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.

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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