Winifred Frances Hasson
Born in London in 1905 of Dutch extraction, maiden name Golding. Her mother died when Winifred was quite young and her father died towards the end of World War 2. She had one older brother Leslie who served in World War 1 and was wounded after working under Sir Simon Marks for many years.
Winifred was Froebel trained, and governess to the Berry family, then owners of the Daily Telegraph. Later she taught in various London schools until her marriage in 1930. After the birth of Colin in 1931 she had several years of poor health and a number of operations, from which she eventually made an apparent recovery.
At the outbreak of war she remained in London until 1941 when the family moved first to Buckinghamshire and then to Rugby where Dudley was stationed for a time. Granny Hasson's house in London was bombed in 1941 and she spent most of the war with friends in Surrey.
Winifred returned to teaching in Rugby and taught at Tyntesfield School, subsequently becoming Headmistress of Tower Lodge School in 1944. On Dudley's return they left Rugby for Folkestone in 1947. She was President of the Folkestone, Hythe & Eltham Head Teachers' Association.
Born in 1902 or 1903 in Folkestone, where the family had a house, probably still there, near Folkestone Central Station. He lived in London where his father had a shipping business, mainly importing Esparto grass from Algeria for use in fine papermaking. Dudley was educated at University College School and in France before joining the family business.
He was much involved in the theatre, principally as a hobby, though he would probably have preferred it to business. He was part owner of a theatre in north London, and directed and appeared in several productions. He also directed in the West End and had many friends in theatrical circles.
In 1937 his father died from complications following an operation. Worse was to follow, as in 1938 HM Government requisitioned the ships and effectively closed down the business. He joined the then embryo Civil Defence and served in London throughout the Blitz, being involved with bomb disposal, though the family was evacuated to Buckinghamshire.
When he was transferred to the Midlands the family moved to Rugby. Winifred worked in the town while his unit was transferred to military command, and he moved to various bases in the UK in the build-up to D-Day. He went to Normandy at D+4 and was there for some time involved in civilian support services as towns were liberated.
After demobilisation he returned to Rugby and taught French and Drama at Tyntesfield and Bilton Grange, a feeder school for Rugby, which it still remains.
He rejoined his wife in the adventure at St Margaret's, coincidentally returning to the town of his birth. Apart from his dramatic efforts with the pantomimes, he became accepted as something of an expert on Shakespeare, which led to his appointment as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Thank you, Colin, for supplying the photos and biographies.
But do you realise what a shock you gave some of us when you walked into the Burlington Hotel at the September 2003 reunion, looking exactly like your father? It was a true delight to have you and your wife with us on that occasion and we look forward to seeing you many more times.
Mrs Hasson had been ill for over a year when she died on 5 December 1956. Dudley Hasson's announcement at School assembley just an hour later was received with shocked dismay. Her last wish was that the School should carry on as usual, and Mr Hasson emphasised this, but it was not easy to concentrate on lessons.
Mrs Hasson was acutely mourned by staff and pupils of the School. Her obituary in the Magazine gave an insight into her character.
"She possessed a nobility of character given to but few people in this world. She was kind, sympathetic and understanding and she had a deep humanity which endeared her to all who came into contact with her. No child's problem was ever too small for her attention and her wise and understanding counsel was always readily available to any parent, old girl or pupil who sought it. Heads of Schools can be, and often are, aloof and austere; remote from their pupils and staff, but this was not Mrs Hasson's way. She lived her life for, and with, her girls. She found time for everything and was always calm and composed, sound in judgment and wise beyond her years. She was a gifted teacher, had a keen sense of humour, and was a generous and modest lady. Nobody ever appealed to her generosity in vain and the innumerable kindly actions she did were never advertised. Of her it can truthfully be said that those who knew her were better people for having done so.".
Caroline Thomas recalls begging Mrs Hasson to help her find her precious gold tie-pin which she had lost in the old cloakroom at the back of the main building. Together they searched high and low, but in vain. When Caroline finally came across it in her little suitcase and reported this nervously,. Mrs Hasson expressed nothing but delight --- not a hint of reproach for wasting her time.
2006 was the 50th anniversary of Mrs Hasson's death. The annual SMOGS reunion presented a display of photographs and loving memories contributed by the Head Girls during the time she was Headmistress. These are reproduced below.
A tribute to Winifred Hasson
By Audrey Lant (Ochiltree)
The good was not 'interred with her bones' but lives today.
Though fifty years have passed and, come what may.
The fact that we still meet is proof supreme;
A special lady's influence is extreme.
Those that mould us often are forgotten ---
Our attitudes and how they were begotten.
She put us at our ease and gave us all self-worth,
A 'can do' self-belief, finding happiness and mirth.
But in trepidation we would stand
When summoned by her mighty hand,
Our reprimanded trembling band!
