Meg’s Diary 1939

by Margaret Taylor, age 25 years
April to September 1939

Meg is still studying to qualify as a doctor at the London School of Medicine. She gets to perform her first surgical operation.

Everything changes at the outbreak of World War II

(Second edition: updated 20th Sept 2020)

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Sunday April 30th 1939

Bulkeley and I have just spent a wonderful day in the country staying with Miss Ross, to collect foliage for decorating the common room of L.S.M. for a formal dinner. I have just written about it at length in my letter home and as it is a day I want to remember, I am going to reiterate it all here. 

We left hospital soon after 4 pm, taking our pyjamas and toothbrushes according to instructions! Miss Ross drove us out at a furious rate, and although it was showery the bright intervals between the showers were glorious. She lives at Herons Gate, about 20 miles out of London and near Watford and Rickmansworth. The house was a small one not far from the main road, but so secluded that it was difficult to realise that civilisation was anywhere near.

We met Miss Ross’s sister on our arrival, and though we smile at our Miss Ross and think she dresses rather oddly, it was difficult to refrain from laughing outright at her sister. She had a khaki outfit on, tunic and short skirt and the collar of a shirt-like garment strongly resembling pyjama tops appeared at the neck. She had a long thin face with parchmenty skin and very wrinkled like our Miss Ross’s, but she was much stouter, in fact almost barrel-shaped, and her hair was not cut in an Eton-crop, but stood out wavy and stiff all round like a greyish golliwog’s.  Her voice was identical with Miss Ross’s – very deep and strong, in fact we never knew which was speaking when they were both in the room.

Our Miss Ross soon changed into her house clothes, and though they did not seriously rival her sisters they were outstandingly countrified. We wondered whether all Scotswomen at home in their highlands dressed similarly.

Anyway we thanked our stars that we could let all visiting manners fly to the winds, and felt at home immediately.

We were each provided with a pair of strong pruning pliers and taken out within five minutes of our arrival. Miss Ross pointed out the best woods for birches and beeches and directed us as to what to do when we got lost! She then said come back when we wanted to, and they could keep supper for us, and left us standing at the top of the open field behind her house, gazing across at the miles of greenery in front.

The country was really interestingly lovely. We met a gypsy encampment at the end of the lane and they said “Good evening, Miss” as we passed. The pony did not look so polite, but he didn’t do anything. There were whole carpets of bluebells and some clumps of primroses scattered about, and more violets than I have ever seen growing wild. We climbed fences and clambered over gates and through hedges. It started raining pretty hard at one time, but we just couldn’t waste time sheltering, but turned our coat collars up and took no more notice. We cut heaps of birches and beech boughs and as we hadn’t any string it was difficult to carry them, but we only enjoyed carrying them more because of it, and even having to toss the bundles over the gates and hedges before climbing them was great fun. We did not go back till it was nearly dark and as we crossed the field to the back gate of the house several of the cows we passed started following us, and we wondered frantically whether they were merely expecting us to feed them with our hard-won foliage, or whether they didn’t like the look of us and would charge. We certainly covered the last 20 yards at more than normal walking pace and were glad to shut the gate impolitely in their faces as they arrived there about 2 seconds after we did.

Supper was badly cooked by the other Miss Ross but we were ravenous and enjoyed every bit of it. Afterwards we sat by the log fire and listened to the news, and then helped Miss Ross by reading through and checking the references in the latest edition of her textbook, which is in the process of being printed.

Bulkeley had first bath and went to bed fairly early as she was tired and was conserving her strength for finals on Monday.

Later Miss Ross made tea and we all had a cup before retiring. My bedroom was small, and the walls were whitewashed blue. There were two windows, and a veranda in front of one of them. Both looked out onto miles of countryside, and I hadn’t the heart to close the curtains though leaving them open made the room rather light, and the moon was reflected in the panel of glass in the wardrobe.

I slept so soundly that it took me several minutes to remember where I was after Bulkeley had shaken and me awake about 7 a.m. We dressed in about three minutes and set off to collect bluebells to carry back with us. Miss Ross called out to us as we were going that we could take an apple each out of the apple shed at the end of the garden. We accepted the offer with relish, and the apples were heavenly. The wood was still very wet and frosty, and the fields looked so much more inviting in the sunshine that we walked a long way across them before we returned to the woods and the bluebells. Miss Ross came out with one of the Sealyhams, to collect us for breakfast, and after breakfast we tied up the branches in bundles and stowed them away in the car. Then we waved goodbye to Miss Ross’s sister and had a hilarious ‘zooming’ ride back to London and sanity. We are both longing to be asked out there again!


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Sunday, June 11, 1939

I feel really worn out just now, and am joyfully anticipating 10 days or a fortnight’s holiday at home, to start tomorrow. The main reason has been futile worrying over Mum’s thyroid trouble. About three weeks ago, like a bolt from the blue, came a letter asking advice about which surgeon to consult, as she had been having ‘attacks’ of pain in the neck and some mild pressure symptoms.

This worried me very much indeed, for although I guessed the reason for the symptoms was very probably an oedema with recurrent haemorrhage into it, I just could not get the possibility is malignancy out of my head; and I had heard that Aunt Jessie died of something sounding suspiciously like a malignant thyroid.

Then came the relief of Mr Cooke’s report, and the knowledge, too, that he was such a charming person and an absolutely reliable and able surgeon. I arranged my holiday so that I could go home just before Mums had to go into hospital; but the day before my scheduled departure came a letter from Miss Mollen calling me to an interview with the Scholarships Committee on Monday June 12th –  two days after Mum’s operation.

It was impossible to return for the interview for less than £1, so I have just to make the best of staying up here during the weekend, when I would have been of the most use at home, and when I was longing to be near at hand to hear of her progress. Daddy rang me up last night to say that Mr Cooke was very pleased with Mums, and that she had had paraldehyde pre-op and was sleeping peacefully when he saw her in the afternoon. Podge’s high-pitched little voice chattering away was a real tonic, but to hear from Dad that he had been in to see Mum made it all seem so real that the whole thing stared me straight in the face for the first time, and frightened me a bit. Before that I had not been able to realise fully that it was really Mums who was having the op. we were all planning so busily. Anyway, it is mostly over now, and well over too, thank goodness, so no more worrying. Daddy is sending me a postcard tonight and I am wanting that, for it was too early to say much really last night. Mrs Beaman rang me up this morning  – she turns up trumps every time.

Since my last entry on work, I have done Junior Comb. and I’m now almost finishing Senior Surgery on Mr Norbury’s post. Junior Comb. was good fun though not wildly exciting. Mr Venall is an interesting and likeable old-fashioned type of doctor, with a refreshing amount of common-sense. He was the main attraction on that post, and his outpatients were the pièce de résistance each week. Horton disappointed me bitterly. I had read a small amount of psychological medicine before I went there, and had found it fascinating and stimulating reading. But Horton is a dreary old and most unfriendly place, at least when visited in the winter, and the patients were just as dreary, and appeared ill cared for and like animals rather than people. In fact ‘lunies’, though of great interest in the abstract, I found most uncongenial in the flesh, and my tentative speculations on delving more deeply into that branch of medicine came to a speedy dissolution. Dr. Heald with his electrical therapy and his exasperatingly slow and ambiguous conversation, reminded me of the Middle Ages and reliance on witchcraft and a bit of luck thrown in. He never diagnosed a case while I was with him  – though admittedly he gets all the undiagnosable chronics the hospital owns.

It is, I suppose, good for my soul to have to acknowledge that such an apparent fool is recognised by those well qualified to judge, as a very clever person! Mr Williams, X-ray expert(?) was an unfailing source of entertainment, but supplied no information whatsoever on X-rays. Sister Win was a rather bulky but very luminous star on the horizon throughout the post and her duets with Mr Venall on Tuesdays and Fridays were occasionally magnificent.

And now I am in the third month of Mr Norbury’s post, and am enjoying it as much as any post I have done, and more than any except Casualty or Junior Medicine perhaps. I was made senior, not because I was properly elected by a majority vote but because Westerman, who was elected, had transferred to the Cancer, and the other three seniors were all taking exams. But I certainly have been doing a full senior’s work, and it entails quite a lot of organisation and overseeing.  I have been fully repaid for my troubles though, for the juniors come to me all the time for advice, and obey instructions willingly though their conscientiousness is remarkable for its absence on many occasions. Even at school I could manage to be an authority without ‘bossing’ too much, and it is working just the same here, though perhaps I treat them too much like schoolgirls. It is gratifying when they say how they will miss me when I go on holiday – but I know too well what those compliments are worth to get swollen-headed about it!

Mr. Norbury is a person I shan’t forget, for he embodies most of my ideal qualities of a doctor, and is yet our inimitable Mr. Norbury at the same time. He is like a perky grey-haired little bird, hopping round and chirping joyfully day in and day out.

No patient is merely a ‘case’ for him, and no two ‘appendices’ are exactly alike. Surgery, one feels, is just as thrilling for him today as it was on his first house job, and his humility has not gone with his increase in knowledge and experience. There is nothing which stamps a fine person so surely as their humility (c.f. Mr. Joll !!)

I shall be sorry to miss the next 10-14 days of his post, but I want much more to go home, so go I certainly shall. E.N.T.s is to be the next 3 months’ effort – + pathology and fevers. Exams seem dangerously near, and I am working pretty hard now-a-days, to prevent a hectic scramble just before November. 

I think I’ve written enough for today…


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Sunday, July 23rd 1939

I feel I want to write a little tonight, just to communicate my first real operation in a theatre – I have done a few ‘minor ops’ in casualty before of course.

On the last Wednesday on the Norbury post Mr Norbury asked me whether I would like to do a small operation. This is a reward he offers his seniors now and again, but not every senior gets it, so it is quite an honour.

Of course I said I should love to, and as it was the end of the post he said I must remind him about it and come back and do it later. I asked Bottomley to remind him and he said I could do a lipoma or something equivalent. This damped me a little, as I had been helping him for an appendix or a hernia, but still I was excited about it, and very qualified for the opportunity. Bottomley wrote specially for a lipoma case from the General List and one came in last week.

It was only a small lipoma of the thigh, but it was unusually deeply situated, and was causing pain in the leg so the patient wanted it removed, though Mr. Norbury when he saw it advised her to keep her leg intact.

When she was anaesthetised Mr. Norbury could not locate the lump, and for a few minutes I thought it was going to be a complete wash-out. But at length he felt it, and made a scratch marking its position. I made an incision where his scratch mark was, about 4 – 5 ins long, and went on through the subcutaneous tissues. He and Bottomley secured the bleeding points, for I had enough to do to just perform the cutting part. I had to go very deeply for the lipoma turned out to be within two adductor muscle sheaths, and I was dreading that every bleeding point as it arose might be the femoral vein or artery which I had slashed! Mr. Norbury told me what plane to dissect on, and after several minutes wandering amongst fatty subcutaneous tissues the upper lobe of the encapsulated lipoma popped out from the muscle sheath, to be greeted with joyful exclamations by Mr. Norbury and a sigh of relief by myself. I then dissected out the lipoma, cutting where directed, and causing Mr. Norbury some anxiety by my determination to cut the muscle fibres rather than the lipoma – goodness knows why – perhaps I wanted to keep the specimen intact, or had vague fears that it might puncture like a cyst! On removal it turned out to be about 2 ins. in diameter, and it was most satisfying after the former doubts, that there had really been something there to remove.

Mr. Norbury left Bottomley to help me sew up while he started on the next op – a fistula-in-ano. I had some difficulty in getting the ligatures to sit over the end of the Spencer Wells and not at their tips – a difficulty I had never anticipated, or noticed other surgeons experience! But it felt very grand to be handed ligatures by the student doing instruments, and putting on the Michel clips fulfilled an ambition I have harboured for ages.

Those who knew that I was going to do an op said how dreadful it would be to have to perform in front of the assembled Norbury post, but actually I was too completely absorbed in the work on hand to even think of the others watching me. I didn’t do it very well, and must have appeared very amateurish to anyone watching, but I don’t think Mr. Norbury was annoyed with me, though I don’t think he could have been very pleased. Anyway I didn’t feel at all nervous, and my hands certainly didn’t tremble or fumble overmuch, so it was not as bad as it might have been. It was very nice of Mr. Norbury to think of letting a student do an op which to him must seem absolutely childish, and it must be very aggravating to keep your hands to yourself when you can do perfectly what someone else is making a great to-do about.

Well, that was what I wanted to say, so


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Saturday, Sept. 30th 1939

Not so very long since I wrote last, but things have changed somewhat! The war has been in progress for nearly a month, and we are beginning to lose the initial tenseness and are resigning ourselves to a prolonged period of hostilities and frightfulness. Thank goodness we all got our holidays just before all this began, for otherwise we should have been verging on nervous wrecks I expect – I feel already that I should enjoy another holiday!

Somehow all the prophecies and gossipings about the chances of war , that have been current for months past, did little or nothing to soften the shock of the actual outbreak of war when it came. 

The quiet, determined and fatal tone of Mr. Chamberlain’s speech at 11:15 that Sunday morning we shall all remember for a very long time. Air-raids we have not yet experienced, and I for one am dreading them with heart and soul.They are, I fear, almost inevitable; but the thoughts of the injuries and destruction they cause are too vivid to contemplate.

