CQD and RMIG

The telegraphic call of CQ (pronounced sécu) had been used to alert all stations along a line. Rather as the beloved shipping forecast begins with ‘Attention all shipping’, CQ was the equivalent of ‘Hey listen up guys!’ There was no agreed emergency signal but in 1904 the Marconi Company instructed their operators that D (for distress) should be added, thus making CQD a telegraphic signal that help was required. At the same time the distress signal SOS was also being used interchangeably with CQD.

The two signals represented as Morse code might suggest that SOS was marginally quicker to send but in the hands of a skilled telegraphist the difference was minimal. One such skilled person was Jack Phillips, chief telegraphist on RMS Titanic. On the night of 15 April 1912, he initially sent CQD. Harold Bride, the junior radio operator, suggested using SOS. With a kind of gallows humour, and perhaps realising by this point that the unsinkable Titanic was going to do just that, he commented that it might be their only chance to use the ‘new’ signal. Phillips then began to alternate the two distress calls.

Phillips – and Bride who stayed in the radio room alongside him – was very much the hero of the hour, remaining at his post until Captain Smith issued the order to all crew to ‘save yourselves’ – an indication that all was lost. At the inquest, another radio operator who had picked up the signals commented that Phillips’ transmissions never wavered in their consistency or accuracy.

‘Jack’s last message was picked up by the Virginia of the Allen Line at 2.17am, and the Titanic foundered at 2.20am. ‘

http://www.godalmingmuseum.org.uk/index.php?page=jack-phillips-and-the-titanic

Because of telegraph messages, news of the ship’s fate reached newspapers in UK by the following day although there was clearly confusion in interpreting them.

But what has all this to so with the School? Well, this is the +RMIG bit of the heading. The Royal Masonic Institute for Girls had been established in 1788 to come to the aid of those in distress and the terrible loss of lives on the Titanic was certainly a time of great distress. Four girls who became pupils of the School did so because their fathers went down with the ship. Florence and Eleanor Hill, twin daughters of Henry Parkinson Hill (and known in School as the Titanic Twins) and Ethel and Brenda Parsons, daughters of Edward Parsons, all become pupils. Florence & Eleanor Hill and Ethel Parsons were at the School contemporaneously. Brenda Parsons, the youngest, two years old in 1912, would not have been old enough to be a pupil until 1918.

These fuzzy images are Florence Hill and Ethel Parsons as captured from a whole school portrait taken in 1913 (below).

Ethel and Brenda Parsons were the daughters of marine storekeeper Edward Parsons.

17 April 1912 – Western Daily Mercury

No doubt his family would have been extremely proud when he was appointed to the White Star line’s most luxurious and prestigious ship, little imagining the fate that awaited him. After all, the Titanic was unsinkable.

The Parsons family had been living in Liverpool and four of the children had been born there. They moved to Southampton sometime before 1910 and Brenda, the youngest child, was born there. As the wife of a member of ship’s crew, Mrs Parsons would always have been aware of the dangers of the sea but – the Titanic was unsinkable. What could possibly go wrong?

One of Edward’s grandchildren later commented that the family had a letter from the White Star line indicating that Eddie (as he was known) was last seen on the deck giving biscuits to children and comforting them. His body was never recovered or identified. His wages of £6 per month as Chief Storekeeper would have ceased with his death, leaving Mrs Parsons with five children to support on no income. She benefited from a Titanic relief fund but Edward’s Masonic connections meant that they too stepped in to offer support.

Ethel Parsons probably came to the School almost immediately after the disaster and left in 1920, accepted by Southampton Education Committee as a pupil teacher. Later she won a place at Hartley College, Southampton to read for an Arts degree but decided instead to train as an elementary teacher. She returned to the School in 1924 as a Lower School mistress, described as a temporary post, and she either left when she married in 1925 or slightly before. Thereafter, the School loses sight of her and it is left to public records to note that she probably died in 1994 in Surrey.

Her youngest sister, Brenda, little more than a baby when her father died, would not have become a pupil much before 1918 as eight was the usual admission age. It seems highly likely, however, that Mrs Parsons would have received financial aid before Brenda became a pupil as this was ‘part of the package’. She left school on 15th December 1927, undertook commercial training and by 1928 had a post in an insurance office. In 1929 she married George Holloway, a Congregationalist minister. In 1958, she married for a second time and became Mrs Tiller and she died on 22nd December 2008 in Eastbourne, not quite making it to her centenary but coming very close.

One of the Titanic Twins did make it to her centenary but let’s not jump ahead. They were the daughters of Henry Parkinson Hill and Florence Hill nee Baxter who married in 1903. Sadly by 1908 the marriage had failed and Henry had left the family home. The girls remembered little of their father as they were only 3 when he departed. Whether he went off to sea at that time or later is unclear but he was a 3rd Class Steward on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. His body too has never been recovered or identified. As he had been a Freemason, his daughters were eligible for support and they were elected to the School.

Eleanor’s time at the School is less well-recorded than her sister. She left school in 1921 and went to help her mother who ran an electric massage establishment. By 1923 she was nursing at the Treloar Cripple [sic] House in Alton but by 1927 was helping her aunt to run a boarding house so it seems her ‘career path’ was less clear cut than Florence’s. The school magazine records Eleanor’s death as being on 27th July 1976 ‘after a long illness’ and also notes that she was for a time assistant to the catering officer at the School.

Her sister Florence was clearly a bright cookie and was entered early for Local Examinations (equiv. of O and A levels then). Having passed them, according to her own recollections, the School didn’t know quite what to do with her as she was too young to leave. So she took them again the following year.

And the year after that!

She declared that in her final years at the School she was bored out of her mind because there was nothing academically for her to work towards. She did not have the qualifications for university having no Latin, a requirement at the time. In 1922 she became a student teacher with Peterborough Education Committee and went to Peterborough Training College the following year. In 1926, she won a place at Bedford College for Women and emerged with a B Sc. upon which she returned to the School to teach mathematics. The following limerick was written by an unknown pupil about Florence.

When the School moved to Rickmansworth in 1934, Florence moved with it and became Housemistress in one of the boarding houses (Connaught) before leaving in 1937 to marry the brother of one of her colleagues. In 1954, she came back to the School to teach until retirement in 1965. In 1994, she married for a second time, at the age of 89! She told friends that falling in love at 89 is just the same as falling in love at 29 – you feel all bubbly inside.

In 1999, she paid another visit to the School during which she entertained a group of Year 7 students with tales from the past of the School. They couldn’t quite comprehend a world where uniform was worn at all time except for pyjamas; where, having been in lessons all day, you spent the evening doing homework because there was little else to do. A world without television [today it would be smart phones]? Impossible!

