The only girl to attend RGS?

Share your memories of life at the RGS, stories of masters, etc.
GeoffG
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The only girl to attend RGS?

Postby GeoffG » Tue Jun 04, 2013 6:38 pm

Around 1958-9, most RGS pupils were somewhat surprised to find that they had one female pupil in their midst - Miss Helena Ellis. She was at the Wycombe High School for girls but wanted to study Greek as far as I remember and Wycombe High didn't offer it, so she became a part-timer at RGS. As I was in the science classes I never met her, but she was always a sight to be ogled at, in the corridors. Does anyone know what became of her?
Geoffrey Gunning

jcamp
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Re: The only girl to attend RGS?

Postby jcamp » Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:12 pm

Well - she and I were contemporaries at Oxford. We went up in 1961. She was at St Anne's. I suppose because we knew each other, we had mild dalliance in our first year (sex had not been invented at that time). I lost track of her, but I know someone who might be able to report further. Will come back, if so.

GeoffG
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Re: The only girl to attend RGS?

Postby GeoffG » Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:23 pm

"sex had not been invented at that time" - nice turn of phrase - I know what you mean! We knew about it, but it wasn't in your face (oops, sorry).
Geoffrey Gunning

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John Saunders
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Re: The only girl to attend RGS?

Postby John Saunders » Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:01 pm

I'll try to gather together a few snippets about Helena Anne Ellis which have appeared on the Old Boys' website over the past few days. Here's the first, quoting Helena herself...

From the OW Newsletter, 22 Nov 2004

Newsletter, 22 Nov 2004 wrote:A girl attended the RGS for the first and last (?) time, Helena Anne Ellis, and she gave her impressions as follows:
The first memory I have of the Royal Grammar School is getting lost on my first morning there in what seemed a mile-long corridor, and being gravely redirected to the Staff Room by a very polite small boy. When I told him that I was as much a pupil as he was, he gave me an unbelieving look and fled. The next thing I remember is making vain attempts at prayers to see over the shoulders of enormous Sixth-formers, and after that the trepidation I felt when first introduced to my startled fellow-students.

I found almost immediately that if I wanted to keep the banner of feminine equality aloft I had to work far harder than I had done in Scotland and not mind if my marks were considerably worse. For under the Scottish system of education, the student negotiates his big examination in the 5th form, and is therefore free on the whole to spend the Sixth Form “integrating” himself pleasantly in preparation for the university.

Before I left this calm and rather leisurely existence my Classics mistress had told me; “You’ll like working with boys - they’ve got such tough minds”, and I have discovered that this is quite true. For (if you will excuse the generalisation) they seem to work very hard and not show the strain as girls sometimes do; though not over-ready to air their opinions they can be clear-headed and single-minded in argument: and they are apparently gifted with a fund of hard logic and common-sense more often denied to young ladies. Above all, judging, that is, from Royal Grammar School boys, they are friendly, full of energy and always courteous.

Without giving away my views about co-education, I should like to say that I consider it an honour to have been educated with boys. I am grateful to the headmaster who overcame so many obstacles to let me continue studying Classics, but also to the masters who have been unfailingly kind and helpful and the boys who took care of me and are all of them charming. Thank you! I was sad to leave but shall enjoy being an “old girl”: olim meminisse iuvabit*.


More to come - I unearthed a small photo of Helena as she was in recent years from the web and it was published in the RGS Online Newsletter but it appears to have disappeared from the archive. I'll see if I can track it down. [* "one day it will help to have remembered" is the translation, if my Latin can be trusted, and Helena is quoting from Vergil's Aeneid - JS]
John Saunders
RGS 1963-70 (personal website http://www.saund.co.uk)

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John Saunders
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Re: The only girl to attend RGS?

Postby John Saunders » Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:16 pm

I can't seem to find my previous notes but, in a nutshell... Helena married another OW, Jeremy Janes, and they emigrated to the USA where they both worked as university teachers. Sadly, Jeremy died in 2006 and his obituary was published in the Guardian. It mentions Helena and their family. Link here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2006/apr ... obituaries

I think Dr. Helena Janes (as she now is) remains an academic, still living in California. I am fairly sure the following is a link to her in her professorial role and gives her email address if anyone wants to write to her: http://www.csustan.edu/TeacherEd/HelenaJanes.html
John Saunders
RGS 1963-70 (personal website http://www.saund.co.uk)

GeoffG
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Re: The only girl to attend RGS?

Postby GeoffG » Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:26 pm

What a very positive report from Ms. Ellis on RGS!

I was interested to follow your link and read about the "mass-caning" in 1950. I wonder what inspired that! I had a similar experience on a much smaller scale with the Boss in about 1957:-

We were in 5A, I would guess. It was morning assembly time, but for some reason our form room was locked up, so we were unable to retrieve our hymn books. This meant about 35 of us were gathered around a few borrowed hymn books. I'm sure there was some jockeying for position. Mr. Tucker noted this and interrupted prayers to tell us that we must all meet him outside his office after prayers. We waited there nervously, although innocent of any wrongdoing. Tucker turned up, marched us all into office, made us form a line, whilst he proceeded to cane us, one-by-one. He didn't ask for any explanation! I could see my turn coming up and decided that enough's enough! I stumbled out the reason for what happened. He then turned on me, saying "why did you let me cane all those boys?" Bbbbbbbut sir ! It was no good saying anymore. We were all dismissed. No apologies. Apparently, it was all my fault. I must admit he lost my respect after this. Fear, yes, but no respect.
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John Saunders
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Re: The only girl to attend RGS?

Postby John Saunders » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:39 am

If you look at this link - http://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/6 ... n-school/4 - and go to page 17, you will see a small photo (taken in 2006) of Helena Janes and her son Luke near the bottom of the page. She would be aged 64 at the time and is extremely well preserved.

I sent the photo and some more info about Jeremy and Helena Janes to the Old Boys' Newsletter editor and it was published in the newsletter of November 2008 - link here: http://www.rgsow.com/media/November_2008.pdf
John Saunders
RGS 1963-70 (personal website http://www.saund.co.uk)

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Re: The only girl to attend RGS?

Postby John Saunders » Fri Jun 07, 2013 10:23 am

GeoffG wrote:I was interested to follow your link and read about the "mass-caning" in 1950. I wonder what inspired that!


It occurred during the winter of 1954/55, in fact, and was the result of a snow-ball fight which turned nasty. This mass flogging seems to hold a ghoulish fascination for OWs and the story has been told many times. It was referred to in several newsletters which formerly appeared at the school website but have now been deleted. The definitive version is probably the one told by Andrew MacTavish - which I have preserved for posterity (or posteriority?!) here on this forum.
John Saunders
RGS 1963-70 (personal website http://www.saund.co.uk)