What’s in a name?

Photos from http://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/royal-wedding-pictures and https://www.royal.uk/wedding-duke-and-duchess-sussex

On the morning of the wedding, with everyone in the world agog with anticipation about THE dress, the announcement of the couple’s new titles might have slipped in unnoticed: Prince Henry of Wales and his bride Meghan Markle were to be henceforward the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The title Duke of Sussex was first given in 1801 to a son of George III, Augustus Frederick. Although he had married (Lady Augusta Murray), the marriage had been annulled because as a prince of the Blood Royal, he had failed to ask permission of the reigning monarch to marry. The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 stated that permission must be granted for a marriage to take place. This act had been drawn up following the marriage of the Duke of Cumberland (George III’s brother) who had married Lady Anne Luttrell without permission. The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland went on to become patrons of the School when it first began in 1788 and it was called the Royal Cumberland Freemasons’ School in their honour. Much later the names of both Cumberland and Sussex were used as house names by the School. But back to Prince Augustus for the moment. He had two children from his marriage but neither could inherit any titles as, in the eyes of the law, they were illegitimate. In 1843 when Augustus Frederick died, his titles died with him and they lay dormant until 2018 when the Dukedom was conferred on Prince Harry.

Interestingly, the title of the Earl of Sussex was conferred (its sixth creation) on Prince Arthur, son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He was also later given the titles of Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and both of these names appear as the names of School buildings. In 1911, Prince Arthur was appointed as Governor General of Canada. In 1916 he was succeeded in this post by the Duke of Devonshire – and it almost goes without saying that this name too appears on a School building.

In one of those twists that History enjoys perpetrating, exactly 100 years after the title of Duke of Sussex went into mothballs, in 1943 the title of Duke of Connaught & Strathearn also became extinct on the death of Prince Arthur’s only son Alistair – apparently of hypothermia in Canada having fallen out of a window whilst drunk.

Along with a title comes a coat of arms and whilst Prince Harry already had one, Ms Markle did not so one was designed for her, which design “The Duchess of Sussex took a great interest in” according to the Garter King of Arms.

Image from https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6391189/meghan-markle-coat-of-arms-duchess-of-sussex/

“The arms of a married woman are shown with those of her husband and the technical term is that they are impaled, meaning placed side by side in the same shield.”

The colours reflect the Pacific Ocean which lies off the cost of California, the Duchess’ birthplace, whilst the yellow bars are sunshine. These are interspersed by quills and they and the open beak of the songbird represent the importance of communication. The bird supports the shield on the opposite side of the royal lion whilst the coronet around its neck represents the elevation to royalty. The whole coat of arms stands on ground containing Californian golden poppies and wintersweet from Kensington palace gardens.

But let us put aside the sunshine-filled wedding day and go back to the names and their connection to the School. The outline of the Garth, in which the boarding houses lie, can be seen clearly on maps of the area. The area called The Garth has eight buildings which were all originally boarding houses.

When the School opened on its present site in 1934, the eight houses were (in clockwise order): Ruspini, Zetland, Moira, Connaught, Sussex, Alexandra, Atholl and Cumberland. In fact, earlier in 1934 the names had been listed slightly differently with York, Dunkerley & Kent in place of Alexandra, Zetland and Atholl. It is not known why the names were changed apparently at the last minute as there is just one fleeting reference in a letter from the Secretary of RMIG to the Matron at the time, Florence Mason, dated January 1934. By April, the name plates were installed as per the first list above.

Ruspini was named after the Chevalier Ruspini who was instrumental in the foundation of the School

Zetland was for the 2nd Earl of Zetland who was Grand Master of United Grand Lodge, 1844-70 and President of the Institution (RMIG) during the same period.

Moira was after Francis Rawdon-Hastings (1754-1826), Lord Rawdon (1762-1783), 2nd Earl of Moira (1793-1816) & 1st Marquess of Hastings (1816-1826). The character of Rawdon Crawley in William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair is named after him.

Connaught was the title given to Prince Arthur. The other part of his name was later given to the Headmaster’s house, Strathearn. As he also held the title Earl of Sussex, was both Grand Master and President of the Institution, it is a moot point whether the next house in the sequence was named with him in mind too.

Sussex is traditionally given as being named for H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex. son of King George III, President of the Institution, 1815-1843 but may also have referred to Prince Arthur as he laid the foundation stone of the Shool on its present site.

Alexandra, the only House named after a woman, is for Edward VII’s Queen, the eldest daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. When Edward succeeded to the throne in 1901, Queen Alexandra became Chief Patroness of the School.

Atholl is the third Duke of Atholl, Grand Master of Scotland, 1773, and of the Antient Grand Lodge, 1771-4. The union of the Antient and Modern Freemasons in 1813 formed the United Grand Lodge that exists today. The first Grand Master of this in 1813 was the Duke of Sussex.

Cumberland was named for H.R.H. the Duke of Cumberland, the first Patron of the Institution in 1788.

The clockwise order given for the houses lasted for approximately 50 years before changes were made. Not to the names mind but to their positions in the Garth. That is not to say that the physical houses picked up their skirts and went walkabout but the order of the names started to become a little more fluid. Ruspini house, as an example, went right across the Garth, settling at first where Atholl had been before later shunting down one place to ultimately become Ruspini House, a pre-school. It would be somewhat bewildering to describe all the changes. It was confusing enough to those were in the School at the time! Suffice to say that, with all the changes of position and the changes in boarding numbers, eventually it was decided to use some of the original names as School Houses (the ones you cheer for on Sports Day and at hockey matches etc.) and have some different names for boarding houses. Of course, just to make it totally perplexing, some of the names stayed the same and for the same purpose; some just changed position and some changed purpose. But now we have that clear …

The Garth today then, in the same clockwise order is: Alexandra, Zetland, Harris, Connaught, Devonshire, Ruspini House, Weybridge & Hind House.

Alexandra is currently undergoing work to convert it to a Performing Arts Centre; Zetland & Connaught (we’ll come back to Harris in a minute) are boarding houses; Devonshire (the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noted the earlier reference) is a Day Girls’ house; Ruspini as previously mentioned is a pre-school with Photography and Textiles studios and galleries on the 1st floor; Weybridge is named for the Junior School that used to be at that place in Surrey and formerly housing the younger boarders; Hind House is a 6th Form Centre, opened in 2012 and named for one of the long serving Trustees to the School, Colonel Keith Hind.

Harris is Moira-as-was in old currency. It is named for a long-serving member of the House Committee, George St Vincent Harris, 5th Baron Harris of Seringapatam and Mysore, chairman of the House Committee 1954-1970, who died in 1984.

