robert Baden-Powell had died in 1941 at his home in Kenya) so the post-war period was a time for both remembering the past and moving forward into the ‘brave new world’.

After WWII, a new Guide uniform was created and it changed from the navy blue it had settled as and became what was called ‘headquarters blue’.

 

https://uk.pinterest.com/rangerguide/girl-guide-girl-scout-history/ 1957 uniform & uniform 1940 from http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com

“The Queen’s Guide programme was introduced in 1946, offering an extra challenge for Guides, who had to gain certain specified interest badges to qualify.”[2]

This covered a wide range of topics and took a great deal of hard work to achieve it. At RMSG, Machio records at least three Queen’s Guides, including this one from the 1980s.

The Queen at the time the Queen’s Guide Award was introduced was Queen Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mother. She and George VI visited the School in 1946.

By 1949, RMSG had three Guide companies: 3rd, 4th and 7th Chorleywood Guides. Patrols within these had always comprised members of the same boarding house, despite the efforts of Guiders to persuade the guides to try ‘mixed patrols’. Clearly house allegiance overcame all other considerations. But in 1949, of their own volition, they decided to try it and it must have worked because there was no other references to them returning to single-house patrols.

An annual camp was clearly a much anticipated, and hugely enjoyed, experience. In 1949, their camp was in Henley with the Thames running alongside the campsite. Imagine the acres of risk assessment forms that would have to be completed today!

“We found with Rat and Mole that there was nothing like ‘simply messing about’ with boats and a river.”

They were there at the time of the Regatta so they had grandstand views from the campsite.

During their time at camp, amongst other visits, they went to a Brewery. And apparently no-one questioned the fact that schoolgirls were touring a place whose purpose was to prepare intoxicating liquor! They also had a number of visitors including the local gamekeeper “with his velveteen jacket with its bulging pockets”. Redolent of a bygone era.

In 1951, 29 guides went camping in Sussex for twelve days. Highlights included bathing at Seaford, lunch on Newhaven Beach and a visit to Glyndbourne where they met the owner, had a behind the scenes tour and were allowed to listen to part of the rehearsal. The article went on to say that [in true British summer weather] it poured with rain on the last day but a local lady came and said she had ”lit the kitchen fire in the empty thatcher’s cottage and had a copperful of boiling water and that we were all to go and sleep there that night.” The Famous Five will be appearing any second now …

In 1952, when George VI died, Guides across the country had to take a new oath of allegiance to the monarch. Now they were serving a Queen, not a King, and one, moreover, who had been a Guide herself. And yet, although there were significant changes, the spirit of guiding continued as it always had. It was clearly popular at RMSG because we are told that the three companies were all large.

Enter the Sixties and 1960 saw the 50th birthday of the Guiding movement and, fortunately, there was no confusion about the date of this in Machio. Unfortunately, it was because there was no mention of it at all! Assessing the activities of guiding at RMSG is dependent on reports in the School magazine and whilst these started to become more sparse there is no reason to believe that this represented a great waning of interest. Indeed, in 1965 we learn that the Guide Captain was leaving the company and hoped that someone would come forward to lead it. When no-one did the Guides continued on their own! They were granted money from the Committee [at the School] to enable them to buy the new uniform.

Drawn image of 1966 from https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/372109987938710346/

However, in 1967 we learn that the three companies had again become two and then we are told that the two companies merged into one with 36 members. Whether this was a lessening interest or the fact that there was still no Guider to ‘rally the troops’ is a moot point. There was help from a number of sources but mostly the Guides organised themselves. To mark the 50th anniversary of Guiding, new initiatives were considered with the aim of developing guiding in the future but self-winding Guide companies might not have been quite what they had in mind!

In 1968, nationally the uniform was revamped and during the 70s the uniform ties changed frequently

“going from a mini necker, to a cross over style tie which was held in place by the Promise badge, to a conventional rolled necker worn with a woggle”[3].

In the 1990s, the fashion designer Jeff Banks was asked to re-design the uniform.

Guide uniforms in the 1980s and then the 1990s

But fashion doesn’t stay still and, with practicality in mind, in 2000 the uniform changed again using more mix and match styles including sweatshirts, rugby shirts, polo shirts, t-shirts, and a hoody, all worn with an individual choice of trousers or skirt. In 2014, it was once again re-modelled introducing a mid-range blue fabric

“deliberately chosen to be comfortable in different temperatures, crumple-proof and quick-drying”[4].