The most  helpful attitude at present seems to be one that recognises only each day as it comes, and looks no further. Thank goodness we students here have enough to occupy our days, and keep us from mooning. The hospital staff remaining – Dr. Hancock, Miss Barry, Miss Vaux, Miss Ball, Mr. Quist, Mr. Adler, Miss Moore-White – have taught us liberally and we feel that this horrid time of waiting about for air raid casualties has not been wasted.

Arlesey plans have collapsed more or less completely and now they are arranging for us to start posts as usual at R.F.H. next week. Goodness knows how long we shall have undisturbed. At present we volunteers are having all meals free, but next week I suppose we shall have to return to paid rations.

London is changing its old unchangeable face. Great sandbag edifices rise up all over the place, while paint is daubed on kerbs, railings and lamp-posts, and windows are decorated with thick black curtains of paper. The streets are lit only by the moon, and on a moonless night a walk is like Blind Man’s Buff, and crossing a road is done at your imminent peril – as our many casualty cases demonstrate. When peace comes again we shall certainly know how to appreciate it.

What a crazy world!   Goodnight! 

1940 diary Meg

Meg’s Diary 1940

by Margaret Taylor, age 25 years
June 23rd 1940

There’s only one entry this year, but quite a long one.

Thoughts about war and morality.

A lot of health issues in the family to worry about.

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Sunday, June 23rd, 1940

Nine months or so since I wrote last, but the situation is unchanged as far as the apparent imminence of air raids is concerned. Those we dreaded at the beginning of the war never materialised, for Hitler has been busy in other directions. Now, however, with nearly all Europe in desolation and miserable subjection to him, he is almost certain to start his long anticipated invasion of Great Britain by air, sea or land. We are prepared now and not downhearted, for the series of catastrophes which have so far represented the Allied side of the war have not been due to our failures, but to those fighting with us, and amazing they have been. The evacuation of Dunkirk was so incredible and magnificent that it converted a defeat into a moral victory, and gave us all fresh heart to strive ever harder in the face of disaster.

Now the French have signed the Peace Treaty with Germany, and are negotiating one with the Italians. That which all swore would never be – the separation of England and France, and the capitulation of the French people – has happened. And with this undreamt-of desertion fresh upon us, we are already enumerating the advantages of fighting all together in our own territory, and almost persuading ourselves that perhaps the clouds have all got the proverbial silver lining. If any people ever deserved to win a life or death struggle I think we British are those people. No nation can be completely good or completely bad, and certainly nobody can judge his own people justly, but, all allowances made, I feel more proud of being English and more determined to resist as far as I can Nazi conquest and influences than ever before.

The old question of the unforgivable crime of killing human beings, whatever may be the quarrel with them I have recently given up, as being beyond my power of reasoning at present. Logically, there is nothing under heaven which will absolve a man of killing another, if the standard of values accepted in true civilisation is used as the basis of argument. But in politics, and especially in power politics, the arguments used are certainly not based on the tenets of true civilisation, and to cope with the actions of those following power politics it seems that civilisation must drop back to the lower standard. It is really perhaps that we cannot take a long enough view. Civilised thought and values are based on ultimate right and wrong, and the rewards it brings are immediate only immaterially, in harmony of mind, whilst the material rewards are often long-delayed though just as sure. Jesus only triumphed mentally over the Romans at the time of his death. Then they seemed to have the material victory. Later it became obvious who had really won, for might can never conquer right, only obstruct its development.

At present men cannot be content with the knowledge that however great the forces of degraded blood-spillers and power-graspers may seem, if they maintain their own spirit uncorrupted and free, expressing their individuality fearlessly, the victory of the enemy will be temporary only. Man is a short-lived creature, and can see only glimpses of the infinite age of spiritual things, and to him subjection, even though material only, to evil seems a betrayal of civilisation. Yet a material victory over evil means war, killing, and employment of the very methods which civilisation has condemned.

Truly, it is a tough nut to crack!

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About my personal history there is quite a lot to say, for once again I have reached a ‘jumping off place’  in the pilgrimage. I took London Finals in May, and failed in both parts of B.S. and passed in M.B. I found it a very bitter thing to accept, that I had actually failed Finals. For so long I have worked hard, and told myself I must know enough to be certain of passing, for failure was unthinkable. Yet now I know that there were bits I shirked because they didn’t interest me – and behold they ploughed me straight away! There was some bad luck in it too, and that helped me towards resignation, but even now, after about three weeks, I am only just above pitying myself. One of the most difficult lessons to learn is that whatever label and grade the others give you, whether they look up or look down on you, you are just the same and of just the same value as before. 

If you are honest you are never satisfied with yourself, and it should be this striving to satisfy your own standards for yourself, and not desire for the acclamation of others, that prompts progress and learning.

So now I am at home, reading surgery and gynae in the evenings, and helping Mums in the servantless abode in the mornings. There is really too much for her to do alone, though without me there would be only three people, so I don’t like to skoot off back to London, though I should be attending all O.P.s etc possible.

In October last year No. 9 was sold, and Staynes and I migrated into the hospital to live in Mary Scharlieb under the emergency scheme. I have been ‘living in’ in hospital ever since then, in the ward until a month or two ago, and then in Sister’s room of Queen Mary Ward, and a very comfortable little room it has been. After being alone a great deal in my room at No. 9 the communal way of living in hospital was cheerful and enjoyable, and we have become real friends, some of necessity, some of inclination!

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Family news has been plentiful also since I wrote last. About January Jim got influenzal meningitis and was in hospital in Exeter. Dad was ill with ‘flu and stayed with Pat while Mum and Alan went down to see him. Jim, after a desperate two or three days during which our lives consisted of telegrams and waiting for telegrams, was pronounced out of danger and recovered completely at record speed. Mum returned to find Daddy very pulled down by ‘flu, and far from well. His chest troubles increased and he got pleurisy and then hypostatic pneumonia with failing heart, on top of an attack of asthma. He became dangerously ill and they phoned for me to come home at once, and bewildered, feeling in an unreal and nightmarish world, I arrived and was met by Alan somewhere around 8 a.m. The week which followed I can’t describe, and there would be little point in doing it. Mum and I took turns in sitting in the bedroom and often my legs and body were shivering so violently I could not keep them still for more than a minute or two. I didn’t take in a word of the book I sat with, and I never even turned the pages. Daddy was cheerful and never complained of pain or anything else though he had bilateral pleurisy part of the time, and had to change his position every five or ten minutes. His attacks of coughing literally exhausted me, and I dreaded the beginning of each one. Mum and I knew several hours before Dr. Alexander told us that he was getting better. We stood and looked at him and whispered excitedly that his cheeks and ears were pinker, and so they were!

Alan left for naval training at Skegness about a week ago, and is enjoying himself immensely: they seem very decent to their men in the Navy, and the contrast between Alan’s converted holiday camp, and Jim’s strenuous drudgery is very great.

Mums is really the heroine of the piece, but there is nothing else one can say about her without getting sentimental.


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1938 Meg Paul blog

Meg’s Diary 1938 is published

The next instalment of Meg’s diary, the diary of a young student doctor studying at London School of Medicine in the year before the war, is now published.

1938 diary Meg

Meg’s Diary 1938

by Margaret Taylor, age 24 years
February to October, 1938

Meg continues as a student doctor, experiencing Casualty, Children’s wards, and Midwifery at the London School of Medicine.

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Monday, February 7th, 1938

Now that I have re-read my last entry after the steadying interval of a couple of months, I would like to cross most of the end part of it out. It reads just as if it were high-sounding nonsense and got up for effect rather than to give vent to real feelings. And I rather think, now, that it was. When Jim and I wrote to each other some time ago, he was criticising my literary, or rather poetical, attempts and insisted that it was essential above all that they were completely sincere.

He was right of course, but not until you have attempted to produce something which you want to be good can you realise how very difficult it is to be quite sincere, or even to know whether you are being so or not. It is no good writing what you would like to think, as if you did think it spontaneously; you only give yourself away, and go hot or cold with shame when you meet the thing later! Also, sentimentality is a dangerous stumbling block. Nothing is so moving if it is rightly used; nothing so nauseating if improperly handled, or if it is merely put on. On the whole, I think, better avoided 

I’m on casualty now, and not certain whether I am enjoying it or not. The post is quite unlike any of the others, and you rely on yourself and are accountable for your actions very much more than on the ward posts. Students give gases, sew up wounds and do some of the minor ops e.g. circumcisions etc. The work is certainly hard while it lasts, but there are slack as well as busy days for everyone, and if you get overtired it is really your own fault, and means that you are not using your time off in giving yourself a well-earned rest.

The first few days on casualty or ‘gate’, are distinctly chaotic, and you spend a good deal of your time either doing what someone else is doing for you, or forgetting to do what the doctor has ordered. There are innumerable bylaws about procedure on different occasions and you learn them one by one – by the infallible method of breaking each in turn and being hauled over the coals for it. Still, the house staff, the nurses, and above all Sister are really most long-suffering, and we do not get really the amount of blowing up and acid comments to which we all lay ourselves open. Perhaps in a week or so, when they have exhausted all their indulgence for the ‘new’ post they will be less kind, but again by then we shall have got over the first petrifying panic of the new surroundings, and be able to hold our own in the face of criticism.

I suppose that it is because children are ruled by their parents so entirely when they are young that they care so intensely what their superiors think of them or say to them. A word of praise is a lasting joy, a reprimand or thoughtless roughness causes intense misery, possibly very deeply rooted and remembered long after the author of it has forgotten. But as the child grows older, fashioning his mind and character and getting slowly accustomed to making his own decisions and acting on them, then he begins to lose the exaggerated reverence for the opinions of others, and grows to rely on his own appreciation of what is to be praised or condemned in himself as well as others.

I seem to have entered a strange state of fatalism recently. Nothing upsets me for long, indeed even at the moment of happening I am oddly unaffected by it  – as if it were happening to someone else and I was merely a slightly interested onlooker. It is very comfortable to have a second self which will ungallantly deny any relationship with the offending member in that way!

I must stop now – no more nonsense!


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Sunday Feb. 27th 1938

Nearly the beginning of another month – they seem to slip by so rapidly, and the three months posts slip by with them, the more is the pity. I have now almost completed a month of the casualty post – that most dreaded of all the posts, and it has turned out to be quite survivable after all. Indeed it gives opportunity more than the other posts for rehearsing the part of Doctor, and discovering the most readily-made mistakes. My dread of stitches and gases is subsiding rapidly and I find that it is true, as I have told myself so often recently, that what others have done must be doable and therefore not to be dreaded.

Last Saturday I sent a copy of a short article I had just written for the magazine, to Jim for his criticism. He hasn’t written yet, and I don’t expect his verdict will be favourable when he does. I have never sent him a prose attempt before, and am interested to hear what he thinks of it. I should very much like to write a book or short stories or articles of some sort when I am older, and settled down in a practice or hospital somewhere, and have got something worth writing about in my head.

Next to my longing – well on the way towards being gratified – to become a doctor, I want to write, and I want to travel. I feel  as if the writing can very well be delayed until I am older, or even till I am ‘getting on’ and need a hobby not as strenuous as a full-time doctor’s work, and that is pretty strenuous as I well know. The travelling I think must come sooner, while I am still young and strong and able to enjoy roughing things and bumping my body against nature’s hard corners. I really think I must be developing a wander-lust in my bones, for nowadays the thought, as now, of setting forth on travelling adventures makes my heart jump up and down with excitement, and my tummy go curiously light in anticipation.

An exquisite short story by Martin Armstrong was read on the wireless today –  it was called ‘Birds of Passage’. After hearing that and after reading Jane Eyre again, as I am doing, my ambitions about writing myself seem a little presumptuous, and at least doomed to failure. Maybe it would be wiser to fill my time with doctoring and if necessary keep a diary as this one, for my private enjoyment, thus giving myself opportunity for scribbling when the mood is present, and denying anyone else the privilege of throwing cold water and perhaps hard words at the resulting drivel.

Bedtime so Goodnight!

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Wednesday April 6th 1938

Two late nights running have dragged all excess energy out of me for the moment, and I am giving myself the easy task of writing here until it is a sufficiently sensible time to drop into bed.

Only one more week of Casualty after this one  – I am dreading the end of the post, and the return to the dull round of pathology and wards again. There is a true dramatic quality in Casualty, absent in the other posts. You get a chance of showing your mettle, and also of finding how you react to making mistakes in front of companions and superiors. We are extremely lucky in having had exceptionally nice C.O.s Blenkin and Payne. Blenkin left at the end of last month, and we gave a supper party for her in Evans’ flat. She, Mr Payne and Mr Taylor came, and it was a success – they stayed on till almost midnight. Evans arranged a German supper with all kinds of unusual and good things to eat. Also we imported beer cider-cup and coffee, though we forgot the coffee until we were nearly going home! Blenkin we jokingly have called ‘the Darling’ for that was what one of the patients was heard to say about her. But it suits her exactly, for she is a perfectly natural, unassuming and tireless striver after all things, however trivial, that will help the patients under her immediate care. She treats us students as friends and just hasn’t any superiority, though she has a dignity of her own, and a quickness of perception and understanding that worms pathetic stories by the dozen from willing or unwilling narrators. Her efficiency in all branches of casualty duty is undoubted, and she will tackle absolutely anything that needs doing.

