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

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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

‘The uncertain glory of an April day’

Two anniversaries share one April day: 23rd April, and as one of them belongs to William Shakespeare, the quotation from Two Gentlemen of Verona seems apt.

“Shakespeare’s favourite month would seem to be April … No other month is mentioned half as often in his works as showery, windy, sometimes unforgettably exquisite April.” (Germaine Greer   The New Yorker, April 11, 2013)

23rd April is long ascribed to be the day on which William Shakespeare was born although there is no specific record of it. He was baptised on 26 April 1564 and it is generally assumed that, as was the custom at the time, the infant was born about three days earlier. He definitely died on this date 52 years later so it is convenient to use the date to apply to both events.

Saint and playwright

St George, patron saint of England as well as of Germany, Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Palestine, Ethiopa, Serbia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Portugal, Malta and Montenegro, has his saint’s day on 23rd April.

The two come together in Shakespeare’s Henry V when the king, at the Battle of Agincourt, rallies his troops with the stirring “Cry God for Harry, England and St George.”

It was a good bit of propaganda for George who, despite being the English patron saint, never actually set foot in the place.

The original patron saint had been Edmund (“Cry God for Harry, England and – er – St Edmund” – doesn’t really cut it, does it?) and he had been patron saint since the 9th century. His shrine, housed in an abbey built by King Canute, was at Bury St Edmunds.

Eddy;s tomb
Shrine of St Edmund

The shrine depicted above was destroyed in 1539. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, his remains were spirited away to France to keep them safe. It obviously worked because in 1911 they came home again and now they are in Arundel castle.

‘Such was the influence of St Edmund that on St Edmund’s Day in 1214 rebel English barons held a secret meeting here before going to confront King John with the Charter of Liberties, the forerunner to Magna Carta which he signed a year later. This event is reflected in the motto of Bury St Edmunds: ‘Shrine of a King, Cradle of the Law’.’ [In Latin Sacrarium Regis Cunabula legis]

http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Edmund-original-patron-saint-of-England/

Suffolk crest
Bury St Edmunds coat of arms

In 1199, Edmund was unceremoniously dumped by Richard I who had visited the site of St George’s tomb in Lod (modern day Israel) and then the following day won a battle.

where geo lies
Tomb of St George

Image of tomb By OneArmedMan – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3078385

Whether he genuinely believed that his triumph had been brought about by the saint or he was quick to see the opportunities of renaming the patron saint we will never know. Richard I, nicknamed the Lionheart, has himself had an historical makeover. He comes down through history as a great King of England but he spent so little time in this country during his reign, largely limited to visits to wring out more money by taxation to fund his crusading, that it is perhaps very appropriate he selected a patron saint who had spent even less time here.

google image
St George’s Day Google doodle

The final coup de grace for St Edmund came in 1348 when Edward III founded the Knights of the Garter and selected St George as its patron. From then on, the flag of St Edmund was superseded by the flag of St George when troops went into battle.

St George lived in the 3rd century. For part of his life, he was in Lydda (now in Israel) but it is uncertain whether he was born here or in Cappadocia (modern day Turkey). Wherever it was, it was to wealthy Greek parents. He was a soldier as his father had been – probably another reason for Richard to adopt him – but despite being in the Roman army, he was a Christian and reputedly refused to give up his faith even when asked by Emperor Diocletian. Probably not a good career move to oppose your boss and George was executed, after being subjected to torture, on 23rd April 303 AD.

Our William, on the other hand, is undisputedly English, born and died in Stratford upon Avon. Conveniently neat, you have to give him that. Made his career in London but scholars argue about where he was during his ‘missing years’. Was he a schoolmaster, a travelling player, a poacher – or all three and more? And where was he – in this country or not?

A pub in Kenilworth is convinced that the premises was patronised ‘by none other than William Shakespeare’  (http://www.virginsandcastle.co.uk/) though it offers no evidence to support this view. The Famous Virgins and Castle (the word famous is part of the title) is in the High Street in the older part of Kenilworth.

The pub
The Famous Virgins & castle, Kenilworth

Image courtesy of Google Earth Street View

Virgins & castle
Pub sign

Inn sign courtesy of http://www.virginsandcastle.co.uk/

The premises is old enough to have been known to Shakespeare. It actually appears to date from the year before his birth and there is a story that Shakespeare may have visited Kenilworth when Elizabeth I visited in 1575.

Castle and grounds
Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden

Image of Kenilworth Castle and the newly restored garden courtesy of http://www.english-heritage.org.uk

David Schajer in his blog http://shakespearesolved.blogspot.co.uk posits the idea that perhaps John Shakespeare, a glove maker, might have seized the opportunity of making a pair of gloves for Elizabeth and presenting them to her on her visit. It would be a good publicity ploy particularly since we know that, very shortly after this, the family fortunes dipped quite dramatically. It is quite feasible it was a last ditch attempt to stave off financial collapse.

