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My Irreverent Memories

From Kathleen Beland (nee Jones) 1930 - 1935

Miss Vobes, Miss Bailey, Miss Bartlett, Miss Goodall, Miss Finnis, Miss Ellis, Miss Oliver, Miss Hudson their remarks still return to me:

"We expect great things of you"

"Alright, alright Kathleen, we know you don't like Latin"

"It would be better to do your homework than tear around town on a bicycle"

"Who's talking? Kathleen Jones was it you? Take an order mark ... Take another for answering back"

"There, you see, you could do better if your tried"

How many times did I hear that last remark, until finally I erupted in front of my beloved Miss Henry.

"They've never seen me do better, how do they know I can?" then Miss Henry's compassionate words as I stormed out of the laboratory, "If you meet Miss Vobes, tell her you're going to the cloakroom."

They were right, I could do better, I just didn't like the fuss when I volunteered an answer in class.

What makes a rebel?

How does a nature-loving eleven-year-old girl decide in her wisdom that homework is wrong when one could be swimming, cycling, walking on the Downs, climbing trees? Could it happen in a modern school, or would there be counsellors in whom a misfit might confide?

As number six of a family of seven with a widowed mother, already taller than any girl in the form, feet too big for schoolgirl shoes, was it surprising that my blouse sleeves were too short, my gym-slip obviously let down and there were holes in my black stockings?

Snobbishness was not unknown in the classroom. Those girls who might have become my friends were out-of-towners, taking a different route home, for it was forbidden to walk anything but the shortest route home - never, of course, removing one's gloves on the way! How would a pupil of today react to a summons from the Head Mistress' office for having been seen in the street at night without a hat?

I wonder if the motto still hangs in the corridor:

"Her voice was ever soft, gentle and sweet. An excellent thing in women."

What could such a woman know of the exhilaration of standing on a ridge and shouting into the wind.

"The sea, the sea, my God the sea . . . Up, up, we scale another hill!"

How could the soft slither of house shoes and the muted giggles of the girls compete with the song of the skylark and Kipling's words "Of Firle and Ditchling and sails at sea, I reckon you keep my soul for me."

It was no contest. Threats of a withdrawn scholarship, appeals by the gym-mistress, they didn't stand a chance, how frustrating it must have been for my instructors. It was thirty years before I would wear navy-blue and sixty years before I would consider black stockings. Yes I'm seventy three and entered the Secondary School, as it was known then, in 1930. You "Old Girls", with your fond memories of Grammar School, be happy that you were people in your own right and wonder sometimes if rebels like me helped to emancipate you!

By the way, I still cycle, swim and walk but tree-climbing had it be abandoned ten years ago. I wear gloves daily, but they are for gardening - organic gardening of course.

The teaching and the discipline in school taught me to carry myself with pride through later difficult time and I hope, gave me a better understanding of those who march to a different drummer.

Written in October 1992