After retirement, Florence lived in Lincoln and then Leicester. But a sedentary lifestyle it was not. Her nephew by marriage wrote of her:

You won’t be surprised to hear that at the age of 100 she organised her own birthday party, which was a truly joyful occasion, and one attended by numbers of her old pupils.

After the war, she had visited Germany a number of times and learned to speak German. She had been on one of these visits shortly before her death on 3rd November 2007 at the grand age of 102. Her death was sudden but peaceful in hospital where she was being treated for a broken collar bone, an injury that in a child is as nothing but in a 102 year old is a coup de grâce.

The death of Florence did not quite bring an end to the Titanic association. All girls were presented with a Bible on their departure from the school and in 2013, the School was contacted by an antiquarian book seller in Ireland to say he had found Eleanor’s Bible amongst a box of other books and would we like it returned? We would and it was! So a century after she was first in the School, something belonging to her was returned to it. 104 years after the Titanic disaster we can bring their stories to an end.

Constantinopolitans

Three former pupils from the nineteenth century were born in what was then Constantinople, Turkey. Their families were part of the British settlement in Constantinople, itself the result of a long and complex power struggle – the nightmare of O and A level history students studying European history. Trying to remember all the various, and frequently-changing, alliances was hard-going, especially for exam-fevered brains. For our trio a la Turque, it was simply where they were born, where their families were, where their fathers worked and, in one case, where she lived for much of her married life. The political machinations went on around them without their having an active part in it.

Before we look at the three as individuals, let us consider their place of birth. Constantinople has had many names. Its first name was Byzantium. 600 years later it became the capital of the East Roman Empire and was called Constantinople after Constantine. Just to add variety, it was also called Nova Roma and Konstantinoupolis and Konstantiniyye and Roma Constantinopolitana by different peoples but during the same period. Oh and there was also Basileuousa (Queen of Cities) and Megalopolis (the Great City), Miklagarðr, Rūmiyyat al-Kubra (Great City of the Romans), Takht-e Rum (Throne of the Romans), Tsargrad (Russian) and, in colloquial speech, simply Polis. It’s a wonder the name Constantinople stuck at all. Especially since its five syllables have caused spelling problems for countless generations. There are a legion of little rhymes designed (supposedly) to help spell it. Here are three of them:

And having grappled with the complexity of things designed to make something seem simple (!), came the news that actually it was to be known as Istanbul anyway. But the Turks had almost always called the city by that name which is a slightly distorted form of the Greek word meaning ‘to the city.’ (information from http://ecevityazilari.org/items/show/144 , https://adrianharringtonbooks.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/masonic-lodges-in-constantinople-not-istanbul/ and Wikipedia.)

The British community mostly lived in Pera or Galata within the city so it seems very likely that our ‘Turkish Delights’ (sorry – couldn’t resist) would have too. As they were born in 1861, 1880 and 1890 respectively, they would not have been childhood playmates but two of the fathers joined the same Masonic Lodge on the same day and are listed together in the records suggesting that possibly they may have known each other. In a small ex-pat community though, all the families would probably have known the others. Their lifestyle was probably largely European in their own homes but there may have been concessions elsewhere. Some nineteenth century photographs of Constantinople show a marked absence of women in the streets. Whether that reflects the culture or is just coincidence is impossible to say.

Nineteenth century photograph of Istanbul

https://monovisions.com/constantinople-turkey-in-19th-century-historic-bw-photos/

Pascal Sébah photograph

https://www.costumecocktail.com/2016/12/21/englishwomen-in-constantinople-19th-century/

The above image is by Pascal Sébah, a photographer in Constantinople. Labelled ‘English women in Constantinople’, it is unclear whether this was normal dress for European women at the time or if these two were dressing in Turkish style. Other contemporaneous art seems to suggest that these are staged images and that ‘at home’ they dressed as other C19th women but your guess is as good as mine.

Sébah had a studio in Grande Rue de Pera, now called İstiklal Avenue and this area would surely have been known to the British community.

Formerly Grande Rue de Pera

G Da, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57402340

This modern image of the street shows buildings that would have been there at the time even if the modern shop fronts have changed.

This little ‘postcard view’ shows places that would have been there, if not familiar, to the girls in their time in Constantinople. All of them are now firmly on the tourist trail.

But let us turn to the three girls and their families. Leila Pulman b 1861 was given a name that comes from Arabic or Persian and may have reflected her birth (or may not …) as it can mean ‘one born during the night’. Her parents, Henry Pulman and Mary Jane (Polly) Pulman nee Butler, had 3 other children. One of Leila’s brothers, Henry, later married Frances Gardner, also a former pupil of the School. Leila’s father was Clerk of Works in the Civil Service. Employed by an architect, the clerk of works must ensure quality of materials and workmanship and be absolutely impartial in decisions and judgments. Often today called a site or quality inspector, they had to be tough and were probably not very much liked by either side!

Mr Pulman was actually in Tehran when he died in 1869. The petition for Leila to become a pupil indicated that the family’s income was a £30pa life insurance policy. It is interesting to see in his probate that the deceased is given of one London address but his widow of another, possibly inferring that her husband’s death had forced her to move.

Leila’s association with Constantinople was certainly not over after the death of her father. In 1887, she married Arthur Baker, her cousin. Shortly afterwards, the couple were in Constantinople where all the children were subsequently born. Leila spent 47 years of life in Constantinople.

She joined the school on 20th January 1870 and left in 1877 as Head Girl. She retained her connection with the School throughout her life and presented the font to the Chapel when the School opened on its new site. Although based in Constantinople, Leila paid visits to UK such as one in 1922 with one of her daughters when she travelled on the Empress of India.

Image from http://www.oldtokyo.com/r-m-s-empress-of-india-c-1910/

By 1932, she had returned to UK permanently and in the 1950s, she was living at 7 The Circus, Bath and paid a visit to the School on Prize Day 1953 at the grand age of 92!

She died in 1960 not quite having reached her centenary but coming very close.

Constance Webb was born in Constantinople in about 1891. She is recorded in 1901 at the School aged 10 and the following census gives her age as 20 but no record of her birth has been found. Her parents are probably James Raymond and Annie Maria Webb as he is the only Webb who appears in Constantinople Masonic lodge records. He was a clerk, born 1859. James and Annie were married in Constantinople in 1884.

