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Post-War Airthrie

As the war came to an end so did the era of Mrs. Browne. In 1945 she died and Joey took over as the mother-figure of the school. Miss Weldon, who was known as ‘Woody’, became Joey’s second-in-command. She was to be a great help and friend to Joey until her death in the mid 70s.

Despite the war being over, rationing continued apace in England. At Airthrie the children all ate their meals together in what is now Rowan. In the corner stood a trolley with all the sweet and sugar rations – the handing out of which was one of the highlights of the school day! (Food rationing continued until at least 1956).

It was after the war that uniforms were introduced for the first time: a Royal Blue blazer and a Velour hat. A pupil at the time, Mary Vaughan, remembers that she was very proud of having the second largest hat – and hence head – in the school!

Harry Malone's Report from 1956, illustrating how a successful career is so rarely identified through early school reports

Despite the difference of those days from today’s 21st century, some things never change: Arithmetic and Spelling were still essential components of the school day! Other subjects were more unusual, however, such as Scripture, Elocution, Handwork, Nature and Dancing! School reports were also a bit different. The reports of Robert Sims, who was a pupil at Airthrie in the 1940s, have spaces left for the teacher to fill in the child’s weight at the beginning and end of term – the early beginnings of nutritional development! Aside from the onerous task of weighing their charges, however, the teachers seemed to have had a much better time of school reports in those days: simple one-liners or just a single word such as “Good.” “Fair,” or “Careless” listed next to the subject heading was sufficient. How different from now!

Musical tastes differed tremendously too. Rupert Nichol, a pupil from 1952 to1956 remembers one child leaving his teacher in tight-lipped dismay having played ‘Rock around the Clock’ on the old upright piano in what is now Ash. Newly imported rock and roll was considered to be shockingly inappropriate!

As Airthrie was at that time a boarding school, as well as day, life at Airthrie did not merely comprise the school day, but was all encompassing. The children had to be looked after and entertained during the weekends as well as during the week. Often, they would be taken on walks around Cheltenham and Montpellier. A special treat was to be taken to the station. At the time, Cheltenham had two railways – the one on Lansdowne Road and also one in Malvern Road. These were the home of “The Cheltenham Flyer” which, from 1932 – 1935, had held the unchallenged title of the world's fastest train.

Julia Somerville, in turn, tells of the fun that she had with a junior rebel, Brian Jones, later to be a founder member of the Rolling Stones.

During this time, many pupils have fond memories of Joey’s reign. She was the person to whom everybody came with their problems which she dealt with in her study at the front of the building. In the corner of her study was Airthrie’s first television set. Rupert Nichol avidly remembers seeing the Queen’s visit to Nigeria in 1956 on it – the first time he had ever watched television. He also remembers being bathed by Joey in the flat upstairs. And sleeping in the same dormitory as Julia Somerville, the television news presenter, who was also a boarder at Airthrie at that time! John Bate-Williams remembers Joey Browne as a lovely headmistress – although one very practised in the art of getting her own way with her charges. He recalls 1959, the year in which, due to his grandfather’s illness, he was forced to be a boarder:

“ Joey was a very good blackmailer - if I didn't cry too much during the week, missing my mum, she would take me down to a toy shop in Winchcombe Street on the Saturday and buy me a Corgi or Dinky toy ! She was such a super lady”