“Enjoy every moment while at Roehampton”
Bridget Walton nee Doenhoff (Whitelands, 1956)
Awarded an honorary degree in 2017, Whitelands Alumna Bridget Walton graduated from Whitelands College in 1956 with a University of London Teacher’s Diploma. She currently lives in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Her varied achievements and experiences in multiple fields including education, volunteering, charity and the corporate sector span the decades of her fulfilling and compelling life story.
What was your time like at Roehampton?
I was one of very few students from overseas and probably the only one paying my own fees through a bank loan. I was undoubtedly the only student to be sent down for non-payment of fees since these were delayed in arriving from Barclays, East Africa. I was rescued by Ms Young, my special subject tutor who paid up front until funds arrived. She has always been my favourite memory, since without her help I would never have graduated. I made lasting friends at Whitelands. The Chapel was a focal point. I joined the choir under Ms Hugh-Jones and learnt to appreciate plain song and psalm singing. Since Geography was my special subject, I felt privileged to be able to enjoy field studies, while Ms Young’s encouragement via her teaching and her demo lessons were inspirational. Sport and team games, hockey, tennis and netball were there to be enjoyed while I learnt also to play lacrosse, a sport unknown in Kenya where I had lived.
The lecturers, without exception, were incredibly kind. Ms Frederick, who lived close to us on King’s Road, would bring hot chocolate round if we worked late in the evenings. Sunday afternoons often saw me walk to the lovely home of our Health Lecturer for a cup of tea and some home comfort. Mrs Williams, our Principal and Ms Mackenzie, the Vice Principal, when not on duty, were equally kind to all of us. Being a student at Whitelands, without doubt, left us all with memories to be cherished.
What did you do after you left Roehampton?
On leaving Whitelands, I wrote to the Ministry for Overseas Development and was fortunate to be appointed by them to a teaching post at a Boarding School in Western Kenya. From there, I was transferred to Nairobi. Ten years later, upon getting married, I had to resign from my position and so I moved into Independent Schools. My husband’s situation was on contract and not eligible for pension so the time had come to move. We planned a return to England via South Africa where my husband was employed by The University of the Witwatersrand. After several temporary positions, I was offered an opening at St Andrew’s School, where I eventually became Head in 1982. I feel certain that the position was allied to the fact that the previous Head was a Whitelander (Mary Hunt Lidster, 1942). She was a quite remarkable lady from whom I learnt a great deal.
On retirement, I spent a year teaching all the subjects I had been unable to teach as Head – a promise I had made to my teaching staff – remedial included. I then entered the corporate world – a very different experience and one I believe every teacher ought to pursue at some stage. From there it was back to Education. I worked at our local Head Office for several years. My husband was shot in 2005 and, although he was lucky enough to survive, his health necessitated a move. So, we moved to KwaZulu-Natal, where we are still. I was then invited to assist with Conference organisation. This led to a new and much needed field – teacher development through a National Conference. A colleague at Head Office had started a movement which was similar to OFSTED, although with a huge difference. I was invited to join this organisation – IQAA (Independent Quality Assurance Agency) whereby we would visit Independent Schools to evaluate teaching and learning. On retiring from there I was asked to stay on as a training consultant, which is where I still am, albeit now mentoring and in a voluntary capacity.
How do you feel your experiences at Roehampton benefited you?
Whitelands has indeed served me well. From being a student who still had much to learn, now – 64 years later – I am still involved albeit in a very different capacity. As a family, for the last few years we have been sponsoring needy children in a township school. To watch them develop and thrive has been my reward. Meanwhile for me personally, my continued connection with Whitelands and friendship with Queen Noreen and so many others, which began way back in 1954, are joyful memories indeed.
If you could offer one piece of advice to current students what would it be?
Enjoy every moment while at Roehampton and, thereafter, give back what you have been privileged to receive to the next generation of children.