18 May 1920

St. Hilda’s Hall

Oxon.

18.5.20

My dear Mother,

I am so sorry not to have written to you for so long.  Last week was exactly like a whirlwind – one ­– thing after another!  Very nice and exciting, but rather tiring.

I think we gave Phyllis a good time.  I tried to make it as restful for her as possible, because I knew she would be tired.  So we kept to the river as much as we could.  She took the fine weather away with her.

23.5.20

Auntie and Uncle1 did not have such luck.  They had a break-down on the way and arrived here an hour late – just in time to give me supper and take me home.  Next morning I took Auntie shopping and round Oxford while Uncle Cyril sold his car.  I had lunch with them at “the Roebuck”, and they came to tea with me before they departed for Leamington.  Maisie Nicoll refused to believe that Uncle Cyril was my uncle, as he looked too young from behind!

On the following Friday I got let in for a nice surprise – namely a twenty-first birthday party – Maisie Nicoll asked me to dinner with her people at “the George”.  We had a topping time – eight of us.

This week has been equally trying.  The Fête occupied all our energies up to Wednesday.  The Folk-dancing, Wax-works and Ferry quarrelled over my body – which to improve matters was not very fit at the time!  However, we survived, and made, I think, almost enough to pay up our quota to the New Women’s Hospital.

On Thursday the Eights began.  We were on Balliol barge on Thursday and Saturday, and on the river in a punt on Friday.  Tomorrow we go again on Balliol barge – to tea with Gilbert.

Yesterday we had a great time.  Evelyn’s friends at Worcester asked her and me to their Eights’ Week performance of “Pompey the Great” by Masefield2, with Doris as chaperone.  The show was given in their playing field at 9.0. p.m. the pavilion being used as the stage.  It was a perfect evening, and after it was over we came back in the dark along the lake, the path being outlined in fairy lights.  We had to skirt two sides of the lake, and in the distance the people on the farther side looked like ghosts crossing a bridge, as all you could see was feet and a faint blur of colour if their dresses were light – reflected in the lake.  Mr Brand and Mr Ady strolled home with us, and we arrived in Hall about 11.45 p.m., having forgotten to ask for late leave!

Today Evelyn and I had a picnic lunch on the river, and then with Joyce and Gilbert, who had been joy-riding on Gilbert’s motor byke, we had tea with Doris in Milham Ford School tennis-court.  Doris’ mother is here, and two Merton men and one Balliol man made up the party.

The weather is now glorious.  Many thanks for the washing – the jumper has not run so much as Joyce’s – and also for your letter this morning.  My best love to Max.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

1Auntie and Uncle are Ethel and Cyril, Margot’s mother’s sister and brother-in-law, the tea planter from Sri Lanka/Ceylon. No mention is made in the letters to the youngest of her mother’s family, Freddy.  He was very deaf and had no special help at school.  He worked in the gas works, had a thumb blown off, went nearly blind, but was a delightful old man, much loved by Margot and her brother.  He was very happily married to Emily.

2Masefield, the future poet laureate.

The next letter will be posted on 22 May 2017.

16 May 1920

St. Hilda’s Hall

Oxon.

16.5.20

                My dear Daddie,

This is going to be a very fiscal letter!1  To begin with, I am very sorry not to have acknowledged your cheque.  Under the stress of my visitors, I am afraid I forgot all about it.  I have withdrawn everything from my bank- book except the money for my schools week-end and a few odd shillings, to make up my fees.  I also owe Joyce £1 for my Hall and library sub , which I could not pay out of the £2 you gave to come up with, and £1 of that went on the Schools punt, 6/8 for my share of it and 12/6 tax which I have not yet recovered, and cannot till the end of term, because I get it back through the Co-op.

So much for that.  The next thing is, may I have £3 as soon as possible for Schools fee?  Also we are having a fête on Wednesday – stalls, side-shows, etc.  Is there anything suitable you could send me along – jam, chocolate, fruit!

Thirdly, I have discovered that people can live up here on the Government grant.  You get your fees for the training course paid outright, and about £35 for maintenance.  That works out at about 30/- per week for 3 terms of 8 weeks each.  Now Doris Coleman pays exactly that for board and lodging.  I should think that Joyce and I ought to be able to do on that if we digged together and shared a room, as we should if I trained here next year.  You can still be attached to your own college for all social purposes.

I have only just discovered this, through Bronwen, who is going to do it.  I have written to Miss Talbot, the Oxford Education secretary, for an appointment, to obtain exact information about the grants, which I will immediately pass on to you,

Now if I can get my fees paid and a maintenance grant which works out at 30/- per week, can I come back here next year?  Levett quite approves of the scheme.  It would relieve you of nearly all expense except pocket money and dress allowance, which I should want even in London.  Of course, I should love it above all things.  The training here is not so good as at London, but it is training, and it is very interesting, and less tiring, because you don’t have to travel so far afield as in London.

