KATHARINE THICKNESSE, Oakhurst (afterwards Hamilton)

MY memories of Godolphin as a House Mistress are limited to a very short period (1911-1915), but nevertheless an interesting time, including memories of the school in the first year of the War, and of my own House (now Hamilton) in its earliest stages, when to be the proud possessor of the row of cups which Miss Derriman and the present House contemplate, seemed beyond all hope.
My first impressions of the school were coloured by immediate contrast with the South London girls I had just left. The busy quarter of an hour before school prayers in the morning always seemed to express the happy com­bination of orderliness and freedom which was character­istic of the school. The hall and passages were alive with mistresses and girls getting ready for school, running messages or securing such few moments’ talk as was possible – yet there was no noise or disturbance, and when the prayer bell began, the immediate silence could not fail to impress a newcomer. Woe betide mistress or girl who thought her conversation so important as to justify ignoring the rule. Miss Jones saw to it that she did not do it again!
1914 is the year which naturally stands out most vividly. For the “New Forest” (of which the present Hamilton House was then part) the spring term was much occupied by preparing for our School Party. The hall was transformed into an enclosed garden in which the guests, in fancy dress, were received, and folk dances performed by the “New Forest.” Who can forget that charming couple, Miss Sybil Warre, representing her own great-grandmother, with Miss Style as her maid? Then came the summer term, more than ordinarily crowded with interest and events. One incident has always stuck in my mind. Near the end of term the school was taken to see a fine film, “Sixty Years a Queen,” in which the scenes from the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny were particularly striking. To many of the children it seemed incredible that such hardship and suffering could be endured, and their talk was riveted into my mind by the ominous clouds which already hung over us. “Well,” I remember one saying, “of course it could never be like that now.” The school had scarcely broken up before I watched the usual crowd of Salisbury market pushed hither and thither by the more urgent traffic of the military lorries from the Plain moving towards Southampton, and Territorial troops going to the Plain.
The changed conditions of the next term were outwardly a great contrast, but the spirit in which the changes were made seemed wholly natural to those who had served under Miss Douglas. It was always her way to face things without delay, and, having seen their meaning, to act swiftly. The “business as usual” attitude could have no attraction for her, and the immediate abandonment of Commem: and the reorganisation of much in our school life was only natural. Looking back, one can remember how truly it was “all of a piece” with the spirit of the school at all times. Nowhere were people more consistently helped to meet both the small and great things of life with high courage and determination to overcome difficulty and embrace opportunity. Nowhere was anything like self-pity or weak-kneed refusal to face things more quickly and decisively put to shame.
Of the school in War time others have written. It is perhaps worth recording as a preface that on Empire Day of 1914 Miss Douglas’s address to the school was on the “Four Watchwords,” as she called them: “responsibility, sympathy, self-sacrifice, duty.”

 

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