While twinkling eyes belied the lashing tongue
Over cheeky things that we had done.
There is no 'O-level' for friendship, loyalty, or cheer.
But Winnie and dear Duds aloft might see what we have here.
These prizes three, so valued, were bred in their milieu,
Though they were taken early to say their last 'adieu'.
She was well groomed, manicured, unruffled, and full of grace,
Always immaculate, no hair out of place.
She helped us to find happiness when we were in her care.
Although quite firm, we knew at heart she would be quite fair.
Within her warm community we were privileged to thrive.
She taught a love of language, made Shakespeare come alive.
In 'Winnie' change two letters: turn the 'i' into an 'e'
Change the 'e' into a 'r', and eventually you'll see,
If you double up the 'n', your word is then complete.
The lady was a 'winner', and that means there's no defeat.
'Role model' was a term not coined in distant years of yore,
But much of her rubbed off on us, though she has gone before.
The building is a memory; the bricks and mortar gone.
Her legacy: the spirit of St. Margaret's, which lives on.
The poem below was written by Audrey specially for the 2006 SMOGS Reunion which commemorated Mrs Hasson's death fifty years ago.
APPRECIATIONS BY HEAD GIRLS IN MRS HASSON'S TIME
Elizabeth Warren , Head Girl 1946-1947
"On the first morning of term, Mrs Hasson was herself in the day girls' cloakroom at 9.a.m.welcoming them and seeing that they found their lockers and hooks. I believe that it was a very exciting time for Mrs Hasson, having her own school rather than having to work for somebody else: her own school where she could put her ideas into practice. She gave her whole life to the school, as did her husband. St.Margaret's was their home, living their lives among the girls. She was always conscious of her responsibility for the well-being of the girls, but to an extent the worry of this constant responsibility was one of the causes of her early death. Her great aim for the school was that it should be a happy place and that they should learn and understand the difference between right and wrong. I think that she succeeded and that it was a happy place. What made her such a good headmistress was her strong and charismatic personality. She held that children should always be told the reason for the things they were asked to do. She asked for hard work but said that the most important thing was that they should do their best. In addition, from 1947 to 1952, Mrs Hasson herself supervised the running of the Junior School, then in 56 Earls Avenue. Mrs Hasson was very kind, taking great trouble to do things to help the girls, was very understanding and nice to work for. She was greatly loved by all the girls and in all her work was strongly supported by her husband who is remembered with affection for his generosity and enormous enthusiasm for everything he did."
Margaret Richardson-Bunbury, Head Girl 1947-1948
"Though I was only at the school with Mrs Hasson for a short while, having been with the Misses De la Mare previously, I remember particularly her English Language lessons as being absolutely excellent and left one wishing for more. Her teaching sometimes left me feeling stretched beyond my capabilities, but application brought comprehension and a sense of achievement and satisfaction. In my year as Head Girl, young as I was, I was vaguely aware that Mrs Hasson was not in good health and tried to support her by trying not to bother her with minor problems and doing my best as Head Girl. I can imagine how she faced her early death."
Rosemary Voisin, Head Girl 1948-1949 & 1949-1950
" Mrs Hasson was a remarkable woman. She made me Head Girl, I believe, to make me more responsible. I had spent 2 years with the Misses De la Mare as Headmistresses; there were all sorts of rules, which we constantly broke. Mrs Hasson came along and basically rules went out of the window. We just knew what we should and shouldn't do. I asked her once how she was always there when we did something we shouldn't. She just said something like, "It's my job." We all had such respect and affection for her. I was so sad when she died. It was certainly a very happy school. I have had a very happy marriage otherwise, I would say that my school days with her were the best days of my life."
June Bonniface, Head Girl 1950-1951
"It must have taken an enormous amount of courage for Dudley and Winifred Hasson to sink all their finances into buying St.Margaret's and to build up a school which was so well respected. Mrs Hasson inspired her pupils to use their talents to the best of their abilities. She was a wonderful role model. She had a quiet calm way of dealing with us all. I never remember her raising her voice. Personally, I shall never forget her advice to me as a very uncertain teenager, who had under-achieved at School Certificate, mostly because I was doing too many other things --- sport, music and art. I was unsure what I wanted to do for a living. Her advice was to list any talents I believed I had and to use them to the best advantage. So I trained as a teacher and never regretted it. She encouraged each of her pupils in their own sphere. She knew every pupil individually and we all felt part of the school "family". There was especially the ritual of saying 'Good Night' in the study. Should we miss for a few evenings, she would want to know the reason. Despite knowing that her condition was terminal, she continued to prepare our year for A-Level English. Sadly her body gave up all too soon but her spirit remains with each and every one of us."