Mr Payne is quiet and sensible, very decent to the patients, and pretty efficient, though not, I think, infallible. What makes me like him perhaps, more than for example Mr Taylor or Le Vay, is that his work does really thrill him; the romance of healing has gripped him, as it does all the really true doctors. I like him ever even more since the supper party, for there it was possible to get to know him a bit unwound from the strappings of authority, and he showed up pretty well, putting Mr Taylor with his affectations and explosive – sometimes beastly – language out of court. Time for bed, so –  Goodnight!

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Saturday June 25th 1938

I haven’t been keeping up this diary at all according to plan, and there are large chunks missing between the entries. But perhaps the chunks are better missing, as everyday events are a bit monotonous. Even now, after about two months, there seems little to say. In spite of bewailings the Casualty post ended, and in spite of forebodings the Pathology post hasn’t been unbearable. We have only another week to go now, and then it’s Children for Jones and me for two months followed by Midwifery in September, October and November. On Children’s post we get Dr Hobhouse’s beds as well as Mrs Chodak-Gregory’s, so there will be plenty of reading to be done. I have really been working fairly hard at Pathology, and have reached the stage of being sorry that I didn’t work harder at Junior Medicine or Surgery. The weather now is really blazingly hot, and that makes me fagged out and uneager to tackle work in the evenings.

Last Wednesday Mum and Dad paid a flying half-day visit to London and we met at Wimbledon for the tennis. It was marvellous seeing them again after being away so long – my last holiday was in January. They both looked very well – Mums seems to look prettier every time I see her, and nobody could be sweeter or more lovable. They are grand parents! It seems however pretty rotten that they should spend all their energy and money on educating and training their children, and yet see so little of them. Such is the lot of most unselfishness it seems – it is its own reward for no other reward appears.

Jones has been elected senior for the Children’s post, and for a little while I was verging on jealousy – it is beastly how competition brings out the worst in people. We have worked together most of the time at hospital, and I consider myself just as good a worker as she is, and I suppose that made me resent the fact that she was preferred to me as senior. I know really that the election makes no difference whatsoever, and that all I have to mind about is that I make myself as good a doctor as I possibly can, let alone what anyone else does, and whether my standard is theirs or not. It is a weakness to want recognition for one’s achievements and honour for one’s capabilities.

Another triumph for Jones is that Dr. Playfair, on behalf of Dr. Shaw who is now head of the V.D. department, has offered her the post of senior assistant there two years after she has qualified. The pay is £300 a year and the attendance only 18 hours a week. So Jones is simply overjoyed, and feels beautifully safe and free from worry about her future after qualifying. She is almost certain to get 3rd H.S. [House Surgeon?] job too if she wants it after qualifying, as she was the only student on Miss Dearnley’s post on Gynaecology and got to know her very well. All this made me, with my complete absence of plans and prospects, slightly green too, but that also is stupid really because I certainly don’t want to specialise in Gynaecology and V.Ds.

Hospital goes on unobtrusively changing round so that students go and residents change so quietly that you never notice the absence of one or the presence of the other. The new house list has just been published, and we shall get Crossley on Children – not too bad but might have been better! Mr Payne is now R.N.O. and Mr Taylor has gone into the blue. It really was time too that he went, for his good name was becoming slightly tarnished, and we were getting very tired of his bumptious presence – poor man, what horrid things to say! Mr Payne is apparently coping adequately with R.N.O. though he hasn’t the experience of Mr Taylor yet. Jones and I attend Minor Meds. with others from the Pathology post, and we get all the work of diagnosis etc. to do as the others haven’t done any clinical work yet.It is good fun. 

Must go to bed now, so Goodnight!

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Wednesday, July 27th 1938


Nearly a month of the children’s post gone now, and a fortnight’s holiday only about three weeks away. I haven’t felt so much in readiness for a holiday for ages, for I’m really a bit overtired now and the work is fairly heavy. But this post is one of the most enjoyable that I have done so far – the children are most fascinating and both the authorities and nursing staff that we meet are very friendly and create a genial informal atmosphere. 

There are only five of us on the post this month – Jones, Burton-Brown, Nuvell and Koluyan and myself. Two others are joining us in August. Nuvell has been away on holiday recently and Koluyan is never on the premises when needed, so we three remaining have been running about and doing most of the work. We have Dr Chodak-Gregory’s, Dr Shelley’s and Dr Hobhouse’s patients, and I have had about 10 cases – new ones – since the beginning of the month, so I have gained quite a bit of experience. 

Dr Gregory becomes nicer and nicer as you get to know her, and we are all sorry that she is going to be away during the whole of August, so we shall see very little more of her after this week. Dr Shelley we have seen extremely little of so far, as she missed rounds and outpatients quite a bit at the beginning of the month, and is away on holiday now until the beginning of August. I hope she teaches a lot to make up for missing Mrs C-G’s rounds etc. when she returns.

Dawn-Pattison, Mrs C-G’s H.P., has been extremely decent to us – most approachable and willing to help and not a bit aloof as I expected! Her tutorials on Wednesdays before Dr Hobhouse’s rounds have been awfully funny. She has told us pretty exactly what Hobhouse will say about each case, and how we must reply. And her forecasting has been most useful and stood us in good stead in our many moments of need with him. Crossley is coming on in August instead of D-P, and I rather fear that the atmosphere may be rather different. Still I was wrong in imagining that D-P could not unbend, so maybe I will be wrong about Crossley too – I hope so. 

This evening I have been to a sherry-party at Mrs Williams’ house in Harley Street – for those of us who have done the test mealls and vitamin C tests for her. I had two glasses of sherry, one of tomato juice and a most variegated assortment of eatables. All this made it impossible for me to work tonight, and anyway I have been overworking just recently – so I’ll go to bed.


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Monday, August 1st 1938 [Bank Holiday]

They call them the “long, long thoughts of youth” and I think they are right. Our thoughts are long and rambling and a little restive. Living ‘up’ and rather isolated – partly isolated by choice of course, for there are people I could descend upon – gives me time during the weekends and holidays to take stock of things wider than the daily routine. I think about myself, my future activities, and get a creepy feeling wondering what the future holds in store. And I think of other people and of what and how they think.

Just recently I have acknowledged to myself what I have always up to now I thought nurture –  probably because it should theoretically be nurture. People are stamped definitely in different moulds, and though some characters of different moulds are alike, products of different moulds have nothing akin to bind them together. I mean really that there are some people that I find it absolutely impossible to like, even if I do not actively dislike them. Some people I can, and do of necessity, feel a sympathy with; others I can neither talk unrestrainedly to nor feel a single interest in common with them. It is a very curious fact that it should be so, and it would be very interesting to see if Mendel’s Law applied to such a moulding of mental make-up. Anyway it seems to be pretty true to say that like types appeal to each other, for the friends of those with whom I cannot feel at ease are, almost without exception, those whom I should choose last of all for my own friends. In a way this grouping is worth it, for any dexterity one can steer moderately clear of battles with ones antipathies, and the joy of finding a person in whom one senses true sympathies is doubled.

I’m feeling a bit miserable tonight. I think it is really a bout of homesickness, for Richardson has just departed homewards on holiday, and I’m feeling a bit marooned in consequence. There is nobody else in the house, I believe, except Mr and Mrs Sydney down in the depths. In many ways I like being by myself. I have a strong bump of reclusiveness, and will always rather retreat behind the doors of my room than sally out to make merry in company. I’m not sure that I don’t revel slightly in my independence and the fact that I am quite sufficient company for myself. Really we are most of us humbugs at heart! 

Goodnight !

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Friday, October 7th 1938

Roberts, Nouvell, Kohiyar and I are all at 434 Essex Road* now, doing our first month of district midwifery. Last month we four, plus Jones, were at R.F.H. doing the midwifery wards. Last month I thought was foul, and I was rebelling against the rules and regulations nearly every moment – though usually it was only a mental rebellion!

* The Royal William was situated at 434 Essex Road. This pub has now been demolished and replaced by the office block in the photo.

Living together constantly, and living both a day and night life the whole time was altogether too much of a bad thing to those quite unused to it. I was longing so often to be able to have even a moment’s quiet to myself, and even five minutes with secure knowledge that I would not be rung up to “come immediately”. Bigby the third O.A. with whom we had most to do, did not get along well with us. Her over conscientious sense of duty, her overserious outlook on the most trivial things made even everyday things a duty and a burden. Her moments of lighthearted chatter and amazingly uncontrolled laughter made her even less understandable than if she had always been serious. Sykes and Stokes were very easy to get along with and Sykes especially gave us a good deal of necessary light relief on occasions. ‘Conny’ is an attractive person everyone likes and admires. Professor is our inimitable little Scotchwoman; Moore-White and efficient and entertaining little chatterbox; Shippam is ‘heavily’ nice and really unfathomable. 

In the first month we got 10 cases each, which was good going. So far here we have each had one case and Roberts and Kohiyor have had two. My case was an extremely lucky one. The lady was a Mrs Bastie and within five minutes of our arrival she started second staging and about 10 minutes later the baby was born – no complications. I was very afraid at one time at one time that she was going to have a bad P.P.H. for she started bleeding severely before the placenta was nearly ready to expel. But we held our thumbs for a few minutes and the uterus hardened up and the bleeding stopped, though the placenta did not come out for about 45 minutes. I should have hated having to Crede the thing out.

Essex Road clinic is a weird little place – originally a pub. There are two parts to it, separated by the kitchen. Downstairs is the clinic proper with consulting rooms, sterilising room etc. Sterilising all our own things was a tremendous business at first, but I quite enjoy it. Freath is charming and we get along well with her. She is very nice indeed about letting us do exactly what we want to our patients without interfering or advising.  Enough for the present.

Good morning!

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1936 1937 Meg poem

For Mr Joll

poem 2

For Mr Joll

Five thousand incisions of necklace type
Five thousand glands exposed
Five thousand, or more, bits of thyroid removed
And five thousand necks reclosed.

Just think of the innumerable Spencer Wells
Just think of the swabs without end
Just imagine the rows of Michel clips
And the five thousand patients to tend.

May the goitrous patients long flock to A.2.
May their thyroids fall fast in the bowl.
May the thousands increase, Mr Joll, may you reach
(spite of students) the ten thousand goal.

Meg Rugg-Easey 1936

(Mentioned in Meg’s 1937 diary)

1937 diary Meg

Meg’s Diary 1937

by Margaret Taylor, age 23 years
September to December, 1937

Meg continues as a student doctor at Medical College in London.

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Tuesday, Jan 19th, 1937

            A really wonderful opportunity to write here! I have got up this evening for the first time after ‘flu, and I have never known an evening be so long! I’m not supposed to read a great deal, and besides I am awfully tired of reading; I’ve thought of writing letters, but as I have already written home saying all the latest news, it would only be dull repeating if I did.

            ‘Flu was horrid, and the worst part of it was, and still is, the cascara! In a truly misguided moment, I allowed myself to be given three doses of the stuff as it seemed to be having no effect. The result was a series of violent colic attacks during the night, and they made me so miserable I felt I could have dissolved into a pool of tears with ease – and comfort! My tummy is still quite upset, and I have no appetite and feel sick at night time – memories I expect. But otherwise I am pretty well alright – the trouble at the moment is that the cold in the throat has travelled up Eustace a bit and blocked both my ears so that my head feels uncannily cotton-woolly, and I don’t hear properly – what I do hear I hear with my whole head, it seems, and it is very nerve-wracking when it goes on all day. My reward is coming however in the shape of a week’s holiday – doctor’s orders – at home. I am probably going on Friday and will come back for work at college again by the following Monday week. I suppose I will have to wander over to college and see Dr. Dickson and Prof. Cullis about missing this first fortnight of the Primary course. I don’t expect they will be overjoyed, but I don’t think they will try to make me stop – I should not feel much like working for a bit if I did stop, I know.

            It is dreadful how being absolutely lazy and resting in bed infects you with the germ of idleness, so that when you get up, behold you have no initiative or ‘go’ at all, but just sit still and wish there was something worth doing (conveniently skipping in your mind anything feasible which crops up).

            It is very odd, because I can’t hear my pen writing, although I know it is making the usual sort of noise alright. I can hear my watch ticking if I hold it right against my ear, but if it is more than an inch away, I can’t hear it at all. I have to listen to people, when they talk to me, very carefully or I don’t understand what they are saying. The sounds reverberate so that nothing is clear-cut but everything runs together in a buzz – not a 1d Buzz!

            Last Saturday week, Alan had his 21st birthday party, and his and Peggy’s engagement was announced officially – by a gramophone record he made at Alexandria. Everything was a tremendous success that evening, and they played ping-pong in the dark with phosphorescent balls, and phosphorescent false noses – it seems to have gone awfully well.  Pat wrote me a long letter describing how she and Betty got up again, after having been put to bed, and prowled about the landing until the guests arrived for supper about 1 a.m.! They saw all the dresses etc. and listened to all the revelry until about 2 a.m. when they crawled back to bed – and fell asleep at once I’m sure! Pat will be simply overjoyed that at length she will be able to let people know about Peggy and Alan, and not have to put them off with tactful half-truths all the time – rather difficult for a youngster who is dying to let them all into the precious secret!