I have till June 15 before I need apply for the G.P.D.S.T. scholarship.  I cannot be sure of it – in fact I don’t think it likely that I shall get it.

Will you give me authority to act on my own in this matter?  If I can wangle it so that my expenses are practically covered?  Please let me know at once.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

P.S. Very many thanks for the extra 10/- which was very grateful

1Over and over again the question of affordability comes up, but Margot seems to have had extremely sympathetic treatment from her parents, getting her way with their good grace – and trying her best to live within her/their means.

The next letter will be posted on 18 May 1920.

2 May1920

St. Hilda’s Hall

Oxon.

2.5.20

My dear Mother,

Many thanks for your letter this morning and the note enclosed, and also for your parcel on Saturday.  No need to apologise for the shortbread to this community.  They just love it.  I am sorry that Max did not get his move, but did not expect it after his place for the term.

I have not really got my bank book.  It is not in my jewel case.  Will you look for last term’s receipt in the envelope and give it to Daddie?  This term’s fees will be the same.  I have received my cheque from the B. who will be back in Oxford by May 15th.

Will you please put my bathing dress and cap in your next parcel?  They are in my bottom drawer.

I have booked a room for Auntie at the Roebuck, and have written to her about it.  I have also arranged for Phyllis next week end.  It is all right about the hostel, for the guest room is in the Iffley Road, and she will only have to sleep there.  She will have her meals in Hall with us, and need never notice the existence of anyone else.

May morning was quite satisfactory.  The river only went down just in time, and we had some difficulty in collecting all the boats, but everything went quite smoothly in the end.  We chose three very nice freshers to fill up our punt, and had a hilarious breakfast picnic.  By the way we have acquired a flask between us – a pint one 6/6.  It appears the Thermos patent is running out and everyone else is now making them cheaply.  So don’t give too much for yours.

The Moberly is a perfect gem.  In answer to certain requests of ours last term, she informed us last Wednesday that we might smoke in the garden.  Also that it was against the University regulations to walk home after an evening show with an undergrad.  If alone, a cab was usual.  If this failed, one undergrad was better than solitude, if less legal!  If you meet a Proctor, don’t run away!!

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

The next letter will be posted on 16 May2017.

26 April 1920

S. Hilda’s Hall

Oxon.

26.4.20

                My dear Mother,

I arrived quite happily – but with some difficulty – my back tyre having punctured on the way up, so I had to wheel the blessed thing all the way home, as the Oxford taxi refused to take it on.  However I got all my “impedimenta” taken for me in Una’s cab.  I hope Mr Broadbent didn’t bore Daddie over much at Paddington.

I have left simply heaps of things behind – my green cotton frock with the Paisley trimmings, my gray straw hat, two pairs of tennis shoes, one pair of bed room slippers, and a pair of white canvass slippers! Also my rain hat, and the dark blue jumper with the gray collar.  The dress and jumper are in the cup-board in Max’s room, the shoes in my wash-stand cupboard.

Please tell Auntie that my dresses travelled beautifully – they were marvellously packed.  The pink coat looks quite unruffled, also the yellow frock.

The double cherry is still in bloom, though of course it is past its prime.  The lilac is just bursting.  The garden is already collecting its unique smell.  The river is over the garden steps but has gone down a bit since yesterday, so we hope for a possible level for May morning.

Did Daddie tell you that I left my bank-book behind?  You have had it since I went to Lyme Regis.

It is quite fine to-day, but rather windy.  Dorothea is up for this week, as original as ever.  I shall have to ask her to tea.  Had a letter from Mr Bower this morning, quite nice.

Please give my love to all the family.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

The next letter to be posted on 2 May2017.

18 April 1920

at Bow House,

Lyme Regis, 1

Dorset.

18.4.20

                My dear Mother,

Many thanks for the parcel.  I sent one off to you on Friday, containing all I could spare for the wash.  I hope it reached you on Saturday.

We had a bad spell of weather in the middle of last week, which resulted in a violent wind and some magnificent seas.  The Cobb was quite impossible – the sea just treated it as if it were not there, and produced Niagara effects – and the waves sprayed right over the front and that part of the town where the buildings come down to the sea.  Yesterday we had a glorious morning, which we took advantage of to go along the under cliff path which landed us very deep in the mire.  After that – more rain!  This morning began hopelessly but resulted in a really fine day, which we spent on the Cobb, watching two boys and their mother manipulate a ripping little sailing vessel with red sails.  I think Max and I must acquire one some day!

On Friday we ran across Hughie and her father.  We manage to dodge R.O. pretty successfully.  I have had a letter from Phyllis, who wants me to join her and Ethel Salter at Keyham, where Jack has offered them his house for a fortnight from July 22.

We return home via Salisbury in order to inspect the cathedral.  Train arrives at Waterloo at 4.15 p.m. on Thursday.

Much love to Daddie and Max,

Your Loving daughter, Margot.

