Back to All News

Alumni know as the Three Musketeers

It has been an absolute pleasure and delight to meet online with former students, Arleen & Georgie who have agreed to be our first joint Featured Alumnae!  Both ladies were boarders between 1954-1960 and recall fabulous memories of their time spent doing their best to study diligently as well as having wonderful, and sometimes mischievous, fun. 

Alumni St. George's

They formed a close bond in school where they were known as the Three Musketeers but what they could never have foreseen was that their friendship would last 66 years (and counting).  Sadly the third member of their trio, Lizzie Gunn (m.Lindsay) died at her home in Cornwall 14 years ago.

Both ladies are now in their 70s and live in the UK.  Arleen, who was widowed 3 years ago, lives in Northwest London and Georgie lives in Devon. Arleen’s early childhood years were spent between India and England where she attended boarding convent schools from the age of 5.  However, aged 11 and on the recommendation of the High Commissioner of India, she was sent to St. Georges where she settled happily for the next six years. Georgie’s family moved to Germany when she was 7 and she boarded in Cologne aged 8.   Two years later, knowing they would shortly be moving to Zurich, her parents decided to send her to St. Georges.
When Arleen and Georgie arrived at St. Georges aged 11 and 10 respectively, it was almost exclusively a boarding school with just a handful of day girls.  There were around 120 pupils and 33 nationalities.

The summer uniform consisted of gentian blue skirts & cardigans, white blouses and white socks and in winter, it changed to grey skirts and cardigans, blue blazers, white blouses and grey socks. Between them Georgie and Arleen have remained in touch with several old girls who, following the international flavour of the school, now live in various parts of the world - Janina de Safrin (UK), Anne Outhwaite (USA), Jill Robertson and Patricia Steven (France).  The ladies would love to have news of their other contemporaries – one of course being Patsy Pierson, a recently featured alumna. During Georgie and Arleen’s six years at school, they had five different Headmistresses; Mrs De Frisching, Miss Southwell, Mrs Pearson, Miss Guy & finally Miss Codrington.  They also had the pleasure of meeting former Principal, Mrs Gaye Zund at school reunions. Arleen commented   “In our time, the school’s academic achievements were nowhere near the amazing academic results of today’s pupils.”  

Their favourite teacher was Mlle Bacque (not the first time we’ve heard this from our Featured Alums!).  She was a charismatic teacher who truly cared about her pupils and knew them all well.  She taught with a strong emphasis on grammar, verbs, pronunciation – and the inevitable dictée!   Her teaching has served both Arleen and Georgie well as Georgie ended up teaching French and Arleen is now a regular French speaker with many French friends. Miss Brameld was an English teacher who inspired Arleen’s love of literature and the English language and Miss Elliott was a maths teacher who Georgie remembers well as an excellent teacher - and Arleen remembers well as someone she nearly drove to distraction! In their day science lessons were non-existent - In fact the science lab was used as a classroom!  They feel this lack of science coverage was a big hole in the curriculum. Some of the UK teachers were young and probably fresh from university and often only stayed for a year or two whereas the French/Swiss teachers who lived locally were part of the community and were able to offer a stable and ongoing sense of continuity to the pupils.  

Throughout their years at St. Georges, staff and fellow-pupils alike always referred to Georgie, Lizzie and Arleen as The Three Musketeers.  By chance, they were in different houses; Lizzie in Diana, Georgie in Atalanta and Arleen in Minerva.  All three were at the school for a very long time, and Georgie and Arleen have many fond memories of their years there particularly the summer term of their 5th form where they were housed in the chalet.   Their earliest memories were of being in the three dorms on the 3rd Floor whose inter-connecting doors were an open invitation for a lot of fairly harmless fun – pillow fights, talcum powder fights and water fights!  Of course all this anarchy was swiftly followed by punishment such as having to stand on the stairs in silence facing the wall for 30 minutes. Other capers included ringing the school bells at midnight as an April fool joke, breaking into the Head’s apartment and, on one occasion, causing a minor fire by burning their O-Level books on a window sill!

