by Jez Bond

This weekend I travelled, with my family, to The Wirral for my grandmother’s memorial service in the picturesque church of beautiful Caldy. This was the village where in 1958 she risked everything, took out a loan and bought Avalon – a school which, over the following three decades she turned into one of the most successful girls schools in the region.

It made me very proud this weekend when I met many of the so called ‘Bond Girls’ – ladies, now in their late 30s, 40s and 50s, who my grandmother helped to shape at a crucial stage of their lives. There were a great deal of memories and stories floating around and many were shared with us in readings during the service and at the reception at the school afterwards.

One afternoon, one of the house captains (later head girl and now headmistress of a Merchant Taylor school) was asked by the much respected and often feared ‘Mrs Bond’ to assist in various sports day tasks, which would take anyone a fair amount of time to arrange. My grandmother left her to it and returned fifteen minutes later to enquire whether the house captain had completed her duties. The house captain explained that she was about half way through. My grandmother immediately announced that she must feeling illl, promptly reversed her car up the drive, put her inside and drove her home. The girl was off school for two days. “I wasn’t ill at all” she told me today (some thirty years later) “just a little incompetent”.

We were very kindly given a tour by a lovely teacher who lives across the road and still teaches occasionally at the school. We saw a medium sized classroom that had been the tiny school hall and makeshift theatre for all their performances. Painted over blocks of wood screwed into the ceiling were remnants of the wings – and ex teachers and pupils eagerly told us how they remember bits of sets and curtains nailed to these supports. It was here where my father and uncle wrote and often directed all the school plays and I could almost see it all these year later.

We then headed upstairs to where my grandmother used to live. In her study she came up with the idea of writing papers in order to help her pupils with their 11+ exams. She used to issue them out and drill everyone on the various subjects. These became the Bond Assessment Papers, and were presented to Nelson the publishers (now Nelson Thorne). They decided to publish them under the genderless name J M Bond, as it was assumed that it those days the papers would not have sold if written by a woman! They are still in existence today and even friends of mine have written to tell me that their children are using them. It seems that she is continuing to help so many people’s education. Her legacy lives on – as indeed it does here at the Park Theatre where, like her, we have taken the road less travelled and boldly started an epic journey. Through the power of theatre I will strive to inspire as many people as she has over the many years. Tough shoes to fill, but then, genetically, I guess I’ve got good feet!

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