Saturday, April 20, 2024

Former teachers reflect with pride


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THEY GIGGLED like teenagers, teased each other about nicknames given to them by students and shared memories of their years working together.

By the time they prepared to part company, the four retired teachers of the Alexandra School had relived a lifetime of memories in one afternoon.

Hyacinth Taylor, Eugene Daniel, Ada Straughn and Gwen Lady Brancker assembled at Brancker’s home for lunch Monday, the first time all four were meeting since the 1950s when they were an inseparable foursome at the St Peter school.

Taylor migrated to England and occasionally comes home on holiday. On previous visits she has met up with Daniel and Straughn, but never Lady Brancker, though she always enquired after her old friend.

This time around, however, it was Lady Brancker who decided the four should get together after she stumbled upon a photograph of the four when they were part of a staff of only ten teachers including the principal at Alexandra.

Compliments for the chef abounded when the four sat down to a sumptuous lunch and while they ate, they teased one another about their culinary skills.

They got down to reminiscing and recalling myriad incidents from those early days, like the times when Hyacinth and Eugene were the drivers providing transportation to and from school for the other two.


“Do you remember the afternoon you lay down in Hyacinth’s car between the two back seats hiding from that insurance man?” Straughn asked Lady Brancker, and laughter erupted. They could hardly contain themselves either when Straughn, regarded as the member of the group with “a phenomenal memory”, recalled one of her earliest encounters with the new teacher she openly declared had “a horse face” while they were all in the staff room one day.

Taylor was then Hyacinth Inniss and she was not amused at the time. Listening to Straughn relate the incident this time around, she feigned consternation, remarking: “Can you imagine she called me horse face?” But the laughter soon gave away her amusement at the story.

“All I know is the camaraderie was good. We were just good friends” she reminded while the others in unison replied: “That is true.”

These women were mostly in their early 20s, with one a teenager, when they entered the profession. They recalled presiding over smaller classrooms and sharing a staff room where each occupied their own individual desk at which students’ work and examination papers were corrected.

Their priority was teaching, thereby cultivating the abilities and fostering the development of the young minds with which they were entrusted. Listening to their running exchanges, it was obvious they had little time for the kind of industrial disputes common in the current education climate.

“This union thing now is something different,” one said.

Lightening up the discussion again, Daniel hilariously recalled the day she overheard one of her students from her fifth form math’s class asking: “Wuh is dah Boots say?” as they walked to a class. It was the first time she knew she had been given a nickname by students who had clearly made her the subject of their jokes because of the style of flat shoe she wore then and which she still wears.

Later, when Daniel voices her objection to co-education, Taylor chides: “Eugene they are going to put us down as fossilised.” But Lady Brancker, the oldest in the group, quickly interjects “They can’t do us a thing.”

Time is ticking away for these four and while the three octogenarians – Taylor, Daniel and Lady Brancker – verbalise their thoughts on their prospects for a long life based on the family history, Taylor expresses her excitement about the likelihood of catching up with them when she celebrates her 80th birthday in August.


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