Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Now my mind strays to Fifi Hawthorne our formidable Headmistress, flapping around in her academic robe at all times and accompanied by Goober? the wheezing cattle dog. She remains for me the epitome of a head teacher, imperious, sharp, capable of kindness and inseparable from her role. Crinkled grey bun, half-moon glasses, saggy stockings and a temper like the crack of a whip. We were much tickled that her mother was reputedly a dancing girl, how on earth could we have known that?

Miss Epstein the English teacher and inseparable friend of Fifi, tiny, thin, dyspeptic, and crushing, but we respected her and loved her. Sexy Lexy the Geography teacher (so called by Minty and Elaine Speigel and that whole fearless crowd in the class ahead).
Dear Mrs Evans, such a good teacher that I could actually speak French when I got to France. Miss Coburn, whose Biology class I loved (actually I loved Geography too), and Mrs Ross and fascinating Science which I had to abandon as in those days we chose between Science and History at a shockingly early stage, so I was left to the mercies of fierce, charismatic Miss McLean, a brooding Sapphic presence worthy of a novel, and when she left to become a headmistress her particular friend in our year left as well. I loved Latin lessons with Fifi too, though I did not distinguish myself.

The library was shameful, small, dusty and ill-supplied, but the house and grounds were beautiful, a proper Australian colonial house with enormous flagged verandas and high ceilings, cool halls.


Blogger suscipe said...

We knew about Fifi’s mother because she was an old friend of my grandmother. She lived in Northbridge and I used to visit her. I think she was described to me as an actress, but the Fifi suggests a racy side. Fifi actually went to live in the same house after she retired. She invited me there once, all sweet sherry for lunch and flipping through photos.
From Paddy via email

3:33 PM  
Blogger suscipe said...

My sister’s favourite memory of the library was Alanna Conlon asking for it to be opened before school started. Fifi agreed but added the caveat “if nobody uses it, it will be closed”. Fifi obviously never belonged to the encouraging, nurturing school. I remember all those ancient Encyclopedia Britannicas etc.
Paddy again

3:43 PM  
Blogger haggar_page said...

Her dog's name was Gooby...One poor miscreant was sentenced to follow Fifi around all day, and some wit pinned a notice to the back of her tunic: 'The New Gooby".
Carolyn Page (68)

6:48 AM  
Blogger Philippa said...

I enjoyed your post about the teachers; especially Fifi and Miss Maclean. I was a student at Kambala from 1956-1961 (Alanna Conlon's year) and also did Ancient History.

I'm currently putting together a 'Memory/Life Stories' book for our 50th reunion in October and wondered if I could include your blog- with credits of course.
Philippa Lipscomb (nee Power)

6:08 PM  

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