But the next record found is a consular record giving the death of James Webb c 1890, so possibly even before his daughter was born. Annie Maria, nee Dunderdale, b 1865 in London, possibly died in Croydon in 1894 and there is a record for a Constance Webb being admitted to a London School as an infant in 1896. Where her parent’s name would be is the name of a guardian which suggests that Constance arrived at the School as an orphan and might explain why information is hard to trace. School records indicate her presence on school roll in 1905, wining a prize for cookery in 1906 and leaving in June 1907 to take up a post as nursery governess to Mrs Falwasser’s children. By 1911, however, she is listed as a nurse (domestic) and in 1912 as a governess in Ongar. She is a member of OMGA in 1914 living in Gillingham, Kent and visited the School on ex pupils’ day in that year. Thereafter she disappears from certain trace although there is a possibility that she is the Constance Webb b 24 Nov 1891 Housekeeper at Prices Farm in Sevenoaks (1939 register). In 1973, a Constance Webb died and her birthdate was given as 29 November 1890. As birthdates are notoriously variable when using public records, this could be the same person but whether it is the one born in Constantinople is impossible to tell.

Fortunately for our story, the 3rd pupil born in Constantinople is much easier to trace despite her frequent overseas travel. Ethel Sylvia Mountain was born in Turkey on 30 May 1880. Her father was Alfred William Mountain, an engineer whose place of work was the Imperial Ottoman Mint. This is in Topkapi Palace and, rather gruesomely,

‘To the right, just after the ticket office, is a white marble fountain that executioners used to wash their blades after doing their duty. ‘ https://www.theguideistanbul.com/topkapi-palace/]

Treasury formerly Imperial Ottoman Mint

By Alexxx1979 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33266404

Like Messrs Pulman and Webb, Alfred Mountain was a member of the Oriental Lodge. He was only 57 when he died in Halki (Heybeliada), on 16 June 1888. Halki is an island in the Sea of Marmara not far from Constantinople. During the summer months it is a resort, so it is possible that Ethel’s father died on vacation. His probate places the family at 10 Rue Merdiban, Pera, Constantinople. As a result of his death, Ethel became a pupil at the School and is there in the 1891 census. She left in July 1896 and went to Canada with her sister. The 1901 Canadian census has her recorded living with her sister in Toronto.

Ethel’s mother was Marena Amelia Mountain, 1840-1911, as listed on one of Ethel’s many travel documents. Ethel cris-crossed the Atlantic a number of times: 1909, 1911, 1914, 1916, 1923 … Note that some of these dates were during the war which must have indicated that she was intrepid, especially since one of the ships she travelled on in 1914 was torpedoed and sunk the following year.

She trained as a nurse and her name appears in Canada, Soldiers of the First World War, 1914-1918 in 1916 where her address was 2 Clarendon Crescent, Toronto and her next of kin given as Mrs Jephcott, her sister. It hardly comes as a surprise then to find that Massonica (original Old Girls’ magazine) records her in 1917 as nursing in France at the Canadians General Hospital.

Thereafter a fleeting reference indicates her being in, or perhaps passing through, USA in 1930 before the final reference in Masonica 1976 to her death, presumably in Canada – frustratingly, a whole chunk of her life unaccounted for in public records!

And on that note, perhaps it is time to say Hoşçakal which hopefully means ‘goodbye’ in Turkish and not something very insulting because Türkçe bilmiyorum (I don’t speak Turkish).

I wonder if our girls did?

I’ll drink to that!

Emma Susannah Blyth, born eight years into the new queen’s reign – Victoria, that is – was a pupil at the School between 1853 and 1860. This was because her father, James Blyth, died in 1852 at the age of 48. He had been a greengrocer and cheesemonger and in 1851, the last census in which he appears, his residence was Nutford Place, Marylebone. Although this street still exists, it has all been redeveloped and none of the mid-nineteenth century housing stock is evident. Born in Norfolk, James married Caroline Gilbey in 1839 and they took up residence in Chelmsford where Emma was baptised in what was then St Mary the Virgin and is now (from 1914) Chelmsford Cathedral.

https://www.chelmsfordcathedral.org.uk/

Take note of the mother’s maiden name as that is going to become important.

At some point between 1847 (when the youngest child was born) and 1851, the Blyth family moved from Essex to Marylebone and for the next half century or so Emma Blyth claimed the capital as her home. Although Nutford Place was their residence in 1851, by 1853 James’ widow was given as residing at 27 Upper Southwick St, Hyde Park as a lodging housekeeper. Now there are lodging houses and there are lodging houses. This one was the superior kind inhabited by well-to-do gentlemen with society connections, as witness this record from the National Archives at Kew:

https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D44882

However, when Emma left school on 22nd March 1860, she was returned to her mother who was then at 36 Norfolk St, Strand so there appears to be a little instability in the Blyth residences during this period. Norfolk St was in an area once in the possession of the Howard family, the Dukes of Norfolk, and the streets were laid out after Arundel House was demolished in 1678. The image shows the junction between Howard St and Norfolk St so the family might be moving quite frequently but the houses were very grand.

https://www.revolvy.com/page/Norfolk-Street,-Strand

Less than a year later, in the 1861 census, Caroline and her children are found in Great Titchfield Street. The return places them in ‘House in Yard’ but remember the Gilbey name? Caroline Blyth nee Gilbey’s brothers founded the company W & A Gilbey which created Gilbey’s Gin.

https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/p/12251/gilbeys-gin-70cl

 

‘On the east side of the street, running back alongside All Saints’ Church, wine stores were erected in 1860–1 for the wine importers and distillers W. & A. Gilbey, whose business was expanding … Described as ‘cellars above ground’, these consisted of at least two floors of vaults for barrels, connected by a ramp, taking up three sides of a glass-roofed courtyard …’ https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/architecture/sites/bartlett/files/chapter23_great_titchfield_street.pdf

So the ‘house in the yard’ was a part of the Gilbey premises. ‘Relations were drawn in to run the new branches, so that it expanded as an interlinked family business from the start’ http://www.locallocalhistory.co.uk/industrial-history/drinks-trade/page1.htm

Emma’s brother James Blyth joined the firm. ‘James Blyth and Alfred Gilbey toured French and other Continental vineyards, buying and shipping direct to England for bottling at the Pantheon… ‘ (ibid)

http://www.locallocalhistory.co.uk/industrial-history/drinks-trade/page1.htm

James was ‘a recognised authority on wine culture and wine commerce’ and was created a Baronet of Chelmsford in 1895. In 1907, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Blyth of Blythwood and of Stanstead Mountfichet in the County of Essex.

https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp84117/james-blyth-1st-baron-blyth