Perhaps it is appropriate to end this abbreviated overview of some of the School names, inspired by the newly-minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with the opening lyrics from the Hot Chocolate song:

It started with a kiss

Advertisements

Long Hessen Elli Bedders

When the school began in 1788, girls had to be six before they could apply and no older than 10 when accepted. So the earliest pupils were primary school age – at least when they started.

The newspaper notices giving details of the first pupils in 1788.

They were at school until they were 15 which, at the time, was not the ‘norm’. If girls received any education at all – and many did not – it was generally until they were about 12. School log books are peppered with comments relating to girls leaving school: ‘Wanted at home’ was a common phrase. By the age of 11 or 12, girls were deemed perfectly capable of helping run the household, especially if Mother was still producing babies. By insisting that girls should be educated to the age of fifteen, the School was bucking the trend.

With just fifteen pupils to begin with, all pupils were taught together with the older ones helping the younger ones when required. As the school population grew, it became necessary to separate classes although the system of pupil teachers, used widely throughout the country, continued until well into the 20th century. Gradually, this segregation evolved into a system given the jazzy titles of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th classes. Unlike today when, by and large, pupils move from one year group to the next by chronology, in the 19th century pupils graduated when their educational standard was deemed right. It was possible, if rare, for a pupil to remain in the lowest class throughout her time at the School and for her contemporaries to be much younger than she. For example, a pupil (who perhaps ought to remain anonymous!) was “in consideration of her age & height placed in the 3rd class” although the headmistress rather damningly said she “has scarcely met with such deficiency of mental power”. Hmm … (from RMIG Governess’ Report GBR 1991 RMIG 1/2/2/4/2 A11944)

Almost as bad was the girl who was

particularly wanting in ability, she is only in the 4th class and that more out of consideration for her age. She was only 11 when she entered the school, knowing nothing. (ibid)

En masse, the younger girls were described as ‘The Junior School’ or the juniors. Quite which pupils were classed as Juniors and which not is impossible to establish from a century away. The people of the time knew who they meant so did not explain and, by the time anyone had realised that there might be confusion, it was too late!

 

Above, a group photo, undated but probably at Clapham. Little girls with nice bows in their hair but there’s always one that looks as if butter wouldn’t melt …

By the time the School had reached its site in Clapham, the school roll had risen substantially and adjustments to accommodation were made. The houses next door had been purchased to give more room but this was only a temporary respite given the ever-increasing roll.

By 1918, bursting point had been reached and there was need for something more drastic. That something was the purchase of another site for the younger pupils and so, in 1918, we have the beginning of the Weybridge Years.

From 1918 to 1973, the younger pupils lived and were schooled in deepest, darkest Surrey and, inevitably, became known as the Weybridge girls. During WWII, when they were ‘evacuated’ back to the main school – by then in Hertfordshire – they were still known as Weybridge girls. New pupils who joined the school during these six or so years were often confused by this as they had never known the school anywhere else but in Ricky. For them, when the juniors returned to Weybridge post-war, this was a new place whereas for the old hands it was a coming home.

Above left: Miss Harrop who took the junior school to Weybridge, and kept its spirit alive during the war and (above right) Miss Vaughan, who took over post-war.

 

Abiding memories of girls were things like the panelled dining hall with its bowls of blue delphiniums [sadly no colour pictures exist]

And the gingko tree in the grounds, planted by Dr Roper-Spyers when he had founded the boys’ school originally there. Although the school buildings have long gone, giving way to a housing estate, the tree is still to be found.

A flavour of Weybridge life is shown in the cartoons below, drawn by a former pupil.

The first captures the yawning middle-of-the-night fire drill, and the struggle into dressing gowns and coats and shoes, and resisting the temptation to snuggle back under the eiderdown.

The second relates to the cry that went up in the evenings “Long Hessen Elli Bedders”. Not as you might imagine some kind of esoteric schoolgirl language, the Weybridge version of pig Latin. In fact, it was a straightforward request for those with long hair (who needed to have it washed and dried before bedtime – long hairs) and those younger pupils whose bedtime was earlier than the others (early bedders) to come and be accounted for. Hence, long hessen elli bedders. Simple really.

The junior school was at Weybridge until 1973 when, with great reluctance but in the face of falling numbers, the decision was taken to close the site and transfer all pupils to Rickmansworth, permanently. To begin with, they were dispersed amongst the various boarding houses and attached to ‘house mothers’ who were, in reality, prefects. They had their lessons separately and, for many, any sense of continuity was focused on the figures of the Miss Gambles, known affectionately as Big Miss Gamble and Little Miss Gamble – although neither was of particular great stature.

The two ladies could be seen accompanying younger pupils after school too as they ventured around the grounds but of a ‘junior school’ there was little sign. Then, in 1980 David Curtis arrived as Headmaster and he reconvened the corporate body of the junior school by shuffling the boarding houses to provide a space for them. Not literally of course but certainly by name and purpose. Thus what was Ruspini house became Alexandra and Cumberland shuffled clockwise a couple of places; Atholl and Sussex became combined, reflecting the union between Ancient and Modern Freemasonry, led by the gentlemen of those names. What had been Cumberland became the Junior School and Ruspini, having shot across the Garth, became their boarding house. If you are confused by all of this, you are not alone. It took a good while to get used to the new positions of existing names. The Bursar’s department, working on the basis that more changes might well happen in the future (they did, but not for a good while) referred to the houses as K1-K8 on the basis that the order would remain even if the names changed. No-one knows why they chose K.

The Js (as they were nicknamed) settled in their new homes and the Seniors eventually stopped grumbling about the changes. By the time of the Bicentenary (1988), few, if any, of the pupils could remember it being any different. Of course, former pupils remembered well their houses and even now, when Old Girls visit and ask to be shown their house, they are startled to be taken by a current pupil in a completely different direction than they had expected!

At the back of the House/Junior School, an adventure playground was installed in the 90s, a recognition that younger pupils needed something to get rid of excess energy during breaktimes! The Junior School remained in the Garth for the rest of the century although an expanding school roll again put pressure on the space. This was further exacerbated in 1994 when the starting age for pupils became rising five. The Junior School was renamed the Prep Department so that the very youngest pupils could be classed as the Pre-Prep. In 2009, another new venture introduced even younger pupils as a Pre-School opened with pupils aged 2+ (and some of them of a different gender). In order to avoid confusion with nomenclature (!!), Ruspini House became the home of the teeny-tinies which left the Junior Boarding House without a name. The obvious choice was Weybridge.

In the meantime, other changes had been made (no, don’t go there) which left a large building within the grounds unoccupied. It was refurbed, had an assembly hall added and in 2011 the Prep and Pre-Prep Departments moved lock, stock and barrel and became Cadogan House.

 

The creation of a combined Prep and Pre-Prep meant eliminating the final traces of the old operating theatre which had been a part of the building when it was the Sanatorium.

 

It also meant leaving behind the adventure playground but, fear not! Another one was built.

