In conversation with Gillian Spencer, a boarder in 1929 at 8

Gillian Humphries' schooldays began in 1929 when she was eight. She spent nine years at DWS. Her sister, Diana, followed a few years later but had quite a different experience and was not nearly as happy as Gillian. She felt that it was all about having friends and getting in with a good crowd - if you didn't have that you were miserable. As a child Gillian said, “I was a bit of a nuisance child really. I would fight quite a lot and was nervy and delicate”. DWS changed all that.

The family doctor suggested boarding school and her parents searched until they found the most suitable one. Home was a farm near Wellington, in Shropshire. It was Miss Arnold, House Mistress at Trem’, who had impressed them most as she was kind and patient, just like Miss Nightingale whom the children referred to as “Aunty Connie”. Even when her parents couldn’t always visit she was contented to stay in school and staff organized picnics and outings for any girls left. It was the friends such as Paddy Seymour Jones and twins, Mary and Jane James from Aberystwyth who made it fun. Paddy’s parents were coffee planters living abroad and her grand parents lived near Gillian in Wellington. Years later she and her family had a holiday home at Borth y Gest and, when in a shop one day in the 1960s, bumped into Mair, a friend from school days. It was always lovely to meet old friends and renew friendships.

During one Eisteddfod she remembers learning The Lady of Shalott and an A.A.Milne poem she had chosen herself. Gillian was surprised when I told her we had not had Eisteddfod’s in the 1960s when I was there and it was not re-introduced by Miss Lloyd Jones until 1972.

She had fond memories of games, particularly netball and tennis. Swimming meant a trip to Fairbourne to swim on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It was voluntary and made popular by having jam sandwiches afterwards. There was a fund to build a swimming pool but the War delayed that by some 20 years.

Miss Nightingale had adopted a boy, Alexis Aladin and so Day Boys were taught at DWS for a while and Gillian remembers the Hall brothers- John, Peter and Billy, being there too. One Sports’ Day when she was about 9 or 10, she and Alexis got to the final of the high jump and he put his arm around her and said,” ‘When we grow up we’ll get married shall we?’That was the first proposal I ever had!” She saw him a few times after he had left and she was still at school, just to wave to, but by the time he had been killed during The War, she had lost touch with him.

She recalled going to Church [no green sacks, but green velvet dresses] and a man in the choir having a huge booming voice. They called him “Lofty Larry” and the windows resonated. They were more lady-like then so no kicking the pew on the last word of the last verse of the last hymn then? No, but she was reprimanded for running in the corridor by Miss Mitchell who told her she was vulgar and that “ vulgarity was the height of rudeness!” an expression the teacher used frequently to fit all occasions and a phrase which Gillian has never forgotten.

Like many of us Gillian believed the school provided both a good and poor education. She said she was not particularly academic herself but it provided that for many girls. The sport and music were really good. What it didn’t prepare you for was life beyond school. “meeting boys and all that” she smiled. It was a real eye opener at 17 as school had protected you from so much of what real life was all about. I said it was much the same 30 odd years later. Gillian’s final words though, were,“I loved every minute of it” so you can’t beat that can you?

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