Miss Gladys Dolan
Mrs Jean Harrison
Miss Nancy High
Mrs Nesta Tough
Miss Jane Utting
Margery & Evelyn Williamson
Our Westminster matron was Miss (Fanny) Curzon. She was with the House for ages and I am not sure if anyone remembered why she gained the nickname. She was a local woman and had a sister who lived in Morley, consequently she had a broad Norfolk accent which we delighted in imitating. She was very strict and in league with Miss Mair, our then housemistress, to spot all transgressions; minor, major or imagined. She did of course have a kindly side and if you were really sick (temperature above 104F, whole body rash, unable to move) you might be excused from Sunday walks.
One year she was away for some time having surgery, it was rumoured for breast cancer, but evidently beat it as she retired long after I left.
When I became House Captain in 1970, she had me and my friend Jane Cutler up to her flat every Sunday afternoon for tea and cakes, ostensibly to discuss House business, but as Jane and I had our mouths stuffed full of cake most of the time there wasn't a great deal discussed from our side.
She was friendly with Mrs Mickey from Winchester I think, who was German and whose real name was unpronounceable, at least to us.
Miss Curzon died in 2004.
Joined the College in September 1951 and retired in April 1976. She was initially in charge of Dorm 16 (Girls), before moving to East House (Boys), then Salisbury and finally (1971) Fry Hall. Gladys died at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital on 7th April 2005.
"Scrotum" was Salisbury/Fry boys' Matron from the dark ages to 1976. She was at the Dinner in July 2001 and, considering she is now 86, appeared to be in reasonable health when we spoke to her. I had considered offering this nickname but wasn't sure if it was appropriate. I am still not, frankly, but you may as well have her correct name. I would imagine that a large number of "boys" owe her a considerable debt of gratitude, having been taught to make beds with hospital corners and to iron shirts properly amongst other things (don't tell my wife!)
She smoked Kensitas you know, not that I ever borrowed any, and being a smoker, she couldn't detect easily. The "girl" who replaced her in '76 when she retired (I can't remember her name but she's on the '77 Fry boarders 'photo) clearly knew but said nothing. She was also the catalyst for the invention of the great game ... Dorm Cricket.
Colin Leaford (Salisbury/Fry 1970-77)
Gladys Dolan was merely known as "Dolly" in the early sixties. Prior to becoming Matron of Salisbury she was "Seniors Matron" of East House. I believe she was there from at least the mid 50s. In the early 60s when East House had become Salisbury House she had one of the few televisions on site and privileged 6th formers were allowed into her flat to watch it (and also smoke - providing you shared your fags with her!).
Charlie 'Julian' Smith
Gladys Dolan aka Scrotum, was also the matron for 'The Annexe' - the hutted overspill accommodation that persisted through to the end of the 1960s.
Jon(athan) 'Polly' Parrott
Thump-Drag was another nickname for Scrotum. She not only hit you hard, but had a sly puff from some full-strength Navy fags afterwards. She once stole a bottle of Guinness I'd snuck into Fry (2nd year?) and drank it. Old trout!
Iain 'Sid' Sidey
Just seen the sad news about 'Dooly' (not Dolly), she was our matron in dorm 16; I still have a diary she gave me in 1952 when we were her dorm prefects. Ros Walker was my room mate.
Maggy Skipp (Smith)
During my time in South/Gloucester houses (1960-66), our Matron was a Mrs. Frowen, and she was also known as "Gusher," because of her propensity to talk. I understand that there was a Matron called Miss Greenacre, who retired in 1968, also with the same nomenclature "Gusher". Could they have been one and the same? I feel that your History of Matrons would be incomplete without a few words about this dear Lady, who I know always had the interests of "her boys" at heart.
[From subsequent discussion between Gloucester Old Boys, it seems that Mrs Frowen left the House in 1967 and was replaced by Miss Greenacre for the 67/68 School year, before the arrival of Miss Utting - Ed.]
