In this book I have tried to record in compact form the story of a remarkable school, the vivid characters who made it what it was and their achievements.
The centenary celebrations in 1990, held within a few yards of the site of the main school building, brought together girls who had not met since they left the school, and inspired many to keep in even closer contact with each other. Reminiscences and anecdotes were enticed out of the mists of memory. As they told each other of their careers and achievements in later life, it became obvious to many that much of the credit for the way the girls had shaped their lives was due to the very special brand of education provided at St Margaret's.
At the time we took it largely for granted, especially those of us who, like me, had never attended any other school. Later we realised that we were enjoying a privilege: a school of academic excellence, a local reputation for good manners and behaviour, and strong emphasis on recognising a girl's talents at an early stage and finding a means of developing them. It was this policy that prompted Mr Hasson to give me a big canvas sheet, some paints, a photograph of the Grand Canal viewed from the Rialto and instructions to paint a backdrop for 'The Merchant of Venice'.
The Heritage Room at the Folkestone Library holds a fascinating collection of historical treasures which have been a valuable source of information. There are albums and photographs which were in the possession of the de la Mare sisters at the time of their death and were presented by their executors. A fine album of programmes, press cuttings and photographs was donated by Miss Moya Kennedy, dancing mistress. Most of the photographs from the de la Mare days reproduced here are from this carefully preserved and catalogued collection and I am grateful to Mrs Adamson for letting me borrow them for copying.
The school magazines, published 1901-1938 and 1947-1966, are an excellent chronicle of the school's activities and achievements and have been an important source of information. Though at times seeming a little self-congratulatory, they cannot be criticised for this, for frankly we had much to be smug about. I am grateful for the care with which the staff and girls prepared the material in them.
The magazines were the 'official' record, but it is personal reminiscences that have allowed me to add touches of colour to the outline. Several Old Girls and members of staff have taken the trouble to write about the school and its people, and those from the early days when the de la Mare family were in charge have been particularly valuable.
I am indebted to Maureen O'Sullivan (Mrs Olley) for carefully storing letters, photographs and other archives for so many years, and for keeping girls and staff in touch with each other through the St Margaret's Old Girls' Society. If she had not maintained this network there would have been little point in producing this book, and so it is my pleasure to donate to the Society a portion of the proceeds of its sale.
Above all, I want to thank Miss Elizabeth Warren who attended the school from 1938-1940 and 1945-1947, and taught in the Junior School from 1948-1963. Under her guidance, at the age of seven, I practised rows of letters to make them nicely formed, hoping to earn for my endeavours a word of praise and a gold star in the exercise book. Forty five years later she was helping me with my research and with editing this book, unable to resist the temptation to correct the spelling mistakes in the early drafts which my word processor had not yet 'spell-checked'.
Miss Warren asked me to write this book. I am not sure why I should be honoured in this way unless it is the long connection between the School and my family. My mother and aunt, the sisters Ruby and Ivy Gordon, attended the school under 'old' Miss de la Mare before and during the First World War. My sister Amber was there in the thirties during the nieces' era. I joined just after the Hassons took the School over following the next war, and left in 1961 after fourteen years. Amber's daughter, Diana Ogden, attended for a term while on a visit from their home in South Africa, to be the third generation at St Margaret's. Finally, my mother was on the Council of Governors in the last years. How I wish she were alive so that I could present her with a copy of this book!
Instead, I offer my mother's own words as an introduction to the story that follows:
"Most of my life seems to have been connected with St Margaret's, as a pupil, parent, grandparent and Governor, and so it was a sad day when the school closed and the main building was demolished. On the deaths of Miss Marguerite and Miss Guilbert a whole era seemed to have passed. What remains? A lovely window in Holy Trinity Church where so many pupils have been confirmed, married or baptised or sent to their rest. And memories . . . . "
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