Norwood, Class of 1966

Charlotte MacDonald (Clegg)

Charlotte shares a tapestry of memories from Claremont School, including 'Beatle Mania', the big freeze of 1963 and English lessons with Mrs Becker:

“I count myself extremely fortunate to have spent four years at Claremont.  I was a day girl from the summer term in 1960 to the end of the summer term in 1964.  To be a teenager at the beginning of the ‘sixties was to be in the vanguard of the sea-change for which this decade became known, with new ideas in fashion, design of all kinds, and of course, music. The Liverpool Sound was sweeping across the country and up the music charts, and we soon claimed it as our own.

One stand-out musical memory I have happened during my Lower Fifth year. A concert was to be held in the hall of The Close. Three friends and I, being avid Beatles fans, thought it would be fun to entertain the staff and school by dressing up as the famous four, and getting on stage to do a tribute set, miming to their music.  Surprisingly, the idea was approved and we set about rehearsing and deciding who would be who.  My best buddy Cathrine P played Paul, Karen DG was John, I was George, and Cathy E was on drums as Ringo.”

“We had the most brilliant time! The music blared, our miming stayed true to the playing style of each Beatle, and we could see the assembled audience enjoying it all.  However, our somewhat ambitious plan to play four numbers did not come off. Towards the end of song two, a senior member of staff, having reached the wings with unaccustomed speed, commanded us to stop.  I’m just sorry no-one took a photo of this ground-breaking performance, but the memory has lasted all this time in glorious technicolour.

I have a host of vivid recollections of my time at Claremont. In the winter of 1963, the Big Freeze arrived.  Milbourne Lane and the hill up to the Mansion were impassable, so day girls were dropped at the gate.  In the company of my sister Philippa, and car-sharers Sally M and Alexandra and Carolyn P, we trudged on foot.  On reaching the cloakroom, my fingers would be frozen stiff around the handle of my school bag. The upside to this chilly state of affairs was that games lessons were off, and tobogganing was on! We were allowed to walk to the lake and spend some time sliding down the hillside and across the frozen water, by any means available.  I must have had gloves by this time!

Other memories, which come to mind like mini videos, are as follows: playing Elvis Presley’s “His Latest Flame” on my guitar in our cavernous below-stairs cloakroom which had amazing acoustics; singing Brian Hyland’s “Ginny Come Lately” with Cathy P as we walked to and from The Close and the Mansion (which we did a lot!) perfecting our harmonies; playing my guitar and singing with my sister at a Christmas concert a little song I had made up called “Carol Calypso”;  Rosalind P (in the year above) teaching me some ballroom dance steps so I could acquit myself passably at an upcoming Fan Court Old Boys’ summer dance; playing my adaptation of a Herb Alpert hit as a piano duet with Jane R  –  fun to do but barely suitable as a march for leaving Assembly;  the summer aroma of cut grass wafting through the Upper Fifth form windows after Mr Milbourne, the groundsman, had skilfully raced round the lawns with his mowing equipment; the feeling of pride I felt when it was announced in Assembly that my sister was to become Head Girl.” 

“It would appear that my school memories have nothing to do with lessons!  However, I do  remember well Mrs Becker’s sparkling English lessons, how she brought Jane Austen’s novels and William Shakespeare’s plays alive, and prepared us well for our exams.  It was the same in Scripture lessons with Miss Groser, and those two subjects gave me my best grades from the clutch of subjects I passed at ‘O’ Level. These exams brought to a close my time at the school. 

I hope these reminiscences will happily jog the memories of the girls I have mentioned, and the ones I haven’t, all of whom contributed in colourful ways to those precious years at Claremont.”