A FORTIETH anniversary reunion is being organised this summer for the September 1959 intake at Eastbourne Secondary Modern Girls School in Darlington.

These young ladies were unleashed on to an unprepared world in December 1962 and the Easter and July of 1963, having studied under the formidable headmistress, Miss Norah Fenby.

"School uniform was a navy gabardine mac, a navy tunic/ skirt with a white blouse, a navy cardigan/ jumper and navy underwear," recalls Jennifer Wilkinson who is organising the reunion and now lives in Australia.

"During summer there was no uniform, but striped, checked or polka dot dresses were usually worn.

"Miss Fenby often said: 'We are all penny plains, not two-penny coloureds'."

Miss Fenby was the niece of Sir Charles Starmer, the man who saved The Northern Echo in 1902 and who became mayor of Darlington twice. Her father, Skelton Fenby, came from Loftus to Darlington after the First World War. He became a councillor, lived in Ashcroft Villa in the heart of the West End, was mayor in 1947-48, and had a street named after him.

Norah started teaching in 1917 but came to Darlington in 1923 to Beaumont Street School.

When Eastbourne opened in 1936, she moved there and became headmistress in 1939 - a post she retained until she retired in 1963.

Jennifer Wilkinson remembers: "An assembly was held each morning with girls marching to form vertical lines of each class down the hall, the smallest at the front to the tallest at the back.

"Once all the school had assembled, Miss Fenby would walk down the aisle in the middle and on to the stage. As she walked down, a quiet hush followed her.

"Just occasionally, she wore shoes with a rubber or sponge sole so that if you were busy chatting, she was on the stage before the quiet hush. She would then inform the school that as she had had to wait for us it was our turn to wait for her, and she promptly left the hall.

"During the time waiting for her to return, you could hear the proverbial pin drop."

The reunion for those who left in 1963 is being held at Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Social Club, in Neasham Road, on July 30, starting at 6.30pm.

If you would like any further information, please write to Jennifer Wilkinson, 92 Hagelthorn Street, Wont-haggi, Victoria, Australia 3995, or e-mail jennifer. doddsadm.monash.edu.au

If it's easier, or you have any memories of the wonderful Miss Fenby, please contact Echo Memories direct.

IN December we featured a picture of the Darlington students who, in 1970, staged a play entitled the Darlington Martyr. The picture led us to the gory details of how the Reverend George Swalwell was hung, drawn and quartered in the Market Place - the last public execution in Darlington.

One of those on the 1970 picture was Alan Jewell, and via the wonders of the Internet, Alan has just discovered that we've been writing about him.

He moved south to teach at Maidstone, Kent, and in 1988 took up an English post at Elizabeth College, in Guernsey, where he is now head of year.

"I still have family living in Darlington, but it is many years since I last visited," he says. "I certainly pre-date the Dolphin Centre!

Fired up to help in war effort

A FEW weeks ago, Echo Memories included a picture of some 1950s firemen on parade in Darlington's Market Place.

On parade that day was Tommy Kelsey who was a member of the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) from 1940 to 1953. As a plater at Whessoe, his was a protected occupation, and his role in the AFS was his contribution to the war effort.

Tommy's widow, Evelyn, recalls that the AFS was on parade every Sunday morning. He also had to report for an exercise one night every week. His busiest time came before Evelyn met him in 1942, when the Battle of Britain was at its height.

"His mother told me once that he was called out of work one day and he was away from home for three days, and when he came back he said he had been fighting fires in Coventry," recalls Evelyn.

"He went all over - Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Sunderland and Sheffield."

They met when Evelyn started war work at Whessoe, and were married in June 1943.

"I had an aunt who lived in Sheffield and she couldn't come to the wedding, so a few days afterwards we went to see her," says Evelyn.

"When we got off the bus, Tommy said he had been there before - he recognised the church. Then when we turned a corner, he said he had been in the street before, and that he had thrown a burning mattress out of the window of the house over there. And, blow me, it was my aunt's house!"

She didn't remember him, nor he her, but she said an incendiary bomb had been dropped on her house. It had gone straight through the roof and landed on the front bed and it was just the mattress that had caught on fire. There was no other damage done.

"What a coincidence!"

Hot cross buns remind us of home, despite the storms

Jonathan Moscrop grew up in the Albert Hill area of Darlington, where his family were ironworkers.

In the late-1870s, heavy industry was hit by a recession which reduced many working-class people to poverty.

Jonathan and his friends the Matthews family decided to emigrate to a new life in New Zealand. This is the tenth extractfrom the diary he kept on his voyage.

Easter finds Jonathan Moscrop to the south of Australia thinking of chapel services back in Darlington and hoping for a first sight of his new home

Sunday, April 6, 1879 (Palm Sunday)

There is a strong breeze today and the sea is very high and sometimes being level with the rail at the stern of the ship. We have run 264 miles during the last 24 hours and are still going at a good speed. I have not been much on deck today because the water was coming over the rail now and again but still I did not escape for a sea broke over amidships about 6pm and while I was running away I fell on the deck and got a slight dose (just like my luck).

Tuesday, April 8

The wind has sprung up this evening and is blowing nearly a gale and the rain is pelting down in torrents causing us to keep below.

Wednesday, April 9

A tremendous sea broke over about amidships this afternoon and swept some of the upgrown people off their feet and nearly smothered them, the water being two or three feet deep on deck (luckily for me I was not in that lot). We have run 276 miles in the last 24 hours and will soon be abreast of Western Australia as we are now in latitude 47 degrees 24S and longitude 104 degrees 55E.

Friday, April 11 (Good Friday)

The morning is fine but cold, the ship is running very steady so that there is some pleasure in being on deck. A strong breeze sprung up from the port side which is sending us along at a spanking rate and keeping the ship very steady. I was thinking about Nestfield (Albert Hill in Darlington) tonight and wondering if there would be a tea party at chapel and if so how many old friends and acquaintances would be there while we are traversing the mighty ocean. There was a hot cross bun for each of us this morning but I must say they were very very wee ones.

Sunday, April 13 (Easter Sunday)

The wind is blowing nearly a gale so that seamen are busy taking in sail, the sea is breaking over the forecastle and sometimes coming down our place.

There has been some wet jackets on deck today.

Tuesday, April 15

We have had another sale by auction this afternoon being the best of the season and I must admit that there was nothing but good rubbish sold.

Wednesday, April 16

The morning is very foggy with light wind and sea very smooth, we are going along very well. We have been busy today washing our bunks and the other woodwork in our place so that it will present a good appearance when we get to land as the commissioners will examine the ship.

Friday, April 18

Still we are going well. The seamen have got cable chain out and got the anchors 'atrip', ready for dropping - it is the custom to do so when the ship is about 200 miles from the nearest part of the land. We have run 270 miles in the last 24 hours we are running about 12 knots per hour. I expect we shall see land early tomorrow.