 

1Surprisingly she does not mention fossils as Lyme Regis played a great role in the evolving understanding of fossil remains.

The next letter will be posted on 26 April 2017.

15 April 1920

at Bow House,

Lyme Regis,

Dorset.

15.4.20

 

My dear Mother

Many thanks for the stockings, the costume, and the knitting, and also for your letter this morning.  I am sending you a few primroses which we gathered this morning.  I hope they will travel safely.  They are mostly buds, so they ought to last quite a long time in water.

We are quite comfortable here – considering.  The food is plain, but quite good, if unvaried.  The house is quite a nice old building that might be made very attractive.  It is composed of two houses, joined together, one of which has a series of bay windows running up the house, the other a series of bow windows.  The dining room and drawing-room have bow windows overlooking the sea, so they are quite nice for sitting in.

The house was full of elderly ladies when we arrived.  Now only two remain, and one of those is off tomorrow.  They were not so uninteresting as they seemed.  One was a Miss Fawcett, B.Sc.1, principal of some London College, but we did not discover which.  There were also two rather tiresome girls, aged 17 and 11, who have now departed, much to everyone’s relief.  We have left a mother and daughter, both very uninteresting.

We were walking along the front on Monday with a friend of Gwen’s who had come over from Charmouth to see us, when we ran into the Head2, her companion, and Miss Carter, followed by a man bearing three suit cases.  Quite a procession, in short.  We have christened R.O. and the companion Dr Johnson and Boswell, as Gwen says the latter always blows the great woman’s trumpet, which makes it easier to talk about them in public, as with B.Sc. and things [?] about one can’t be too careful with names.  We can’t find a suitable appellation for Miss Carter.

We have done a fair amount of walking, in spite of the weather, which makes field paths pretty impossible, but the roads are so pretty here that we don’t really mind.  The Devon and Dorset countries are quite distinct, but both are beautiful;  I think perhaps Devon is fairer.  The primroses just cover the hill-sides and banks of the road, growing in bunches just as they do at Nonnington.  I never saw them so decorative.  The bluebells and cowslips are not quite out yet, but the gorse is in full bloom.

We get quite a lively sea here if there is a wind.  It is great fun walking along the Cobb at high tide and dodging the spray, which comes right over it.

Please give my best love to Daddie and Max.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

PS I have written to Mr Brooker.

1Philippa Fawcett, presumably, whose mother, Dame Millicent, was the campaigner for women’s rights whom Margot had heard speak in her first year at Oxford. As a Newnham College student, Philippa Fawcett caused consternation in the Cambridge Mathematics Tripos by gaining the highest mark at a time when the subject was considered unsuitable for women and women were not members of the university.  She was classified as ‘above the Senior Wrangler’.  When Margot met her she was working for the London County Council Education Department as assistant Director of Education (remarkably at the same salary as a man would have received), developing secondary schools and training colleges, and she took a particular interest in the London Day Training College which became the London University Institute of Education.  What a pity Margot did not realise what an interesting person she had met and perhaps not as old as she took her to be!

2‘The Head’ is the head mistress of her old school, Streatham Hill High School, GPDST, and her name was Reta Oldham.  The Girls Public Day School Trust provided affordable academic education for girls at a time when this was not generally available.  The Trust has dropped the ‘P’ on going completely private.

3B.Sc and things(?):  what this refers to is not known.  The word transcribed ‘things’ is one word written over another and difficult to decipher.

The next letter will be posted on 18 April 2017.

11April 1920

at Bow House,

Lyme Regis,

Dorset.

11.4.20

My dear Daddie,

Very many thanks for the telegram and your letter this morning, and also for the purse and money, etc, all of which arrived quite safely.  The sum of money is quite correct – the odd 10/- is the one you gave me.  I am so thankful the purse turned up all right.  I will certainly write to Mr Brooker.  I suppose he picked it up at Clapham Junction Station.  It is lucky the food forms were in it.

We have had some very nice walks, in spite of the weather, which has been distinctly on the damp side, but with fair intervals.  Yesterday afternoon and evening were, however, beautifully fine.  We have been to Uplyme and Charmouth.  The country is glorious – covered with primroses – the bluebells are not quite out yet, but the cowslips are.  I will send Mother some as soon as they are dry enough to pack.

We get a lovely view of the coast from here, when it is not shrouded in cloud.  We can see Portland Bill quite clearly in the fine intervals.  Our favourite walk is along the Cobb – a quaint kind of harbour which serves the same purpose as a pier, without being so  banal.  There is very little sand here, I shouldn’t call it a good children’s place, except for an Easter holiday.

I haven’t done much work up to date.  Gwen won’t let me.  Also we have to take the fine weather when it comes, and walk while we can.  Still I hope to do some more this week.

Please give my love to Mother and thank her for the parcel.  I will write to her tonight, if I can, or if not – tomorrow.  Much love to Max.

Your loving daughter,

Margot.

The next letter will be posted on 15 April 2017.