Old West Downs Society – Memories of the Cornes Era, 1954-1988

From Nick Hodson, O.W.D. Society Membership Secretary

Miss Maisie Richardson

Miss Richardson died two weeks ago, and the funeral took place at Christ Church, Winchester on Friday 21st August. Flowers were sent on behalf of the OWD Society by David Howard and by myself. The School was represented by Margaret Horrocks (K.B.T.’s last School Secretary and J.F.C.’s first), David Howard (Hon Sec OWD Society), the Severns, Su Taylor, Ellen Nicoll, Paddy Holman and Ray and Jerry Cornes.

David Howard was very impressed with the Address which was given by Jerry Cornes. I wrote to Jerry to ask if he would let me have the text of his Address for enclosure in any letters I was sending out to OWDs of her period at West Downs.

Jerry replied that the congregation had included representatives of many other strands of her life, and so not all of what he had said would be of interest to OWDs. Instead, he sent me this special message to OWDs:-

Every OWD who was at the School between 1944 and 1979 will remember with love and respect Miss Richardson, M.E.R. For 110 terms she was the Form Mistress of Lower School I, starting you off on Latin and making sure that you wrote a legible hand. Outside the classroom you will remember her as the prompter in all the Plays and Musicals, and, for many years after the Tindalls left, as the Sacrist in our Chapel, in charge of all the arrangements, with a boy Sacristan to help her.

She was the person behind the scenes, playing a humble but essential role, in issuing textbooks and copybooks, at the entrance issuing money when there was a Fête, always there, utterly reliable, with an incredible memory of Old Boys on Founder’s Day. What they may not have known was that all her work was done under the burden of continual pain in her back. And in her last years her knees were also painful. So she had tremendous courage, as well as total commitment to the welfare of her pupils and the School. She had a sense of duty which animated everything in her life, for example out of school looking after her mother, who lived with her until her death at the age of 95.

On a personal note I will always be grateful to her for her wise advice, not only on who to promote to a higher form, but generally over the running of the School. Far from being a Diehard she positively welcomed changes if they were sensible, and her loyalty was absolute.

She died in August 1992, in her own bed, in her own apartment, just drifting away. Over the years she and Mlle. Carrère became our closest West Downs friends. She is irreplaceable.