Whilst the modern uniform may look worlds away from the early ones, in some ways they are not dissimilar. They are practical interpretations of what was deemed suitable at the time. The 1910 girl, adapting her brother’s old cricket shirt, is actually not a million light years away from the modern sweatshirts and hoodies and leggings, albeit that the modern Guide buys her uniform and the 1910 Miss made hers. Washability is now a modern requirement. Perhaps just as well. As an RMSG Brownie Guider commented when the sweatshirts for the Brownies were first introduced: “Whoever dreamed up bright yellow? Have they never seen the state of Brownies by the end of a meeting??”

Perhaps Guides are too sedate to get grubby.

(Fat chance!)

 

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/05/17/girl-guides-could-get-badges-vlogging-upcycling-biggest-revamp/

[2] http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/timeline

[3] http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/guides.htm

[4] ibid

Guiding Lights

armsful of badges
Guiding badges

http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news 24 May 2017

In 2017 Girlguiding announced it was planning an overhaul of its programme. It had been consulting its members and thousands of girls had suggested “ideas for new badges, including App Design, Vlogging and Upcycling”[1]. Other suggestions for new badges have been Entrepreneurship, DIY, Festival Goer, Voting, Grow Your Own, Speaking Out and Archaeology. The consultation was now being opened to the general public.

“The new programme, which will be launched in summer 2018, is aimed at making the Girl Guides ‘more relevant’ to the lives of girls and teenagers.”[2]

The organisation was keen to correct the image that the proficiency badges were mostly of a domestic nature – “less adventurous badges like Homemaker and Hostess”[3]. A report in the school magazine in 1965 shows a haul of earned badges at RMSG is indeed somewhat top heavy in domestic skills: Child Nurse 12; Cook 7; Hostess 4; Homemaker 2; Laundress 2; Needlewoman 4; Little House 4; Sick nurse 2; Life savers 3; Thrift 4.

Thankfully, there was also Gymnast 3; Minstrel 1; Map reader 10; Hiker 1; Camper 1; Pioneer 1; Woodcraft 1.

The history of the Guides, however, shows that it has been breaking new ground from the beginning with badges such as Air Mechanic, Telegraphist and Electrician (all 1912); Architect (1920), Electrical Engineer (1920s) and Radio Communicator (1980).

early Guide badge
Air Mechanic Badge 1912

When scouting for boys began in 1907, it was not long before the girls wanted in on it. They adapted scout uniform by cannibalising their brothers’ old cricket shirts and adding sturdy skirts. They followed the pattern of scout troop meetings albeit at a distance and they were a recognised shadow movement, openly acknowledged in 1909. “… at Robert Baden-Powell’s request the separate organisation of the Girl Guides [was] started in 1910 by his sister, Agnes Baden-Powell”[4].

Agnes and a guide

(Left) Agnes Baden Powell image from eadt.co.uk Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13288352 and (right) Picture of 1910 uniform from http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/guides.htm

In 1912, the first Guide Handbook was produced, adapted from Scouting for Boys but given “a fine veneer of femininity, to appease parents and other nervous adults who worried that the new scheme might lead their daughters astray”[5].

The Guiding movement now being well-established, it is difficult to imagine that it might have once been looked on with disfavour. However, at the time, it might have been confused with the more militaristic aspects of the suffragette/gist movement “which sought greater rights and freedoms for women by a range of means, some illegal.”[6] Or it might inspire girls to be more aggressive, or be a subversive method of preparing them for war service as nurses at the Front. In fact, it could be argued that WWI was good for the Guides because they had the opportunity – which they seized – to show how their guide training could be very useful other than in knitting socks for the troops (which they probably also did!).

According to http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/guides.htm, Guides acted as messengers, worked in hospitals, made hospital dressings and

“Many were involved in fundraising for causes such as the Red Cross and refugee funds, and … a special Guide fundraising drive, which raised enough money to set up and run an extensive and regularly-expanded rest hut for soldiers ‘behind the lines’ in France, and also to provide a ‘motor ambulance’”

This positivity meant that, post-war, the Guiding movement really began to flourish “possibly linked to the rapid increase in the number of single young ladies and widows unexpectedly available and with the free time to become Guiders, an indirect and unfortunate consequence of the massive loss of young soldiers and officers in World War 1.”[7] Because the Duke of Devonshire, a leading Freemason, was “a strong opponent of the Girls’ Scout movement”[8] possibly any early attempt by the School to instigate a Guide Company might have been thwarted. As it was, the Girl Guides continued apace but it was not until 1929 that the first school Guide Company was formed.

