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St Elphin's Memorial Quilt Reunion 2013.....

Introduction
At a reunion held in 2008, at which approximately 50 old girls were present, it was agreed that the next major reunion would be held in 5 years time, i.e. 2013. Below is a speech which Jenny Gray-Winkless gave at the St Elphin's Memorial Quilt Reunion held on 12th October, 2013 which gives an outline of what has been happening since 2008. 

Morning Coffee at St Elphin's Park
Approximately 60 old girls (pupils and teachers) descended on St Elphin's Park from 10.30am where a welcome cup of tea or coffee was kindly provided by St Elphin's. For many of the girls it was the first time they had seen each other since leaving school – anything up to 45 years ago – and/or it was the first time they had been back to St Elphin's. Needless to say there were numerous photos taken on Front Stairs and many of the girls took great delight in running up and down them – something which was not allowed unless you were in sixth form.  

Lizzy Atwell-Dickie greeted everyone on arrival into Front Hall and then directed them to the Bistro (formerly the staff room) where Jenny Gray-Winkless was on hand to give out name badges amongst squeals of delight as girls met up with each other for the first time! Naturally, most of the girls present had come from within the UK, however there were 6 girls from Australia, 1 from Italy, 1 from Hong Kong and 1 from Dubai. 

Mrs Barling (Needlework & Domestic Science teacher, 1961 - 1980, was to be the Guest of Honour as she had, most appropriately, been invited to unveil the Memorial Quilt. There was a great deal of excitement upon her arrival at St Elphin's as so many of the girls present remembered her and were eager to talk to her. 

Lunch at Hartington Hall
Following morning coffee, everyone moved onto Hartington Hall where there were some more pupils and staff present – giving a total of 68. 

I found myself smiling over lunch, provided by Hartington Hall, as it was completely the opposite to lunch-time at school – it was extremely noisy as girls were reminiscing about life at school and catching up on life after school and also the food was much more palatable!

Speech given by Jenny Gray-Winkless
"When Lizzy Atwell contacted me back in July 2008, I was visiting the UK and we arranged a lunch in Newark with fellow classmates from the mid 70’s; Morag Forsyth and Louise Elkington. It was 33 years since we had all been together. Lizzy had already started searching for "old girls" via Friends Reunited and MSN as Alison Wood was organising a reunion in Nov 2008 and we left that day not only with big hugs, but with a list of the girls Lizzy had found so far and a promise to expand the search and spread the word. 

For me, that was the beginning of this journey. I returned to Australia and not long after, Gill Prescott suggested Facebook as a great new method of communication! 

I soon received a Facebook message from Lizzy saying she had found another girl in Australia called Ali Biddiscombe and I duly contacted her and found not only was it a girl I remembered from school, (Ali Gracie) but she lived just 10 minutes away from me in Fremantle, Western Australia! We met that weekend and so began a wonderful friendship. 

By November 2008 we had reconnected with Pam Scott Gale in New Zealand, Sandra Carter, Janis Mitchell and Fiona Cooper in Australia and Kay Bibby in USA and we held a mini international reunion at Ali's house via Skype, and joined in with the fifty or so girls at the UK Reunion – hosted by Alison Wood! 

In January 2009 Ali visited the UK and stayed with Gill and Lizzy and the idea of the Quilt was born. Since then many more girls from all over the world have reconnected and forged new friendships or renewed old ones and there have been numerous gatherings and reunions. These are well documented on the amazing school website created by Liz Bailey and Gill Prescott. Liz has amassed a wealth of information and photos and is constantly updating and adding to it as more things come to light. 

The St Elphin's Old Girls Guild (SEOGG) so well supported for so many years has now morphed into the new age of technology and this year The Old Elphinians (TOE) was created to continue that network and enhance the accessibility of the group for the future. Liz Bailey has taken on the role of managing this and sends a biannual newsletter to all subscribed members. You can join up today if you wish, forms are available. 

So now, back to the reason we are all here today...  Most of you will have read about the Quilt via the blogs on the school website and it's certainly been a wonderful journey for both of us and a labour of love to bring this to fruition. We would like to thank all those who donated uniform and many other items that have enabled us to create nine blocks, each with a different theme, which will evoke even more memories and a reverse side based around an old school bed sheet. 

In 2009 Marianne Stewart, Anne Marie Robinson and I visited Mrs Barling, our needlework and cookery teacher from the 70's. I'm not sure she actually remembered us but she made us very welcome with a cup of tea and gave us some photos of her time at the school.  