Janet King, Head Girl 1951-1952
"Some of my happiest days at school were spent at St.Margaret's. We were like a large extended family. Mrs Hasson was a quiet, strict and to some even austere lady but also very fair and kind. She was always available when there were any problems and always calm and helpful. She was a great example to us all and this stood me in good stead in my short teaching career and then in bringing up a large and lively family. Especially I will always remember the "chats" round the fire in her study before bedtime --- a great way to end a busy day."
Vida Farhad, Head Girl 1952-1953
Mrs Hasson was one of the most influential people in my life, yet when asked to write something about her at first I could not. Perhaps it was because I did not really know her. Who was she? Who was Winifred Hasson? Suddenly it dawned on me that the secret of her true identity was locked in her name. This is who she was. I will always be grateful that I grew up with such a person at my side.
W Warm and Wise
N No favouritism
N Nothing phased her
This is who she was. I will always be grateful that I grew up with such a person at my side.
Sybil Friend Head Girl 1953-1954
(We believeSybil is unique in being a former pupil of Tower Lodge School Rugby where Mrs Hasson was headmistress prior to taking over St.Margaret's in 1947.)
I particularly remember when prefects and the head of school were allowed to go to the study any evening half an hour before bed time to chat about anything we wanted to. This was very reassuring especially for me as, unlike many of boarders, I did not go home during term time. She was very kind to me when, as a new girl aged 10, I had to go into hospital in Folkestone for an operation.
Avis Ballard, Head Girl 1954-55
I suppose that anyone asked to recall Mrs Hasson (even at this stage in my life it feels impertinent to call her by her first name) would see in their mind's eye a rather formidable lady; tall and pale with vivid red lips and nails, a Nancy Mitford hairstyle: And, of course, the inevitable cigarette. She could fell you with a look. I recall that after the Coronation a few of us asked if we could go to the local cinema to see the film of it. We were sixteen. She thought and stared and thought again. Her expression did not change --- just said "If you must". It made us feel as if we had asked if we could go down to the port looking for sailors. I knew another side though. I was her first scholarship girl. In 1948 as a needy child from a poor background, I was offered the chance of a scholarship to St.Margaret's. My guardian and I went to the local Education Offices for the interview --- an undersized eleven year old with NHS glasses and pigtails. In reception where we were told to wait were a rather portly gentleman and a tall lady wearing a black turban, a fashionable accessory at the time. Presently they went and shortly after I was invited into the interview room where, you guessed it, I found the couple in Reception to have been Mr and Mrs Hasson. They talked about the school and asked if I wanted to learn geometry. I said, "Yes" but with no idea what it was. I got the scholarship. Eight years later, as Head Girl, I was due to leave school. I knew Mrs Hasson was dreadfully ill and almost never left her room. I received a message saying that she wanted to see me. She lay propped against pillows, a shadow of her former self. She told me that she remembered my interview all those years before and that she had decided to give me the scholarship when she saw me in Reception. Then she said: "And I never regretted it."
Margaret Weir, Head Girl 1956- 1957
"I was at St.Margaret's from 1948 so had the pleasure of being a pupil during most of her time and was one of a party, which included my mother, which visited France in the early '50s with Mr and Mrs Hasson: a much enjoyed trip. Looking at the photograph brought back many happy memories of my days at St.Margaret's. My last year, when I was Head Girl, was a sadder year than most without her reassuring presence. I still remember her with 'The Times' crossword under her arm coming down to the study."
Mrs Hasson's message, September 1947
"Work hard, play hard, give of your best to your School, your teachers and your fellows, and remember at all times that 'the other fellow is entitled to his point of view'. St Margaret's is our school --- yours as well as mine --- and together we will make it, and keep it, the best; building our edifice on the sure foundations of Godliness, kindliness and human endeavour."
"Excuse me, Mrs Hasson, erm--- it's snowing in Paris"
Colin, son of Dudley and Winifred, died in April 2015. His funeral was held on 6 May in the parish church of his home village, East Haddon, Northamptonshire. St Margaret's was represented by three Old Girls: SMOGS Chairman Maureen O'Sullivan, Secretary/Webmistress Caroline Thomas, and by Marigold Bassett. Colin's half brother James Ross, son of Dudley and Janet, was there and it was a good opportunity to talk to his many relatives whom he has only discovered in the last few years. We spoke to a charming gentleman, Peter Bryant, a long-standing and close friend of Colin, who had been at Dudley and Winifred's silver wedding (25 years) anniversary in 1955 in Folkestone. He remembers meeting several of the Girls, especially Sally Harris! We learned things about Colin's life and career that we never knew. He certainly loved coming to our reunions. His speech at the Imperial Hotel in Hythe is available on the Reunions/Previous Events page under the year 2013, in both text and video format.
In his youth, Colin looked so like his mother, Winifred. Later the resemblance to Dudley became dominant; the change of hair-style helped!