At the end of 2022, we received a phone call from Matilda, a history student at Royal Holloway University who found this book at a monthly book sale in a church in Egham, Surrey. When she returned to her room later that night she discovered the poem inside, handwritten by Barbara E Nicholls, a pupil at Shrewsbury High School, dated September 1942.
A mixture of homesickness and natural intrigue as a history student led Matilda to research Barbara. Although she hasn’t managed to find Barbara, she did discover that this little book had managed to leave Shrewsbury, travel on the S.S Twickenham in WWII, and return to England, ending up in the hands of a history student 70 years later.
Shrewsbury High School librarian Alex Hale was able to piece together a bit more of the story from former school magazines which explained a bit more about the school’s links with the SS Twickenham:
1946 school magazine: The school adopted S. S. Twickenham in 1942 and parcels of books, magazines, razor blades and cigarettes were sent in time for Christmas each year. Captain Cromarty was in regular correspondence with the school, writing with descriptions of the many places around the world the ship had visited. When the ship docked at Plymouth, Captain Cromarty had one of the ship’s life buoys painted with the school colours, the ship owner’s colours and the name of the ship. This, along with eight tins of grapefruit juice, was sent to the school as a thanks for the many parcels that the crew had received over the years. It was hung in the Old Hall next to the ship’s noticeboard.
1948 school magazine: The S. S. Twickenham docks at Newport and twelve students are taken on a trip to see the ship and meet with the Captain. They were allowed to look through a sextant to find the position of the sun: ‘some of us did see a very disappointing looking sun, but others, I think, were looking in the wrong direction.’
1949 school magazine: The school was still being inspired by its connection to the S. S. Twickenham and launched a competition for ‘best-made boat from odds and ends’.
If anyone knows Barbara Nicholls, please do get in touch. Email email@example.com
Barbara was not the only SHS pupil who loved Classics – Professor Dame Mary Beard is an alumna of SHS and we recently found her copy of “Aristophanis – Aves” in our archives.
Our current Latin and Classics students are looking forward to welcoming stand-up comedian and broadcaster Natalie Haynes to Shrewsbury High School on Friday 17th March from 2.15pm to 4.00pm. Natalie is best known for her retelling of ancient myths, and will be talking about her latest book ‘Stone Blind’ all about the life of Medusa.