My book is a personal account of my life
at the Royal Masonic Schools for Girls and
my mother’s struggle to provide for herself
and her child, following the sudden and
unexpected death of her husband.
She lived during a period when there
was no Welfare State as we know it today.
Women’s rights, whether in the workplace,
or the importance of their role as home
makers, had yet to be acknowledged.
Then the war came along and my
mother, like so many other brave women,
took over jobs which had previously been
done by men. She worked in London
during the Blitz and later was employed
on the Southern & South Eastern Railways
as a welfare officer, helping to improve
the social conditions of women employees
in the East End.
Throughout the book, I have written
about subjects that interested me most –
the art and craft classes, music and dancing.
But, of course, these were not the limit of
what we were taught. There were plenty
of opportunities for any girl who excelled
at other disciplines to develop her talents.
In those days, an excellent library in the
clock tower and ample supplies of books
in all the common rooms, were available for
anyone who enjoyed English. There were
well-equipped science laboratories for girls
who wanted to study physics and chemistry,
marvellous sports and athletics facilities,
while commercial areas of the curriculum
were also catered for. The school certainly
lived up to its philosophy of finding the
child’s talents and then enabling her to
exploit these to the full.
Many stories have been published about
the experiences of people who survived
the Second World War, whether on active
service, in prisoner-of-war camps or as
civilians on the Home Front.
There are also memoirs by women
who were sent to religiously established
institutions, highlighting great cruelty on
the part of the people charged with their
care. But my story is very different. Despite
losing our fathers at an early age, we
were happy little girls, and the staff did
everything they could to preserve the
joy of a carefree childhood.
I often used to think about the costs
involved in maintaining and running the
schools and the generosity of the Freemasons
who had made it all possible. I was lucky to
be so fortunate, enjoying a very privileged
existence during a period of great turmoil
in Europe and the rest of the world.
As I have gone through life, my experiences
atWeybridge and Rickmansworth have
remained with me constantly. They formed
the yardstick against which I tried to measure
the standards of behaviour and attainment for
my pupils when I became a teacher.
And whenever I talk to other old girls
and read about reunions in the school
magazine Masonica, I am struck by how
many of us have retained the ability to
organise events down to the smallest detail.
This should come as no surprise, since
everything at school was so well run. Daily
living, special events, committee days,
all went on without anything ever going
wrong – at least as far as we were concerned.
When I left the senior school, life in the
real world was a culture shock. Because of
the restrictions imposed on us by the war,
I quickly realised what a very protected
environment I had lived in. But I coped
and put to use the valuable skills I had
acquired from my education – made possible
as a consequence of my father’s decision
to become a Freemason.
Yet, however well our parents try to
provide us with the best possible start in life,
curious coincidences often happen that defy
During the time my Great Grandfather
was a Mason, the Grand Master of the
United Grand Lodge of England was the
Earl of Zetland. Seventy-one years later,
when I first stepped foot in Rickmansworth,
what do you suppose was the name of the
House where I spent all my school days?
Why … Zetland House of course!
A review of Barbara Kelland’s book
This Time Next Week can be found
at Book Reviews.
Drill in 1946 in front of King George
VI – a Mason – and the Queen
Web site created by Mark Griffin