The School magazine, Machio, records that the first guide meeting was on 13th February with 21 guides. Interestingly, the article refers to these girls having been Brownies so it would appear that a Brownie pack at the School already existed but there are no records for when this began.

Meetings comprised games, inspection, drill and competitions between the patrols with marks awarded. Whichever patrol won the greatest number of points in a term won the shield. The article goes on to say that Guides were preparing a Morse display for Ex Girls’ day in June of that year although we are not given any further information about what this involved.

Their uniforms were made in “the new style” with the exception of the school tie being substituted for the Guide tie.

 

1920s image from http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/guides.htm with school guides image from Machio 1929

Trying to reconstruct the facts after the event using Machio inevitably gives rise to confusion. In 1929 there were apparently two guide companies and yet in 1931 we are told it had been decided to split the Guide Company into two, one for the Upper School and one for the Lower House – um – exactly as described in 1929! The Upper School company had two patrols (Robins and Chaffinches) whilst the Lower School company had Bullfinches, Kingfishers, Blue Tits, Swallows and Nightingales patrols.

We are also told that on February 21st, they celebrated the company’s 3rd birthday whereas Machio 1929 gives the starting date as 13th February. Which is actually correct is impossible to say. Their celebration took place in the Hall [Centenary Hall] and they played games and then did a charade from Cinderella“Miss Potter very kindly allowed us some suitable clothes from the play-box”.

The article, written by two 13 year olds, states that the numbers in the Upper School company had decreased (because of their exam overload) and then in the next sentence says that eight new guides were enrolled. Perhaps they understood what they meant!

One element is clear in the article: that on 4th May Prize Day, the Guide Company formed the Guard of Honour for HRH the Princess Royal’s visit to the School. Princess Mary was made the honorary president of the British Girl Guide Association in 1920, a position she held until her death in 1965.

Image of Princess Mary from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3607650

Unfortunately in the next breath, so to speak, the Machio correspondent is back to the confused/ing statements: the “Guide movement celebrated their 21st birthday this year” (Machio 1932) whereas this presumably happened in 1931. For this, they paraded at church and every guide was asked to do something to help someone else. The School Company made children’s frocks and other garments, which were sent to a London mission.

The writer includes the information that Miss Vickridge “the new French mistress” was a keen guider and was hoping to restart guiding in the Upper House. Clearly in this she was successful as in Machio 1933 we are told that the Guides are now called the Sixth Battersea Rise Company (the Lower School group was the 4th Battersea Rise Company) with 16 members who were enrolled on March 8th by the District Commissioner. By the following term numbers had increased to 48 – six patrols of eight girls: Daffodil, Snowdrop, Fuchsia, Holly, Poppy and Heather [the robins and chaffinches seem to have flown the nest!] Meanwhile, the younger guides were 30-strong and 22 of them, having their 2nd class badges, were working at earning their proficiency badges “such as Needlewoman, Knitter, Child Nurse and Cook [more domesticity!] and working for Athlete and Dancer’s Badges.”

By 1939, the company had increased exponentially, numbering 102 with 9 as cadets or senior guides, and 36 further guides who wished to join so a separate company was formed – back to the confusion about just how many companies there actually were! By this time the School had moved to Rickmansworth and the guide companies were the 4th and 7th Chorleywood companies. In that year there was a Pageant of some kind as the picture shows but the article fails to mention it so we don’t have any further information. However, 24th May was then known as Empire Day and the costumes look to be related to the various countries in it so we can probably assume this was what the Pageant was acknowledging.

Coincidentally, May 24 1939 was a Wednesday as it was in 2017 but that’s neither here nor there.

1939 was also, of course, the beginning of WWII although it is most unlikely that any of the girls in this picture would have been aware of its awful imminence. What price an air mechanic’s badge now? Let us leave them celebrating and in Part Two of this posting we will rejoin the Guiding story post-war.

