Games – How many who see this book will turn over its pages first and foremost to see what it says about games? And what can it say?
Not much use to describe a match; such a description, to be interesting, must be absolutely accurate as to the particular match described. Neither is there any point in describing how any of the games are played, as those who have played them know most about that. Again, shall we describe Miss Jones, Miss Westlake, Miss G. Bagnall, Miss Pinckney, and Miss Keer, who have been notable figures on the playgrounds from 1890 to 1926? Certainly each one had plenty of personal characteristics, and it is tempting to say a few words in memory of them.
Miss Jones, in 1890, making the games’ lists when there were only twenty-two girls and one tennis court ; inciting some of the girls of that day to wish to play at all, though we can think of Mea Edwards and others eager enough; teaching, by the blackboard, the places of ” the field ” in cricket, when a little sloping field near St. Mark’s had been found to play on; playing hockey ” for all she was worth,” which was a good deal!
Miss Westlake, first a young student fresh from Madame Bergman Osterberg’s famous Physical College, and thenceforth working away for years arranging and coaching the games, and teaching Swedish Drill and gymnastics to the whole School, and giving remedial exercises when ordered by the doctor. Truly many of the happiest hours of many generations of girls were spent with Miss Westlake.
Miss Grace Bagnall. Is there any need to describe her? Can’t you all see her? And can’t you hear her quiet, emphatic and compelling words of command in St. Margaret’s field? Her grave, if sometimes severe, face broke into frequent smiles all over it, and if Miss Bagnall didn’t iuiderstand a joke, who did?
Miss Pinckney. Here again no one can ever forget her nr what she tried to teach of tennis, and succeeded, she would say, in only teaching two or three ! Her standard wits so high, her demands so uncompromising, her own labour so untiring. But that was Miss Pinckney, that was t lie standard, those were the demands she recognised for herself. If a thing was worth doing at all, it was worth doing as well as ever it could be done. And who can ever forget the labour Miss Pinckney expended over improving our grounds ? It meant years of dogged toil, in which dear old Mrs. Bryant was often a fellow-labourer.
Miss Dewey succeeded Miss Westlake, but after a few years of cheery, keen work at Godolphin, she took up the work of inspecting.
Miss Keer is now the director of the physical side of school work, arranging and coaching all the games and swimming, and making the fullest possible use of the new gymnasium.
And now what else can be said?
Do you remember how you felt when you got into the First Eleven, and played your first match? Do you remember when the School got thrashed by another school, resolving that never again should it be so thrashed if you could help it? Do you remember when your House won a match or a Drill Competition, and the scene all to yourselves in your House sitting-room afterwards? Do you remember the blissful feeling when you travelled home after winning an outside match? Do you remember the set faces of the House mistresses as they stood on the path watching a House match, and how the two concerned were not, as a rule, standing next each other? Do you remember all the jolly House matches and meetings with other schools and the enjoyment and excitement of the good tight, whoever won? And so it still goes on! And you dear and beautiful playgrounds, we can never forget you! We who no longer play on you, and no longer wander round you in the evenings or on Sundays, we love you as much as ever, and can see you whenever we shut our eyes and look at the different levels and the steps leading down from one to another, and the groves of lilacs and the bushes of yellow and white broom, the flowering trees and the daffodils on the bank, and beyond all these the shadows of the clouds moving across the downs and the broad, shifting spaces of sunshine. And you who are now in possession, will you sometimes touch your hats with the Godolphin badge, in gratitude for the gift from the Godolphin and Latymer Trust in the year 1904?
