Recently the girls’ school I attended in Adelaide held its Old Scholar’s week, and for my cohort it was 50 years since we had all been in what was then called Intermediate, so there was to be a 50th anniversary dinner, a service at the school, and an informal lunch as part of the general proceedings. I decided not to go to any of it – I really have not been back to the school since 1963, and I didn’t want to go and see a whole lot of (old) women whom I probably would not recognize, to chat endlessly about careers, marriages, children and grand children etc etc. So I didn’t – but when photos and email addresses began arriving from old school friends, with questions about why I was not there, with the missed opportunity of locating folk with whom I had regretfully lost contact, I wondered about my cynicism and wished I had made the effort.
Then, last month, my old Headmistress died at the age of 95. There was to be a memorial service for her at the school, with a lunch afterwards…and it was the lunch, more than the service that spiked my interest. Miss Morrison was at the school 1956-72, she was a Cambridge graduate, taught in the UK, and came to Australia in 1944. She can be credited with beginning the development of the school from nothing special to one of the leading private girl’s schools in S.A, as it now is. On her retirement, she received an MBE in 1976 for services to education, and she retained an interest in the school and ‘her girls’ until her death. I was a middle of the road student, not particularly bright, not particularly athletic (B grade hockey team was the best I could do), generally well behaved, not naughty and I would most likely have passed beneath her radar but for the fact that I had arrived from England in the middle of the school year, and because of that, she sort of kept an eye on me to make sure I was OK. I held her in considerable respect.
A few emails later, and flights were booked using frequent flyer points, an offer to collect me from the airport was received, and I decided to fly over for the day. It was fantastic, and I had a ball. It was great to see friends for the first time in 50 years – some almost the same and easily recognisable, while others fell into place once I heard their name. It was really good to hear how folk had filled their lives, and what had been achieved, who was where, and who had sadly died along the way, some at far too young an age. Marriages (many), divorces (many), children and grand children (many) were all discussed amongst much laughter and a few moments of sadness. We compared memories of our various teachers (mostly middle-aged to elderly single women), the drafty classrooms, the poor facilities, and the strict rules and regulations regarding behaviour and uniforms, while we marveled at how small the school assembly hall had become! The range of past student achievements was huge – these women had become doctors, lawyers, public service department heads, CEO’s, teachers, nurses, university lecturers, physios and social workers, and I’m sure that Nina Morrison’s encouragement and belief that girls were capable of great things helped these women in their pursuit of independence and achievement.
Over lunch we confirmed contact details for almost 50 people who were in my year, and agreed that to leave it another 10 years before getting together again would be far too long, so hopefully there will be something happening again in a year or so. Next time I shall not be so dismissive, and make every effort to attend. Recent events make one realise the importance of friendship and the transient nature of our existence.
PS – Thank you all who left comments on the last post – they were very much appreciated.