On Saturday mornings, the post-breakfast bed-making ritual was her finest hour. She would erupt into the Dormitories emitting the 'Banshee' cry of "STAPLES UP BOYS" or "STAPLES DOWN BOYS;" according to which week it happened to be. This referred to the label on the top of the 'Staples' mattress. "Gusher" viewed the weekly 'turning' to be of Paramount Importance. Somehow we always managed to have the mattresses the wrong way up!
She largely concerned herself with the Welfare of the younger boys, and when we were performing our pre-bedtime ablutions she would say to us "Now then Boys, I want to see you all brush your hair fifty times before you go to bed." I am quite convinced that this is why I went bald at an early age!
Mrs. Frowen was the proud owner of a very elderly and overweight Labrador, which was called "Tigger," and slept in her room, but at other times would wander around the House. It was known to all (except perhaps 'Matron'), that if you stroked "Tigger" on a certain part of his back, he would achieve the most impressive, and long-lasting of Erections! The poor animal would spend most of the day walking around in this condition!
For some reason, my friends thought that I was "Gusher's Favourite," probably because she knew my Grandmother. On a Sunday afternoon after walks, she would invite House Prefects and "above" into her room for tea which, on reflection, was very hospitable of her, considering our total ingratitude. Our ingratitude stemmed from the fact that the cake she supplied in such copious quantities was totally "Ersatz," and revolting. She always insisted that we consumed at least two gargantuan slices each. There were inevitably several slices left and she would always insist that none of it be wasted. It was always at this point that my so-called "pals" would utter in unison: "Matron, Patrick would like some more cake!"
Patrick Turner (South/Gloucester 1959 - 1965)
Mrs Harrison's medicine cabinet; "Take an aspirin and a salt water gargle and you'll be alright in the morning" - springs to mind.
Yes, and no matter what medicine she gave you it was always written down in her book as being to cure period pains!
Apparently, she knew that one or two of us used to indulge in the odd cigarette or two. The only reason she didn't report us was because the cleaner also smoked & she couldn't prove it was us (or more specifically me). That surprised me when I found out, because on numerous occasions we were *unjustly* accused of something with absolutely no proof whatsoever.
Jean left the College (from Peel) in the Summer of 1988
Nancy was a house matron at the College in the 1970's. She retired at 60 and went to live in Holt, subsequently she moved to Woodbridge in Suffolk where she married Desmond Hetherington, whom she had known when they were both young. Sadly in 1999 she had a stroke.
After hospitalisation and the realisation that she would not recover from her lower limb paralysis, we, her family, with her agreement, arranged nursing home care for her back in Norfok. Nancy now lives at Suncourt Nursing Home, 1 Morris St, Sheringham, Norfolk. She is happy there, but sadly the stroke also caused some damage to her memory and she is sometimes muddled.
Nancy has some wonderful friends amongst the ex-matrons of Wymondham and she has letters and visits from them. If anyone else who knew her and lives in/near Sheringham and would like to pop in, please do. You would
need to explain to Nancy who you are and how you knew her, but she does enjoy talking about old times. Nancy High is now Nancy Hetherington.
With best wishes to all students and staff who knew Nancy.
Patricia Duckworth (Nancy's niece)
Fry girls 1987
New Hall girls 1987
New Hall boys 1987
In 1958 I joined West House in Dorm 16 along with Emerson, Culley, Riches (aka Magnet), Harper, Gawlinski (later to be voted the boy with the best legs in the school) and others no doubt. Our Matron was Mrs McKinder, who once fainted at the sight of a dead mouse that Andy Harper had trodden on and squashed as he got out of bed.
There were numerous escape plans by ...... and ....... Once the 6th formers hid Emerson in a wardrobe and called Mrs Mack into the dorm and pretended that they could see him running over the fields!
Kett boys 1987
Fry boys 1987
Cavell girls 1987
Our matron, Miss Pountain, was a lovely lady who mothered us all, wiped our tears, bandaged our knees and made us drink gallons of Kaolin and Morphine. She even attended the term-end midnight feasts and would scare off any prefects who were on the prowl for cakes, biscuits and the opportunity to beat an unsuspecting victim!
Cavell boys 1987
Whoever thought that putting a 20-something woman in charge of 50 odd hormone-ridden boys was a good idea should have been grateful that it was only "dorm cricket" that was invented.