            I have spied a pack of cards, and if I can remember, or make up, any games of patience I think that is an excellent idea. Yes, no?


footnote: Cascara

Cascara sagrada is a herbal remedy that used to be a common ingredient in some over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives.

The bark comes from a tree called the California buckthorn. This tree grows on the West Coast of the United States and parts of South America. Historically, it was used by Native Americans to treat a host of issues, including:

  • constipation
  • digestive problems
  • joint and muscle pain
  • gonorrhoea
  • gallstones
  • dysentery

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Saturday, April May 1st 1937

            Writing May instead of April has given me rather a nasty moment. Primary starts on May 31st, and to be actually in the fateful month is rather frightening when it comes upon you suddenly.

            I have nothing special today to commit to paper; the reason why I dug out this book was because my mind just refused to settle down to work for a bit, and I have made a sacred vow not to read non-work books from now on. My conscience should doubtless revolt against my writing here as much as reading novels, but at the moment I’m stifling it!

            Working for Primary has been much better fun than I thought at first it would be. Luckily, Jones and I get along together very well, and these three months have made us much greater friends, and we really know each other well now. We have a great deal in common in thoughts and ways of doing things. I like her very much, but she will never be the truly ‘friend that I know could exist for me’ – Whatley I think is about the nearest I know,  but then again I don’t see much of her now, and she has many other friends. It is funny how very few people you meet you can really want to get to know intimately. Generally, you can tell them almost at once though when you do meet them. Whatley is one I have felt that for, Ileene another and – less approachable – Professor Keene and Dicky. Another kindred spirit is Maud. By the way, those two words “kindred spirit” just about hint at what I meant, as Mr. Rochester says our minds are “something akin.”

From quoting Mr. Rochester, I can’t resist going on to my pet theme of Jane Eyre. No other book touches me as that one does, and only the others by the same author evoke even an echo of the response that Jane Eyre evokes. I know there is nothing original in praising this book – it is the pet of thousands of people. But that only means that others feel it as I do, and though perhaps that brings a tiny ray of grief that others have uncovered and gathered up the precious spirit that feels so personal a discovery, yet I know that really I am deeply glad that others do know and love her as I do.

 I doubt if men would respond to her mind as women would, but then I think rather the type of mind is called for rather than the sex. A person is living there in the leaves of that book, and to read the book with sympathy is, I think, to know Jane Eyre better than the majority of our friends. She has the sense of letting you into her heart, without having a special spring-clean and redecoration to make it unrecognisable for you when you enter. That is the secret of true living – to be founded upon a rock, true always to yourself and others in big and little things. That is what gives you the courage to face anyone or anything with a steady eye, and dispenses with all need of “pose” or affectation or concealment. It sounds easy, but if it were more people would succeed in achieving it.

I think perhaps Jane herself shows what it may cost you to keep the clear bubbles in the soul-springs. Her struggles to carry out what she knew her true nature demanded are described so perfectly that you struggle in sympathy as you read. It is so easy to slip over the slight dividing line, and just miss the harmony of a nature absolutely in tune in all its chords. Yet to possess such a nature, whatever it costs you to retain it, is to live as no others could and enjoy a sense of peace with life nothing else could give.

 Now having got so far, we come to a pitfall. Realising the truth of what we’ve said, do we pat ourselves quietly on the back and say, “And that is what we are like”?  It is very easily done, and I rather imagine I may have done it in the past. To understand and sympathise with that nature seems almost to confer the nature on oneself, but although of course it doesn’t, yet it helps in that direction I’m sure.

 I can’t go any further into the mists of reasoning; it is getting a little too thick, and with one last glance at the pitfall we will turn aside and sit till it clears a little.

And meanwhile I must go and do some shopping or the shops will all be shut!

Good night!

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Thursday Jun 10th 1937

It seems incredible, but I have got three days in front of me before I return home, and no work at all to do all the time! The secret is that Primary has just been completed, and I am staying up till Monday to see the results – I wouldn’t believe anybody if they wrote to tell me, I must see it actually myself!

Roberts has been up here, sheltering from the thunderstorm which has been raging for the last hour or so. And now it is time for bed, so this must be postponed until tomorrow – and tomorrow we have ‘test meals(?)’ again, no peace at all these days!


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Monday, August 16th 1937

I can’t work tonight – too tired, so this seems just the thing to tide me over till a reasonable bed-time. It is no use trying to fill in all the gaps between my entries here, besides it would be dull reading I should think. But anyway, I will say that I failed Primary – not very badly, but then most of the failures were on the verge I imagine.

Since then I have had six weeks’ holiday. Of that I spent 16 days in the middle of Ireland with Ileene Allen at Hightown. That I had a marvellous time needs no saying, for I always enjoy every moment in her company. We may well call ourselves twins, for, though that is not true physically, mentally we have twin feelings, and we are always in good humour in each other’s company, and the more we see of each other the more we want to see. I don’t think I shall easily forget the night-time talks we had as we lay in bed, both in the same room in the little wooden bungalow. How ‘deep’ and muddled we got, and what solemn nonsense we pronounced! Ileene produced the winner of the series by keeping half awake at something to one o’clock proving that Newton’s laws of mechanics were false! She knows no mechanics, and I am supposed to, but she won easily, and we had a wonderful nonsensical time arguing it, and nearly going off to sleep in the middle of logical propoundings.

I wish I knew that I would find someone who ‘fitted’ me perfectly; to many it seems silly to worry about that – there is loads of time, and I am certainly not in a hurry. But I can realise now how inexpressibly happy a really harmonious married couple could be, if their minds held the sympathy which real friendship, such as mine with Ileene, has. And a home life of that kind too – I would love the assurance that it is coming, though there is no hurry about it. I wonder often – shall I marry or not, and I always hope I shall, for I know there are men whom I could love, as love should be between husband and wife; who would keep each other’s hearts young.

Never mind, I can’t write it. Still I wish it would happen, and that I could know now that it would. I feel that either I shall marry and it will be the truly right person, or I shall remain unmarried, and let work take up all my time. I certainly don’t feel that I shall have an unhappy marriage, or any terrible love tragedy – perhaps I’m not impulsive enough!

And I was supposed to be writing about my six weeks holiday! The time I spent at home was spent mainly in playing tennis. It is tantalising how each year I get a few weeks’ holiday, just enough to get into the hang of tennis, and then back to work and all out of practice until I get another few weeks later on! But it is harder on those who play with me than on me myself.

Now, rather sketchily, I think we are about up-to-date, and I can say gently that at the moment I am at hospital again, doing Junior Surgery under Mr Joll and Miss Beck. And that explains why I am too tired to work this evening, for Monday is Joll’s operating day, and we have had five good hours of it in the theatre, striving madly in the atmosphere of quite unsubdued thunder, conjured up by Joll and Beck, both of whom were in great form as far as fury goes. And it goes miles with both of them!

Nobody pretends that either of them is good tempered, but they say that it is worthwhile getting their harsh words if you get their technique at the same time.  Besides I lop-sidedly enjoy surviving some of Beck’s tantrums, and to think that her scathing remarks have no power to make you miserable takes all the sting, or most of it, out of her venom.

Her bark is many times worse than her bite, and as she bites us all almost indiscriminately we very soon forget about it. I have always had a terror of hard words, because I suppose I always reasoned that they were merited and therefore to be taken to heart. But now when half the time you are sworn at for someone else’s mistakes and the other half of the time for mistakes you did commit from sheer ignorance, then the torment ceases to overwhelm you, and you bob up again cheerfully instead of slowly rising from a whirlpool full of misery, only to be submerged again almost immediately. Besides, and more to the point, if Beck sees her blazing utterances don’t upset your equilibrium she doesn’t produce nearly so many, and you score both ways. Still, good old Beck, she is a marvel of efficiency, and what our famous – or infamous? – Mr Joll would do without her nobody knows!

That’s enough for tonight, we will continue, or rather reopen the ‘shop’ another time, there is heaps to say about Junior Surgery I assure you!


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Friday Oct 22nd 1937

When I last wrote it was near the beginning of the Joll Post. Now we have nearly reached the end and Gynaecology comes upon us in just over a week. These three months have passed very quickly indeed, and I am sorry to think that they are almost past, for I for one have thoroughly enjoyed their passage. It has been a very novel experience, and the thrill of surgery works its way into your bones amazingly quickly. I prefer surgery to medicine; it is much more straightforward, and the results are more spectacular, and so many lives are undeniably saved as they could not be by any other method. Whereas in medicine so much seems to be patching up things for a variable length of time, or waiting patiently for the disease to cure itself. I never thought that I should be enrolled in the band of those who ‘want to get on with it’, for I always used to be a marvel at letting things slide, and of putting off till the very last moment anything which I could persuade myself could be postponed.

I am very glad that on Gyneacology, we get a great deal of theatre work, for I should miss it dreadfully if I dropped it all together now.

The infamous Mr Joll has really turned out to be, at least superficially, quite a likeable man. He has, undoubtedly, a temper, but he very rarely exhibits it, and during his Friday rounds has time after time shown himself patient in the face of blank stupidity, and helpful to those trying vainly to produce a fairly intelligent answer. He is also undoubtedly an extremely clever and competent surgeon, and his knowledge outside the scope of surgery seems to be exceedingly extensive and accurate in detail. He teaches well too, for he has a very clear mind, and one that always founds even the most difficult problems on the simple fundamentals. Beck, too, though I wrote reams about her tantrums, can be, and has been, very kind and forbearing with us on many occasions. At the beginning of the post, I wrote about their faults; at the end I modify that by adding their good points, and that is how it should be, and helps to  prove the old moral, that there is some good in even the worst – how flattered they would be to read this! 

A poem for Joll

The other day Joll did his five-thousandth thyroid, and Sister A.2. wanted a poem to celebrate the occasion – apparently Sir James Berry had a poem when he had done only three thousand! Anyway, I was commissioned to produce a poem, and last night I tackled the rather delicate operation. I achieved a rather poor result, but it had to do, and we persuaded Registration to type it for us on R.F. headed paper. Sister A.2. has, it is rumoured, got a special cake for the occasion of his celebration, and both cake and poem are to be presented to him on Monday afternoon. I don’t know the details yet, but I hope that Mr Joll will have the grace to stop for tea, and not rush through the list, and finish gasping somewhere near suppertime. It would upset poor Sister dreadfully; she quite worships the man.

Hospital life is still a bit of a strain at times, and some aspects of it still upset me, though the kind of upset that used to worry me most – the horrid sight kind – have completely disappeared, and I am hardened into iron as far as pain for others is concerned – sounds callous I know, but it’s only self-protection, and has to be screwed on top, and I could unscrew it any time. But what does still ‘unrest’ me are the post-mortems on patients I knew when they were alive. It is just a little too far for me, even now, and it raises such great and deep wonderings, such as the separation of body and mind, or body and soul, and the query of life after death. It is only seen in the post-mortem room, how the belief in life after death could arise so spontaneously from the sight of a friend lying lifeless, yet so nearly as you knew them alive. It seems impossible that the personality that you knew, and had intercourse with, has just evaporated and become, in a few hours, non-existent. It seems an insult to human life that a human being, with its almost unlimited possibilities and ideas, should degenerate in so short a time into something that the pathologist’s knife divides into exhibits A to Z.

Something has so obviously left the body. Call it ‘life’ if you like, but it is not life in the meaning of simply the driving force that made the protoplasmic wheels go round. It is the personality of the person himself, the thing that made him the person he was, and which distinguished him from the millions of humans with similar organs and tissues. It seems natural to suppose that this ‘something’, the really essential being that we knew, has survived the running down of the organic frame containing it, and has flitted away into its own world of unfettered freedom.

Yet, a mind with no means of expressing itself, or giving vent to its faculties seems meaningless and unintelligible, and we return to our original state of profound query, which leaves us restless in mind, and still worried by the memories of the evacuated bodies of the post-mortem room.

Much too late for ghost stories, so Goodnight!

Footnote: Mr Joll

Cecil Joll worked at the Royal Free Hospital, in Pond Street, in Hampstead, performing thyroid surgery from 1911 until 1945, when he died at the age of 59.

The surgeon was known for performing up to 14 operations a day and taught hundreds of students and many surgeons to the highest standards.

He also established the hospital as London’s leading thyroid centre. Professor George Hamilton, professor of surgery at the Royal Free said: “Cecil is internationally known for his work in thyroid surgery.

“His name lives on with the instrument known as the ‘Joll extractor’ which is now universally used. The Royal Free is proud to display this in our surgical seminar room.”

Meg was commissioned to write a poem for the celebration when Mr. Joll achieved his 5,000th thyroid operation. See the poem here.

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Saturday Oct 23rd 1937

After yesterday’s outburst perhaps I should lie low for a bit, but I’m not going to. Being on surgery brings up other big things besides the post mortem worries. The thing which haunts you is cancer, and the tragedy is not only that you meet it so often, but that in so many of the cases you see for the first time the growth has gone too far for hopeful operation, and the prognosis is in terms of a few years at most. If only, you sigh, they would come earlier, and give you, and themselves, a chance. But the reply is always the same – “It didn’t hurt me, Doctor, so I didn’t take any notice of it”.