Given the success of W & A Gilbey and the interconnection of the Blyth and Gilbey families, it hardly comes as a surprise to find that Emma never had any occupation recorded for her but she is found in various census returns at posh houses: 1871 and 1891, she was residing in Great Marlborough St, Westminster and in 1881 at Elsenham Hall in Essex. This was the home of Uncle Walter Gilbey (the W of W & A Gilbey)

Image from http://www.elsenham-history.co.uk/misc/miscdocs/Sir%20Walter%20Gilbey.%20Bart.%20.pdf and map from https://www.recordinguttlesfordhistory.org.uk/elsenham/elsenhamhistory.html

‘While Walter Gilbey lived at the hall, the Prince of Wales was a frequent visitor and on December 11th 1889, he also brought with him Sir Randolph Churchill and several other dignitaries.’ https://www.recordinguttlesfordhistory.org.uk/elsenham/elsenhamhistory.html

So no doubt during the time that Emma was there, she too moved in exalted circles. Elsenham Hall is now divided into flats but the exterior still looks much as it did.

https://www.recordinguttlesfordhistory.org.uk/elsenham/elsenhamimages.html

Where Emma was in 1901 is a mystery as she is not found in any of the census returns. Clearly she was somewhere as she reappears in 1911 at Dormston, 41 The Avenue, Beckenham. This is given as a ten roomed property which Emma occupied with two servants, a cook and a housemaid. Also there at the time the census was taken were her nephew, Oscar Blyth Taylor, a decorative artist, and a visitor Claude Gothard, a stockbroker. The Avenue today is what an avenue was originally – a roadway with trees on either side. The houses are mostly large modern-built properties. There does not appear to be anything from early C20th so possibly the land was acquired, original properties demolished and newer houses built but all of a substantial size.

Emma died on 27 Oct 1927, her estate being valued at £3.5k [equivalent of £11,500 today) – not bad for someone who never apparently earned a living! Given that, on her father’s death, the family met the criterion of indigence, if Emma’s estate derives from family, it post-dates 1853. As the Gilbeys were clearly family-oriented, it seems not unreasonable to suppose that Emma’s income stemmed from them or their property. Like many other members of her family, Emma is buried in Bishops Stortford Old Cemetery, recorded on the headstone for her brother James.

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/35717685/james-blyth#view-photo=16771703

The little girl born on 24 February 1845 who lost her father when she was seven years old – as did so many of the pupils – ended her days living in comfort and all because her uncles, at a loose end after returning from the Crimean war in 1856, started a wine merchant’s business which branched out.

 

 

 

1971 advertisement https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com

Gin and tonic?

Don’t mind if I do!

Quicker than you can say Jack Robinson

Actually, it would be a darn sight quicker to say Jack Robinson with only four syllables than the eleven syllables in the name Matilda Martha Caroline Robinson – the stem of this blog post. Daughter of William Thomas Robinson and Elizabeth Robinson, nee Peters, a successful petition to present Matilda to the School was made in 1839. She became a pupil in October of that year. Her father met the criterion for indigence as his profession ebbed and flowed. He is variously described as a wine cooper, gentleman, inn porter, wine merchant and a waiter. Whether his occupation varied quite as much as this or if what he did depended on who was describing him, the sub-text perhaps suggests a precarious income. This would have left his family – 4 children and a wife – never knowing whether they were in penury or clover.

Of Matilda’s time at school there are no extant records other than her arrival there, her presence in the 1841 census return at the School and her departure on 17 April 1845, delivered to her father. Six years later, we find her living with her brother Charles @ 18 Great Bland Street, Newington and earning a living as a dressmaker. This street is now called Burge St.

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/

In 1859, Matilda married Edwin Charles Frederick Hare who was in the Royal Marines band as a drummer but by 1871 was a ‘Professor of Musick’ in Lambeth.

Matilda’s life as mapped out in census returns showed that she lived her entire life in London, south of the river. These also showed that her maths wasn’t very good as she was 20 in 1851, 26 in 1861, 33 in 1871, 43 in 1881 and 61 in 1891, the year she died. Of these, only the last is correct! Together Matilda and Edwin gave rise to a showbiz family spanning two generations. And even the next generation but one down has been involved – briefly – in the film industry. In 1973 Matilda and Edwin’s great-great grandchildren, whilst watching their grandmother film On the Buses, had small parts as extras. (Information from http://onthebusesfanclub.com/id20.html) And also as a by the bye, Matilda’s great-niece, descended from her brother Charles, was also an actor – Muriel George (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muriel_George) so there is clearly a strong thespian streak running in the genes.

But let’s try and put this is a sensible order. Matilda and Edwin’s son Herbert Hare married Kate Tansley in 1892 and they ran a travelling theatre company. In 1901 they were in Eglwysilan, Glamorgan in a caravan on the recreation ground with two daughters.

Class: RG13; Piece: 5000; Folio: 121; Page: 11

The theatre company seemingly comprised three caravans with the Hare family in one, the Orton family in another and the Tansleys in a third, Edward & Emma Tansley being Kate Hare’s parents. Frustratingly, even though John Orton was described as a travelling photographer, it has proved impossible to find any images of the caravan or the company but presumably they were horse drawn caravans similar to a Romany vardo. The Hares performed under the name of the Alexander Portable Theatre but the Ortons were part of the People’s Theatre which

toured the Monmouthshire area with their portable theatre from 1883 for about twenty years.’ (http://www.overthefootlights.co.uk/Entertaining%20South%20Wales%20A-B.pdf).

Bargoed was evidently a little hot spot for performing as there were five portable theatres and two cinemas listed at the beginning of the C20th. In addition, there was a 1500 seat playhouse, the New Hall Playhouse, ‘built in 1907 as part of a High Street complex which included a ballroom and a café.’ (ibid).

With Kate Hare also coming from an acting family – her father’s profession in 1892 is comedian and he is part of the company in 1901- it hardly comes a surprise to find that four of Herbert and Kate’s five children also joined the acting world: Bertie Hare, Doris Hare, Betty Hare and Winifred Hare, who used the stage name Winifred Braemar.

Bertie Hare was born in 1907 in Bargoed, Wales as Herbert Edwin Hare. Sadly, and unexpectedly, his father died just two months later after an emergency operation for a throat complaint (ibid). Bertie’s notable achievements – at least those noted on IMDb – appear to have come late in life: Hancock’s Half Hour in 1956 and Summer Camp Councillor in 1977. This last, originally entitled Confessions from a holiday camp, actually had all four of the Hare family in it but only Doris was a named character. Bertie died in 1991 in Camden.

