The Visit of a Duchess
I remember the day well. Getting the boarders out of bed and dressed that morning was an easy task and the shine on their black shoes had been perfected over the weeks previously. I should add that several parents had sent new shoes to their child with the instruction that they were not to be aired until the day. I too had a new suit bought from Hepworths store the week before.
The instructions were clearly set out in assembly the previous day by the then Deputy Head Audrey Conway. If the Duchess spoke to any individual she had to be addressed as ma’am……it rhymes with jam. No child should dare to walk/run in front of the Duchess, and when the Deputy heard coughing in the assembly that morning, we were told not to cough at the unveiling of the plaque, instead we had to take a deep breath and swallow. This doesn’t work, but I used that line for many years thereafter. No one coughed on the day.
I taught in G12 in 1993, which had not yet been subdivided. After coming through the front door, she turned right and there she was. Confronted with the Duchess I remembered to address her in the correct manner and she smiled, as she did during the entire visit. G12 was the room where one of the best photographs of the Royal visit was taken. In it was Emma Jane Marshall and Sarah Taylor working from their Age of Invasions book. After she left, my heart returned to its normal pace, and of course the children were too excited to do any more work. The lesson was over, but the memory lingers to this day.
She ate lunch in the Concert Hall. On her table were staff whose names had been drawn out of a hat to sit beside her. Michael Barron was not at the table, and stood by me as he watched carefully what was going on. His blood pressure shot up when I told him to rescue her quickly, as Mr. Rowett had produced his postcard collection. Mr. Rowett had not done anything of the sort, but it made Dr. Barron smile and relax. It still makes us chuckle to this day.
At the end of the Duchess’s visit I spoke with Mr. Stobo, and he remarked that the children had gone home happy that night, but it is the memories of the day that will probably live with all of us for the rest of our lives.
Iain Dempster

Memories by Mr Dempster

Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland
TD15 2XQ United Kingdom
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