 

This historical overview of the younger pupils one hundred years after the founding of the school at Weybridge is brief. Much more can be seen on the School website rmsforgirls.org.uk but, as punctuation perhaps, here’s a fashion parade of little misses over the years.

Digging the Past

“… archaeology: The study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artefacts and other physical remains.” https://en.oxforddictionaries.com

The School’s history doesn’t quite stretch back to prehistory – just the eighteenth century – but as a study of a particular element of human history, it makes for an endlessly fascinating metaphorical excavation to discover what is revealed when the surface is scraped back, the layers carefully exposed and considered in situ, the material sieved, the finds washed and labelled. All of which is a somewhat contrived way of connecting several different elements, all with an archaeological spin, related to RMSG history.

Let us begin, however, with pretend archaeology in the form of Indiana Jones. The first film in the sequence – Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – had scenes filmed at the School. Given that the main buildings have a decided 1930s appearance and the film is set then, this is not so surprising.

The School represented Marshall College where Professor Jones was teaching. (In IJ3, The Last Crusade, the School represents Barnett College where Professor Jones was teaching. Funny how two different colleges have such a similar look …)

www.movie-locations.com tell us that Indiana “meets with the Army Intelligence guys in the school’s Great Hall, where he’s informed of the German archaeological dig at ‘Tanis’.” There were also other places used. The Professor climbs out of window on the ground floor, which was then the Deputy Head’s office – 4th window from the right in the above image. In a part of the School not shown in the above image, Professor Jones is giving a lecture. This was filmed in what was originally a Science lecture room when the School was first built although it subsequently became, and still is, a Maths room. Its banked seating has since been removed but it was here that Harrison Ford’s character looks in astonishment at one of his female students who, by a slow blink, reveals that she has ‘I love you’ written on her eyelids. (http://www.listal.com/viewimage/2939670)

Very shortly after this scene, Indiana was off on his adventures again – via the window.

None of the IJ films are set in Palestine but this is nevertheless our next port of call. This is where an archaeologist, whose daughters became pupils, was based. Sadly, and unlike the films, this story does not end well. James Leslie Starkey was field director of the Wellcome-Marston Archeological expedition in Palestine and was working there at ‘Tell ed-Duweir, identified as Biblical Lachish, an important city of the Kingdom of Judah.” as https://www.pef.org.uk/profiles/james-leslie-starkey-1895-1938 compiled by Ros Henry 2008 tells us. In 1938 he was murdered en route to the opening of the new Palestine Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem. Depending on the sources used, this was either Arab militants or a rebel commander or possibly a lone wolf with a grudge. He had grown a long beard whilst in Palestine and one source suggests ‘it may have been this that caused him to be singled out and killed (on the basis that he was Jewish)’ http://myrightword.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/starkeys-last-dig.html Wikipedia’s information declares that a rebel commander from the ad-Dhahiriya area was held responsible by the British authorities. In addition to a lack of agreement about who perpetrated the act, there is disagreement about the manner of his death, with some quite lurid versions of it (Aberdeen Press and Journal 15 April 1938 describes it as ‘brutally slain’ at Beit Jibrin) but his family affirms that he was shot twice in the chest. He was buried in the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion, Jerusalem, his funeral attended by hundreds of mourners and there was a memorial service in St Margaret’s Westminster in 1938 but, such was his impact, another memorial service was held in Jerusalem 50 years later.

https://ferrelljenkins.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/james-leslie-starkey-excavator-of-lachish/

Both of Starkey’s daughters subsequently arrived at the School, one leaving in 1948 and the other in 1951. It seems likely that their brother went to the Masonic Boys’ School as all three very much fitted the criterion for Masonic support.

It is possible, though unlikely, that during their time at the School, the Starkey girls encountered a member of staff called Elizabeth Wace. It is not clear when Miss Wace began teaching at the School but we know that she left in 1959. She became a member of the Old Girls’ Association which membership she retained until at least 1998. As she went from the School to become Director of the British School in Athens and then, subsequently to become ‘an authority in Mycenaean archaeology, especially pottery and terracotta figurines’ (Wikipedia), it seems probable she taught history. Whether the School was aware of her ‘pedigree’ is not recorded but Elizabeth was the daughter of Alan John Bayard Wace, a leading authority on Mycenae.

Professor A J B Wace, the archaeologist whose name will always be associated with the Mycenae excavations died on Saturday in Athens – The Times, 11 November 1957

When he first went to the British School at Athens early this century knowledge of Mycenaean civilization was still young (Dr F H Stubbings)

https://web.archive.org/web/20110116090809/http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/periods_styles/features/history/staff_obituaries/textiles/wace/index.html

At the time Elizabeth Wace was listed as a member of staff at the School, the majority of the teaching staff were still former pupils although by this stage they were usually fully-trained. In earlier days, they became pupil teachers and learned their trade at the chalk face, as it were. Earlier in the 20th century, they began to undergo teacher training before returning to the School on the staff. But the days when the School attracted highly qualified professionals was yet to come. Elizabeth as the daughter and granddaughter (twice over) of professors may well have seemed like a flamingo amongst sparrows! Amongst other publications attributed to her is Well built Mycenae: the Helleno-British excavations within the citadel at Mycenae, 1959-1969 which has 70 editions between 1981-2013, as well as being published in translation in many countries. Her father had been appointed Director of the British School at Athens in 1914 and Elizabeth followed in his footsteps after leaving RMSG. Established in 1886, the BSA has been involved in a multitude of archaeological projects.

https://www.bsa.ac.uk

The final archaeological link with RMSG is archaeological fieldwork actually at the School. As part of Time Team’s Big Dig in June 2003, a group of pupils under the guidance of a local archaeologist set out to ascertain if the raised area of land on the Uppers really was part of a Roman road as had always been believed.

Following proper procedures, half a dozen or so girls began to explore the ground. The findings were all carefully recorded and any items washed and recorded. The girls discovered first hand that archaeological work is painstaking and time-consuming. Fortunately, the weather was kind. It might have been a very different story if it had been raining or scorching hot!

At the end of the day, the conclusion was that in all probability it was indeed a Roman road although the ‘classic’ elements of construction were absent. Later, a local archaeology group undertook a resistivity survey on the site and produced a report which concluded that all the evidence was in support of the view that it was Roman. Many years later, in a different part of the School, groundwork in preparation for an adventure playground showed what appeared to be a continuation of the road so that, long before the School was built – indeed long before anything was ever built in the parkland – a roadway crossed the site from north west to south east. As the current main road goes round the parkland, following boundaries established in the sixteenth century (with some adjustments over the years), it could be argued to be typical of Roman roads: don’t go round, go straight to your destination, without deviation. They probably wouldn’t have approved of this meandering, contrived account of RMSG archaeological connections!