Sources

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39936006

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/05/17/girl-guides-could-get-badges-vlogging-upcycling-biggest-revamp/

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39936006

[4] http://lesliesguidinghistory.webs.com/guides.htm

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

Bible Stories

Bible pic

“On their departure, they were presented with a Bible, a prayer book and a copy of Dr Wilson’s Treatise on the Sacraments.” Polished Cornerstones, p 241.

This relates specifically to the first pupils to leave the school c 1795. Dr Wilson’s Treatise was seemingly widely read in the eighteenth century. However, it started a pattern which continued throughout the School’s history until last year. Whilst religious tracts were intended to ensure that ‘the lessons they have here been taught’ continued to hold them in good stead in the outside world, there were also practical considerations. As they approached school-leaving age (never less than 15), discreet enquiries were made as to whether the family was able to resume its care for their daughter. All the girls had been received into the School as daughters of indigent Freemasons, the School taking on full responsibility for their clothing, welfare and education. Sometimes the families had not recovered from whatever caused the indigence and, in many cases, there was no longer any family left. But if  the family were able to resume their care, four guineas was spent on ‘Plain Cloathing’ and the girl was delivered back to them. The phrase makes her sound rather like a parcel or a piece of luggage but it was just the phrasing used at the time. The column in the register was headed ‘How disposed of’ which is even worse but it is just the way language use has changed. If she could not be returned to her family, an apprenticeship would be found and all the fees thereto would be met by the School. In either case, a Bible was also presented to her on her departure.

In an age when fewer people owned books, this was clearly cherished by the former pupils who have handed down their bibles through the generations of their own family. A will dated 1845 was the starting point for this posting.

Will whole
The will of Isabella Window 1845

The relevant portion of the will is “I give to my sister Matilda Window of 22 Star Road Edgware Road my silver watch and my School Bible also the School Prayer Book”

Isabella Window became a pupil at RMIG in 1826. Born in Nottingham in 1818, she was baptised in St Mary’s church there on 22 Feb 1818. Also known as St Mary’s in the Lace Market, the church is one of five Grade I listed buildings in Nottingham and the largest mediaeval building in the city.

Notts church
St Mary. Nottingham

The vicar at the time was George Wilkins and during one of his sermons, a loud cracking noise was heard, clearly emanating from the masonry. There was a rapid exodus of the congregation as it was thought that the tower was about to collapse. Perhaps because George’s brother was an architect (William Wilkins), he was in a better position to know what to do and it is attributed to his action that the church survives today rather than it being taken down and rebuilt.

“[He] summoned the architect Lewis Nockalls Cottingham to survey the fabric, and Cottingham implemented a scheme to prop up the tower with scaffolding while the tower piers were repaired.” (Wikipedia citing Allen, Frank J, 1932, The Great Church Towers of England. Chiefly of the Perpendicular Period Cambridge University Press)

The church of St Mary is mentioned in D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers

“They threaded through the throng of church-people. The organ was still sounding in St. Mary’s. Dark figures came through the lighted doors; people were coming down the steps. The large coloured windows glowed up in the night. The church was like a great lantern suspended.”

Isabella had become eligible to be a pupil through her father’s membership of Newstead Lodge where he is described as a ‘Taylor’. He had married Isabella’s mother, Isabella, in 1805 in Greasley, Nottingham and it seems highly likely that she is the Isabella Window listed in 1828 Pigot’s directory as a widow and listed under Tailors & Habit makers in Goose Gate, Nottingham.

City centre
Nottingham 1830

http://www.nottshistory.org.uk/resources/maps/Nottingham/nottingham1830.pdf

Isabella had four sisters and two brothers but, as was the ruling at the time, only one daughter came to the School. We do not know where the other children were educated but we do know that three of the sisters were living in London in 1845 as their addresses are recorded in Isabella’s will. Perhaps they attended similar schools and then made their lives in London.

Isabella left School on 31 July 1833 ‘delivered to her mother’ from which we might make the assumption that she returned to Nottingham. However, she is listed in 1841 in a Westminster Rate book as living at 22 Star Street – presumably the Star Road referred to in her will.

She died in the year the will is dated and is buried in another St Mary’s but this one is in Paddington Green where the burial record of 21 June 1845 confirms her address as Star Street. Even in an age when life expectancy was less, her death aged 27 would still be regarded as being very young.

