19 October 1917

St. Hilda’s Hall

Oxford

19.10.17

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for you letter and also for the bank book, which arrived quite safely.  I have used the green bordered cloth for my “Moab” = my washpot = washstand.  It shuts up and becomes a kind of cabinet affair.  If I have a visitor I shall use the other cloth for my drawers.  I shall want more cushions – two, if not three, but there is no tearing hurry, they will do next term.  I am thinking of suggesting to Gwen a length of stuff, out of which I can make all I want, including a pair of curtains, which, for some reason or other, my room lacks.

When you send my eider-down will you please put in some strong stuff, with which I could make a “humpty”, or large floor cushion, which is very useful as an extra seat.  I propose to use the straw in which my china was packed as stuffing.  I think it would be best to make about three ordinary sized cushions then put them one on top of the other, and then cover all with something suitable.  Will you also put in the little red photo frame off the bookcase in my room?  I should also like the tray, which would be very convenient.  I understand we are not expected to return cocoa invitations this term, which is a blessing.  We shall, however, want to have our own friends just privately.  Next term we shall have to ask all the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years.  Also you can have tea in your own room.  You just go down to the dining room and commandeer bread and butter, milk and jam.  Will you also include that cotton shirt of mine that was once striped with blue, but has washed out;  some very small linen buttons for my camisoles (6), the pearl ones having come off and got broken; and also a reel of green cotton, as I tore my green skirt out walking this morning.

I want the blouse for hockey, as we are required to play in college ties, and I can’t wear a tie with my serge blouse.  I always wear a coat so it doesn’t matter about its being cotton.  I enjoy the hockey here immensely – there are some quite good players, and two of the Cheltenham1 First Eleven among the freshers.  Yesterday I played goal, and today I see I am down to play in the same place tomorrow.

I am sending you my white silk shirt and some dainty handkerchieves to be washed.  I have had a letter from Mrs Harris2, and am asking her to meet me tomorrow morning at the corner of the road as the Bursar hinted that they didn’t like too many odd people coming up to the Hall.

Many thanks for your letter this morning (Sunday) about the raid.  I was very anxious about you, but last night Miss Hallam relieved my mind by telling me she had heard from London, and that there was little or no damage.  We had the alarm here, and had to spend the evening in the dining room, which was beastly.  The electric light went out, we had only a few candles, and the two top floors were not allowed to go to bed until it came on, which was not till about 2.a.m.  The whole affair was a most uncomfortable farce, and most unnecessary, as they were nowhere near.

The Bach choir is a priceless institution.  Dr Allen3 will one day be the death of me!  I nearly died of laughing last Monday.  He twists round and round on the piano stool, flings his arms about wildly, tears his hair, and pours out floods of imprecations at sopranos, altos, tenors and basses each in turn and all together.  But he can just play!  and knows what he is talking about all along the line.  On Friday we went to have our voices tested.  All the St. Hilda’s people passed.  He bullied Miss Hallam and Miss Fisher, who were in with me.  He only kept me a moment – asked if I came from Edinburgh – tested how high I could go – gave me a few notes to read – and said “You’ll do”.  I nearly died with laughing.  We are singing some Mystical Songs of Vaughan Williams4, a motet (6 part) by Parry5 dedicated to the Choir – and are going to do the Messiah.

I enclosed a statement of accounts and also Miss Burrows’ receipt.  I am by now almost broke, so would be glad if you could refund the balance.  The Hall subscription is fixed, and includes all sports, tips, etc.  I paid the Delegacy Fee out of Auntie Hilda’s £10, but do you think it ought to come of that?  I think I can share most of the books I have to get with someone, so that the cost will be halved.

I am glad to hear Maxted did so well last week.  There is a Cheltenham child here whose brother is at Dulwich College6 – Commins is the name.  There are four Cheltenham people here – two crack hockey players – another the Dorothy Beale Scholar – all very young.  Miss Commins is going to the Mill lectures with me – has done no Political Economy before and is hopelessly at sea, so I am doing my best to help her.  She is an awfully nice child and charmingly ingenuous.

I have been a walk today with two other people – we took our lunch (provided by the Hall) and climbed up on to the surrounding hills and got a blow.  I felt quite invigorated, but now am dead tired.  We found some gorgeous berries – one spindle tree was just a cloud of pink berries.  I have never seen anything like it.  The trees here are glorious just now, all brown and yellow, and the leaves have not yet begun to fall.

I hear from Miss Burrows that Miss Thompson is at Manchester doing research and teaching in the High School.  May I write and offer her an introduction to Auntie Lucy7?  We had a lecture on Persian Art last night, very interesting and the lantern slides killingly funny.  I sat next the Bursar and we giggled the whole time.

Please give my love to Daddie and Maxted, and also to Grandma8.  Please take care of yourselves, and let me know immediately after an air raid.

Your loving daughter,

Margot

Books, etc.

s. d.
Note books 2 7
Pad 10 1/2
Mill 2 1
5 6 1/2
Dr Cr
To Daddie’s Cheque £16.0.0 By Fees
(Grant) Miss Burrows’  5.0.0 Residence (less Room and Exhibition) £15.  0.0
P. Office  4.7.6  Tuition  8.15.0
Balance  19.2  Delegacy Fee  12.6
 _______  Registration of Certificate  1.  0.0
 £26.6.8  Hall Subscription  12.0
 Library  5.0
 Luggage       2.2
 _______
 £26.  6.8

1There are frequent references to Cheltenham Ladies College where Miss Beale had been headmistress so there were strong links between the school and the college.

One of the constant themes is the War and Margot’s fear of bombs dropping on South London, where her parents lived. Her home was untouched  in this war, but took a direct hit in the World War II.  Margot’s parents had been evacuated to near Oxford, but the house suffered devastating damage.

2Mrs Harris does some of Margot’s clothes washing and some is sent home by post.

3 Dr Hugh Allen, 1869-1946,was the Professor of Music at Oxford and was about to become Director of the Royal College of Music.  He kept on his Oxford professorship, as well as conducting London choirs and was described by Ravel as ‘notre ami qui fait chanter tout le monde’.

4Vaughan Williams  Mystical Songs – very new music as it was only written in 1911.

5Sir Hubert Parry – Dr Allen’s predecessor as Professor of Music at Oxford.

6The South London school Margot’s brother attended as a day boy.

7Auntie Lucy is Margot’s father’s sister and a teacher.  There are a number of photos of her, in which she shows a strong resemblance to Margot.

8Grandma is Margot’s maternal grandmother, Angelina Fagg.

Next letter: 19 October 1917, to be posted 19 October 2014

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One thought on “19 October 1917

  1. I tried to figure out which raid Margot mentioned in the letter. Based on the date, I believe it involved eleven airships, consisting of two types of bombers: the Gotha GV and the very large Riesenflugzeuge. It became known in London as the “silent raid,” because the ships were flying at such an immense height to avoid anti-aircraft fire that they could not be heard on the ground. Fortunately, a combination of the effects of altitude sickness on the pilots, strong winds blowing the planes off course, ground mist concealing the city, and the smart move of the defense to not turn on the searchlights, resulted in most of the planes flying right past London without realizing it (and therefore the lack of damage mentioned in the letter).

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