I was born on 19/12/1941 and a pupil at Babington House when it was in North Park, Eltham. I started in Form 2, with a Miss Bixby as Form Mistress and remember many of my classmates. Two of them, Heather Lasky and Diane Myers, were boarders and both gave wonderful piano recitals on Speech Day. I left in 1956, with six 'O' levels which, of course, would be on one of the Honours Boards with my name 'Loraine (nee) Klass', if the boards are still alive!!
The Head Mistress and Vice Head Mistress while I was there were Miss Alexandra Nielsen Guthrie Berry – which I noticed on a certificate in her study once – and Miss Hempstead, who also taught Aural Culture and later married the headmaster of Cannock House.
On Speech Day, those of us who had Dancing lessons always performed a reel or two in authentic tartan kilts. The school was closely associated with all things Scottish and there were plenty of McLeans, McLennans, McDonalds, McClouds and a McFarlane-Nithsdale in that community.
The more I think about Babington House, the more esteemed I regard it. It had a wonderful liberal ethic, the staff strove to ensure each child was at ease and, indeed, one of our first set books was Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', which I hope instilled in everyone an indignance against any cultural or racial divisions in the world.
Fast forwarding sixty years – and having three grandchildren of my own now – I did meet a truly Old Babingtonian c 2000, when I escorted my mother to a stroke rehabilitation day centre in Greenwich. The name of this pupil was Nancy Atwood and, while I was 59, Nancy was at least ten years older than me and was also having therapy.
I expect you are aware that when the school first came to Eltham, it was for 'The daughters of Doctors and Solicitors' only. However, after one of the World Wars – not sure if it was I or II – it was open to anyone who was deemed eligible and whose parents/guardians could pay the fees!! I actually found the old, decayed, noticeboard in the long grass, near the changing huts behind the gym, bearing the original gold-embossed specifications!!
I came to Babington House after spending my nursery years in Waverley House, a wonderful, small, private primary school, in a Victorian house, now demolished, on the edge of Sidcup Park.
I think my memory has sharpened on account of achieving my first degree, a BSc (Hons) in Health, at the ripe old age of sixty-six. I had left full-time employment prematurely, at fifty-eight, to care for my mother, who needed 24/7 care and who I couldn't bear to send to a nursing home, and the Local Authority wanted me to spend a few 'respite' hours away from caring duties, so I went to a recruitment evening at Woolwich Polytechnic/College and found myself dragged into the above-mentioned course – though I really wanted to do something in IT!
It was, of course, a six-year course for mature students and it was only a few minutes drive away from my mother's home. I loved every minute of it. I had a huge old 'concrete' computer, bought through my previous employment and was linked in to the Avery Hill Campus Library, so that I could read all the peer-reviewed journals relating to my subjects any time I liked – often from 23.00hrs to c 03.00hrs, with my mother calling down for my help!!
I was no great sport at Babington, though I do still have my Lacrosse stick. However, we did have a marvellous Swiss Gym Mistress when I was about twelve, called Mrs Searle, and in recent years I have realized that she was actually teaching us all the Pilates strokes everyone rates so highly today.
Loraine Saacks (nee Klass) (Mrs)