A Winter’s Tale

Given the current white-out, courtesy of the so-called ‘Beast from the East’, it seemed appropriate to put together some winter elements connected to the School. The title is, of course, the name of the Shakespeare play. As Mamilius, son of Leontes & Hermione – no, not that one! –says, a ‘sad tale’s best for winter’. During the School’s history, before it achieved independent status, pupils attended under indigent circumstances. Mostly, but not exclusively, these were caused by the death of the father and breadwinner – a sad tale indeed. It was so often the case that the locals referred to the pupils as the orphans on the hill. Connecting this inherent sadness with Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, the father of one of those pupils, and whose death caused her to attend the School, was a drama critic, author and Shakespearian scholar.

Raymond Crompton Rhodes, known as RCR, died in October 1935, following bronchitis and pneumonia. His funeral was attended by the managers of all the Birmingham theatres. As the article above says, he had been a drama critic for a long time and was well respected as such. He had authored many books on the theatre and had renown as an expert on Shakespeare and Sheridan. Presumably because of this, the Assistant Manager of the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, Philip Rodway, indicated in his will that his play texts collection was to go to Mr Rhodes.

Mr Rodway died in 1932. His will, incidentally, also expressed a desire that every effort was made to ensure he was dead before they buried him. This was something that the Victorians were very concerned about. To them, Mr Rodway’s request that

would not be deemed strange. The notion of being buried alive furnished many a ghost story of the period, all very suitable for a dark winter’s night.

But back to the theatre.

Theatre Royal, Birmingham soon after it opened in 1904 – Courtesy William Neale; photo from http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Birmingham/TheatreRoyalNewStreetBirmingham.htm

‘The Birmingham Theatre Royal collection comprises play texts and prompt books dating from the mid to the late nineteenth century. Many are printed, about 300 are manuscripts. The majority of the manuscripts are copies made for prompting and for stage management.

The collection was formed by successive managers… [and] was saved by the young assistant manager, Philip Rodway, when the Theatre Royal was demolished for rebuilding 1902 to 1904.’

https://theironroom.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/351/

Quite possibly within them somewhere is A Winter’s Tale!

After RCR’s sudden demise, the collection went to Birmingham library where it is still held today. In school records, the Rhodes family address was Shakespeare Drive. No doubt the spirit of RCR would have approved!

As the wind howls outside, one is reminded that warm clothing is essential in winter. The School from its inception in 1788 had been funded by Freemasons. This extended not only to the provision of buildings, books and teachers etc. but also to food and clothing. And the latter was not just during any pupil’s time at school but to equip them on the journey into the world beyond schooling. What these outfits were varied throughout the years. In 1788 it was specified that, on leaving the School, each pupil was to be provided with ‘Gowns, petticoats, aprons, shoes, shifts, caps and Tuscan hats.’ Tuscan hats were straw hats, the straw originally coming from Tuscany so that the style came to be called Tuscan even when it no longer had any Italian roots. Later in the School’s history, the Tuscan hats gave way to hats (unspecified) but the provision of a coat was always included. During the war, when clothing was on ration, the provision for school leavers of a coat, dress and shoes became a real godsend.

To begin with, the girls would make their own clothes but by the twentieth century the provision of certainly outer garments, and often all of the outfits, came from shops. Arding & Hobbs in Clapham was used for many years, even after the School had moved to Hertfordshire. Then it was replaced by Trewins of Watford which was much closer and made the already arduous task for harassed housemistresses of outfitting leavers perhaps very slightly less fraught! As anyone who has experienced it will affirm, taking one teenager to be outfitted for winter, top to toe, in the off season and all accomplished within one hour, was a Battle Royal. To take a dozen ….

Winter clothing aside, the other noticeable thing about this season is that there are a greater number of darker hours. One girl (pupil 1959-1965) remembers them especially as

‘I was a keen musician and used to rise at about 6.00 in the mornings to go and practise on the Steinway in the hall (special privilege!) In the winter it was dark and scary at that time of day, walking up the cloisters and along the long classroom corridor with no lights on!’

The cloisters, the Garth and the long, long corridor are noticeable parts of the School on its current site. Traversing any of them at a time of day when no-one else is can be intimidating. Today the corridor is punctuated by fire doors which close automatically in the event of a fire. They also close automatically every evening and there is something rather eerie about being in the corridor when, with a sudden loud click, all the doors start to close without anyone near them!

Moving away from winter (the season) to Winter, a surname, there are 2 pupils who have had the name. They were two of the four daughters of Joseph & Caroline Winter. Ellen Lockwood Winter was born in 1853 in Chirk, Denbighshire where her father was the stationmaster. From there, he moved on to be innkeeper at Barr’s Railway Station in Hereford and Annie Gorton Winter was born there in 1856.

Above left: the bridge carrying the rail line into Chirk (from Wikipedia) and right: Hereford station today (from Google Earth) but probably, apart from cars, not looking much different than it was in 1861.

Joseph Winter died ‘after a lingering illness’ on 3rd May 1864. His two younger daughters subsequently became pupils. Ellen won the Vocal music prize in 1868 but had left the School by the 1871 census. In fact, there is no trace of her in 1871 but in 1875 we catch up with her. On May 5 1875, she married at South Kensington St Luke, the groom being Julius Christoph Richter, a merchant born in Königsberg, Prussia. After this very brief appearance in public records – which also includes a reference to her sister who was a witness at the wedding – Ellen disappears off the radar again. Given that her husband was a merchant, perhaps they travelled a great deal and thus the British records do not see her. In 1941, in GRO Consular Death Indices, we find her death on 9th May in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Her sister, Annie, was accepted as a pupil on 13th April 1865. In 1871, she is found with her mother and another of her sisters back in Hereford. Annie would have been due to leave in April 1871 so she had perhaps only just returned home when the enumerator came knocking at the door. Like her sister Ellen, she won prizes: one for general proficiency and one for French recitation, both in 1868.

Her brother in law was from Königsberg and that is where we next find Annie. We do not know why she was there but perhaps she had travelled there with the newly married couple. The two sisters would appear to have been close so this does not seem an unreasonable supposition. On the other hand, she may have been, as so many pupils were, a governess to a family there, such a place found via her in-laws.

‘For centuries, Königsberg was the metropolis of eastern Germany. The city … became a meeting point of diverse historical and cultural traditions, as well as the home for people of various nationalities and religious beliefs.’ https://canitz.org/

‘Königsberg was a beautiful, vibrant and a very prosperous city … and a vital shipping port … Grand merchant houses, banking offices, palaces and opera houses were erected in the city center.’ https://canitz.org/

Today, the city does not exist. Kaliningrad which stands where Königsberg used to be is actually a new city as Königsberg was completely destroyed in WWII.