Image shows Bertie and Betty as mourners https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075875/characters/nm0362782?ref_=ttfc_fc_cl_t25

Betty was born Bessie Maud Hare in Treharris in 1898. Her filmography on IMDb lists eighteen appearances from 1952 onwards although her appearance in Annie get your gun at the London Coliseum in 1948 is also noted. It seems likely, given the family heritage, that she had appeared on the stage before this time but IMDb does not reference it being primarily concerned with film and TV. The earliest in her filmography is Tread Softly (1952) which was made at Marylebone Studios and at the Granville Theatre in Fulham. described as a crime film with music. The last was Summer Camp Councillor and then, presumably, she retired. She died in Chichester just four years later. Like her sister Winifred, Betty had a part in For the Love of Ada also in 1977. In fact many of her later credits also appeared on her siblings’ credits. Perhaps it was a case of ‘you get me, you get them: you get them, you get me.’

Winifred and Betty were the two girls listed in the 1901 census with their parents. Winifred was born Winifred Emma Kate Hare in 1896 in Tonypandy. Like her brother, she had minor roles in a number of films late in life such as For the Love of Ada and Work is a 4 Letter word (1968)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0296640/ & https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062503/

She died in 1979 in Chichester so For the Love of Ada may well have been her last screen appearance. Earlier, she played the part of Winnie in On the Buses, a television series from 1969 to 1973 but still shown today on various channels (and with its own fan club). And also in this series was one Doris Hare as Mrs Butler, in 67 episodes (as opposed to Winifred’s three),

Doris was nine years younger than Betty, being born in 1905 in Bargoed, Monmouthshire. She made her stage debut aged 3 in her parents’ travelling theatre, the Alexander Portable Theatre, in their production of Current Cash. She worked the music halls and then had her West End debut at The Palace in The Scarlet Clue in 1916.

Her first West End hit came at the Adelphi Theatre in 1932, when she was 27, with John Mills in Noel Coward’s revue Words and Music. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/770685.stm

Image of Doris dated 1934 http://onthebusesfanclub.com/id142.html

She was still working in 1994 when she was in the film Second Best. Described in IMDb as a ‘popular comedienne of stage and screen’, to call Doris a jobbing actress would be to mislead but as she seemingly put it herself:

I’ll do anything, dear, as long as they pay me.

She had West End success in 1936 in a revue called Lights Up! and, during the war, she had radio work such as Shipmates Ashore for the Merchant Navy which earned her an MBE in the King’s birthday honours in 1946. In 1963, she joined the Royal Shakespeare company and, in 1965, the National Theatre at the Old Vic. She won a Variety Club of Great Britain Special Award for her contributions to show business in 1982 and made her final stage appearance, aged 87, at the London Palladium alongside John Mills in a tribute to Evelyn Laye. A role that she turned down was that of Ena Sharples in Coronation Street. She may never have been the star, but an acting career spanning 84 years is worth a credit or two.

The website http://onthebusesfanclub.com/id142.html has a photograph of the three Hare sisters taken whilst they were filming a Christmas Special in 1972. From left to right, Betty, Doris & Winifred.

 

Doris died in Denville Hall, a retirement home for actors in Northwood, in 2000. The list of former residents of this home reads like a Who’s Who of the great and good in the acting world.

https://www.denvillehall.org.uk/gallery-1

 

The phrase ‘before you can say Jack Robinson’ with which we started is one that has been in use since at least the eighteenth century. The phrase originated

“… from a very volatile gentleman of that appellation, who would call on his neighbours, and be gone before his name could be announced.” Grose’s 1811 edition of the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/jack-robinson.html)

Well Jack Robinson may have had little sticking power but the same is not true of the Hare acting dynasty. The little girl who was Matilda Martha Caroline Robinson, and a pupil between 1839 and 1845, may have been very surprised to learn that her descendants were definitely not gone before their names could be announced.

My thanks to SuBa for much of the initial research into this family.

Down Under Up Top: their stories

Down Under Up Top (https://rmsghistoryextra.wordpress.com/2019/07/26/down-under-up-top/) carried the information about early travel between Australia and UK which eight of our former pupils experienced. That gave the background so here, then, are those pupils who set sail from Oz outward.

Elizabeth Minnie Lumley was actually born ‘at sea’ off Adelaide in 1857. Her father was Chief Officer of SS United Service and it is possible his wife had travelled with him and that Elizabeth was therefore born on the United Service but this is unconfirmed. Whilst an image of SS United Service has not been found, it probably looked not dissimilar to the Great Eastern sailing in the same period.

https://www.iln.org.uk/iln_years/year/1857.htm

 

 

Elizabeth appeared on a census in 1861 in Limehouse aged 4 so we may assume that the family normally lived there whilst the father was away. His death in 1864, after two years’ absence at sea, made Elizabeth eligible as a pupil and she joined the School in about 1867. She left in 1873 as Gold Medallist and Head of the School, described by Miss Davis as “a particularly good and clever girl”. Despite her early venture on the high seas – or perhaps because of it – Elizabeth appears to have remained in UK for the rest of her life.

 

 

 

Florence Annie Hopkins was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1868 whilst three older siblings were born in New Zealand. Her father, as a serving soldier was, presumably, stationed in these places. Like Elizabeth, Florence appears to have travelled the High Seas as a baby because a younger brother was born in UK in 1869. In 1871, the family were at South Denes Barracks, Great Yarmouth, part of which was a Naval Hospital and lunatic asylum.

Image of Barracks map from https://www.greatwarforum.org;

Given Florence’s later occupation and place of work, this is interesting. In 1891, she was a nurse at Brookwood Asylum.

https://www.countyasylums.co.uk/brookwood-woking/

Unusually, Florence appears to have become a pupil following the death of her mother, not her father. He subsequently married twice more. After 1891, Florence disappears without trace so possibly she went overseas again but we do not know.

May Winifred Vockins was born on 21 March 1884 in Adelaide, Australia. Although not found on the 1891 census she must have been in UK about this time as she was admitted to Belleville Road School, Wandsworth in 1892 but joined RMIG not long afterwards. Her parents had been married in London in 1877 and a sister was born in Australia in 1878, sadly dying after just two months. Clearly the family were still there in 1888 as not only was May’s younger brother born there, but her father died there in that year.

After leaving school, May became a shorthand typist and she did not return to Australia but she did later travel in 1939 to New York. Clearly this was only a visit as she returned the same year and is present in the 1939 register. She went out on the Aquitania and returned on the Britannic, both vessels of the Cunard White Star line.

www.thegreatoceanliners.com/aquitania.html

& the Britannic https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19783396

Florence May Webb was born in Ipswich, Queensland and her application for a place at the School was supported by Raphael Lodge, No. 1850, a Queensland lodge. The Matron’s Book states that Florence ‘returned to school on 21 January 1901 having been absent & receiving treatment for curvature of the spine’ (scoliosis). At the time, this was usually treated with traction and a plaster cast together with remedial exercise to strengthen the muscles on the opposite side to the curvature. Florence was 15 in 1901, so she would have been due to leave school shortly and the Matron’s book duly records her departure in Dec 1902. Where she went thereafter is unknown. She is not found on the 1911 census but as she later married in Queensland and died there in 1936, presumably she returned to her place of birth.