St Mary and graves
St Mary, Paddington Green & reburial plaque

Image of church by Libby Norman – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16174857

Image of plaque by Forscher scs – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44181119

The graveyard was converted to a public park in 1966 but some of Isabella’s ‘neighbours’ have included: William Chandless (1829 – 1896), Amazon explorer [the river not the website]; Arthur Roberts (1852 – 1933), comedian; Leonard Charles Wyon (1826 – 1891), engraver and coin-designer; Sir Stephen Spender (1909 – 1995), poet; Joseph Nollekens (1737 – 1823), sculptor and his father, Joseph Francis Nollekens, artist; Emma Paterson (1846 – 1886), feminist and unionist and Sarah Siddons (1755 – 1831), actress.

Perhaps, somewhat appropriately, another grave is for Rev Alexander Geddes (1737 – 1802), Biblical scholar on which note we can return to the school bibles.

Another pupil presented with a bible when she left was Agnes Ruspini, the granddaughter of the Chevalier Ruspini credited with starting the School. She arrived at the School the year before Isabella left. When she, in her turn, left she was apprenticed to a dressmaker, taking her Bible with her.

Agnes Ruspini
Presentation details

It says something for the School that, after Agnes had completed her apprenticeship and having presumably nowhere else to go, she came back to the School. That this was a little unexpected may be shown by the minutes which state in 1847 that “the Matron’s conduct in receiving Agnes Ruspini again as an inmate on the completion of her apprenticeship was approved” but that the House Committee must be the body that “receives into the School any person”. After a while, Agnes was apprenticed again and in 1851 she appears in the census as a tailoress. From then on, traces of her are fleeting and uncertain. It is possible that she married twice but in neither case is all the information correct. For example, on her 2nd marriage (assuming this really is her), she gives her father’s name as William Bladen Ruspini, dentist – which is wrong if she is ‘our’ Agnes whose father was James Bladen Ruspini. If she did marry, hers is probably the death of 1888 in Poplar. Whenever it was she died, the bible with which she was presented came back to the School in her memory.

Agnes’ presentation was handwritten – as we do not have isabella’s we cannot say whether hers was – but by 1873 the School was using printed presentation labels and the Bibles were splendidly bound with a clasp.

bible label
Bible and the label inside

Ada Maria Reeds, to whom this was presented, was recommended by Miss Davis (Head Governess) as a pupil teacher in one of the Government schools. In 1881, the census gives her occupation as Assistant School Mistress at Fir Tree Road Kensington so we assume the recommendation was carried out.

By 1902, the Bibles are now carrying a coat of arms although the eagle-eyed among you may notice that the motto is that used by the Boys’ School: aude, vidi, taci.

Bradley's Bible
Bible presented to Rose Bradley

The Bible was presented back to the School by her daughter after Rose’s death in 1963.

During the First World War, such printed extravagances may have been thought unpatriotic so the presentation bibles came inside a printed slip cover.

1916 cover
Bible slip cover

A Bible presented in 1921 had a little adventure all of its own! It was presented to Eleanor Hill, one half of the duo known as the Titanic Twins as their father died on the ill-fated vessel. This presentation Bible has the coat of arms in colour and no longer has the Boys’ motto but the School did not as yet have its own coat of arms. (That was to come in 1936.)

Titanic Bible
1921 Bible presented to Eleanor A Hill

In 2013, the School was contacted by an antiquarian book seller in Ireland to say he had found this Bible amongst a box of other books and would we like it returned? We did and it was!

The most ‘recent’ presentation Bible held by the School is not one that was presented to a pupil and later returned by families but one that was presented to the School itself. When RMIG moved from Clapham (shown in the presentation label above) in 1934, there were many splendid gifts donated to mark this major change in the School’s history. Amongst the gifts was a Bible for the lectern in the Chapel.

Big bible
Lectern Bible

The picture doesn’t really demonstrate its size. It is probably about 15 centimetre (or 6 inches in old money) in depth and now in a rather fragile state. It was presented to the School on a momentous occasion by someone who was having a somewhat momentous occasion of her own.

Bridges label
Bible presentation label

Isabella Window’s short life has given us an interesting slant on the School’s history. It seems appropriate then to quote Sir Stephen Spender who happens to be buried in the same place as she was:

Spender quote
Sir Stephen Spender’s words