But as Schajer neatly puts it:

‘There is no proof that Shakespeare was there. There is no proof that he was not there. It is impossible to know, based on the evidence that we possess today. Perhaps we may eventually discover documents or letters that put Shakespeare at Kenilworth, or not, and until that time we cannot know one way or the other’

If Shakespeare were there in 1575, he would only be 11 so presumably not frequenting the pub known then as The Two Virgins. But it does seem possible that James Burbage, of whose acting company Shakespeare was later a part, was at Kenilworth and perhaps this lends some credence to the pub’s claim.

And the connection to RMSG? (You were wondering where that fitted in weren’t you?) Well the parents of Marjorie Slingsby, former pupil, ran the pub in the late nineteenth century. Thomas Chapman Slinsgby, b 1865, was a grocer’s manager before he transferred to the drinks trade. He died in 1901 and his probate places him at Virgin’s Inn, Kenilworh. His estate was valued at probate as £16 15s which, although in modern terms is worth £722, it is hardly a living wage. Marjorie’s mother became the licensee in 1901 but by the next census is given as a boarding house keeper, not at the pub but in Waverley St, Kenilworth. Both Marjorie and her sister were working in clerical jobs.

Marjorie came to the School after her father’s death and left it in 1909. Given as a shorthand typist in 1911, we can probably assume she learned those skills at school. In 1912, Marjorie visited the School again. It seems feasible that this was for the first Old Girls’ Day since the foundation of the Old Girls’ Association (OMGA). There had been Ex-Pupils’ Days before then but the Association started in 1912. It may have been this reason or it may have been because she was planning the leave the country and wanted to see her alma mater for probably the last time. In 1913, Marjorie, her mother, her sister Kathleen and younger brother George travelled to Wellington, New Zealand on the Tainui. By 1916, she gives her address as Whataupoko, Gisburn, New Zealand.

NZ

Images of Whataupoko from http://www.tairawhitimuseum.org.nz/exhibits-galleries/collections/photography/Times_A_Changin/Whataupoko.asp

On 12 Dec 1923, she married Roy Fellows Baird the date being given in Who’s Who in New Zealand and the Western Pacific, 1925. Roy was a Solicitor and District Land Registrar who made an extensive study of Polynesia. His research notes are now held by Canterbury Museum. By 1932, the Bairds were living at 2a Selwyn Rd, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand where Marjorie remained a member of OMGA. Sadly just six years later, she died, aged only 45. It is possible that this is the property today listed as 2 Selwyn Rd, Hospital Hill, Napier which was sold in October 2015 although there is no certainty about this.

Baird home?
Napier property

Rather like the uncertainty about whether Shakespeare was, or wasn’t in Kenilworth; was or wasn’t a frequenter of The Two Virgins; whether St George was, or wasn’t born in Israel or Turkey, the was or wasn’t of New Zealand real estate is up to you.

But April 23rd is definitely celebrated as St George’s Day and as Shakespeare’s birthday.

A Mills and Boon moment?

Amongst the many past pupils of the School, we have a prolific author. Born Dorothy Phoebe Ansle in Ventnor, Isle of Wight in 1890, Ms Ansle wrote under the pseudonyms of Hebe Elsna, Vicky Lancaster, Laura Conway and Lyndon Snow.

She was the daughter of Frederick Philip Ansle, a wine merchant, and his second wife Mary, nee Embling and one of at least five children, two of whom died as infants in 1888. The surviving siblings were Linda Mary Embling Phillipps (daughter of Mary and her first husband Jeremiah Schuppe Phillipps, a bookseller who died aged just 29 in 1871), and Mary Rose Ansle. Phoebe was the youngest.

Her father was born in 1838 in Bishopstoke, Southampton but, although he should have been recorded in the 1841 census, no trace has yet been found. In 1851, he was living with an aunt & uncle and it seems likely that his aunt Mary was his father’s sister. Her marriage record gives her surname as Ansell (rather than Ansle) so it is probable that the name was pronounced An-Sul rather than Ans-Lee. Originally trading as a butcher, he switched commercial tracks later in life becoming first a manager to a firm of Wine Merchants before then trading as a merchant himself. In 1884, a newspaper reference shows the transfer of the Railway Refreshment Rooms at 69 High St, Ventnor to his name.

Phoebe’s mother, born in Brighton in 1850, was the daughter of William & Amelia Ann Embling; he from Petworth and she from Yapton, in Sussex. In 1911, an older sister of Mary Embling (Fanny Amelia) was living with the Ansle family in Sandown, Isle of Wight. By this stage, Mary Ansle was a widow. Frederick Ansle died on 9th August 1897 at the York Hotel, Sandown, his death being announced in the local paper.