Joll, talking of this said that every method had been tried to get lay people to co-operate with us in that way, but he said that nothing was any good, and nothing would persuade a patient to confront a doctor with a lump and no symptoms.

A carcinoma of the breast which came into A.2. only yesterday said that she really went to her doctor about her legs, and only happened to mention the drawback to old age being that you get lumps and bumps everywhere. On being asked more about the said lumps and bumps, she said she had one – nothing at all really – in her breast. The doctor made her show him the lump, and so she was packed off to us almost immediately. Perhaps the greatest tragedy though, is to watch their faces, dreading the first signs of their realising what is the matter, and wondering how they will take it. The scared, tearful ones are pathetic, but the dazed and attempting-to-be-brave ones are worse. There are always the arguments for and against knowing everything about your condition, and in these cases it is I think, almost worse for them not to know, for their terrors and imaginings I should think must be terrible, when they suspect cancer.

I remember so well that about a couple of years ago I was sure that I was not a bit afraid of dying, and I remember saying I would not mind dying at all, I think I even said that the death of very near relations and friends would not upset me, as I knew they would be happy and nothing terrible had happened or would happen to them. I remember Whatley saying that unless you actually had experienced such a death you could not realise what it was like, and that really it was for yourself, and for the gap they left that you were miserable. I know I felt pretty cheap preaching away, with no experience, on matters in which I had no knowledge, while remembering she had lost her father, of whom she was extremely fond, not long before. But I know I owned up to talking through my hat, and that remembrance soothes me a little now.

For myself I own I am now less eager to die than I was two years ago. In fact I should be very, very sad, and probably panicky about dying if I knew it was coming soon, and going to cut off all my beautiful castles in the air for my future. But still I don’t honestly think I am afraid, and my experience of death, which has been pretty thorough during the last year, has inclined rather to reassure than upset me. It isn’t such a dreadful thing, and is rather a leaning back and relaxation than the tearing, rending agony that lurid literature pretends. A violent death perhaps would be very painful, but it comes quickly and unexpectedly and is over fast. Indeed a merciful Povidence surely turns all our tragedies into mercies in disguise – certainly nothing is ever so bad as you fear, experience has taught me the profound truth of that, and the knowledge of that truth helps you to give up worrying or meeting troubles even quarter-way.

Talking of violent death I must record that during the last year or two I have blossomed into a thorough-going Pacifist. So far my knowledge of Pacifism has been negligible or non-existent, but my belief in it has rested simply upon the fact that nothing in the world, that I have yet met, would persuade me to kill any human being against whom I had no feelings of personal hatred. Thus I would not take part in a war, and I reject war as an indefensible piece of conduct, for nothing, to me, can justify such meaningless destruction of innocent human beings. This simple conception of war – i.e. just viewing your own part in it – is popularly disregarded, and men – and women – brag noisily of national policy, security and defending their country. Surely it is more reasonable to look first to the step in front, and not speculate vaguely about what happens at the top of the hill. It would not be permissible, would it, to walk on and trample down fellow men, because hey happened to be lying just where you wanted to pass to reach the view? You could prattle as much as you liked about how important it was to see the magnificent view, and the beauties of nature it would reveal, but I should still think you shouldn’t have trodden on anybody to get there.

What’s the good of metaphors anyway!!


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Saturday, Dec 11th 1937

 My mood is a curious one tonight. I am very very tired,  but restless as well and languid – in fact full of the vague wonderings that usually prompt me to unearth this tome and scribble in it. There is nothing special that causes this upheaval of mental waters now and again, but some days the people and things around me are lit up by a different light from that of everyday, and I have time to sit back, as tonight, and let my thoughts run away, this this mood is conjured up. If only I had something to say it would be better, but there is nothing tangible enough for a pen to write, though the desire to write something, or anything, is great.

My gynaecological work keeps me on the go day after day, starting directly after breakfast and sending me fagged out home to supper and a welcoming bed. Perhaps the dramas, hardly even fully registered, during the daily rounds, work up fermenting in my mind until they bubble over. Certainly one sees life, and all sides and sorts of human nature at a big hospital. And though I am now 23, that is not really a vast age for the easy receipt of other people’s troubles, anxieties and murky secrets, and for an effortless assumption of dignity and authority among numberless adults looking to you as ‘doctor’ to help them.

This afternoon I saw the film “Queen Victoria”. It was frightfully good – very like Lytton Strachey’s biography. History is very real in the films, and there, even more than when considered in the abstract, conjures up questions about life and death that are enough to send anyone’s thoughts woolgathering in the limitless space of the mind. Those people who are, or were, so real have gone, all of them, and nothing can stop time stealing us away one by one after our allotted time. First you must go to school, then you must leave it, however much you want to stay, then you must choose something to do for your lifetime, and lastly you must die, and the whole population of which you were a unit will change till the world will be full of other people with whom you share only the fundamental qualities of humanity.

The BBC Theatre Orchestra are broadcasting, and to my tired senses their music making is like a mother’s hand clasped by a fretful child – soothing and calm, beautiful and rather lumpy to the throat. I should delight to be able to play music well, is a way of compassion that cannot be excelled. I should delight too, to be able to appreciate it as musicians proper can.


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1936 diary Meg

Meg’s Diary 1936

by Margaret Taylor, age 22 years
September to December, 1936

Meg continues her diary after a three year gap. She is now attending Medical College in London. The year of the three Kings.

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Sunday September 13th 1936

It is about three years ago that I finished my last diary, and since then I haven’t kept one, only scribbling once or twice when I felt the urge. I have had this book for about a week, and have been meaning to get started every day. Today is a good day to begin, although I never realised until I headed this with the date, for it is the 13th and 13 is my number, whether good or bad I’m not certain, but it dogs me on all occasions – exam numbers, bus tickets, cheques etc.

It would be no good trying to give an account of these last three years, so I mean to put down just the main events, and then go on as usual from now on. The book is the product of Auntie Tia’s 2/- birthday present, and should last me to a ripe old age, I should think.

[Note: It did! The last entry was in December 2010, when Meg was 96!]

I left school just two years ago, after being Head Girl for a term, captain of cricket for a season, and two years in the sixth, one with Miss Phillips , one with Miss Glenday.

I got the Mabel Sharman Crawford scholarship to L.S.M and Miss Glenday gave me the School Gamble scholarship.

The first month or two in London by myself was a bit of an agony, horribly lonely in the evenings, and waking in the morning with the sudden realisation of where I was – it makes me feel ‘that sinking feeling’ to remember it.

But although it is easy to remember feeling lonely, there was much more time when I was enjoying myself thoroughly and I don’t think that at any time I would have been glad to give up London and come back to work at the Bristol University. As time goes on I am more and more glad I managed to get into L.S.M. and had to come up and get along by myself.

I went into the Revision Course, and Freda Bulkeley was the only other fresher to go into it with me. There were about a dozen of us altogether, and there are only about six left together, and McClintock stays at L.S.M. in October when the rest of us go to hospital. During that first term I got to know nobody well, the first person to make any friendly overtures I remember was Birchenough, and at Physics I worked with King for a bit, and didn’t know quite what to make of her.

I liked and got to know Dr. Leyshon, and we had a long chat before 1st M.B. but since then, after passing at Christmas, I hardly see her at all.

During my second term and since then it has been Anatomy and Phys. with Pharm. lately. The work is jolly interesting and pretty hard. I have worked not over hard, but quite consistently, going to the library in the evenings. I passed 2nd M.B. in July, a couple of months ago, and start hospital work about the middle of October. In 2nd I did well in Anatomy, both papers and practicals, but in Phys. Cully said my paper was very weak – ‘most disappointing’ but the practical was good, and helped me through. Both Bulkeley  and Westerman thought of taking Primary in December if possible, and I hoped to too. But after consultations the staff advised, in fact Heever declared, that we could not manage it, and had better wait for April if we wanted to do it. So we are still undecided.

People who got through 2nd with me were – Bulkeley, Westerman, Jones, Bennett, Chalmers, Mrs Yates, Whatley, Baker, and others. King was down in something – I hope only Pharm. McClintock and Oehlers down in Anatomy, Kohiyar and W.W. in Phys. and Paine, Hodkinson, Evans etc. failed in ‘something’. I am longing to go to hospital, although these summer holidays have been and are marvellous fun. We went to Teignmouth and had wonderful weather. Peggy Hale and Betty came with us, so we were seven. We bathed a lot, and had a very vigorous time. Betty behaved jolly well, is a fine kid and a grand soul to have on a holiday. Peggy and Alan behaved as conventional lovers all the time. I don’t know whether I feel jealous of their happiness. I don’t think so, but somehow their behaviour irritated me. The sight of them lying flat on the Lilo side by side, arms and legs mixed up, and faces or backs carefully exposed to the sun made me churn inside. They were the same everywhere, crowded beach, front garden of our digs, and, though perhaps I’m wrong, I couldn’t help thinking that when I am in love I shall never spread-eagle over my partner in full gaze of the public or even out of it. It is just the way we are made I suppose, but I mean to marry someone of the same make as myself.

Since we came back from Teignmouth , Peggy and Alan went for a holiday in Wales with four others, and from there to Bournemouth.. Alan returns here tomorrow, and Peggy also returns for work in a week or so. Betty went up to London to stay with Auntie Edith, and from there on to the Misses Perry’s, and her precious Maureen’s. Mummy took an excursion up for a shopping expedition on Thursday, and I would have gone with her, but Daddy had a feverish chill, and so I stayed at home.

Tennis has been my main relaxation these hols. as I joined the Clifton Club for the holidays and have played ever such a lot, and got better than I have been before. It is almost midnight so I’ll stop for now, but there is still heaps of those two years to fill up.


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Monday September 14th 1936

I am officially working in the den now, but there is just nice time before lunch to write a little more in here, so I am deserting anatomy for the present.

While we were at Teignmouth several exciting things happened. Jim came down for a day about half-way through the holiday. We went across the river to Shalden, and over the rocks from there to a beach around the headland – Labrador – where the bathing was quite good, and there was a raft. We bathed before tea, and soon after Jim said he felt like a climb, and wanted to tackle the cliffs backing the beach. They looked fairly easy, some green shrub and bracken, brambles etc. growing over most of it, although it was pretty steep, especially near the top. Daddy, Betty and Pat also started, but came down after a few yards as the beginning was difficult. As Jim got further up we could see that the going was pretty hard and the footholds often precarious, and the easiest way up that we saw he said was impossible as the scrub was impenetrable. After ten minutes or so he was quite far up, and most people on the beach were gazing up at him. Some fishermen came up and said that the last boy who tried to climb up there had to be hauled to the top, and advised us to phone for the coastguards from the little café there. Mums was getting really anxious about him, and Daddy insisted upon climbing up part of the way to be able to hear what Jim said, as his shouts in reply to ours were drowned by the noise of the waves. Daddy disappeared in the undergrowth, and did not reappear for about a quarter of an hour by which time we were wondering which of the two was most dangerously situated. He had got up part of the way and reported that Jim was perfectly all right, and was going to climb to the top. By that time Jim was only a speck on the cliff, and we could only just make out his movements. When almost at the top he jumped and slithered and disappeared, and my heart somersaulted most uncomfortably, though luckily Mums wasn’t looking at that moment. However, he reappeared after a few minutes, and reached the top safely, turning round to wave cheerily before disappearing over the top. Mums had a horrid fright, for when turning back to look at him again she saw a seagull swooping down the cliff, and for a moment thought it was Jim tumbling. We were both jolly relieved when he reached safety, and remained rooted on the beach until we saw him safe. Daddy, Pat and Betty started climbing the cliff steps to reach him from above – which it turned out they could not have managed because of the nature of the ground above – before they saw him gain the top. And Alan and Peggy wandered off along the rocks to the next cove, and home to Dawlish soon after we began to get worried. I could not help thinking what selfish, thoughtless people they were to do that then. Jim got back before we did, and only had scratches, though plenty of them, to show for his adventure. I’m not sure whether we did not have a harder time than he did that afternoon.

Another adventure was one that happened to me, and in contrast to Jim’s, only lasted a couple of minutes or so. Pat and I had gone down for a bathe by ourselves before tea, nobody else being keen. It was towards the end of the rough seas we had during the second week, and the waves were still more rough than normally, and a nasty undercurrent was running out. We bathed, and then were sitting right on the edge of the water sunning ourselves before returning. After a few minutes there was a chorus of shouting from several bathers standing just within their depth, though probably out of it when the big waves came. They yelled ‘Help, help’ and were looking back beseechingly to people on the beach, to rescue a woman who was about twenty or thirty feet further out, and apparently drowning. As soon as I realised what was happening I jumped up and dashed in, wading as far as I could, and then swimming hard. I passed the group of bathers and got to the woman, who was just passively floating, head only just out of the water. As soon as I reached her she gave up all effort and just flopped, giving me all her weight to support. I wasn’t ready for this, and she went under for a moment, and it seemed ages before I could pull her head out of the water again. Then I put my right arm around her chest, and swam back as best I could, the bathers grabbing her as soon as I reached them. They let her go down too at first, but then carried her back to the beach all right, and I followed as far as the water’s edge, but then returned to Pat, as she had more than enough helpers. Nobody took any notice of me, being more interested in her, and in a man who had plunged in with all his clothes on. It was all over so quickly that I could hardly realise anything had happened when I was sitting down by Pat again. But I did feel very proud of having saved somebody, although all the time I knew quite well and recognised that in another minute or two somebody else would have reached her, and that I had run absolutely no risk as she was not far out, and had not struggled or anything.