For whatever reason Annie was there in 1876, we know this because it was where she died. She was just nineteen years old.

But so that we don’t end entirely on a sombre note, let us finish with a reference to one of Königsberg’s famous sons, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, author and composer. It is his stories that form the basis of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman opera. He also wrote the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which Tchaikovsky’s ballet is based. And that is a ballet traditionally put on in winter, around Christmas, with every little girl wishing she could dance the part of Clara.

Images of Nutcracker from http://www.twincitiesballet.org/twin-cities-ballet-mn-performances/nutcracker.htm

If we have to have a ‘beast from the east’, the Mouse King is better than snow and ice. And it makes a good winter’s tale. Or should that be tail?

The Waltons

Hands up if you remember The Waltons, TV series of the 70s and 80s. Set on the fictional Walton’s Mountain, it was loosely based on the life of Earl Hamner Jnr of Schuyler, Nelson County, Virginia.

 

Image of Walton family from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/03/25/good-night-john-boy-good-night-earl-hamner-jr/?utm_term=.179fa5844ab6

Image from TV series https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25660694

A family saga with the backdrop of the Great Depression, John-Boy Walton was the narrator, introducing the story of his parents, grandparents and six siblings. With such a large family, there was always scope for plotlines.

Another large Walton family – this time a real one – is the Walton sextuplets born to Janet & Graham Walton in 1983. At the time, they were the world’s first female sextuplets that all survived and they are still going strong today with the next generation of baby Waltons starting to appear.

But the Walton family this blog is concerned with is that belonging to Sarah Jane Thornton Walton, admitted as a pupil 21st April 1836. Whilst researching her, a very interesting family history began to emerge although, strictly, this is less The Waltons, a family saga from mid nineteenth century Hull, as much as it is The Standidges, Hullites since Stuart times. Allow me to explain …

Sarah was the daughter of Samuel Standidge Walton (1794-1868) and Sarah Walton nee Shilling (1794-1866). Both of them actually survived their daughter to whom we will return shortly. Samuel Walton was a shipbuilder and in 1829, Pigot’s Directory places him as 1 High St, Sculcoates. This appears to be a business address related to the shipbuilding that was the family’s occupation. Later, Samuel is found in Marine Row, Kingston upon Hull; Worship St, Hull; Reed St, Sculcoates in 1841, 1851 and 1861 respectively. As well as being a shipbuilder (and a landed proprietor), Samuel was a Captain in the East Yorks Militia. He had held that Commission for 45 years and the Queen granted him special permission to retain his rank and wear the uniform even after he resigned the Commission.

The East Yorks Militia had the nickname of the Beverley Buffs to distinguish them from other Yorkshire Militia regiments.

Image of uniforms from http://www.eylhs.org.uk/dl/129/militia-yeomanry-and-volunteer-forces

‘a comparable officer’s suit of the East Yorkshire Militia for this period [i.e. 1790] – coat, waistcoat, breeches – lies uncelebrated in the vaults of York Castle Museum.’

‘The scarlet coat is lined and faced buff, with ten buttons and silver laces on each lapel, four on each pocket and cuff, and one each side of the collar. The silver buttons are blank, with a striped pattern. Waistcoat and breeches are both buff. The waistcoat has twelve silver buttons and laces at the front and three on each pocket; the breeches have a tie and four buttons at each knee’ writes richardawarren in https://thisreilluminatedschoolofmars.wordpress.com/tag/east-yorkshire-militia/

Which of these uniforms Captain Samuel may have been given permission to wear is not clear although a portrait identified as him shows something similar to the image above labelled 1798 although, as an officer, his attire was presumably a little fancier.

Whatever his appearance, we do know that in 1867, Samuel gifted to the Corporation of Hull a portrait of his great grandfather, Sir Samuel Standidge.

Hull Packet 30 August 1867

unknown artist; Sir Samuel Standidge (1725-1801); Hull Guildhall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sir-samuel-standidge-17251801-80010

Sir Samuel Standidge, Knight (1725–1801),

Mayor of Hull (1795), Five Times Warden of the Trinity House, Hull Maritime Museum.

Captain Samuel is descended from Sir Samuel through the female line and his mother’s surname, Thornton, is preserved in two of Captain Samuel’s daughters: Mary Thornton Walton (1824-1914) and our pupil Sarah Janet Thornton Walton, the latter being baptised on 30 Jul 1827 in Christchurch, Sculcoates. The address in the baptismal record is Worship St, where Captain & Mrs Walton were residing in 1851 as well. This perhaps implies that several properties were in the possession of this branch of the Standidges/Waltons and were all used at various times. No 1 High Street, where Capt. Samuel was in 1829 is the property built or acquired by his great-grandfather. An article in the Hull Daily Mail 20 June 1927 identifies this property with the Standidge name in 1765 and refers to it as a shipyard.

But let us stop jumping about like a sand flea between seven different generations of Standidges and try and tell the story in some kind of cohesive order.

We ought to begin with the earliest known Standidge except we don’t have a name! In the article of 1927, Sir Samuel is described as the great-grandson of the Chamberlain of Hull of 1677 but, unfortunately, the writer did not give a name for this person. Suffice to say that Mr X clearly had a child or children and said offspring also had children and one of them had children, one of whom was Robert Standidge. Yes I know, it’s hard to get your head round the greats and grands but we are on safer ground now we have reached Sir Samuel.

Born in 1725 in Bridlington, by 1744 he was Mate on board a ship bringing ‘fume’ i.e. tobacco from Virginia. [Oh look – Virginia: coincidences abound – see The Waltons.] Whilst engaged with that, Standidge was captured by a band of pirates (or privateers). They held him prisoner for six weeks before finally releasing him on Rhode Island. Ever the entrepreneur/quick thinker/striker of hot iron, Standidge used his time on Rhode Island to study the tides and this was later to save his life. After his release, he became Master (Captain) aboard the American and, caught in a storm off Rhode Island, was able to put his former studies into use to stop the ship being wrecked.

Sixteen years later, Standidge moved into shipbuilding in Hull where he ‘is recognised as the father of the Hull whaling industry in the Georgian period’ (http://www.thorngumbald.karoo.net/standidge.html citing G S Skeggs Thorngumbald that village yon side of Hedon) and it was at this time that he began operating from No.1 High Street, a property that ran down to the river and was ‘given as 186 yards long by 65 yards wide.’ (ibid)

‘In 1767 at his own expense he equipped a ship and sent it out to the whaling grounds off Greenland. It was said at the time by other merchants that this was an act “bordering on insanity” ’ (ibid).

