1932-37 VALERIE FERGUSON NÉE HESFORD

My time at Fawcett was enormously important, or maybe it was my time at Godolphin and the influence and interest of some quite remarkable teachers that influenced my life. Miss Holden inspired my love of German and French, Miss Dunford aroused and fostered my interest in History. Miss Robson taught me so much about Geography and the world. Thanks to her I have a complete mental picture, not just the route of the Zambezi or the Rhine, but all the produce and life style of different regions. I’ll never cease to be grateful to these inspired teachers. Miss Jones and Miss Evershed (the Hat) and even Miss Suffield and Miss Evelyn-Smith who had an uphill struggle with me. I also learned about injustice.

I have to say that Eva M. to me was not an endearing character (I don’t think she liked me much) and she was a great one for favourites. I felt much more sympathy with Sallie King and Polly Payne. As an example I can tell you that at the ’83 Commem. in Salisbury to which I went with Joane Vivien. Rozel Taylor and Pamela Edwards (to celebrate 50 years since we were new girls) none of us was prepared to contribute to Eva M.’s present or card. Sallie King asked us and she wasn’t at all surprised at our refusal. Eva M. may have been a splendid Housemistress in many ways, my father was most impressed with her, but we were of Presbyterian extraction, which means that one is not confirmed as an impressionable teenager, so that was not a mark in my favour for a vehement C. of E. believer. Polly was much more tolerant. I remember the weekly trudge to St. Martin’s, lots of genuflecting and crossing yourself and that powerful contralto drowning our wavering trebles and sopranos. Oh the joy when we were allowed to go to the 10 a.m. service at St Edmund’s, much nearer, and we all had a great crush on the curate! Then we got back to the House at 11 a.m. and had a lovely quiet leisurely Sunday. Do you remember the West Highland terrier called `Kewpie’? It was a yappy little thing.

The actually important and truly historical event was the abdication of Edward VIII. I was then in the Lower VI. We were summoned after lights out to come and listen to the broadcast about “not continuing without the woman I love.” It was all conducted in deep secrecy and we were abjured not to mention the broadcast to anyone. What a strange attitude. Can you imagine such restrictive practices today? I think that it was quite wrong but then Eva M. was C. of E. and not politically orientated. We got a much more realistic and less biased view of world affairs from Miss Noakes and then Miss Dunford at “Current Events” on Saturday mornings; that way I got the death of T .E. Lawrence, the Ethiopian War and the beginning of Nazi-ism.

Nevertheless I owe so much to Godolphin. It got me my commission in the W.A.A.F, my progression in the Foreign Office in Germany, then for many years I was on the Observer, as was my husband. It gave me confidence (I was sure that we were the best Girls’ Public School) and some super life long supportive friends. Beat that.

I did actually enjoy my five years in Fawcett and am always baffled when I read that people don’t enjoy boarding school. I do remember the cold and the compulsory cold baths in the summer term. You weren’t the only isolated child. Joane’s father was a Naval attaché at the Tokyo Embassy, she sent her letters via Trans-Siberian Express and spent the holidays with Pamela Maltby’s family at Red Lynch. That’s enough for now; all good wishes.