Thursday, May 26, 2011

One Mystery Solved

If you've followed along with recent posts, you know that I have been trying to solve some family mysteries. (See May posts: The Kindness of Strangers and Family Mysteries).  Well, I haven't solved the biggest one, which is "Whatever Happened to Arthur Simm?" That one will take a long time to unravel - if we ever do! I can report though, that I have solved the mystery of what boarding school my mother was attending in England when she was evacuated to Beaumaris, Wales at the start of WWII.

The Liverpool Blue Coat School,
 looking much less intimidating than
in days of old!

The combined help of Jackie from the Beaumaris Town Council, Tony from The Blue Coat Brotherly Society, and Rachel from Liverpool Schools led to being able to confirm that Mom was a student at the Liverpool Blue Coat School from 1937 to 1939. This was a "charity" boarding school for orphans and fatherless children. The entire school was evacuated to Beaumaris, Wales at the start of the war.

As part of Operation Pied Piper, more than three million schoolchildren were removed from major English cities and sent to the country - ripped from their families and placed in foster homes. Some stayed only for a few months, but others were parted from their families for the duration of the war - five or six years! My mother was already separated from her family - her mother was in the U.S. working as a governess, her father had run off (making my mother a "fatherless child"), and there she was, a 14-year-old American-born girl alone in an English boarding school.

While my mother's childhood had been one of disruption and abandonment to this point, the evacuation actually gave her an interlude of freedom and happiness. She was placed in a nice home on the waterfront in Beaumaris, with a kind older woman who had a maid. From what Mom wrote later in an essay about her experience, it is clear that this was one of the happiest times of her life so far.

Finding Mom's school means that we may now find  people (alive!) who were also there at that time. They can tell us what it was like to be a student at the school. Perhaps someone will even remember Mom. We might find someone who was evacuated with her. I'd like to find out what house she lived in and with whom, in Beaumaris.

It's a wonderful moment, filling in this huge missing piece of our puzzle. It opens up a whole new world - Are there photographs of the school and students in 1939? Is Mom in any photographs? What was the school like then? Was it Dickensian, with a stern headmaster and a Nurse Rachet-type matron? Did my mother have to wear those odd half-Amish/half Junior Nun outfits that I've seen in pictures? Can I see my mother's report card?

What else will we find out?


  1. I'm loving following along with your mystery, Melissa.
    Are you aware that I live in Albuquerque? We should meet for lunch one day, yes?

  2. Karen - yes, let's! I'll let you know if I'm coming that way, and you let me know if you are coming to Santa Fe, and we'll do it.

  3. Many possible story lines are starting to develop!!

  4. That's fantastic. It must be amazing to uncover so much interesting family history.

  5. This is so exciting and the best part of it is finding out that she found happiness in a situation that could have been so stressful for her. Good luck with locating some of her friends. Keeping my fingers firmly crossed for you.

  6. That is so lovely that you have managed to uncover this mystery, and it is great to hear that your mother had a good experience while she was there. I hope you are able to find more pieces of the puzzle.

  7. This is so amazing! I'm glad you are beginning to solve the mystery of your mother's missing years. Wishing you much success in putting together all the puzzle pieces.


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