Madness or otherwise, in fact he commissioned more than one ship and one of them, the British Queen, he captained himself. One of his ships came back from the hazardous Greenland seas with one whale and 400 seals. Prior to this, sealskins were thought worthless, earning 3d each (the equivalent of about 1p) and they were dumped but Captain Standidge had them tanned and sold them for 5 shillings each (about 25p), thus increasing the market value of sealskin for everyone else! (Information taken from A new and completed history of the county of York, Volume 3 by Thomas Allen accessed via Googlebooks). The sort of man who can turn his captivity into useful information and worthless booty practically into gold is always going to be a success in life!

Willoughby, Robert; The Whaling Fleet of Sir Samuel Standidge Depicting the Ships ‘Mary’, ‘Samuel’, ‘Lady Jane’ and ‘Grenland’; Hull Maritime Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-whaling-fleet-of-sir-samuel-standidge-depicting-the-ships-mary-samuel-lady-jane-and-grenland-79085

The whaling industry being in full swing, the refining processes must have produced some noxious fumes and made living in the vicinity unpleasant. Perhaps because of this, in 1768, Standidge purchased 200 acres of land at Thorngumbald from John Hobman and built a mansion there. Although Thorngumbald Hall, now just Thorn Hall, still exists as a building, it is not the one Standidge built.

Image from http://www.thorngumbaldparishcouncil.co.uk/history.aspx

Several owners after Sir Samuel, Charles H Johnson, who had bought it in 1879, demolished it and had it rebuilt in the neo-Jacobean style that is seen today. It has subsequently had several more owners and is currently a home for the elderly.

Standidge became very wealthy from his efforts and owned substantial tracts of lands and properties.

‘New York Farm, Preston, is said to have been purchased with the proceeds of one successful voyage to that city’

and there were at least seven other farms as well as areas of land known in Yorkshire as Garths. Now there’s a word familiar to present day pupils of the School!

He was made Sherriff of Hull in 1775 and in that year too he commissioned a ship which was to sail to discover the North Pole. Standidge had intended to captain it himself but discovered that the restrictions of his Sherriffdom meant that he was not allowed to leave the country. Given his other successes in life, who knows whether Standidge might now be the man credited with the discovery of the North Pole instead of Robert E Peary in 1909.

In 1795, Standidge was appointed Mayor of Hull and the following year he was knighted by George III. He was also granted honorary Russian nobility status by Catherine the Great as he had aided her in her war against the Turks. Not bad for a lad from Bridlington!

He died in 1801, leaving £75,000 in his will – in today’s money several million pounds. He is buried in in the north aisle of St Mary, Lowgate and there is a tablet inscribed to his memory on the wall there.

Image from http://stmaryslowgate.weebly.com/

After all this fascinating stuff, Sarah Janet Thornton Walton (remember her??) is almost an afterword, not least because, unlike quite a few of the Standidge and Walton family members, she did not make old bones. She arrived as a pupil in 1836 and left in 1842. Her name is not only preserved in school records but also on a sampler that was created in 1838 listing all the pupils in the School at the time.

In addition, she completed her own sampler.

She possibly left slightly ahead of her 15th birthday as her father declared his willingness to continue her education with a view to providing her with a position as a governess. Sadly, this was not to be as she died in 1846 at just nineteen years of age. We are left with the marker of her short life in the form of needlework and the fascinating story of her forebears. It remains only to use the sign off style employed by The Waltons.

“With the night descending on Walton’s Mountain, the camera would show the lights going out room by room … the family would banter for a moment … and finally:

Good night, John-Boy

Good night, Elizabeth

Good night, Daddy” [Etc.]

‘If those words mean nothing to you, you’re probably under age 40, perhaps a millennial. If they do, you’re probably a boomer, to whom they are unforgettable’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/03/25/good-night-john-boy-good-night-earl-hamner-jr/?utm_term=.179fa5844ab6

Good night Sir Samuel

Good night Sarah.

‘Twas the Night before Christmas

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”

A Visit from Saint Nicholas, Clement Clarke Moore, 1823

 

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-legend-of-the-christmas-stocking-160854441/

The Christmas stocking, hanging from the mantelpiece, bed post, or anywhere else (like the washing line above), is a Western tradition. The aim is to leave an empty stocking which, by magic, will be filled by the next morning with small toys, or tangerines, or sweets or chocolate coins in bright foil or anything else that can pass muster as a stocking filler. Apart from a foot that is.

It is tied in with the folklore surrounding the character of Santa Claus or St Nicholas and, although the stories all vary slightly, the concept of St Nick as a gift-giver is common to all of them. Although originally the stockings were likely to be those normally worn, some were created especially for Christmas and it didn’t take long for the commercial arm to work out that the idea could boost Christmas sales no end. Today Christmas in the Western world is a Commerce Fest but the image below shows that this is not an entirely modern phenomena as it dates from a century ago.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-legend-of-the-christmas-stocking-160854441/

Stocking fillers were intended to be cheap and cheerful gifts. There could be all sorts – but you rather hoped it wouldn’t be a piece of coal marking your naughtiness – and that’s what this School Christmassy stocking contains.

The fillers, not the coal.

This is a small collection, definitely not commercial, of unconnected stories related to the School’s history.

The bulging stocking hangs tantalisingly. Let’s see what’s there.

If you have been enjoying Blue Planet II with the inimitable Sir David Attenborough, you might be surprised to know that, but for a quirk of fate, it might have been the voice of Jack Lester. Jack – or more properly John Withers Lester – had been the curator of Reptiles & Insects at London Zoo. At that time, the usual way zoos acquired their animals was from expeditions and Lester had organised one such to Sierra Leone. David Attenborough had previously produced and presented a nature programme and during this he formed a friendship with Jack. He was then invited to go on the expedition, with a film crew, and, as Attenborough was very keen to film animals in the wild, he jumped at the chance. It was this expedition which formed the basis of the series Zoo Quest. The original idea was that Attenborough would produce the programme but that Lester would be the presenter. Unfortunately, Lester contracted a tropical disease from his trip to Africa and presented only one instalment before having to be taken to hospital. Sadly, after several recurrences, this was what caused his premature death at the age of 47 in 1956. Because the series was already scheduled, Attenborough had to take over the presentation. And the rest, as they say, is history.

And the connection to RMSG? Well, Jack’s daughter subsequently became a pupil between 1957 and 1964.

On the subject of zoo expeditions, someone who wrote entertainingly about them is Gerald Durrell. One of his expeditions was to what was then British Guiana, mentioned in the last post Bring Me Sunshine. In 1950, Durrell discovered the name Adventure on a map of Guiana and thought it sounded perfect as a starting point.

“ ‘Three singles to Adventure please,’ I said, trying to look as nonchalant as possible.

‘Yes, sir,’ said the clerk. ‘First or second class?’ “

(from his book Three Singles to Adventure written with the characteristically wonderful Durrell imagery and humour.)

