School in Kensington (1957 – 1958)

I arrived in Johannesburg just in time for the last school term of 1957. There were no available places in the Form 2a class at Jeppe Girls’ High so I was placed in Form 2c with the History teacher, Miss Kay as my class teacher.

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Jeppe Girls High School, Kensington

It was not very pleasant being a new girl again and  arriving there in my Vaal High uniform. One of the girls in my new class asked why I hadn’t gone to Queen’s High as my uniform was almost identical to the Queen’s uniform. In those days there was no such thing as off-the-shelf uniforms. There were a number of dressmakers in Kensington who made school uniforms to measure. I went to one of these dressmakers to be measured and my mother bought the required amount of material to have the uniform made. It took at least a week for the dressmaker to make my uniform, but this meant that I had to attend school in my Vaal High uniform for over a week.

It was difficult arriving at a new school at a time when everyone was preparing for the year end examinations for which they had been studying all year. Although the Vaal High and Jeppe were in the same province, the schools had different text books and seemed to have been studying entirely different material! I was a very conscientious child and it did not occur to me that the staff might make allowances for me in these exams. Margaret Masterton was kind enough to lend me all her note books and I copied them out and spent all the hours heaven sent trying to prepare myself for the exams.

Vivian Vernon, one of the girls in my new class took pity on me and asked me to sit with her and her friends at break. We sat in the quadrangle to the right of the school. Some older girls stood on the grass above the quadrangle and bullied me because I was new and not wearing the school uniform. They made life very unpleasant for me for a time. One particularly obnoxious girl was called Lindy Wright, but thankfully I have forgotten the names of the other girls in her unpleasant little gang. Even all those years ago there were bullies who delighted in making the lives of those who were not part of the established in-crowd as miserable as possible.

There had never been compulsory sport at the Vaal High. I wasn’t very keen on sport at all. I wasn’t a fast runner and I didn’t enjoy gym either – other girls bounded over the beastly horse while I usually landed on top of the thing and had to do my best to struggle off it while the others giggled at my lack of prowess.

Despite all the upheaval of the sudden move, living in a boarding house, called the Valmeidere Hotel in Roberts Avenue, run by a Scottish couple called  Murdoch until we found a suitable flat in Samad Court at the corner of Queens Street and Langermann Drive. Samad Court is still here, but the flats were turned into offices some years ago. Samad Court, Kensington as it is today

I managed to pass the exams quite adequately at the end of the term and was moved into Form 3a at the beginning of 1958. I was just getting used to the girls in 2c and now I had to face another entirely new class of clever girls the following year.

After my success in the Vaal High play I decided to audition for the school play at Jeppe in 1958, Lace on Her Petticoat by Aimee Stewart, produced by Miss Constance Cox, the French mistress. This was a Scottish play so my authentic accent stood me in good stead for it. I was given the male lead of Hamish Colquhoun. The cast was a small one so we all became very good friends during rehearsals and the run of the play: Margaret Malcolm, Gillian McDade, Elizabeth Moir, Elna Hansen and Winifred Smith and me. As far as I remember, Elizabeth was the only other Scot in the play. I don’t think many people realised that I had a Glasgow accent, while her accent originated in Aberdeen!

Lace on her petticoat19

“Lace on her Petticoat”

Gillian McDade was head girl in 1959 and emigrated to Canada after she left university, where she died of cancer a number of years go. Her mother was a stalwart of Children’s Theatre Productions and Gillian and I ushered at some of these productions and were allowed to watch the show as a reward for our ushering efforts. Elizabeth Moir, as Elizabeth Rankin, became the first woman Dean of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand and emigrated to New Zealand some time ago. I lost trace of the other girls in the cast, but it would be lovely to hear from anyone involved in that very happy production.

I remained at Jeppe Girls’ High from the last term of 1957 until the end of the second term in 1958 when we returned to the UK on board the Winchester Castle._

We lived in Southampton and I attended St Anne’s Convent for a term as no government grammar school would accept me as I had not done the 11 plus examination. I remember it as a period when I hardly uttered a word to anyone. Most of the subjects and syllabi were different or more advanced than what I had been doing at Jeppe._

 

Jean Collen (nee Campbell)

 

 

The Queen Mother Opens Wheathampstead Secondary School (1967)


I taught music and drama at Wheathampstead Secondary School, Herts from 1966 to 1968 and have fond memories of the children I taught.  My colleague, Vera Brunskill was a flautist and had a recorder group.  She and I taught ourselves the guitar and worked with groups of children who were keen to learn the instrument in the days when the Beatles were all the rage.  I have a recording of a number of the children who were keen enough to give up their break to come in to the music room to work at their singing.   In particular I remember Reginald Dyke and Denis Andrews, who sang duets together, Sheila Faulkner, Mary Rose, Simon Hedley, and Jeanette Wright. I wonder where they are now!

Wheathampstead Secondary School library. Mrs Vera Brunskill (flute), Jean Campbell (Collen) (guitar) and children playing and singing Cheelo, Cheelo.
 
       I directed several plays at the school and enjoyed the improvised drama classes, where everyone let their imaginations run wild, although imagination was often tempered with TV series of the time, notably Till Death Us Do Part!
From the Herts Advertister.
         During the time I was there the school was officially opened by the Queen Mother. We all spent a great deal of time practicing our curtsies for the moment when the headmaster, Mr JD Thomas would present us to the Queen Mother.  Her private secretary came to the school several months before her visit to ascertain what she would discuss with each person being presented to her.
        Although I am British by birth, I had lived in South Africa and had studied singing with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, who were living in Johannesburg at that time. I was told that the Queen Mother would discuss South Africa and my association with Anne and Webster, whose singing she had always enjoyed.
     The day of the visit was very exciting for staff and students alike. The music pupils and I played and sang Cheelo Cheelo, a South African folk song made popular by Miriam Makeba, for the Queen Mother in the school library.  I still have several photographs of us in that performance, and being presented to her afterwards.  She was very charming and I’m sure everyone who was present will remember that memorable day thirty-six years ago.
Me, Mrs Covey-Crump (in background) Queen Mother, Mr J.D. Thomas, Vera Brunskill.

I returned to South Africa in 1968, where I met my husband and married in 1970.  I kept in touch with some of the children for a while, and with Vera Brunskill until the early 1990s.  I was sorry to hear that the school in Butterfield Road is no longer there, and that it closed in 1987 under controversial circumstances,  as it began with great promise and had so many wonderful open-hearted children and staff. 

Good Reads Book Reviews

The Moon And SixpenceThe Moon And Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Apparently Strickland was based on the artist Paul Gauguin, but if this was the case, there is a very loose connection between the two for this in not a novel a clef. The book held my interest while the narrator had personal contact with Strickland and his wife. Almost from the beginning of the novel, before Charles Strickland had appeared, I thought him a thoroughly reprehensible character.

Admittedly his wife was not an imaginative woman and used her established position in society to cultivate the society of writers and artists although she appeared to be devoid of any artistic talent herself. She obviously regarded her "dull" husband as nothing more than a meal-ticket and she had never encouraged his artistic inclinations. It is only after he leaves her to her own devices that she manages to pull herself together, fend for herself and look after her children without being dependent on a man any longer.

The portrait of a completely self-centred, inarticulate Strickland, who does not care about the opinion of others was well-drawn but after the narrator is no longer in personal contact with Strickland and the rest of the story of Strickland's life is related to him by a third person the story is less satisfactory. I have to admit that I did not finish the last fifty pages of the book. Although I like Maugham's work, this was not my favourite Maugham novel.

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