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St. Oswalds Girls School

A Memory of Allerwash

I came to Alllerwash Hall, Fourstones, when it was a private girls' boarding school called St.Oswalds. The Second World War had ended that summer and my mother had died just before Xmas that year, I was eleven. I had had a terrifying time being moved from place to place with my mother who was dying of TB, and I'd been left in good faith at a boarding house in Jesmond, Newcastle, with Mrs B..... whom my mother paid to take care of me during one of her sojourns in hospital. This monster frightened me with threats to tell my mother how wicked I was (I was 7 at the time) unless I obeyed her commands to clean, skivvy generally, and she used my meagre rations for her own family. Eventually I was moved to a kind aunt in Ponteland, a not-so-kind one in Edinburgh and then to my grandparents' home in Sunderland. My sister Jenifer already lived there at the Mount, she was considered "delicate" and was indulged with good food, a pretty sunny bedroom and provided with a sunbed under the trees in their lovely garden. I was less welcome, sadly, my manners were bad, my accent also, and I was a problem. So, after a short while at the High School my grandmother told me she had been advised that I needed boarding school education. Yet another move, this time I dreamed of Mallory Towers, midnight feasts in the dormitory, lots of new friends etc. And arrived optimistically at St. Oswalds. Lovely building set in wonderful grounds where we were allowed to wander, by the lovely Tyne river, the smell of crushed wild garlic, damp leaves, endless vistas across Northumberland, I fell in love with nature. The People were more difficult to cope with. Run by spinsters, uptight attitudes, regulations at every turn, bullying abounded some by girls (this is life!) had wealthy caring, influential parents, life for them seemed to my guileless eyes so much more pleasant, and they used to draw attention to my lack of parental involvement, even my threadbare bedclothes and tatty dressing-gown (which had been hastily made from old black-out curtains, and scratched horribly!) I was so lonely and unhappy, I used to wait until I thought the girls in the dormitary were asleep before allowing my weeping to begin. I remember asking over and over "Mummy, why did you leave me?" Years later two friends from those days told me they used to hear me, but didn't know how to help. I used to go to an old bathroom in order to pray (for I had developed a religious support) and gaze out of the window counting stars and visualising a loving kind man rescuing me one day and we'd live happily ever after - which didn't happen either!

A memory shared by Heather Rosser , on Jan 13th, 2013.

Comments & feedback

Sat Apr 18th 2015, at 10:23 am

mccs12345 commented:

Hi,
I was interested to read your account of St. Oswald's. In fact, 2 of the spinsters you mention were my aunts. As I am trying to write up (or, at least assemble elements relevant to my family history:archives/photos/letters/documents...), I would be very interested in hearing some more of your impressions...

Best wishes,
Michael Stevenson

Thu Jan 21st 2016, at 11:58 pm

mccs12345 commented:

Are you still there???

Thu Feb 18th 2016, at 1:37 pm

liz commented:

Hi Heather, I was also a pupil of SOGS, 1953-55 and back again in 58-59. What you said is so true, buttoned up old spinsters, and daughters of well off parents etc. My father was Army, so I was sent away at 11 because of postings around the country. Would love to share more with you, I have vivid recollection of the place, mostly ok coz I was an independent child, we had some vulnerable ones too. email liz@law1942.orangehome.co.uk.

Thu Feb 18th 2016, at 1:40 pm

liz commented:

Hey Michael, please see my comment above, I have photos too plus old school reports by yours Aunt Muriel & Rowena (Roney).

Thu Mar 31st 2016, at 1:02 pm

hridley5 commented:

Hi there.
My dad bought the school when it closed down and converted it into flats. I was about 10 at the time and found the place fascinating. I remember finding a box of prefects and house badges and pinning them all to my jumper. Also finding old sewing machines and ballet shoes in cupboards alongside old school books. I have an old Christmas card with an aerial view of the school but I can't see how to post a copy of it here. I will figure it out....

Sun Sep 11th 2016, at 1:47 pm

stevenson666 commented:

Hi Michael, you might be surprised to hear......but I too had family at At Oswald's.
In fact, the same one's as yourself!
I think we ought to get intouch?

Regards Andrew Stevenson

Wed May 3rd 2017, at 3:32 pm

briony.desoutter commented:

Dear Heather,
I was sad to hear of your unhappy time at SOGS and embarrassed that I don't remember you tho' you were younger than me. I started in January 1965 and left in November 1966 so not a long stay. My experience was mixed and as a day-girl was always made to feel like an outsider - my southern accent didn't help! Muriel Stevenson had died before I arrived and her younger (totally inept - sorry Michael) sister Rowena had taken over as headmistress (known as Rhino in my time). Teaching was chaotic and if it hadn't been for my father changing jobs to return south I know my parents had plans to move me to a school in Newcastle.
Against the odds I came to enjoy the school and it's lovely grounds - the unheated swimming pool in a converted conservatory was a bit of a challenge in January. I remember the pupils had an inspired drama teacher called Mrs Oram and we'd put on an annual play in the summer term. A Midsummer Night's Dream was either '65 or '66. We had an acerbic young teacher called Mr Murphy from Newcastle who taught us English. He died (suddenly it seemed to us) mid-way through 1966 although on reflection he must have been ill for some time. If you're interested in any more reminiscences I'll rack my brains.

Mon Jun 19th 2017, at 10:46 pm

jacqui.callahan commented:

Hi Heather & Briony
I was also a boarder at St Oswalds Girls School,Rowena Steveson was the head mistress(Rhino).I remember the dreaded morning run having to eat a spoonful of molasses every day(supposedly to head of the ills) the sweet tin only 3 during the week and 4 on the weekends. I loved the Midsummer nights dream play I was Cobweb, I learned to swim in the pool in the old conservatory.
I was also in the nativity play held in the Hexam Abby.
I remember the midnight feasts when we came back from holidays, all the girls brought extra goodies, torches and of course we all had a wonderful catch up.
I was at the school from 1962 for about 2 years. I learnt to ride and joined in the hunts,I used to hang out with Mary Moriarty,Kate Lockerby,Sarah Bell who had that awful accident and her horse was killed by a truck (Horse Whisperer makes me relive that moment every time I see the movie). I remember the Summers seemed so warm lying in the sun on the front lawns and I loved to play tennis.I can remember when I first arrived at boarding school I was so young and felt very lonely and was bullied because of my accent, but then when I think back now all those wonderful times come flooding back. I now live in Australia in the Gold Coast and I found a post from Kate Lockerby last night but I can't seem to locate it now, I would love to hear from anyone who has the same memories and share some old times.My email is jacqui.callahan@gmail.com

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