Given the similarity to the Lester expedition, one is not surprised to find a certain person commenting that Durrell was –

‘A renegade who was right… He was truly a man before his time’ 

Sir David Attenborough

Halfway down the stocking leg now

Continuing the animal theme – and equally as contrived – we have Emilie Hilda Nichols who was a pupil at the School in the C19th.

This small item appeared in Horse and Hound: A Journal of Sport and Agriculture, on September 17, 1892. Applicants for the School had their names and details submitted by Petitioners and were then put forward to a ballot. This was circulated, voted upon and the totals added up. Those girls who received the most support were granted a place at the School (always over-subscribed) and those unsuccessful accrued their vote totals for the next ballot six months later. This could happen several times, unless the girl in question became too old to be accepted as a pupil (usually 10 years of age). It seems rather more unusual for something to appear separately, and additionally, in a publication concerning a particular child – a sort of belt and braces approach. It seems likely that ‘Retniop’ knew William Nichols; Retniop was writing for Horse & Hound and Nicholls was the editor of Stock Keeper and Fancier’s Chronicle, described as ‘A Journal for Breeders and Exhibitors of Dogs, Poultry, Pigeons, Cats, &c’ – their subject matters were similar.

Image of cover from http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery

By the late 19th century, there were apparently over 400 periodicals devoted to agriculture alone, of which the Stock Keeper and Fancier’s Chronicle was one.

Whether the newspaper appeal did the trick or not we cannot be certain, but Emilie did become a pupil. Born on 11 Oct 1884, she became a pupil after her father died in 1892. She left in 1900 but we know that she visited the School in 1912. She lived in Surrey all her life and died in 1952 unmarried, her probate being granted to her sisters Flora & Alice. As was customary at the time, neither of these two became pupils. It was usual for only one girl (and one boy) of each family to receive a Masonic education although others were assisted in other ways.

We’re turning the heel of the stocking now.

Perhaps as evidence that there may be nothing unusual about individual girls receiving separate support in newspapers to encourage voters, Ada Carter received a similar treatment.

This appeared in Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle on April 07, 1877. Originally published by Robert Bell in 1822 as Life in London, it was a weekly four page broadsheet with an anti-establishment slant, priced 7d. It contained general news but, as its later title might suggest, it became more focused on sport, in particular prize-fighting:

“it was particularly known for its reports on horse-racing, publishing up to date information on schedules and results.” https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/titles/bells-life-in-london-and-sporting-chronicle

Amongst its many contributors was Charles Dickens and so here we have another link with the School!

Ada Carter was born in Nottingham in 1867. In 1864, her father, James Tomlinson Carter, was described as a gentleman who had been promoted to Lieutenant in the Robin Hood Rifle Volunteer Corps. He had a partnership with his father as auctioneers and share brokers, although this was dissolved by mutual consent in 1874. Whether this was because of his health we will never know but he died of consumption just two years later.

As with Emilie, the newspaper support may have encouraged voters in the ballot or it may not. However, Ada also became a pupil and in 1883 she won a prize for General Usefulness. She left later that year “her brother having written for her.” By 1901 her occupation is given as sick nurse and she, like Emilie, visited the School on what was then called Ex-Pupils’ Day, in 1912. In 1915, she married David Alexander Robertson Jeffrey. In fact, the couple took advantage of a new law of consanguinity which had been passed in 1907 as David Jeffrey had previously been married to Ada’s sister Kate. David and Kate had had a son before Kate died and Ada became his surrogate mother until her own death in 1938.

And so we reach the toe of the stocking. Is it a tangerine or a piece of coal? You can decide for yourselves because the last little filler brings us into the 21st century. The Year 7 Reading Group one December were told that they were being taken to see Santa Claus. The aim was to intrigue but they all became very excited at the prospect. Off we set for the Chapel where we found not a jolly figure in red crying “Ho ho ho” but a carved image of Saint Nicholas to one side of the altar connected with the diocese of St Albans in which the School lies.

(Image taken from the architect’s original drawing)

St Nick being the originator of Santa Claus, to say that Santa was in the Chapel was not a lie but some of the girls looked so disappointed that one felt quite guilty. Some of them clearly thought they’d had the piece of coal. Fortunately, another Christmassy occasion made up for it. In Scandinavia on 6th December, children leave their shoes out in the hope that they will be filled with sweets. This same Reading Club had been asked to take their shoes off and leave them to one side. So they didn’t mark the furniture, they were told. Whilst they were otherwise engaged, an assistant surreptitiously filled their shoes with sweets. At the end of the session they were told to retrieve their footwear. There was a pause and then the air was filled with squeals of delight! One little girl came rushing back, eyes shining, to announce the magic that had happened. Well it must have been magic: they hadn’t seen anyone go near the shoes …

The lump of coal my parents teased

I’d find in my Christmas stocking

turned out each year to be an orange,

for I was their sunshine.

William Matthews

(https://www.poetrysoup.com)

Remembrance Day

Today, along with the rest of the country, the School will mark the sacrifice made by those who have given their lives in war. A poppy wreath will be laid after a service in the Chapel and The Last Post will be sounded.

(The School will then differ from most organisations as this will be followed by a performance of Drill, at the end of which every one of the 180 girls will leave a poppy in her place as she marches from the Hall. For more about Drill, see http://www.rmsforgirls.org.uk/userfiles/rmsmvc/documents/AboutUs/History%20Trails/Drill%20history.pdf)

The idea of Remembrance Sunday was born in 1921. The date of the 11th November for Armistice Day honours the official ending of the First World War on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The Royal British Legion was founded on 15 May 1921 but the Poppy Day idea started with Madame Anna Guérin.

Image from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/359443613995900209/

“After taking her idea to Field Marshal Douglas Haig and the British Legion, Madame Guérin’s poppies (made by the widows and orphans of the devastated areas of France) were distributed on British streets on 11 November 1921 – on the country’s first Poppy Day.” https://poppyladymadameguerin.wordpress.com/remembrance-poppy-timeline-for-great-britain/

The Tamworth Herald in 1921 informed the public “They are made in two qualities – in silk and in mercerised cotton.”

The poppy was chosen as the emblem inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields written by Canadian physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, in 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend.

The poppies are made “at the Richmond poppy factory … [which] has employed disabled ex-servicemen to construct the huge number of poppies needed every year.” https://britishpathe.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/poppies-an-illustrated-history/. By 1968, the factory had 300 staff and manufactured 13 million poppies per annum and today approximately 36 million are produced, albeit with more automation and therefore fewer employees. “A team of about 50 people—most of them disabled former British military personnel—work all year round to make millions of poppies at the Poppy Factory in Richmond” (Wikipedia). So, like Santa’s elves, the work is endless for a single day event.