The School Gardens – These many plots, cultivated by the girls and mistresses who love gardening, present a beauty spot in bulb time and rose and lily time, especially when Brooks begins to make his visits of inspection preparatory to judging them at the biennial shows. A small rent is paid for the allotments and the tenant is subject to eviction if her ground is neglected. The rents go to making improvements on this part of the estate, tool huts, a tank for water, the upkeep of paths, and repairs are provided for in this way. Sometimes the gardens fight, with the games, but the lovers of both are determined lovers, and it can never be said how much the grounds would lose in beauty, or how much poorer the School would be without these gardens and those who love to cultivate them. No account of the grounds would be complete without reference to two master gardeners and their able assistants. First Roper and then Brooks have had the technical knowledge, practical skill, and gift for organisation so indispensable if a large garden is to be kept clean, if masses of fruit and vegetables are to be produced, an d if long herbaceous borders are to be filled with bloom every flowering month. Their very hearts, too, have been in it, day in day out, week in week out, not omitting meditation thereupon on Sundays.
Swimming – Before the War the town swimming bath (the Victoria Hall) was reserved one day for Godolphin, and there it was that very many girls learnt to swim, to dive, and how to tackle a companion in difficulties. One of the prettiest things to be seen at one time was the diving of Evelyn and Ruth Trethowan from the high jumping board. They were both made for the light, swift dive, the skimming under water and emerging to swim away in their blue dresses like veritable graceful fishes of the sea.
The competitions in swimming and diving were watched from the gallery by crowds of mistresses and girls, and Mr. Bingham’s awards were listened for breathlessly. Then came years when no swimming was possible, but now! There is one part of the school grounds which has not yet been alluded to, and that is the piece at the top of the kitchen garden, which was excavated in 1925 and filled with water and surrounded by bathing boxes. Words cannot describe the delight of having a swimming-bath in the school grounds, but it is certain that the many Old Girls and friends of the School who gave it must have had the necessary imagination to prompt the gift, as well as the generosity to make it. It is a good sight to see the Dolphins sporting in the deep water, and the would-be Dolphins playing in the shallow end, and learning the first strokes which will lead to the necessary qualifications for winning the silver dolphin with his lively poise and humorous eye given by Miss K. J. Stephenson, C.B.E., Governor.
Dancing – Was it thirty years that Miss Turner came every Thursday from October to April to teach dancing? Anyhow, thirty years made no impression on Miss Turner, though she said she sometimes got tired in the holidays when bereft of her exhilarating occupation. She was born to be a general, with her gifts for organisation and manoeuvring her battalions, her word of command heard easily all over the hall, her eyes all round her head, so that she noted each tiniest detail in dress or position. As she could not command an army, she chose her profession well and brought to it not only the gifts just mentioned, but the gifts also of a great teacher, and the kindest, most genial heart imaginable ; and how many hearts she won at Salisbury and elsewhere! She taught ballroom dancing admirably, quite little girls and some little boys learning to waltz beautifully, and she made no mistake about seeing that the youngest knew Sir Roger before the Christmas parties. The minuet, foursome reels, and hornpipe were also brought to great perfection. She would listen to any suggestions and adopt them readily, but once in the hall she was in supreme command. Only once did anyone venture to correct her, and that was the most learned bishop in Europe, our good and great Bishop Wordsworth, as he sat on the platform one afternoon watching his children dance. His legs were hidden by the little children sitting on the floor of the platform, so that Miss Turner could not tell who was speaking to her. I happened to walk across the hall at that moment, and, as I passed Miss Turner, I said to her, “It is the Bishop, carry on,” and she carried on with much enjoyment.
Girls from all the Houses and girls and boys from miles round Salisbury came punctually to the dancing classes whatever the weather, and before the days of motors, getting to the school somehow across bleak miles of downland, and though sometimes there was real danger of a covered wagonette being blown over. They came for the dancing lesson, and they came to a weekly treat and got the fun of meeting one another. The parents and aunts and governesses and nurses sat on the platform or round the hall and in the gallery, and enjoyed themselves, too, and it was a sad day when good-bye had to be said to Miss Turner. The lively scene on Thursday afternoon is, however, still to be seen, and the dancing lessons go on, with the benefit, the zest, and enjoyment which always belong to them.