I have just recently received the very sad news that Maureen Bainbridge, Church High’s Receptionist from the 1980s to 2000, passed away peacefully in hospital on June 30th and wanted to take this opportunity to share this with those of you who may remember her. Maureen, who had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, would have just celebrated her 75th birthday on June 22nd. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t learn of her passing in time to attend the funeral on July 17th. I would very much liked to have been there to pay my respects to her, because I remember Maureen with real fondness.
Always immaculately presented, Maureen’s was the smiling face on the Reception Desk in the ‘old style’ School Office, which used to be directly to your right when you entered the room. I recall there were two chairs to your left which faced it, where visitors could sit. I vividly remember sitting there myself once – presumably waiting to speak to Miss Davies – facing Maureen as she spoke to someone on the phone. She was ringing up to the Staffroom in search of a member of staff at the request of the caller. “I’m sorry,” I can still hear her saying in her rich, beautifully-polite voice, “but nobody is answering the phone.” When she had finished the call, I remember saying to her, “Maureen, no-one is answering it because there is nobody else left up there”, it being well after the end of school. Smiling, Maureen quietly but firmly replied, “Yes, but I need people to know that I have done everything that I can to help them.” This desire to do everything properly was very typical of Maureen. (Even if it did make Teaching Staff sound like they were all ignoring the phone!)
After Maureen retired in July 2000, she and I kept in touch every Christmas and on birthdays. Once or twice I had the pleasure of bumping into her in Town – on one occasion she was with her close friend John McDonald, I recall. You may remember John as Church High’s ever-smiling Catering Manager for a good number of years. Maureen and John shared the same sense of humour and a love of conversation. In a feature entitled ‘Behind the Scenes at Church High’ on page 14 of the 1997 Senior School magazine, the Office and Catering Staff were interviewed by four LV girls who reported that if the secretaries could work for anyone it would be for Church High ‘because they were happy there’. Interviewing a smiling John in his red-striped apron on ‘Fishy Friday’, they noted he ‘obviously had a great love of his job despite his dream of cooking for Shirley Bassey.’ The Support Staff were always key to the warm Church High spirit.
I didn’t know Maureen had become ill, though I was aware I hadn’t heard from her for a while. The years following the announcement of the merger have subsequently all rather seemed to blur into one. On hearing of her death, however, I hunted out the last letter I remember having received from Maureen and was shocked to realise it was in 2013. When I edited the Church High magazine, there was a reason the final five in the rebranded format were called ‘Voices.’ For me, it was very important that the voice of individuals was heard. Because of this, I think the most fitting way I could end this post dedicated to remembering Maureen is to give her the final words. Right down to its feminine flowered notepaper, the last birthday letter that she sent to me – full of breezy snippets of news of those members of the Church High extended family with whom she was still in touch – is so ‘very’ Maureen I’d like to share it with you here. A kind, warm-hearted lady. Maureen will be much missed.