Her father was Edward Robert Webb, MRCS. In 1880 he was in practice in London but by 1881 was in Queensland as Acting Surgeon Superintendent at Woogaroo Asylum being called to give evidence at one of the enquiries made into conditions at the asylum. (http://fhr.slq.qld.gov.au/committees/we_wh.htm)

Image of Woogaroo Asylum from http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au

Marjorie Gimblette was born in Fremantle on 25 May 1899. Marjorie’s parents had married in 1892 in Llanelli and in 1895 emigrated to Coolgardie, founded in 1892 with the discovery of quartz gold.

‘[Coolgardie] is located 510 kilometres east of Perth … At its peak in 1900 it had 23 hotels, 3 breweries, 6 banks, 2 stock exchanges and 3 daily and 4 weekly newspapers. The population then was 15,000, with 25,000 more in the area.’ http://www.outbackfamilyhistory.com.au/records/record.php?record_id=117&town=Coolgardie

Sadly, Marjorie’s father died on 2 Feb 1902 and was buried in Coolgardie cemetery. Despite this being a goldfield area, William Gimblette was in fact an accountant. After his death, his widow and daughter returned to UK. It is not known when but Gladys Mary Gimblette trained as a midwife and qualified in 1903 so it was probably immediately after his death that they sailed for ‘home’. Marjorie never returned to Australia and married in Llanelli before subsequently living in Llandudno (1939). She died in Aberystwyth in 1985.

Amy Margaret D’arcy Sugden was born 1 Apr 1894 in Queensland and, apart from the fact that masonic records have her supported by a Queensland lodge and refer to her as Australian, all other records place her in UK. Her father, D’Arcy Sugden, MRCS, is registered with a Masonic lodge in Bundaberg, Queensland in 1878 and he married in 1879. A son was born in 1883 in Queensland but died 12 months later. Lodge records show that D’Arcy had returned to UK by 1900 and was a member of Rahere Lodge in London, in the vicinity of Barts Hospital. We could probably infer that he was working there. In 1901, he is with a lodge in Buckfastleigh whilst his wife and daughter were in Sevenoaks, Kent so perhaps D’Arcy was preparing a home for them in Devon. Another son was born in Buckfastleigh in 1902 but the next record for D’Arcy is his death from double pneumonia on 30 December 1903. His death was attributed to his getting wet whilst attending an urgent case. Apart from one brief record, no travel documents have been found for the family but as no intercontinental time shift was available, they must have crossed the seas somehow and at some point between 1894 and 1900.

Amy was on the school roll by 1905 and would have left around 1909. In 1911 she was Crowborough, Sussex as a boarder and by 1939 is recorded as a shorthand typist @ 94 Herbert Road, High Wycombe, living with her widowed mother. Amy continued the family tradition of proving difficult to track down as we have to leapfrog to 1974 for the next record, which is her death. Her probate indicates that she was by then a resident of Davey Court Elderly People’s Home in Exmouth where she died on 12 Sept 1974.

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/

Annie Earnshaw Hewer was born 28 Oct 1903 and her sister Ethel Mary Hewer on 29 November 1905, both in Queensland. Their father, Alfred Earnshaw Hewer, was Government Medical Officer of Queensland. He had arrived in Australia in the 1890s and married Mary Emily Clerk on 23 Jan 1902, but he died in Hampstead, London on Oct. 17, 1910, aged 45. The family travelled from Australia and arrived in London on 14 Jun 1910. Given the date of the father’s death, one could assume that he was already very ill when he travelled. They travelled on the SS Runic, later torpedoed (1944) off the coast of Ireland.

Photo by Allan C. Green – This image from the Collections of the State Library of Victoria

 

By 1913, both girls were pupils at RMIG, Annie leaving in 1920 and Ethel in 1922. Annie undertook secretarial training and had a post at Australia House before, in 1921, returning to Australia with her mother on the SS Themistocles which sailed the London to Australia via Cape Town route.

Image from John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

 

 

 

 

Thereafter Annie remained in Queensland, married in 1932 but remained in contact with the School, via OMGA, until at least 1973.

Ethel also returned to Australia, in 1923, travelling on the same ship that had brought her to London in 1910. She trained as a nurse and wrote to the School in 1929 to say she had a job with Dr Wallis Heare and was engaged to be married. This marriage did not take place however and between 1936 (when she was at the same address as her mother in Queensland) and 1939 (when we find her in the 1939 register in Sevenoaks, Kent), Ethel undertook her third oceanic crossing. When she left Australia, it was probably the last time she saw her mother, who died in 1944 in Yungaburra, Queensland. In 1942, Ethel married in Hampstead and made her home in UK. She died in Surrey in 1996.

These all too brief biographical notes barely scratch the surface of their life stories but if any of them left diaries, as transoceanic passengers by boat were encouraged to do, the School is not aware of them. Nor do we have any images of them.

Unless you know better …

Down Under Up Top

A goodly number of our former pupils have wended their way to the Antipodes for new lives. Going from the UK to Australia or New Zealand is a well-established global passage. Indeed, the vast majority of websites concentrate on the emigration routes from UK. But this post is actually looking at the reverse trend, so to speak. At least eight of our former pupils between 1857 and 1905 were born in Australia and made their way to UK as very young children.

Today’s transoceanic travel is comparatively a piece of cake. Nineteenth century sailing to and from Australia was gambling with one’s life a lot of the time. To those of us used to rolling up at an airport and boarding a flight; sitting back and relaxing, even if for a goodly time, being fed regularly, using on board conveniences; then landing, through customs and out to perhaps a holiday or a new life, or to visit relatives not seen for a few years, it is quite eye-popping discovering what travel was like for some of our earlier pupils.