So that made two bathing rescues in two years for me – the last one last year being Derek while we were surf-bathing at St. Owen’s at Jersey. But then, although that one was more difficult, and I was more laid out than he was when we got in, I always felt that it would have been my fault if he had been drowned, as I was left in charge of him. In his case however if I hadn’t got him nobody else would , and he would certainly have been drowned. We did not know then that St. Owen’s is very dangerous bathing just where we were, and since then we have heard of at least a dozen people drowned there. I wonder if the tradition will be continued next year!

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Monday September 21st 1936

I haven’t made up the gap left by those last two years, but today there are the happenings of yesterday to record first.

Several months ago Jim broke the news that he had applied for a short-time commission in the R.A.F. He would have to train for about four years, and then be on the reserve list for another couple of years I think. He was paid a good lump sum – £500 I think – at the end of the four years, and pay during that time. He said it was really as a means of getting money, and that he hoped to have time for writing while training. We were all rather sorry he had fixed on this to do, as he wasn’t keen on it himself, and it seemed an awful waste of precious youth time. Nothing further was heard about it from the authorities until yesterday when Jim said he had had a letter giving him the time for an appointment in London this week. This brought another wave of discontent with the project, and after lunch yesterday when he, Dad, Alan, Betty and I were in the drawing room Daddy broached the subject, saying he and Mums were sorry Jim was deciding to join the R.A.F. and suggesting that the money he could save might be much less than he imagined. Jim agreed, saying that he was doubtful about that too. He, Dad and I then discussed any other ways of getting a living that we thought suitable. Jim said he thought possibly of returning to journalism, or getting sub-editor on a magazine etc. I suggested going to the University for a literature teaching degree, and Dad that he should see Sam Bensusan in London, and try to get a leg up from him. We discussed all these things and it came out that Jim was in the middle of a book which was shaping very well, and which it was his chief desire to finish. He said his previous one had been kept for several months by Jenkins, and that was a good sign, but that he was very dissatisfied with it himself when he got it back, but that there were good parts in it, and rewriting might make it worth while. His verse was also greatly improved lately and all he wanted now was just time to settle down to writing, tooth and nail, and that in a year he would have ‘got started’ he was sure.

Then came what I am writing all this for primarily. A perfect little speech from Dad, the second of that pure gold variety which makes your heart sing to know the author of it. The first was a long time ago, and was aimed at Alan, and I have written it down in my old diary I think. Daddy said quite simply that the money he and Mums had was not for themselves, that they would ‘pop off’ and it would all go to their children, and that that was what it was for. He said that he would be delighted to give Jim the £2 a week for a year – which was all he really wanted to be blissfully happy – and that (in reply to his murmuring that it was to be a loan, and that he would guarantee to repay it) he must not regard it as a loan or feel duty bound in gratitude to himself and Mums at all, as the money was of no importance to them except as could be used for the children. It’s no use  – I can’t write it as he said it, it gets too drawn out and loses the simple straightforward beauty that it had.

But if Daddy’s part of the proceedings was a pure glimpse of a fine soul, I think Jim’s was hardly less. He thanked Daddy earnestly, and said he saw it from his point of view. But when Dads said ‘that was all fixed then, we’ll start on Monday, tomorrow’ he couldn’t speak, and had to raise the luckily voluminous Telegraph to cover his confusion. When it dawned upon us what his continued silence meant Daddy and I suddenly remembered our wallpapering task and departed to it at the double. When outside Daddy said smiling ‘He does feel it strongly, doesn’t he?’ and as I was almost dissolving myself by then I just mumbled that it was jolly nice that he did.

Mums asked me at tea time whether it was true that Dad had persuaded Jim to give up the R.A.F. project, and I replied that it probably was, though it wasn’t definitely fixed. She was overjoyed. I longed then, and several other times during the day to tell her about how Jim had taken it, but that joy I left resolutely to Daddy, as I knew he would tell her everything when they were alone together, and that a quiet chat and happiness shared alone would be the least reward they could have for their great goodness.

I’ve left a line because what is coming next seems so far removed both in importance and mood from what has just been written. But still it is part of my life, and so it is going down with the rest. – thank goodness for the variety of even an uneventful life!

I have been trying cold baths in the morning for the last fortnight or so, and for the last three days, encouraged by the book ‘The Cauldron of Disease’ I am reading, in the evenings too. To these I have added five or ten minutes doing exercises after the bath, and have managed to make myself more stiff in two or three days than in weeks of hard tennis. The combination certainly sends me glowing with health down to breakfast or to bed. The success of these schemes encouraged me to try an experiment I have been turning over in my mind for a long time. I decided to go for a whole day without eating anything, just to see what it was like, and whether I should get awfully hungry by the evening. I was afraid the others, especially Mums, would make a fuss and not let me, but when I announced my intention yesterday morning there was only a little nagging, and not a determined effort to dissuade me. I had two cups of tea for breakfast, no lunch, Three cups of tea for supper, and a cigarette at each mealtime. I never felt hungry at all, which was rather disappointing. At lunchtime my tummy started rumbling vigorously, but gave up protesting in a little while. In the evening I had a dull sort of tummy ache, and my supper cups of tea did not taste a bit right, and also I was very surprised to find that I could not taste my cigarette at all unless I took enormous puffs.

Also about supper time, after walking home from church, my legs felt rather wobbly and weak at the knees, and my head liable to get slightly dizzy. But perhaps these were feelings I brought on myself, or imagined, as I had a vigorous cold bath and did strenuous exercises before going to bed, quite normally, and felt perfectly fit then. This morning I had my usual small breakfast of one piece of toast and two cups of tea, so my fast has really been quite long, and if this breakfast is not counted has gone from supper on Saturday to lunch on Monday. I’m not sure whether the rest it gives the tummy is counterbalanced by lowered vitality or not. I mean to repeat the performance quite soon, perhaps – not so drastically – every Sunday.

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Monday October 26th 1936

Somehow now I have got a diary I don’t seem to use it very much. This evening though, after a very strenuous day, my head is splitting with a beastly headache and instead of working I am going to play here.

A lot has happened in the last week. Last Monday I bid a sad goodbye to the family and returned here to the scene of my labours. But coming back was exciting as it meant starting at hospital, which I have been longing for for ages. The pre-clinical course takes a fortnight, and so is already half finished. After that Bulkeley, Westerman, jones, Whatley, Mrs Yates, Westmorland-White and I go onto Dr. Hare’s medicine post. Pre-clinical has been very interesting so far. Danny Davis who gives the medicine lectures is a very nice man, although very full of mannerisms which give the impression of unbounded conceit. But really he is very kind and quick to see things sympathetically. He is a budding physician, so I am told. Miss Barry supervises bandaging parties which are the only representatives of surgery we have had officially as yet. After much inquiring and wavering of minds we have all acquired stethoscopes and are busy learning to hear through them. We have already ‘listened in’ to one normal and two abnormal heart cases, and tomorrow are to hear more abnormal ones. The pharmacy lectures with Mr Macready started by making us all giggle hard, as he treats us as if we had just learnt to talk. But now we laugh with instead of at him, as he shows a good sense of humour and makes his otherwise dull lessons quite enjoyable.

This afternoon we went to watch Mr Joll’s ops. and saw several thyroids, and a stomach feeding tube put in. I have been leaving off my glasses as much as possible, and apparently watching intently for so long was too much, for the headache I had started by lunchtime was almost maddening when we came away. But it is a bit better now, and will probably be quite vanquished by the aspirins I mean to swallow at bedtime.

This morning I overslept, waking up at 8:30, and having a 9:00 lecture! I scrambled desperately, arriving just after 9:00 and Danny Davis didn’t appear till nearly 20 past.

Jones, Bulkely and I are all thinking of taking Primary next April but can’t decide definitely until we have seen Prof. Lucas Keene, and he has given the Staff’s official permission. I am dreading that the Phys. staff will say I don’t stand an earthly chance, I don’t tghink the anatomy staff will be so discouraging, but it will be enough to kill the chance of being allowed to try if the phys. people set their faces against it. Bulkeley may have to give up the idea for health reasons. She is not a bit strong, and hospital work may be more than enough for her without having to work like a nigger every evening. We had arranged to see Prof. today, but that was put off. But I expect we shall be summoned to hear the verdict quite soon; I hops so, for if all is well I want to get on with the good work right away.

Whatley and Mrs Yates are sharing a flat in John Street and so are jolly near hospital. Whether they get on well together or not I don’t know for certain. I notice they quite often sit separated from each other which seems odd, but they may have made a compact not to get too exclusively friendly – a wise move. Somehow I’m not sure they would suit each other perfectly, but then hardly any two people would, and they have obviously much in common anyway.

Seeing those ops. this afternoon completely exhausted me, though I didn’t realise it ’till afterwards. There is a sense of melodrama in an operating theatre, and the strict discipline and silent co-operation of everyone present is impressive and rather awe-inspiring. Everything is in deadly earnest and of great importance – I am rather dreading my first appearance there in an official capacity.

Enough for now, I must do some gentle reading.


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Thursday December 3rd 1936

More than a month since I last wrote – I can hardly believe it. Hospital is still as enthralling and exhausting as ever, and the joy of it is rather increasing than diminishing. One month of the three under Dr. Hare has flown by, and although we seem at present very lost amongst the masses of new knowledge revealed to us daily, still a good deal sinks in I think, and we are progressingm though slowly.

Up to date my cases have been – 1) Mrs Askew – little grey-haired lady with pernicious anaemia 2) Harold Church 29 a very groggy heart from rheumatic fever 3) Dorothy Byworth 15 1/2 a tremendous girl with a pituitary dysfunction 4) Mrs Eason a dark young wife with thyroid and very nervy 5) David Richards, a Welshman, with ? colitis and pancreatitis.

We have rounds with Dr. Hare twice a week, and although they are rather prolonged they certainly teach us a lot, and one of the very first things I learnt was to like Dr. Hare extremely. Her kindliness to patients is an example to everybody – and I wish Dr. Davies and others would try to copy her a little more.

Miss Scott, the house physician, is also extremely nice, not condescending, or unwilling to be bothered with our little worries. Mrs. Stuart who gives us a round and a tutorial once a week is a very attractive person, and also teaches very well indeed, so altogether we are blessed in our superiors. The seniors on the post – O. Jones, Collins, Blatchford, Milne, Spencer – are very decent and not lordly at all thank goodness.

Outpatients with Dr. Davies is rather a waste of time – not that our time is very precious at present – as he does not teach much, and races through about ten to fifteen people in an hour and a half or so. Dr. Hobhouse’s outpatients is really well worth going to, perhaps because there are fewer patients. His teaching is excellent, and we learn a great deal from him, as his mind is a very clear one, and he presents facts very clearly. I skipped his outpatients this afternoon at 3:00pm to go and meet Auntie Isa at Paddington, returning from Paignton. Somehow I missed her, but found her later at Barbara B-B’s flat where I stayed about 3/4 hr as she, Ruth and B. were going to a Medical Dinner and had to begin dressing. What attracts me in Auntie as in Jean Butt too I think, is her transparent honesty and frankness – though Auntie is quite liable to cheat openly and frankly, and Jean never would. I wish I could be better friends with Barbara, but we just can’t manage it though we both try.

When I am with her in company we get along quite well, but when together, or if she is with her own friends there is an air of disquiet all the time that we cannot overcome. I am afraid the difficulty is insurmountable; her upbringing and mine have been very different, she belongs to quite a different ‘set’ and our outlook and manners are widely separated, so I think we must just go our different ways, although it seems silly when her mother and Auntie are such great friends, and we are working together at the same hospital.

I am being rather worried at present by my inconvenient habit, noticed especially recently, of nearly fainting at even slightly ‘gruesome’ sights or deeds. My first two W.R.s made me feel very odd, and I am not quite safe about them yet, though much better I think. Last week when Scott did a venesection on a man with brimless-pneumonia and intense congestion, removing about 1/2 pint of blood, I was very near to fainting and had to get near the door for emergencies. When we had the Schick test too I was very frightened in case I should really faint then, and it would have been a dreadful disgrace to faint for such a trivial thing. I don’t mind the pain at all it is just the thought of a needle going into the arm which upsets me – but everyone would of course think it was sheer funk – perhaps it is all funk, but it is certainly not put on, and I can’t control it. The only way it gets better is by doing things repeatedly until I am so used to them they don’t bother me. But the repeat process is rather painful for the nerves. What worries me at the moment is how I shall react to all the horrid things in surgery and casualty. Johnston has been telling me of all kinds of beastly things she has done on casualty – stitching up great gaping scalp wounds, removing ingrowing toenails, and giving  gas and O2 every day. At the moment I just can’t picture myself standing up to those things, but by the time I reach them it may be all right.

The days are so exhausting and my bad habit of going to bed late so ingrown, that I am too tired in the evenings to settle down to work, and I read instead or listen to the wireless. This can’t go on long as I must settle down to work. I have sent Jim two poems so far – the first mush, the second as he said ‘on the target but an outer’ so that is not exactly sparkling. I mean to try again soon, perhaps this weekend, as it promises to be a dull one.