I see you mention a Mrs Saunders as the matron of York (which I was also in). Wasn't she the one with the semi-circular right leg?
During the early years as Hebes, every Sunday evening we used to have “Foot and Mouth” inspection, where we had to clean our wash-bags, de-gunge our toothbrushes and rake out all the cranial detritus in our combs, using our nail brushes. The inside of the soap holder also came in for an inspection. These would be placed at the bottom of the bed, whereupon Matron would sweep into the room, inspect them and then make you show her that between your toes was neither full of pubescent-boy type gunge, nor showing signs of Athlete’s Foot. Invariably, the cleanliness standards of the dorm failed to meet her exacting ones, whereupon an immediate instruction to depart to the bathroom and clean everything properly was made by her; and, as the room was in the process of being left with great sighs and overt displays of petulance (or maybe that was just me), the chorus of “And take your comb a-with you!” followed. Needless to say, that soon became our Sunday night chorus to her departing back, after we’d either attained the requisite standard, or she’d given up (surely not?!). We always left shouting it out until she’d turned the corner and, by our estimation, was at least by the bathroom door, being the brave souls that we were.
On more than one occasion – we clearly never learnt – the chorus and ensuing raucous laughter led to the prefects subjecting us to the dreaded Sweat Period, where the main protagonists, which usually included me, despite my more-often-than-not complete innocence (!), were marched out into the corridor to “enjoy” a sustained period of torture, including such diverse performances as “arms out straight to the side, books on hands”, “sitting up against the wall, arms folded, with a drawing pin under the arse” “tiptoes and fingertips and leaning on the wall at an obscene angle” (aka the Stress Position, so beloved of security forces) and the obligatory press-ups and sit-ups. Crying “I can’t do it!” never seemed to elicit any sympathy, merely an extension of the time before the period was over, so it was not long before we learnt to endure such things with a set face and attempting to out-stare the prefect instructing us in these arcane arts, which, sadly, have been long-confined to the outlawed non-pc activities bin. It was, however, very good training for the Army….
As was Sunday morning common room cleaning, which we had to do on a rota basis, immediately after doing the Rugby kit cleaning (in the big washbasins in the staff section of the house – the smell is still there in my memory banks). Matron would stand over us, watching as we swept our way down the common room, going “No, no, no! How many times? It’s two tiles; tap! Two tiles; tap! From left to right! From left to right! Now go back to the beginning and start again!” Fast forward 37 years and, if ever I am with brush in hand and sweeping, I still find myself pushing the broom for the equivalent of two tiles and tapping the bloody thing, whilst moving from left to right across the area to be swept – often to the bemusement of any onlookers. I always had the cleanest bed space in the barracks, though.
She was tapping on the pearly gates back then, so I would think she has long since gone off to that great dorm in the sky. Actually, she was alright, really, just very Victorian in her ways. But she clearly did care for the boys in her charge and was always there with a comforting word and a (brief!) cuddle, if one was upset for any reason. Closely followed by an admonishment to pull oneself together, but it’s the thought that counts…
Which just goes to show that there are no bad experiences in life: only those from which you can learn!
According to the York report in the 1967 College magazine, she broke her leg that year (outside hut 7) but, when well on the way to recovery, broke it again. Her temporary replacement in York was Mrs Gregory.
Things I remember about her:
the catchphrase '26 boys in dorm 26.'
teaching some of us 1st/2nd Formers to knit when we complained of being 'bored.'
leading the RC contingent to church on Sundays (and mid-week, I think).
coming up the stairs in Lincoln to tell us that John Kennedy had been shot.
looking very lonely eating by herself most evenings.
getting us 1st years out of bed, in what seemed like the middle of the night, to relieve bladders and avoid bedwetting.
the unusual gait.
supervising the Saturday morning 'top sheets to the bottom' exercise.
telling us to always make a bed from the side, never from the foot.
the periodic 'inspections' of various parts of the anatomy.
looking disdainfully round an untidy dorm, saying "Charlie's Doss House - tuppence a night!"