The poppies in UK (apart from Scotland, see below) “typically have two red paper petals mounted on a green plastic stem with a single green paper leaf and a prominent black plastic central boss” (Wikipedia). Until 1994, this boss had the words Haig’s Fund stamped on it whereas today it has the words ‘Poppy Appeal’. The introduction of the words had originally been because fraudulent poppy sellers – there’s always some who try to make a fast buck from a good cause – were selling poppies to the public but pocketing the money. The ‘Haig’s Fund’ stamp of authority, plus an official badge worn by the sellers, sought to eliminate the fraud.

These days “It has become common to see large poppies on buses, tube trains and aeroplanes as well as on lampposts, billboards, public buildings and landmarks” (Wikipedia) and internet sites and social media also display them.

 

The top image needs no explanation, the lower image is a composite made from Ancestry.co.uk and FindMyPast.co.uk, both family history sites.

In 2014, to mark the centenary of the Great War, the Tower of London installation comprised 88,246 ceramic poppies, one poppy for each British or Commonwealth soldier killed.

(Image from https://bwi.forums.rivals.com/threads/june-28th-1914-102-years-ago-today-the-great-war-aka-world-war-i-began.125052/)

The School did their own version of this for the Chapel for Remembrance Day in that year.

Debate arises every year about ‘poppy etiquette’ and some see it as a political symbol. The Football Association caused a furore in 2016 by fining the players wearing one, claiming it was a political symbol the wearing of which was forbidden by their rules. In 2017, they changed those rules. They weren’t going down that route again! There are arguments about when you start wearing your poppy, arguments about whether it should be on the left (near the heart and where medals are worn) or men on the left and ladies on the right, arguments about whether it is significant that the leaf points towards 11 o’clock or not. This last isn’t a problem in Scotland where the poppies don’t have a leaf. This is because they are made by PoppyScotland rather than the Royal British Legion and they have four petals rather than the two favoured by the RBL. There’s also a white poppy “first introduced by the Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1933 and now sold by the Peace Pledge Union.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/41942346/remembrance-poppy-controversies-and-how-to-wear-it. It symbolises an opposition to war and a commitment to lasting peace.

However, controversies aside, for poppies to be worn or not, there have to be those that organise the Poppy Appeals, to say nothing of the countless thousands of volunteers who stand out in the cold or in draughty shop doorways enabling the rest of us to buy our poppies. And it is here that we turn to another connection between the School and Remembrance Sunday. William Henry Keppy 1895-1941 is recorded in the 1939 register as Managing Secretary Poppy Day Appeal Fund.

As the Birmingham Daily Post of 6 January 1941 (above) indicates, he was also involved in a number of other charities as secretary or organiser. Given that Poppy Day started in 1921, for Mr Keppy to have been involved in its organisation from 1924, and that he founded the Warriors’ Club (now, sadly, vanished without trace), the notion of remembrance was clearly important to him. His father had been a soldier (Company Sergeant-Major South Wales Borderers and awarded the DCM) and assisted his son with the Warriors’ Club. William himself served throughout WWI, first joining the Warwickshire Yeomanry in 1913. He was discharged in 1919 but re-enlisted in 1921. Although he appears to have escaped unscathed, no doubt his war experience acted as a strong motivation for his efforts in the support of servicemen and women.

The various newspaper reports about William Keppy, arising mostly from his sudden and unexpected death aged just 45, suggest someone who was not only motivated but a ‘doer’. The article in the Daily Post goes on to say:

The Evening Despatch of 4 January 1941, also announcing his death, describes him as ‘the driving force’ in these organisations. As an example of his indefatigable efforts, the Birmingham Daily Gazette of 4 November 1930 carries the information

Interesting that, at a time when cars were owned by fewer people, motor mascots were available. Today, car poppies can be bought on line for £5.49. Using a Bank of England conversion rate gives the equivalent cost of about £3 in today’s money for the 1930 car mascot but of course there would be fewer sales of them than there might be today now that we are knee deep in vehicles.

As if all his sterling work for charities were not enough, Mr Keppy was also “prominent in the dance band world” (Birmingham Daily Gazette 06 January 1941). At one point he organised about five bands, including one called the Esmerelda Band. He was both drummer and conductor and the bands made a point of not playing from musical scores. It is possibly one of his dance bands – although not named as such – that entertained at a function of the Warriors’ Club reported by the Tamworth Herald in 1932.

Apart from his being involved in a number of charities and being very proactive in this work, the main reason for all the newspaper reports about Mr Keppy is his untimely death. As the report of his funeral (Birmingham Daily Gazette 8 January 1941) indicated, he left a widow and two daughters, one of whom became a pupil at the School. The second daughter would have been 17 at the time of her father’s death and therefore too old for school.

Birmingham Daily Gazette 06 January 1941

Although the majority of his life was spent in the Midlands – apart from a visit to Australia where he first had the idea of a dance band that didn’t play from printed music – William Keppy was actually born in Breconshire in 1895. By 1901, however, he, with his family, was in Smethwick. When he joined the army in 1913, his trade was given as machinist for Phillips. This was J. A. Phillips and Co, manufacturer of bicycles and bicycle components, originally based in Birmingham but which had moved to the Credenda Works in Smethwick in 1908. https://www.gracesguide.co.uk

Mr Keppy was a Freemason and his premature death made his daughter eligible for support from the Freemasons’ Charity. Throughout the School’s history, the death of fathers was often the prime reason for daughters to become pupils, so much so that, during most of the twentieth century, it was quite unusual for a pupil to have a father who was still alive. A pupil who left in the late 1950s wrote to her friend, somewhat tongue in cheek, about her ‘discovery’ of life in the outside world beyond the protective walls of the School: “Mary – a revelation. Some girls have fathers!” The tone may have been facetious but it pointed to the reason why the pupils were known by the locals as ‘the orphans on the hill’.

As his daughter would have been 10 when her father died ‘after a brief illness’ in Selly Oak hospital, she may well have been aware of her father’s involvement in the Poppy Day appeal (although children are generally unaware of what their parents do until they become adults themselves!) and, if so, the Remembrance Day services may well have had a specific poignancy for her both at School and beyond it. Personal connections with anything always heighten one’s awareness of it. Ask the girls who participate in Drill on Remembrance Sunday, who lay their poppies on the floor; ask the trumpeter who plays the Last Post; ask the girls who, as part of the Combined Cadet Force, play an active role in the service; ask the members of Chapel choir who sing for the service; ask … but you get the picture.

The service at School doesn’t just include the girls and their parents, and the members of the Old Masonic Girls’ Association (OMGA) but is shared with the Old Masonians’ Association (OMA) whose school closed in 1977. It is their memorial which forms the centrepiece of the wreath laying, so even greater poignancy in the act of remembrance.

During the two minutes’ silence as part of the service, each person will be remembering differently.

http://www.greatwar.co.uk/poems/laurence-binyon-for-the-fallen.htm