For a start off, “In calm weather a sailing ship might take as long as four months, while a well-run clipper ship with favourable winds could make the journey in a little over half this time.” https://museumsvictoria.com.au/longform/journeys-to-australia/ Compared with that, almost 24 hours cooped up in cattle-class is a doddle! The sailing equivalent of cattle-class – steerage – was below the water line but the Southern ocean storms they might encounter were not their only problems. “Hygiene was poor at the best of times and worse in bad weather” (ibid) so in stormy weather, the order ‘batten down the hatches’ went out. And this meant that the steerage passengers were locked in without ventilation or light for the duration of the storm. Candles or oil lanterns were forbidden because of the danger of fire:

“… cramped conditions with timber, straw mattresses, hemp (rope) and tar caulking, meant a fire could spread with terrifying speed” (ibid)

Fire at sea is the mariner’s worst nightmare and, as few could swim and there were nowhere near enough lifeboats, a shipwreck left little chance of rescue. The conditions in steerage during a storm, with many people crammed together, no toilet facilities and the inevitable seasickness, must have been horrifying and doesn’t bear thinking about it. So perhaps we won’t. Think about it, I mean. Oh no – too late, the image is there …

Vinegar and chloride of lime were used to wash the decks of the ships, as fresh water was reserved for drinking and cooking. The vinegar helped prevent the spread of disease, although the understanding of why was not yet there, and, if nothing else, it made the ship smell better. Relatively.

On better managed ships, the areas below deck were thoroughly cleaned every few days by sailors and the women in steerage. Most ships provided only basic toilet and bathing facilities.

‘Sea bathing in the Tropics’, sketch from Edward Snell’s diary on the Bolton, London to Melbourne, 1849 (ibid)

The illustration indicates all too clearly the lack of privacy and may not have been available to ladies at all! Bathing was not normally a regular occurrence as the connection between personal hygiene and disease was little understood at the time. Most made do with a clean-up with a damp cloth under a blanket.

Straw bedding attracted fleas and cockroaches so people laid out their bedding in fine weather to air it. During storms, though, the bedding could get – and stay – soaking wet and this added to the problems with outbreaks of influenza and pneumonia.

Facilities for washing clothes were very restricted so many passengers wore the same clothes throughout the voyage. This, added to the stink emanating from the bilges below steerage, and given the increase in heat in the tropics, probably meant that the ship’s imminent arrival in port was announced by the wind rather than by any sightings from land!

The first steam ships made the journey to Australia in 1852 but these early steamers also had sails as their engines were inefficient and there were no coal depots mid-ocean for re-fuelling and actually few coaling ports en route.

The introduction of more efficient compound steam engines and iron, rather than wooden, hulls, enabled a voyage to be completed entirely under steam power. This was from the 1860s onwards but it was not until the 1880s that they became the transport of choice for emigrants. Because these ships did not have to rely on wind power and could travel at a constant speed, and the motive power could also provide electric lighting, refrigeration and ventilation, they could provide more comfort for passengers.

Grand saloons were able to be provided for first class passengers, and small cabins instead of sleeping berths were provided in steerage class.’ (ibid)

 

Married couples’ accommodation in steerage, by unknown artist, taken from the Illustrated London News, 13 April 1844

So accommodation such as above began to give way to smaller cabins for significantly fewer people! A diary of a journey made in 1874, read across the grain, shows how accommodation had improved.

the hatching had broken open in the second class cabin and they … all had to get to work baling … water out of the saloon (Diary of Ally Heathcote, England to Melbourne, Victoria, Onboard ‘SS Northumberland’, 1874) https://museumsvictoria.com.au/longform/journeys-to-australia/ [my emphasis]

The routes between Australia and London (with the Suez Canal option only available after 1869)

London to Perth is just a smidgen over 9000 miles with Sydney another 1500 miles further on. So that’s 10.5 thousand miles for things to go wrong. Great storms, gigantic icebergs, danger of shipwreck were some external factors but death from dysentery or typhus from the insanitary conditions and mediocre medical treatment at best added to the dangers.

“Deaths at sea were tragically common. As many as one in five children, and one in 60 adults died on the voyage to Australia” (ibid)

Conditions improved as the ships got larger. The Orient, launched in 1879, was the largest steamship built for the Australia route. It offered comforts unheard of for the period, including a promenade deck, refrigeration, and later, electric lighting.

Painting by Charles Dickinson Gregory of the sailing ship Orient on the sea, (1927)

Amongst other things was an ice-making plant. Horses were stabled on the rear deck and pigs, sheep and cows were in cages. These were not intended for a new life in another country because they were converted into pork, lamb and beef for diners in first-class!

‘The first-class saloon was fitted out with ornate brass furniture and elaborate wooden carvings, whilst the music saloon boasted a grand piano and an organ amidst profusely growing ferns and dracaenas.’ (ibid)

The SS Great Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ship, carried thousands on the Australia-London route from 1852, being converted to sail in 1881.

In 1884, she was retired to the Falkland Islands and used as a warehouse and coal hulk before being scuttled in 1937. But as those who have visited Bristol will know, this was not her end. In 1970, Sir Jack Arnold Hayward, OBE paid for the vessel to be raised, towed back to the United Kingdom, and returned to the Bristol dry dock where she had been built. And where she can be visited to gain an idea of what life on board might have been.

 

Sir Jack Hayward from his obituary, Daily Telegraph 13 Jan 2015

 

Image from a cabin in SS Great Britain from https://teatimeinwonderland.co.uk/2016/11/09/bristol-brunels-ss-great-britain/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And none of this takes into account something that hasn’t changed – even today. The decision to leave one country for a new life far away brings the emotional issue of having to say goodbye to home and loved ones.

‘… people were very conscious of the fact that they would probably never see their friends and relatives again.’ (https://museumsvictoria.com.au/longform/journeys-to-australia/)

All in all, it was not a voyage undertaken lightly. Nonetheless, eight of our pupils did undertake it, some more than once.

Elizabeth Minnie Lumley b 1857; Florence Hopkins, 1868; May Vockins 1884; Florence Webb 1886; Amy Margaret d’Arcy Sugden, 1894; Marjorie Gimblette, 1899 and Annie & Ethel Hewer in 1903 & 1905 respectively were all born in Australia and became pupils in London.

Just to offer some balance, Emma Amelia Humphreys (1829) and Margaret Humphries (1836), both former pupils, went to Australia before any of the above were born. Emma and Margaret, despite the different spellings, do appear to be sisters! They would definitely have travelled by sailing ship because their emigration occurred before steam ships were in use. The individual stories of these travellers must await another day.

All aboard who’s going aboard, please!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medalling with history

To any with knowledge of the School, the name Bertha Dean is a familiar one. To those with little or no knowledge of the history, the name may refer only to a building in the grounds – Bertha Dean House. Originally to be called Cornwallis House, this was changed before the building was complete. Whatever the thinking behind the name change remains a mystery as no-one recorded the reason and all of those involved in the decision are no longer with us.

