St Brigid’s Past & Present

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A Special Place To Be
By Charlotte Nicholls – Year 8

As a present pupil of St Brigid’s School, I was asked to submit an article for our new website about the present day St Brigid’s and how it has evolved over the years.

I have been a pupil here since the age of three and I am now in Year 8. From the moment I stepped foot onto the premises, I knew that this was more than just a place to learn. It has become my second home in many ways and the people of this community have become my extended family. The whole approach to students here at St Brigid’s is that of a holistic nature and not just academic. This is demonstrated from the moment you arrive when you see our mission statement: “TO INSPIRE AND BE INSPIRED, THROUGH LOVE, FAITH, TRUTH, RESPECT, AND EXCELLENCE”. This mantra has become a way of life for all pupils from nursery upwards. I feel the love and support generated through all aspects / departments of the school is a rare gift. Having spoken to a number of pupils who are educated at different schools across the UK it is very clear just how rare the ethos at St Brigid’s is. I not only feel lucky, I feel honoured, proud and protective.

With advances in technology and the growth of social networking sites (when used appropriately) such as Twitter and Facebook, a number of past pupils who spent some time at St Brigid’s during the eighties and nineties requested a reunion here. This gave me the perfect opportunity to discover how the school was at that time, how it has changed and how these past pupils felt about their time here. I was keen to ascertain whether they too felt as strongly as I do about my school.

I interviewed two past pupils from St Brigid’s Convent (as it was then) about their views on the school, how it has changed and their own personal experiences. Lucy Rowley-Williams (now Lucy Bourn) who went on to Cardiff University, went on to carve out a career in Archaeology and Medieval History. At present, she is taking time out to devote herself to her young family. In addition to looking after her family, she recently became the Head Governor of small, local primary school.

Hanna Platt (now Hanna Myers) was known to her friends as ‘Hyper Hanna’ and is currently a croupier in the largest casino in Los Angeles. Hanna, having spent time fulfilling a lifetime ambition to travel, will shortly be taking her chosen path of Environmental Law. Later, I will be sharing some of their experiences and thoughts on the school. But first, a little history…

St Brigid’s Convent was established in 1939; by the Congregation of St Brigid. The school was run as a convent for girls. The Mother Superior was Mother Dee, who was eventually superseded by Sister Elizabeth Kelly. Sister Liz has become synonymous as the strength and backbone of St Brigid’s, and although she is now retired as Head Teacher of St Brigid’s, she still plays a crucial role in the everyday life of the school community. According to Lucy and Hanna, Sister Liz knew every pupil as an individual and I know this to still be true today. From what Lucy and Hanna have said, she has not changed atall. As a Brigidine Sister she is still the very heart-warming and inspirational person she was then and remains the very soul of St Brigid’s.

Lucy and Hanna feel that there have only been a few significant changes since the time they left. These changes include: the school is no longer a convent, the only nun present is Sister Liz and that the number of pupils has increased. Although this is the case, the total number of pupils from age 3 to 19 remains at only 524.

The other major change that has only occurred during my last couple of years here is that we now educate boys. This is still limited but growing each year.

Lucy and Hanna had a tour of the school and noticed that some of the old dormitories have now been converted into classrooms and they noted that Panto week is now just three nights and not the full week as it used to be.

The skirt of the uniform has changed. It used to be all bottle green. However, it is now, red, green and white tartan. Lucy pointed out that the shirts, although unchanged in style, have altered in material as, when you wore the old shirts they were quite itchy around the neck, and you used to end up with sore red patches! Now, we also have school scarves, which were not around when the ladies were at school. There are some traditions upon leaving the school that have not changed, however, – many friends signed both your tie and shirt and as you can see from the photograph below, past pupils have kept these items with fondness.

Lucy and Hanna stated that they wore their uniform with pride and respect. They were never judged by their peers and all were treated the same. Lucy and Hanna say they miss many things about St Brigid’s, their friends, the stories, the innocence, even the driveway and scenery of the grounds – but these are all remembered with great fondness and love.

It seems to me that although there have been some changes over the years, the overall ethos and sense of pride and community remain here at St Brigid’s. As we all evolve so too must the world around us. We need to stay abreast of changes and advances in technology but the refreshing aspect about St Brigid’s is that the love, security and sense of family does not appear to have been eroded. I feel that this is largely down to the careful decisions made by staff and Governors when choosing teachers and indeed pupils for St Brigid’s. As Lucy and Hanna said: “You can always spot a St B’s girl!”

One threat that appeared to be evident in the past and is still prevalent today is that of closure. It appears that as a result of St Brigid’s not conforming to the “norm” and trying to maintain our crucial independence that makes us what we are, there are some people who feel we should follow the crowd. This too was the case when Lucy and Hanna were pupils.

As the years have passed, this threat of closure / merger keeps rearing its ugly head. But, the strength and fighting spirit of staff, governors and parents alike keep it firmly at bay. We feel proud and blessed to be part of this history and if I could wave a magic wand I would love to guarantee (and I know I speak on behalf of Lucy and Hanna too) the school’s survival long into the future, so that I can see my children and my grandchildren experience the joy, love and benefits of this unique establishment we know as St Brigid’s.

CHARLOTTE R. A. NICHOLLS 8 RED (Known to her friends as the walking dictionary !)