In 1891, Phoebe appears in the census at 69 High St, Ventnor, Isle of Wight and the image below would no doubt have been familiar in her childhood. The image is by Detroit Publishing Co., under license from Photoglob Zürich and shows the Esplanade at Ventnor in about 1899.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ventnor,_Isle_of_Wight,_England,_ca._1899.jpg#/media/
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ventnor,_Isle_of_Wight,_England,_ca._1899.jpg#/media/

“Ventnor’s fortunes were transformed in the 1830’s when a report by eminent physician Sir James Clark extolled the beneficial healing qualities of the climate and waters. Almost overnight, Ventnor became a very fashionable destination and health resort – Hygeia, goddess of health, still decorates the Welcome signs as you enter the town. Building work soon flourished, and the population ballooned from under a hundred in 1810 to nearly one thousand by 1840. This figure had tripled by 1851 and reached almost six thousand by 1900.” http://www.ventnor-iw.co.uk/history.html

Google maps
Google maps

69 High Street is today a car park but the houses opposite may give some indication of what it might have been like.

Google Street view
Google Street view

In the following census, Phoebe is a pupil at the School, leaving in 1906 and going onto to some further education in Caversham. By 1911, she had returned to her mother who was by then running a boarding house in Sandown, isle of Wight. Curiously, a postcard image of the house (Blenheim, Leed St, Sandown) was found on a Russian eBay site!

Postcard
Postcard

By 1912, however, Phoebe gave her address as either Netherleigh House or Netherleigh Close, Hornsey Lane, Highgate and it is probably from this address that she attended Ex-Pupils’ Day in 1912, the first since the Old Masonic Girls’ Association (OMGA) had been formed.

Google Street view June 2015
Google Street view June 2015

At some point, she married Francis Ignatius Keogh and the marriage may have taken place in his native Ireland (Dublin). By 1927, the Keoghs were living in Brixton Hill, London. In 1911 he was recorded in the Dublin census as a church assistant and living with a number of his siblings in Dublin.

Phoebe began to be published in about 1928, clocking up at least 104 titles as Hebe Elsna, mostly romantic fiction (hence the allusion in the title of this posting).

2 Hebe Elsna titles
2 Hebe Elsna titles

She continued to write under this pseudonym until 1982. In the meantime, starting in 1936 she began writing as Vicky Lancaster (44 titles), as Lyndon Snow between 1940 and 1979 (68 titles) and as Laura Conway from 1936 to 1992 (64 titles). She was writing over a period of 60+ years and produced at least 280 titles! Mostly they were romances, some historical, but there was at least one (presumably) non-fiction: Unwanted Wife: A defence of Mrs. Charles Dickens, published in 1963.

Later in life, she and her husband moved first to Surrey and then to Hove. It was here in 1965 that Francis died on 7th April at Sevendean Hospital. Their residence was given as 181 New Church Rd, Hove. Probate of £2,280.was granted to Phoebe, who continued to live in the area until her own demise in 1983, on 7th January at 2 Raphael Rd, Hove.

Google street view
Google street view

2 Raphael Rd is the one on the left of the image, sadly in a poor state today. The house on the right gives an indication of how it might have looked in its glory days – and perhaps will again in the future. Now that would be a happy ever after!

The Old One Hundredth*

*A hymn often sung at school based on Psalm 100, hence its name.

This series of postings celebrates the long lives of eight of our former pupils who reached their 100th birthdays.

Centenary anniversaries for 1915 are, of course, dominated by WWI. However, something with which we are all familiar as road users are traffic lights and the first electronically-operated set was installed and began operating in August 1915. Although the idea of them pre-dates this, before this date they were based on railway line signals and were operated by hand. It’s contrived as a connection with our centenarians but …

https://centreoftheworld.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/traffic-light-tree/
https://centreoftheworld.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/traffic-light-tree/

This modern sculpture is by Pierre Vivant and was originally installed as Westferry roundabout, Canary Wharf. It has since been moved and is currently on the Trafalgar Way roundabout near Billingsgate Market (from 2014). The artist drew his inspiration for the design from London Plane trees whilst the constant changing of the lights reflects our modern life style.

London Plane trees were certainly a familiar sight to our pupils although they had not realised they were so covered by city pollution that their colour was dulled. Only when the School moved to its latest site, and the splendour of the trees there were revealed in their fine colours, did the pupils realise how sooty the atmosphere in London had been!

Our last two centenarians include our – to date – oldest Old Girl ever. Lizzie Simcock was 104 when she died.

Centenarians Phyllis Lizzie

[click to open]

Colourful trees at school
Colourful trees at school

 

The Old One Hundredth*

As an antithesis to the series ‘They died too young’, there are several former pupils who have reached their Hundredth birthday. This series of posts celebrates their lives. There are not quite as many of them as those that died too young but there’s more to write about them so they have been grouped.

It should also be pointed out that the numbers of those who got more than halfway through their ninth decade are considerable – 41 to be precise with 4 not quite tiptoeing into their centenary. And that’s just the pre-1914 pupils!

*The title refers to the hymn based on Psalm 100 with the lyrics ‘All people that on earth do dwell’. This hymn was often sung at School and at allied Masonic events.

Centenarians Ethel Athalinda

(click title above to view)