“Order” marks were given for minor misconduct and “Conduct” marks for more serious misdemeanours - which led to detention.  These sanctions were very liberally distributed and therefore not taken at all seriously by the pupils - until Miss Codrington arrived!  Girls now had to stand up and declare these marks at assembly which was not only acutely embarrassing but brought shame on their house.  The result was a very rapid decline in these disciplinary marks! The most exciting event of the school year was the school play, particularly an ambitious musical production of Humperdink’s Hansel & Gretel where Georgie and Arleen were among the little ones chosen to play Gingerbread children.  All school productions and any visiting concerts and performances took place in the gym and the students were expected to get the hall ready by putting chairs out for the audience. Sports consisted of netball and rounders and of course skiing twice a week in winter at Rochers de Naye and Col des Mosses.  Swimming was in the lake which was considered warm enough when there was no snow on the Grammont – the water was a bone-chilling 12 to14 degrees!!

Every morning all the girls had to do “The Run” which was a set route round the school perimeter.  Although originally it was run, by the time The Three Musketeers joined the school, it had become a brisk walk starting at 8:10am.   They were expected to be back and ready for registration by 8:30am.   One of their favourite lessons was “Travaux”, craft classes taught in the art studio in the Chalet and included such things as making rugs, raffia baskets and clay pots.  Although “Dessin” was also on the agenda, very little drawing and painting took place because craft work was so popular. Among the customs of the time, changing for supper was compulsory and no-one was allowed into the dining room if still in uniform.   There was a bath rota with an allocated 15-minute slot three times a week.  In the pre-duvet era when there were blankets and bedspreads, the dorms were inspected daily and marked out of 10 for tidiness - with the winning dorm getting a cake at the end of term!

In those days when pupils reached the age of 16.5 (after O levels), they automatically became a “Junior Student" when they were given certain privileges such as having their own Common Room - and smoking!!   An exception was made for Georgie and, in her final term, although she was only 15.5, she was allowed to join her Junior Student friends.  Pupils automatically became “Students” at 17.5 which meant they had some additional privileges such as staying out late. Travel to and from the UK for holidays involved a long overnight train journey and then a Calais/Dover ferry crossing to England.  The group was known as the “English Party” and was accompanied by a couple of long-suffering teachers who had to rein in the high jinks of a dozen or so over-excited girls – who once even threw a shoe out of the window! Arleen’s memories of St. George’s are of a place where she had wonderful fun to the extent that she would count down the number of days left of her holiday until she would be back at school.  It was there that she found stability and order after a rather turbulent childhood and, most importantly, it was there that she made life-long friends, in particular Georgie and Lizzie.
After leaving school the lives of The Three Musketeers took very different paths but their friendship never wavered. 

Georgie took A levels in the UK and subsequently went to Bristol University where she read modern studies including politics, French and German.  She followed this with a PGCE course and taught for a year.  After that she had a couple of “gap” years when she was a cruise cook sailing out of Salcombe in Devon where she met her husband.   After having her own three children, she did regular supply teaching.   She now has five grandchildren. Arleen went to Pitmans College where she did a secretarial course and at the same time studied for A levels.  She worked as a secretary for a few years and shortly after her marriage she branched out into business with her husband, running first an employment agency then a travel agency and finally a printing and stationery company which they sold in 2005.  She is currently busy with a property business.  She has two daughters and two grandchildren. Lizzie joined the WRNS where she met her husband who was also in the Navy.  They lived in Singapore and Malta and finally settled in Cornwall with their two children where they ran a village store.  Lizzie always remained the effervescent, noisy, bubbly, scatty person her contemporaries will remember – but she could also be very serious, loved classical music and was very devout.  She will always be remembered with deep affection by Arleen and Georgie. The school Matron, Miss Bamford, moved into a retirement home in Plymouth where Georgie and Lizzie visited her on many occasions.  She remained an indomitable force well into her 90’s Georgie and Arleen feel that in spite of their rather patchy education, St. George’s taught them invaluable life skills such as the importance of mixing well with people of all nationalities, backgrounds and cultures.

The Three Musketeers revisited St George’s several times including the 70th anniversary celebrations in 1997 where they met up again with old friends and staff – which of course resulted in long, indulgent and nostalgic reminiscences recalling old times!   They also celebrated the 40th anniversary of their friendship by returning to Switzerland on a private visit. Their advice to students now is to enjoy one’s youth, do the best you can, don’t waste time, have confidence in your instincts - and don’t take life too seriously! 
Both ladies agree that their goals now are to enjoy a quiet and orderly life with their children and grandchildren and to profit from good health.
Enormous thanks to both Arleen & Georgie for their time and commitment contributing to this article.  It’s been a pleasure to work alongside you both.