Herb Atkins (1958-64)
Considering she had 60 or so adolescent boys to deal with at any one time she coped rather well. If it was wet on a Sunday afternoon and walks were cancelled she would invite some of the juniors up and try to teach them Canasta, a card game which involved more than one pack of cards and used the jokers. I never did get the hang of it but she never tired of teaching us.
She told us, I recall, that she had spent some time in India in previous years, but apart from this she never mentioned anything outside the school except for two things. One was that her son would visit once a week and see her for an hour or so (I cannot recall much about him except him sitting in her room with a cup of tea in one hand and being polite). The other thing she mentioned from outside the school was the water. She told us that she brought her own drinking water in to the school because she had seen workmen cleaning out the tank of the water tower, and there were rather a lot of drowned rats there. This so put her off she could not face the water any more (unless boiled).
She did offer advice, most of which was ignored, despite it being good and practical. Another good aspect of her nature was that she would try to watch any sporting activity involving the house.
Photo taken 1987
I have suddenly remembered the loveliest matron of all. She was in Lincoln Hall when I was there in 1983-1985, and she was Nesta Tough (or something very similar!). She was a star. Does anyone know what happened to her?
Katrina Meredith (Macdermid)
Nesta is my Mother and she is retired now and still living in Norfolk. She doesn't have a computer but she can be contacted through me at email@example.com. She remembers Katrina and would love to get in touich with her and with any of her other past students.
Mrs Tough was interviewed in 1987 by Liz Betts and Kate Winter Goodwin and the following report appeared in the College Magazine for that year:
Mrs Tough is the matron in Lincoln, and has worked here for 3 years. She enjoys Phil Collins, Eastenders and toad-in-the-hole, and her worst habit, she agrees, is smoking. She has two teddies, one called 'Dingle' and the other called 'Threes'!
The two Sixth Form matrons have the whole house, boys and girls, to look after. We asked Mrs. Tough what the main differences were between the Main School and the Sixth Form houses. "In the main school house, you have to teach the basics of life - how to be considerate, reminding them to wash their ears and do their work, etc., just teaching the children to live with other people generally. You can't express the job really but you must be involved all the time." Whereas in the Sixth Form Houses: "Basically we are just here to give advice and to care and to be good listeners".
We also asked Mrs. Tough what she thought made a successful matron. "Somebody who can care and is prepared to listen, and enjoys the company of the young. You must not be ratty or nasty but it is important, especially in the main school, to keep the upper hand. With sixth formers, it is best not to nag, because they will just turn off — it is a thoroughly different approach with them."
Mrs. Tough was once described as "one of a dying breed of matrons" and we agree! As far as we are concerned, we are very lucky to have the matrons that we have at Wymondham College and we would like to thank them all for being so helpful and speaking so freely about themselves.
Gloucester House matron until about '68 was 'Gusher' (Miss Greenacre). She was replaced by 'Baby Jane' - a young dolly with a very elaborate beehive haircut which seemed to totally defy gravity somehow. She caused quite a stir when she arrived, being 20-something years old with a good figure - most unusual for a Wycol matron.
She led to various amusing incidents when she was asked to examine people's sweat rash etc. Several male staff tried to 'make it' with her and possibly did. She wore a pretty short skirt and Seeley revelled in having the only non-old bat Matron in the college [look at that grin! - Ed.].
We liked her, even though (perhaps because) she tried over-hard to be 'one of the lads.' She was a very soft touch; not literally unfortunately! If she caught you skiving around the House during games, for example, she would usually not tell Seeley.
Yes, I remember "Baby Jane." I think she came in 1968/9 when Miss Greenacre left. Think her name was Miss Utting.
Colin Farrington - [the young lad sitting at her feet in the photo! - Ed.]
Kett girls 1987
My grandmother Margery Williamson was a matron at WC (New Hall) for many years (don't know the dates), and so was her sister Evelyn (Cavell Hall). They really were the sweetest, most loving people I have ever known (I lived with them for several years), and I'm sure that many WC boarders will remember them fondly. They were good friends with Sister Betty Godfrey.
Wymondham College Remembered