This term I have been to see Pride and Prejudice, and Die Fledermaus, and tomorrow I am going to try to get in for Madame Butterfly .  Good-night!

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Sunday December 6th 1936

What a momentous day for the nation! The King’s decision will be out tomorrow, and whatever it is, it is bound to have pretty serious consequences. If only he would give up the wretched Mrs. Simpson, but there seems little chance of that.

Yesterday Mr. Payne in Calthorpe Ward died of mediastinal new growth. This is my first death at close quarters though I didn’t see his body thank goodness. He was in only a few days, and the suddenness of it makes it hard to believe. That he should really have died, be beyond anything we can do and think of, when only the day before he was sitting up and really quite cheerful; it’s unreal almost. I never thought death would upset me as I have a comfortable belief about it, but the reality needs some adjustment to the belief, and I find it difficult and upsetting. The thought of him is continually cropping up in my mind, and I cried this afternoon when I wrote to Jim and mentioned it. I mean to go through it thoroughly in bed tonight and get it settled in my mind so it won’t worry me all the time. A doctor without an opinion on death is not complete, although my opinion will probably grow more true as I grow older. Good-night!

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1933 diary Meg

Meg’s Diary 1933

by Margaret Taylor, age 18 years
Covers March to November, 1933

Meg is expecting to be in her last year at Clifton High, until she is offered a bursary to stay another year. Important exams for Higher Certificate. Many friends and a favourite teacher leave in July at the end of the year. Beginning to feel the struggles of adulthood, more moral musings, an ordeal at the dentist.

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Wednesday March 1st 1933

It is a long time since I wrote last, but nothing exciting has happened really. It is now the middle of the Easter term – my last Easter term! At the end of next term I leave. Probably to go to Bristol University. I don’t know whether I want to leave or not. I certainly love school, but I also want to hurry up and learn to be a doctor, and start work properly.

I’ve got to try to get a scholarship from somewhere. I’m going in for the State Scholarship with the higher cert. but it is a pretty hopeless chance as there are only 300 schols. and thousands and thousands of people going in for it. Perhaps I might get a Bristol schol. into the university or a grant or something.

Alan will probably be going in at the same time. We were talking about this the other day. Mum said Alan found working much more difficult than I did, and I was rather annoyed (I didn’t show it though!)  I suppose he does find it more difficult, but it seems rather that if he does well it is wonderful, and that if I do – well of course I like working so I ought to be good. I know it is a pretty rotten attitude, and I think I’m rather proud of liking work really. Though perhaps I don’t like work, I don’t quite know. I’ve got an itch (to put it crudely) towards knowing interesting things and I love digging out mines of information and feeding on them. If I settle down to physics or chemistry or biology I enjoy doing it, but I don’t always enjoy settling down!

We have been going to the theatre lately. We went to the panto – Robinson Crusoe – and a little while ago we went to Peter Pan, with Jean Forbes Robertson in it, marvellous; and last Friday Jean and Ken took me to Wellington, with Matheson Lang.

About a week ago, Noel came down and stayed with us for a few days. He is awfully funny and quite out of place here. He spent most of his time in the Zoo, and also went over Will’s and to the pictures practically every night. His chickens are paying, though not very much I think. He is incubating a batch of chickens now – I wish I could go down to Paignton and see them.

Last Tuesday (yesterday) there was a fancy dress party at school given by Miss Phillips. It is a sort of leaving present because she is going at the end of next term. We had a jolly fine time, and danced most of the time. I borrowed Mum’s shoes, and the heels were a bit high and made my feet sore, so my legs were all stiff during the netball match against Colston this afternoon. Anyway we won so it didn’t matter.

I have just written out something for the school magazine. I will give it in tomorrow. It would be topping if it managed to get in. It’s fairly good I think, but not wonderful by any means. It will probably be rejected, though very kindly I hope.

It’s very late, and there is an 8:30am hockey practice tomorrow for the form match on Friday, so


(P.S. My thing for the mag. was accepted.)

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Sunday April 9th 1933

I have just discovered that my fountain pen is missing.  I’m not sure whether I have left it at school, or whether I have used it these hols.

We broke up on April 5th and the weather has been glorious since then. On Thursday,  Jean, Joan, Pat and I went for a hike across the bridge. It was great fun, we picked tons of daffodils in the ‘daffodil field’ and also some white and purple violets, which smelt topping. We picked up a stray farmer’s dog, and in the end had to leave him at the police station. We got back about half-past-eight. It was dark, and Mum was rather anxious. I felt a rotter for being late and worrying her, and am resolved to get back early on Wednesday, when we are going for another hike with Flea and Audrey.

Work is progressing fairly favourably. I came a cropper in Chemistry this term, but mean to work hard these hols, so I won’t get overdone next term by last minute cramming! Somehow none of my carefully planned work in the hols has materialised, but it is really going to these hols – it just must!

Last term Miss Phillips offered Jean and me a bursary for next year. This means staying on another year, trying for a scholarship next spring Term, and taking London first M.B. in the Summer term following. It all means plenty of hard work, and I am a little doubtful whether my accepting ( I hadn’t much option, Miss Phillips kindly decided for me) the cricket captaincy next term will spoil my work rather. Anyway it’s settled now, and it will give me a jolly nice break from work.

I am rather looking forward to beginning my career of medicine, and am sure it is what I am best suited for. Alan is having a hard job deciding what to do. Dad is taking him to the Institute of Industrial Psychology these hols, and it has been great fun filling up all the mysterious forms, about his character and so on.

I am just beginning to grow up now, and wonder what the world means, and all the mysteries and horrors and beauties of it. It is coming true about those dire sayings of grown ups that ‘you have to struggle against the world’, and ‘you will have to suffer’ etc. It all seemed so remote and unlikely when I was smaller, but I think I am beginning to see part of the meaning of the ‘struggle’. It is a struggle to keep clean, when you are surrounded by mud, a struggle to stop making mud-pies when you should be brushing the dirt off yourself and other people, and of always remembering to pull up and think whether you have got dirty again since you last washed yourself. Some people are born and brought up to keep clean, and it’s not so difficult for them, but for most of us it is a continual struggle until you have the habit of cleanliness, and then it is easier and comes naturally. The world helps you not to get filthy, but it also tries to stop you getting absolutely clean – it seems to like faun-coloured people, and that is not good enough.

It is so easy to make good resolutions, and go forth radiant with them into the world. But the world remains the same work-a-day world that it was before you made your resolutions, and you forget them and go on in your own old work-a-day way. It is so easy to go on in the world in the same old way, and it’s so hard to get out of your well-worn rut, from the company of so many neighbours, and go along some different way where you have to keep pricking yourself to prevent you wandering absentmindedly back to your original niche. Man is full still of the primitive ‘herd instinct’ in all matters of morals, and those who depart from the herd are mostly those who have lagged behind, and keep writing startling books to drag back some more misguided creatures to keep them company.

When I have listened to music it has seemed to tell me something of the beauty and ugliness of life. It has stirred my emotions, like it stirred Alan’s when he started crying a few nights ago after hearing some of Chopin’s music and his life. Jim also just departed in time to hide his feelings, and Alan set me and Mum off, so it shows that music is powerful. I shall always remember Dad patting Alan’s shoulder, and saying ‘We are glad you feel it like that.’ His voice was a bit wobbly, and he said it so kindly that I loved him more then than I think I have ever done.

But it must be more than just emotions that are affected. That affect is not lasting, and serves little practical value. I am reading ‘Joan and Peter’ by H.G.Wells[1], and he has made me grateful beyond words for my opportunity of education.  It must make me get the habit of cleanliness, as well as the power and determination to do all I can for the good of my community.


[1]    Joan and Peter – the Story of an Education. Published 1918. Available online at

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Tuesday May 2nd 1933

I am back at the old bad habit of writing in bed. Perhaps the writing will announce the fact even if I had not said so. (English!)

Tomorrow Alan goes back for his last term at the College. The report from the psychology people has not come through yet, although it is now overdue. I hope it will be helpful when it does come, because nobody can think of anything which seems at all possible, or which inspires him at all. It seems at present as if he will go on with engineering and hope to get a post at Filton aerodrome.

On Thursday, Pat and I go back to school. This term will be a bit rough going for me – cricket captain and Higher Cert. I will only hope I don’t get a run of headaches like I have been having lately; goodness knows why – unless it is tennis.

That mention of headaches makes me feel guilty. I don’t want to seem to be airing my ailments too frequently. I hate people who do that. A few days ago I was reading a letter of mine home to Mum and Dad written when I was in London, and I said something about having rotten headaches. When I read it I felt awfully angry, or rather I despised myself for whining about headaches.

Still, I do like thinking about my ills to myself, and airing my grievances does console me, although it must never be done to other people, although if you have a sympathetic listener it is a great temptation.

These hols. I have played tennis quite a lot at the Club in Beaufort Road. My tennis has improved quite a lot, but my social behaviour has not. When there are more than eight people up there those not playing sit in deck chairs, and carry on polite conversation – here I fade out. To right and left of me ladies chatter about what they do with the baking sheet, how often they wash their tennis frocks, what hair shampoo is best, what ‘she’ said to ‘him’ and whom has ‘she’ ‘cultivated’ recently. A heated discussion as to whether ‘she’ could ring up a casual boy acquaintance who was seriously ill, merely bored and aggravated me. It is so silly.

Why cannot people behave according to common sense, not tied up and hedged round with a hundred and one conventionalities, formalities, superstitions etc. This sounds sensible, yet why cannot I behave rationally when playing in a set with a young boy? Why do I bother what he thinks about me, or speculate upon it; why do I behave better and am more willing to make myself useful in front of strangers than I am at home?

I am all at sea even at the club. Surrounded with conversation about knitting, housecraft, ‘she’s and ‘he’s I sit, silent and apparently aloof. It sounds very poetical and interesting, but it isn’t. I don’t feel happy, although I try to persuade myself that it is not my fault, and I am above them mentally. I must either be as aloof as I know I must appear, or manage not to appear so at all. At present I remain silently aloof, yet longing not to be. I don’t find it easy to make friends, or rather acquaintances, and I find I am not pretty enough for people to overlook any backwardness in this direction. I am not made for society, and mean to leave it well alone. Yet Alan and Dad go chatting their way about, surrounded, but not swamped by, four or five ladies. I just crawl away – I am always on the outside of any row I find myself in – and hide in a book, which even if I don’t read it, provides some excuse for not talking to anyone.

Dash it all! But there are lots of consolations. I like Guiding, and Jean and I have thoroughly enjoyed helping Connie Poulder with her company down in Bristol. It is really worthwhile work, not superficial small talk but serious and important. It builds, or helps us to build the characters of those poor children who otherwise would have mostly bad influences moulding them.

Then, serious-mindedeness is needed in work – school work and training to be a doctor. And as I am going to be a doctor, I am glad I am seriously minded, and not frivolous.

I am feeling increasingly glad that I am a woman and not a man. The reason for this is the same that biased me in the opposite direction when I was younger – women do much more self-sacrificing work, are altogether more unselfish and thoughtful for others than men. I used to envy men their easy post, but, as happens most often, the hardest way is decidedly the best. As long as I keep the big things right the little things should not worry me.


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Saturday May 27th 1933

I have recently dug up my second diary book – the one before this – and reading it has sharpened my determination not to stop writing now and then. It seems queer to me now that I wrote what is in that diary; it doesn’t read as if it was written by me at all in some parts. But it is awfully interesting, and has reminded me of tons of little things I had forgotten, and brought my life of five years or so ago back very vividly to my memory. It will be extremely interesting to read this diary when I am middle-aged because I am now writing exactly what I feel at the moment, not to an audience.

Last night Jean, Joan and I went to Prince’s Theatre to see “The White Horse Inn”[2].  It was simply glorious, and we enjoyed it immensely, although we went in the gallery, and were therefore perched most precariously and uncomfortably, and surrounded by ginger-beer bottles, oranges and apples!

It is queer how absolute – well, contempt or at any rate a strong sense of superiority and aloofness – takes possession of anybody finding himself surrounded by people belonging to an inferior class. It needs all your powers of reasoning, telling yourself that they are fellow creatures possessing minds and sentiments akin to your own, to overcome the almost instinctive dislike of their presence and proximity. It is all the nasty, selfish, underhand things which come naturally to average people, and so the kind, unselfish, broad-minded tolerant view has to be carefully continuously and almost unendurably cultivated. It is perhaps the very difficulty of the task which makes following Christianity worthwhile and so valuable. If a sudden jump into Heaven could be made, the vast majority of people would gather themselves together and make the leap, but it isn’t managed that way. To get to Heaven is a life’s work, and everything else must be subordinated. It is not an easy life’s work either, but a perpetual, never-ending relentless struggle, and if you lie down for a rest you slide down away from the path, and unless you wake up pretty soon, and you have to wake yourself up, you are miles away and in dense jungle by the time you come to your senses.

My metaphors are getting mixed!

Just before the beginning of this term I had my hair cut to almost an Eton crop. I got the idea from the VI  Form play in which I was a butler, and therefore brushed my hair back behind my ears. The whole family approved of the change, but those of my school friends whom I met before term began did not seem to like it. Going back to school was almost agony for the first two or three days. I knew everybody was noticing my hair, and only the knowledge that I and my family liked it the new way kept me from longing to have it back to bobbed again. However all bad days come to an end, and now everybody is quite used to the change, and I am glad I did it.

