|Lucy took a photo of the bench with her phone, it really was a piece of artwork, not just a useful resting place. Once the tribute boxes had been called to her attention, she noticed that each one had a different design, although all had a slot in the top and several holes for flowers to be arranged neatly.|
She paused in front of one of the larger stones, and one of the very rare ones with more than one name on it. The main tribute box here was much larger and one of the most beautiful. Lucy noticed a tiny message carved around the base and leant in to read it, even more sure afterwards that this was another of the pieces not just commissioned by, but made personally by this mysterious Tom Gay.
"For Nancy, who always understood. Teacher, Mentor, Friend. Thank you. Tom."
Beside it, another tribute box, completely different this time. Made from metal parts welded together in a regular sculpture, cleverly arranged to hold gifts and flowers in a small tree formation. This one appeared to have no message, but observant Lucy saw a small engraved plate slipped into a slot on one side. She pulled it out and squinted to see the tiny inscription. "For Kathy and Nancy, in gratitude for support and understanding, lessons in keeping one's temper, and sound advice over many years. Thank you both. You've made the world of difference. "Jack L"
Lucy replaced the message, stood back up, and looked properly at the stone. The engraving was very recent, and infilled with black, so it stood out very clearly from the clean relatively new looking stone.
Nancy Ferrars Wilmot 1920 - 2011 Aged 91
Headmistress of The Chalet School, 1967 to 1987
Kathleen Wilmot Ferrars 1932 - 2012 Aged 80
Deputy Headmistress of The Chalet School 1976 to 1987
Headmistress of The Chalet School 1987 to 1994
A little further on was a grave marked with a stone carving, a strange shape to Lucy, who was too young to recognise it as a nurse's hat from the early 20th century. The grave was another with multiple tribute boxes, although none were marked with names or organisations this time. A welsh woman from the looks of the name.
To the memory of Gwyneth Lloyd.
Died January 2004 Aged 101
Head Matron of the Chalet School from 1934 to 1967
In one central tribute box was a single hole, in which was placed a single rose, cut freshly from the looks of things. Lucy wondered why just the one flower, and why a rose, but it was very effective, far more so than some of the more overloaded graves that she could see.
Lucy moved on to the next row, which were mostly older stones. She didn't see anything unusual until reaching the far end of the row. Here there were another pair of Headmistresses. This time there were no double barrelled names, but the grave area was a double width one, something rare in this collection of school mistresses.
The grave had an appearance much more like the Maynard family ones in the other part of the graveyard, and was another one with multiple tribute pots around it. Another sign asked people to avoid standing on the grave to take pictures. A similar stone had been recessed at the foot of the grave as a marker for an appropriate place to take pictures. Lucy looked at the signs and a small fence dissuading anyone getting too close to the headstone, and guessed that this grave was almost as much a place of pilgrimage as that of the author.
This was confirmed by the worn print on the photo marker stone, scuffed by many years of photographer's shoes.
"Stone laid by J.M Bettany Fan Club. Please be aware that although the occupants of this grave are known to most fans as the basis for "Guide Leader Wilhemina" and the "Nan Randolph, Headmistress" series they were also much loved members of the staff here. Footprints on their graves cause much distress and out of respect we ask that no photos are taken any more beside the headstones."
Lucy hadn't read either of those books yet, although she had been looking at them in the library only a few months before. She knew how close she had felt to some of the characters in the books, and clearly other people felt the same way. As she stood there, she dredged up a memory from an old TV series, and realised that that was why the name 'Nan Randolph' seemed familiar. Only, she thought it had been called a different name, maybe Anne Randolph, Superhead. She had been too young to watch, but her mother and father had been addicted to it, such that she could remember the theme tune even now. She had rarely seen more than the titles, since it came on just after her bedtime, which was 7 pm at that stage, but her brothers had occasionally watched some and said that it was quite good - 'for a grown up program'.
She looked at the headstones in front of her, and wondered what the story was here. The little fence enclosed two neighbouring graves, and both appeared to have been headmistress of the school for an overlapping period of time, which was slightly confusing. Perhaps they had jobshared, like Lucy's mum had done while she and her brothers were small.
Baroness Hilda Mary Annersley Born 1904
HeadMistress of The Chalet School 1937 to 1964
PhD in Educational Policy, MA English Literature.
UK Ministry of Education Special Advisor 1966 to 1976
Advisor to the European Parliament on Educational Standards.
Member of the House of Lords from 1990 until her death in 2002.
The other grave included in the little fenced off area was a little older, with some weathering but still kept spotlessly clean. Lucy wondered whether perhaps this was a sister or other relative, since the designs on the gravestones were clearly meant to be complementary, the only difference being that one had clearly been out in the elements for a few decades more.
Helena Margaret Wilson Born 1907
Msc Geography, London School of Economics
Headmistress of The Chalet School & Finishing branch 1943 to 1967
Died 24th December 1967 Aged 60 years.
:: Gone but never forgotten ::
Lucy frowned - another death on Christmas Eve. Had she been in the same accident as the others? If it was an accident, after all she only had her own imagination saying that it was a car crash.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Um. I'm afraid this doesn't so much get less upsetting as more... Sorry ! Thank you all for reading and commenting, it's nice to know people like the drabble as much as I did when writing it Sad as it is !
Chapter End Notes:
(I couldn't think where the idea of a retired headmistress becoming a member of the house of lords had come from, and wasn't sure whether it would be practical,or possible. However it niggled at me as an idea so I started to research, only to find details of Baroness Brigstock, who it appears did that. I couldn't think why the name was familiar, before realising on investigation that not only was she an old girl of my own secondary school, but I then remembered her giving the Commemoration address at least once at end of term. So somewhere deep in the murky depths of my memory I must have been listening to the speech (which was rare, these things used to go on forever and were usually very boring) and also have enjoyed what she had to say and remembered details enough to have this idea 20 years later She sounds quite fun, going to meetings in her pajamas as she couldn't be bothered any more with the dressing up, although that could well be urban legend.)