Who was Bertha Dean? A former pupil, turned pupil teacher, turned salaried member of staff, turned Headmistress, she was one of many pupils who translated from pupil to teacher without leaving the premises. But, clearly, Bertha Jane Dean stood out from the others.

She was born on 6th January 1878 in Chichester, one of eight children born to William and Matilda and, if one inherits career tendencies from one’s parents, Bertha Dean was never going to be anything but a teacher. Her mother was a music teacher and her maternal grandparents were both teachers. Music, too, must have been a major feature as her father was a music seller and lay vicar. This last, also called a vicar choral, is a professional singer in an Anglican cathedral. One assumes, then, that this was in Chichester Cathedral.

Photo by Evgeniy Podkopaev on Wikipedia

William’s death in 1885 was the reason that Bertha came to the School in 1887. Her mother continued to run the family business selling music but it was a precarious income and the stipend from being a lay vicar would have ceased upon William’s death.

By 1894, the then Head Governess was writing of her:

in every way an exceptional girl: she has always been a particularly good girl and has long held the position of prefect. She is a girl of excellent general ability, no study of any kind comes amiss to her and she seems to excel in whatever branch she takes up.

In 1890 she took the prize for mathematics; in 1891 she passed Cambridge Junior with Class II Hons with a 1st class result in Maths and in 1894 took Cambridge Senior where she achieved a distinction in French and Music and passed Associated Board Music at the highest level with distinction.

In 1894, Sarah Louisa Davis wrote to the Committee indicating that she wanted to retain her pupil but also wanted her to attend a local public school to ‘work with older girls more advanced than herself’. There was one in Clapham and the fees, the Head Governess informed the Committee, were under £8 per term. Miss Davis put requests like these to the Committee (although they often read more as demands than requests!) and her master stroke in almost all cases was to indicate how much the School would benefit from this outlay. Allowing this extra for Bertha would mean that she would return to take up a good position on the teaching staff.

‘As it is but seldom as clever a girl in all branches is to be met with, Miss Davis asks that these special arrangements may be made.’

By January 1895, Clapham High felt that Bertha need not continue as she had covered all their syllabus by then. Bertha was then studying for ‘special subjects’ prior to her attaining her 18th birthday and being able to apply for a college. Miss Davis followed this with another of her master strokes – she knew exactly how to get the Committee on board! – as she went on to say that ‘If she returned here, the fees that would have been paid could be used to give her special tuition.’

In fact, Bertha did go on to further studies as she became the first former pupil to gain a degree. Not for her the luxury of attendance at a university though as she sat her degree as an external candidate of London University. By this stage, she was already teaching at the School. The Committee, clearly as impressed with Bertha as Miss Davis was, paid for the academic gown to which she was now entitled as Bertha Dean, B A.

This portrait, familiar from the Great Hall, shows Bertha – albeit in more mature years – wearing the gown she had earned.

In 1901, the census records her as a governess of general subjects although clearly music and maths were her specialisms. By 1911, although listed only as school teacher, her name is written immediately below the person in charge of the School at the time. There is no Head Governess listed in 1911 so Bertha’s position at the top of the list of teachers tells its own story. It hardly comes a surprise, then, to find her appointed as Head Governess in 1915.

This picture, although undated, is thought to be from about 1914, and shows Bertha Dean seated immediately next to the Head Governess of the time, the shorthand being ‘this one’s next’!

Headmistress 1915 to 1938, Bertha Dean retired to Alverstoke to live with her brother. Sadly her retirement was not lengthy as, in 1944, the School received the news that she had died.

But this post is less about her life and work and more about her medals. A box containing six medals is held by the School, some with Bertha Dean’s name engraved on them. At some point, they have been placed in the box to record something of the life of this remarkable woman.

The medals are (left to right, top row then 2nd row) Swimming badge, Gold Medal, Prefect’s badge, 1938 commemoration badge, Head Girl’s medal and commemoration badge 1927.

The silver badge was given in October 1892 for Swimming, as the obverse inscription informs us. But this award was perhaps a little eclipsed by the Gold Medal which was awarded in the same year.

Bertha Dean was 14 years old when this was awarded whereas today’s recipients of the Gold Medal are 18. Even given that the school leaving age was between 15 and 17 (depending on the Head Governess’ recommendations to the Committee), the award being made at 14 is clearly an indication of her qualities. These were further exemplified by her status as Prefect.

The hallmark, although indistinct, gives a date of 1891 from the London assay office. The sponsor’s mark (HTL) is for Henry Thomas Lamb and you won’t be surprised to learn he was a Masonic jeweller!

The two commemorative badges represent important celebrations in the School’s history for which badges were made and presented to everyone in the School.

In 1927 the Princess Royal came to the School to present prizes but the use of the Prince of Wales feathers on the badge implies something else. If it were ‘something else’ it has not been recorded as such although it should be noted that the Masonic Peace Memorial in London had its foundation stone laid in great ceremony in 1927 by Duke of Connaught, President of the RMIG.

Princess Mary, the Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood; Scan from a Beagle’s postcard, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3607650

 

The 1938 badge, again a medal struck to commemorate a special event and presented to all at the School, was one to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the School.

The motto – circumornatae ut similitudo templi or as the King James Bible has it ‘that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace’ – was newly out of its cellophane, so to speak, as the coat of arms including it had only been granted in 1936.

The final badge in the box has a little mystery all of its own. The Head Girl’s jewel was originally presented in 1891, in the name of Sir Henry Isaacs, Lord Mayor of London. As such, Bertha Dean would have been one of the first persons to be awarded it.

Sir Henry Isaacs

In 1887 Henry Aaron Isaacs became sheriff of London and Middlesex, and was knighted in the same year. In 1889 he was elected Lord Mayor of London. The medal has the Latin motto of the City – Domine Dirige Nos – the Lord guide us.

It is still presented today but it is no longer the original medal as that was stolen in a robbery at the School in 1967. A copy was made with an indication written on the obverse that it is a replica of the original. And here is the little mystery. Whilst it has Bertha Dean’s name inscribed on the back of this medal in its presentation box, it also says it is a replica of the original.

And, although indistinct in the photo, underneath it has the words ‘worn by Bertha Dean’

This must mean that the medal in the box was created after 1967 but, to show that it is not the actual medal presented to Bertha Dean, the words ‘worn by’ are inscribed. The mystery here is why someone collected all of these medals, clearly long after the lady in question was deceased, and placed them in a presentation case. Clearly at least two of them are the genuine article and there is no doubt that Bertha Dean received all of the others, if not these exact ones, but why put them in a presentation box much later without any kind of legend?

And on that note, let’s close the box until someone solves the mystery!