Ali credits Mrs Barling for her life-long love of sewing and indeed it is very fitting and we have great pleasure in inviting her to unveil our handiwork today. Without further ado, I would like to ask Mrs Barling to come forward and unveil the St Elphin's Memorial Quilt.  

This Quilt will be donated to Audley Ltd at St Elphin's House, to be displayed as a historic piece of memorabilia for all to enjoy.  

A Guest Book will accompany the Quilt and it is hoped that all of you today will take time to write a short note in it.  

We wish to acknowledge Audley Ltd at St Elphin's for their continuing support in retaining the longstanding history of the school.  

Thank you all so much for coming today."  

Presentations
Ali gave a vote of thanks to Lizzy for organising such a fantastic weekend which, of course, received a rousing round of applause. Ali said she would not have been there that day if it had not been for Lizzy and she was sure the same applied to a number of other people in the room. 

Lizzy then asked Mrs Barling to present both Ali and Jenny with a certificate and a beautiful glass paperweight which had not only been engraved but also contained all six house colours (Gresford, Kennedy, Pigot, Powys, Selwyn and Wilson) when it was turned in the light. 

Unveiling of the St Elphin's Memorial Quilt
Without further ado Mrs Barling was then asked to unveil the quilt to which there was a round of applause and lots of "ooohs" and "aaaahs" could be heard around the room. The quilt is quite simply amazing and it was clear that Mrs Barling certainly gave it the seal of approval! 

School Song
Jenny & Ali had formed a small choir consisting of themselves plus Carrie Wareham, Pam Scott-Gale, Adrienne King Amos, Lynn Dean, Kate Kirby and Mr Andrew Jackson (Director of Music, 1979-1986) as Choir Master – who had brought along a portable keyboard. As at the 2012 reunion, there were a few tears around the room whilst it was being sung.

In February 2013, the author of the school song, Elisabeth Ward, got in touch with Liz Bailey-Donlan. Elisabeth was in Wilson House from 1953 to 1960 and wrote the words of the school song in 1959/60. Elisabeth was amazed that the song was still in existence. However, we think it may have been phased out by circa 1978 so it looks as though it was mainly sung through Miss Robinson's era (58-75)

 

Afternoon Tea and more
The unveiled quilt provided much cause for conversation as those present pointed out the different fabrics and and textures and reminisced about the pieces. Each square portrayed a different aspect of school life including berets and boaters, summer dresses, Sunday suits and Sunday silks, the chapel and choir veils, house colours, school cloaks, sports uniform, badges, even our old ‘temporary’ wooden classrooms were represented. The reverse comprised of an original school sheet, included a linen bag, a gingham apron, a tartan skirt, school ties, a teddy bear representing the soft toys we all had and the four verses of the school song printed in order along the bottom.

The next couple of hours provided ample time for more chatter and an opportunity to sign the accompanying Guest Book which I’m happy to say almost everyone signed. The comments were all very complimentary, I think everyone was impressed with the end result.

During this time a delicious afternoon tea was provided by Lizzy Atwell and various helpers.  Lizzy had personally baked several lemon and orange drizzle cakes and fruit cake too and had brought enough biscuits to feed an army!

By 5pm many were saying their goodbyes all save but for about 30 of us who had chosen to stay on for dinner in the restaurant and about 16 of those stayed the night.

Suffice to say, the whole weekend was a most enjoyable one and brought many of us together that may never have otherwise had such an opportunity. Girls from far and wide, some who already knew each other and many who didn’t but certainly do now. 

All in all a wonderful time and a brilliant way to foster new friendships and continue the camaraderie and bonding that boarding school life has provided. 

St Elphin’s School will no doubt live on through Audley Ltd at St Elphin’s House.

All visitors are invited to view the quilt which will be displayed at St Elphin’s House early in the New Year and sign the Guest Book.

Please click below to see the video of the unveiling of the quilt and the singing of the school song. The video was taken by Liz Donlan's brother, Malcolm, who was thrown in at the deep end when Lizzy asked him if he could use a video camera – about 30 seconds before proceedings started!! There are a couple of glitches in the song but we hope it won't deter you from enjoying the video.

 

Click below to see lots of photos!

  • Image 1 of 85: Julie Atkin-Hotham & Hilda Scott-Gaddum

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