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Mildred Edith Hudson

Head Mistress 1933 – 1941

Miss Hudson - Head Mistress at St Elphin's School - photo"Ex umbris in veritatem – Miss Hudson chose these words for her book-plate, which was designed by her friend Miss Gill. It shows a small sailing-ship in dark seas, heading purposefully along a narrow pathway of light streaming down on to the water from a crucifix in the sky beyond.

It was this consistent sense of purpose and direction, backed by an enthusiasm and vitality in all she did, that made Miss Hudson such a wonderful person to have as headmistress, especially for her VIth form, who saw her most and shared a large measure of her confidence. For her there was no going halfway in religion : it must be either the mainspring of one's life or nothing at all ; life was centred in worship, and worship centred in the Eucharist. One of her favourite expressions was "absolutely convinced," and it was with the courage of her convictions that she insisted, sometimes in the face of opposition, that she must teach what she believed to be the truth. She made a very clear distinction between real Christianity and a conventional religion of respectability, and she invited to preach or lecture Christians of the quality of Father Basil Jellicoe. Meeting such people in Drawing-room and joining in discussions with them and Miss Hudson, who had a first-class grasp of many subjects, was a precious experience.

Miss Hudson loved to repeat that Christians should be child-like but not childish, and she herself had certainly retained a childlike and spontaneous delight in all things beautiful, whether it was the Derbyshire countryside, Italian painting, Gothic architecture, T. S. Eliot's poetry or Russian church music. Her enthusiastic admiration of Garibaldi and the heroes of the Risorgmiento obviously sprang from a mystical fervour akin to theirs. Her warnings against the opposite attitude, that of "middle-aged cynicism" and the closed mind, were received by girls of seventeen with some amusement, but none the less treasured up and remembered. Woolly thinking, slovenliness and sentimentality were anathema to her, and she would say that many people had wish-bones where they ought to have back-bones and that the achievement of anything depended largely on wanting it badly enough.

So that others could share in the enjoyment of beautiful things, Miss Hudson brought back from Italy the lovely Della Robbia tondo now hung in the hall; then there were play-readings of "Murder in the Cathedral" and "The Zeal of Thy House" given by Mr. Bradfield (later Bishop of Bath and Wells); little outings would take place at short notice to Staveley, Chesterfield or Derby, and above all there were the delightful Chester week-ends, arranged with the co-operation of Canon Southam.

All this, however, was not intended to produce just a veneer of so-called culture ; Christian culture must go right through everything and show itself in action, just as Miss Hudson's own love of beauty and order expressed itself in everything she did, from the adornment of Chapel worship – she shared the view of the Cure d'Ars that nothing was too rich for use in God's House – right down to the perfect lettering of her notices. Its constant aim was –

"God to aggrandise, God to glorify"

– words she had underlined in her copy of Gerald Manley Hopkin's poems.

Even Miss Hudson's mannerisms were all part and parcel of her vigorous and forthright character ; her habit of stressing a point in teaching by saying it two or three times in different ways, her constant repetition of your Christian name in conversation, as if she wanted to get through to the real you (and she usually got through, too), and always her jaunty and challenging "Come in!" in answer to a knock at the Drawing-room door.

For all this and much more, for her uncompromising boldness, for her joyous enthusiasm and for the wholeness of her life, crowned by a courage and loyalty carried right through to the end, Miss Hudson will be remembered with deep gratefulness, now that she has finally passed out of the shadows into a greater reality.

Te Deum laudamus."

S. A. (taken from the 1961 St Elphin's Magazine).


Miss Robinson's Report – Speech Day: July 22nd, 1961

"During her eight years of office, Miss Hudson did a great deal for the School. Her scholarly impact upon the Sixth Form, her invigorating personality, her passion for beauty in all forms, left an indelible impression upon the School. To Miss Hudson we owe, through the generosity of Major Fletcher, the Common Room : to Miss Hudson we owe the beauty of the Chapel in its present state. Much of the lovely furniture about the School reveals her flawless taste. We remember her among the benefactors of the school."

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