John McCarthy
1944 - 1949

Wennington School 1944-49

Between 1944 and 1949 I visited the school on a number of occasions when staying with my mother, Edith McCarthy, who was assistant matron and then matron during those years. She had been an old friend of Frances and Kenneth Barnes, from their Bedales days at Steep, Hampshire during the 1930's.

Edith spoke often of her years at Wennington, and particularly of the friends she had amongst staff and students. They were important years to her. I can recall more faces than names but the latter include:-

The Barnes family, Ruth's son Martin, Frank Burgess, Louis Jones and his wife, Phyllis, Martin Eden, Anne Whitehouse, Doreen Warburton, Ralph Warburton, Brian Hill, Paul Brown.

I only saw the school as a visitor but I was left deeply impressed by the commitment I witnessed amongst staff and by the independent thinking and outlook engendered amongst students through the open approach and freedom of expression that was part of the school life. There was a zest and good spirit in the school community ( that did not preclude tensions and clashes ) which I remember well.

This was a notable contrast for me then, having been at a Quaker boarding school with a much more structured approach to authority, and being in the wartime merchant navy which was such an utterly different environment.

( I also recall, after the move to Wetherby, the chilliest swimming pool I have ever experienced, albeit briefly. It brought a new conception to the term solar heating. )

These memories remain clear after more than half a century and I shall always be glad that I witnessed something of those years when the school was beginning. Nowadays I keep in touch with Eleanor Barnes and Doreen Warburton.

A few years after leaving Wennington Edith moved to New Zealand to join my family in Wellington. She kept in touch with the school through correspondence and occasional visits when back in the UK. Her main correspondent was Ruth ( Frances's sister ). Edith joined the Friend's Meeting in Wellington and later became an elder of the Meeting. She died in 1976 after a full life which covered her work as a professional physiotherapist; first world war nurse and matron for which she was awarded the MBE; residence in France for much of the 20's; remedial training instruction at Bedales in the 30's; private physiotherapy, pacifism, Society of Friends, Wennington in the 40's; then New Zealand and continuation of her Quaker connections, plus grandchildren.

John McCarthy
New Zealand

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