From The Archives: Betty’s Bench

eNews |

Gay Sturt, Dragon Archivist, had often wondered about the memorial bench that she passes while walking around the Dragon fields. Wanting to know more about the Old Dragon it was there for, Gay delved deep into the archives and, by coincidence, received a slim book into the archives last year, newly bound, telling the full story of that very Old Dragon’s life. In this article, we learn more about Dragon girl Betty Hodgkin.

_________________

Betty’s Bench
Gay Sturt, Dragon Archivist

I have often wondered about the memorial bench that I pass walking around the Dragon fields. I now know that it is a memorial to Dragon girl Betty Hodgkin. Looking at the inscription, I realised that Betty had died in the summer of 1927. In the January 1928 Draconian, Skipper told some of the story, however, the final piece of the story came when a copy of a slim book came into the archive last year. It had a new binding and was full of details of her life. Within it was Betty’s final holiday diary.

Betty Hodgkin was due to return to School after the summer, but sadly after having an operation on her appendix, her heart failed. She had been on holiday on the Northumberland coast, one of her family’s special places. She was buried near the castle where the family wanted to have a memorial to her, and it was carefully positioned looking back at the Dragon buildings she knew so well. The words are a little faded. Skipper wrote,

“As the girl who was expected to take up her place as fifth in the School order at just 11 years and 11 months this is a real shock. By the loss of this clever, bright and sensible Dragon the School is left very much the poorer, for Betty was exactly what a girl should be.”

Betty was a good friend to all, and she took great pleasure in playing with her siblings, she loved home and her family most of all.

The family took some time finding the right words to include on the stone bench. They also took real care to find some delightful photographs to be included in a slim book alongside their memories of Betty. Her last Form teacher was G.C. Vassall, the Deputy Head who greatly admired her ability to cope with being one of the twenty girls admitted to the School amongst almost 200 boys. He had enjoyed watching her learning to cope with more difficult work, with no worries. Betty loved poetry and found it easy to remember. Her Latin was excellent and she promised to do well academically. Her father wrote the following piece,

“Someone has written of the three Quaker virtues: of serenity, reticence and sweet reasonableness. Often I used to be proud of the look in her eyes. So direct, yet so gentle and loving and of her self-control. I was reminded of her Quaker ancestors … she seemed to be more of a Howard than of any other ancestors.”

On the final page it reads, “I saw that there was an ocean of darkness and Death; But an infinite ocean of light and love which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that I also saw the infinite love of God.”