Today was to have been the great cricket match of the year – Cheltenham. But it had to be scratched because it absolutely pelted all this morning. Of course it was the first wet day for almost a week, and there is a good forecast for tomorrow!

I am finding my responsibilities of cricket captain as well as going in for the Higher Cert. rather overpowering this term, and I would probably have overdone it and got a series of my particular headaches if it had not happened that Alan developed German Measles last week, and therefore I will be in quarantine from tomorrow for a fortnight, and will have to stay at home. This will give me a good rest from rushing about arranging things at the last minute, and remembering or trying to remember things I should have done already and have forgotten. Also it will provide me with a most useful and leisurely time in which to work and revise thoroughly for the exam. I only hope I don’t get German Measles though! Miss Phillips said I could play for the Form against the Staff on Wednesday if I kept separate. She is a sport!  Goodnight!

[2]          (from Wikipedia)  Im weißen Rößl (English title: White Horse Inn or The White Horse Inn) is an operetta or musical comedy by Ralph Benatzky and Robert Stolz in collaboration with a number of other composers and writers, and set in the picturesque Salzkammergut region of Upper Austria. It is about the head waiter of the White Horse Inn in St. Wolfgang who is desperately in love with the owner of the inn, a resolute young woman who at first only has eyes for one of her regular guests. Sometimes classified as an operetta, the show enjoyed huge successes both on Broadway and in the West End (651 performances at the Coliseum starting 8 April 1931) and was filmed several times. In a way similar to The Sound of Music and the three Sissi movies, the play and its film versions have contributed to the saccharine image of Austria as an alpine idyll—the kind of idyll tourists have been seeking for almost a century now. Today, Im weißen Rößl is mainly remembered for its songs, many of which have become popular classics.

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Wednesday June 7th 1933

The fortnight of my quarantine is almost up now, and I shall be glad in many ways to go back to school. I have done much less work than I originally meant and should have done, but a fury (?) will arrive tomorrow and that will absolve me from all my sins!

We lost the match against the Staff hopelessly last Wednesday, but it was great fun! Miss Tate, Miss Spencer, Miss Spear and Miss Cook all made tons of runs. I bowled Miss Spear! But she bowled me too, and I only made 2. Altogether they made 125 and we made 78. I had to keep away, but they came very near and so I did not feel lonely or anything, it was rather fun being an ‘outlaw’. Before they went all the Staff came and thanked me – because I was captain – and I felt very honoured and slightly bewildered!

I have been knitting a great deal lately and as a result have supplied Daddy and Jim with a pair of grey socks each, and Jim with a pair of short tennis socks. I am hard at work now knitting a little frock for Mrs. Sissons’ new baby boy that was born last night about 6 o’clock. She and Mr. Sissons are awfully bucked that it is a boy, as they were afraid it would be a girl, as all Mrs. Sissons’ family seem to be girls.

For the last week or so it has been stiflingly hot, and almost too hot to sit in the sun in the garden. We have got two permanent tickets for the West of England tennis tournament and yesterday Mum and I went. We were nearly fizzled up to nothing but saw some awfully good tennis. A Mr. Wheatcroft was awfully good, and has a service like a thunder-bolt. Vere and Tony King just won their doubles match, and Vere is doing very well in the singles. We saw Miss Stammers too, she plays beautifully, but I don’t like her. We mean to go again tomorrow.


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Saturday July 1st 1933

We got back from Cheltenham about 8 o’clock. We had been playing them at cricket, an ‘A’ team, and we lost, of course! 104 to 69. I made 6 and took 2. This season I have been doing fairly well, I have made a 36 and a 34. Miss Phillips says she is pleased with the cricket this summer, so things in that way aren’t so bad. But, unfortunately, I do not like my vice  – Peggy Heaven. She is very confident and bossy, and tries to have her own way in everything. We have had a slight clash, and are not on the best of terms, although this is not visible outwardly. I should not wonder though if we have a thorough bust-up soon. I shall not let her boss the cricket, anyhow.

I have got through the first round of the singles tennis championship by beating Janet Harris by 8-4, but I shall lose the next round, as I have got to play Cherry Peters who is vice tennis captain. I mean to get at least one game anyhow.

The physics practical exam is next Tuesday. I really cannot make myself believe that it is quite so soon. I shall have to work hard at it tomorrow. We actually did extra physics practical on Friday afternoon; I think Miss Gare was pleased with us  for asking for it.

Last Monday we were shown over the College labs. by Mr Babcock. He was wfully nice, and the labs. are wonderful – the best in England. It will be very strange doing the exam in a foreign lab. though.

The rest of the papers begin on the 17th. Ugh! How mean, and I have tons to learn. It does not matter tremendously luckily if I don’t do very well, and I am afraid I won’t.

Auntie Isa has promised me her microscope. That save s about £10 – £15. It is coming as soon as anyone Auntie Isa knows comes to England.

Good-night!  I am tired.

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Thursday July 13th 1933

This Thursday is the Thursday before the Monday which means the beginning of the exam! This may sound a little complicated, but unfortunately is at present very clearly in my mind. I do not know half of the things I should, but will have to learn up to the last moment as usual. Fortunately there is only one exam a day except for the first day, so there will be quite a lot of time for revision while the exams are going on. We begin with Mechanics and Chemistry I – an unlucky and probably rather depressing start, but we hope for the best!

The Physics practical took place on July 4th, a Thursday. We four, Eileen Knox, Joan, Jean and myself went to the college for it. It was not at all bad as practicals go, but the questions were rather long, and I did not finish either of them. I should think I might get 50-60% on it. That would be a pass alright. We might hear the results before the end of term; that depends on whether the examiner sends our results as well as the boys’ to the college, who always get their results earlier than anybody else. It seems ages since the practical, I had quite forgotten about it.

On Saturday there are first and second XI matches against Bath Royal. This will be the last first XI match this season, and as we have actually not lost a proper first eleven match this season yet we are naturally rather anxious abut it. The only match we have lost was an ‘A’ team against Cheltenham and all our best people could not play because they were playing tennis. We have lost two colts’ matches, but I have disowned the colts, so I don’t count that. Altogether we have had rather a record cricket season. We beat the Old Girls for the first time for ages on Monday. I made 19, after the first four had come out for ducks, and Pam Cook made 44 and Barbara Hill 29, and we won by 110 for 8 to 80. Also two people have made 50 and got bats. Biddy Abbot is giving one for Saturday. We’ll have to see about it!


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Tuesday July 18th 1933

I am pleased to say that the ‘great Monday’ has arrived and passed leaving me still alive, though wondering why.

I knew the beginning – mechanics – would be awful, and I was certainly right; it was awful. Even Miss Gare said the paper was a beastly one, and we are all rather depressed about it. Miss Gare, on hearing that I had attempted seven questions, said that I would get through all right! I told her some of the attempts were hopeless, but she replied that they probably were not, judging by my usual way of attacking questions. She must have been feeling very overcome I should think; Miss Gare distributing compliments is a most rare sight.

The Chemistry I paper was fairly nice. I expect I got about 60% on it which is an easy pass, but I don’t think I could have got more than 45 or 50% on the mechanics.

This morning we had Biology I – botany. It was really quite a nice paper. I rather enjoyed it. I think I may have got about 70% for it. Naturally my best subject is the only one in which it is impossible to get a distinction.

I should have liked to get one distinction but I’m sure that that is absolutely impossible with either chemistry or physics. Miss Allen mentioned something about Jean and me trying for State Schols next year from Higher by taking just main Botany and Zoo. but I cannot imagine myself doing nothing but Biology. Anyway I think I’m rather good at Physics and Chemistry though I know Miss Gare and Miss Denny think otherwise, and distinctions in those two subjects are considered next to impossible to get.

It will be rather fun next term with just Jean and me. We will probably have lots of private lessons, though I do hope we won’t have tons of free periods, they absolutely bore me. I do hope Miss Glenday will be nice, I expect so. The school will be awfully funny without Miss Phillips.

I forgot last time I wrote to mention the Old Girls’ Dinner at the Zoo on July 8th, Rose Day, to bid farewell to Pips, and present her with a rather handsome cheque. She has had absolutely tons of presents from ever so many people. It must be very nice to be known and loved by as many people as she is.

The dinner was a full dress affair. Arrayed in our glad rags we assembled, and the Sixth went to their table in the balcony. Of course it immediately began to pelt like anything, and kept it up until the rain was dripping steadily through the canvas awning and splashing over our beautiful dresses. Finally we retreated ‘en bloc’ for peace and dryness in the ground floor where another table was laid for us . But evidently peace was not for us. We, on false alarms or no alarms at all left our dinners and bolted upstairs whenever we thought a toast was being drunk or a speech begun. In the end we mostly had nearly all our dinner, missed the toasts, but got all the speeches except the first one. It was a fairly nice dinner as these things go, but I certainly don’t enjoy them. Perhaps because of my distressing ugliness. If I were beautiful I should probably revel in them.

Anyway the dinner gave me a lovely headache which lasted till Monday with such vigour that I spent all the morning lying down in Miss Tate’s room. I played in the Old Girls’ match though in the afternoon, and the headache went on Tuesday.

The match against Bath Royal last Saturday was scratched, so nobody got Biddy Abbot’s bat. The last match this season has therefore been played, and the only match we lost was the ‘A’ team against Cheltenham/ The first XI has not been beaten this season. Hurrah! My average is 16.3, and |I head the bowling averages with …. (blank)

I am collecting coupons from the Daily Express for classics. You get 12 books for 7/6. Not bad is it? I am sending for the first set of 4 tomorrow. I hope they will be nice. They will almost double my library, when I have got them all! No exam tomorrow!


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Thursday July 27th 1933

We had our last exam this morning. It was Zoology, and the nicest paper we had,excepting perhaps botany. Altogether, if only I have managed to get through the mechanics I expect I will pass all right, but I have not done awfully well as I did so long to. I have done the biology best, easily, and might, perhaps, have got near a distinction, but, naturally, they don’t give them for biology. The results come out on September 7th, so I am going to try to forget all about it until then.

José Cook has just heard the result of her exam. She did not get in. She was the 360th person out of 1200, but only the first hundred got in. It was some kind of Civil Serviced job. Anyhow she does not seem to have any second string, and I don’t know what she will do. It is rotten luck for her, and she is awfully clever too. I have got to know José fairly well. Being Head Girl I suppose she considers it her duty to know all her form. Anyway we have several times been out for walks together, and she has come to tea etc. We both are supposed to be clever, though she is more than I am, and I think this knowledge makes our conversation rather deep. We talk about different classes of people, their attitudes etc., and make glorious sweeping statements, and tons of quotations. I enjoy it immensely, and I think she does too. It is so much more interesting to exchange views, however imperfect, on things that matter, than gossip on those that don’t.

Winifred Tribe asked Jean and me if we could help with a camp for poor children for a week during the hols. But we are going away during the week we were wanted, and I think my first feeling was one of relief. I’m awfully ashamed of myself for not wanting to go and help, but the thought of those dirty little ragamuffins makes me shudder. I expect, if I had gone I should have liked it, because probably the children would be rather fascinating despite their dirt, and it would certainly have been jolly, happy surroundings. I think, as José and I said when we discussed it, it is because the really poor and really rich live such totally different lives than we do, and have such totally different attitudes and outlooks that there is very little in common between us, and so we do not sympathise with or understand them. And yet, knowing we should be filled with brotherly love for them, we instinctively turn the other way, often with our teeth on edge!

Yesterday was the form picnic to which all the staff were invited. We went to Nash House in car loads. I was landed with Miss Thomas, Miss Stacey and Miss Penny! We had great fun. It was a lovely place, with a swing right over a pond, and beehives, one full, with the bees going in and out awfully busily. We stood quite near, but they did not take any notice of us.

After supper we played rounders. The sides were people with surnames A-M and those N-Z. I don’t know which side won; we were very even I think, although they had more people. I made three or four rounders, and caught their side out twice, thus covering myself with glory, and , according to Miss Phillips, keeping up my reputation.

I wish I knew whether people liked me. I know anyhow that most of the school hold me in no awe, but treat me easily as an equal. I think, however that that is a better method than the superior, crush inviting one, and certainly healthier. I think too, that if I wanted to, I could make them do what I told them to. I should not really mind what they thought, but it is very natural to


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Sunday July 29th 1933

I have got a lot to write tonight.

On Friday we broke up, and it was the last school day of several people’s lives. Pam Bright, Elizabeth Pail and Joan all felt it very much, and before the long-drawn-out ceremonies of breaking up were completed they were all sobbing more or less hard. Pam was a perfect fountain, poor thing. What made it worse was that it also was Miss Phillips’ farewell to the school, so everyone was naturally feeling rather mopey.

All the mistresses and then all the VI th form went in one by one to say goodbye to her. I went in last of all. several of the mistresses retreated in floods. Miss Pyke was sobbing hard; Miss Gare was a bright salmon colour, and others were also affected!

Joan Lloyd, who went in first of us was streaming tears when she reappeared; Joan started again when she went in, and everyone was feeling a little hysterical. Luckily I did not feel a bit depressed, probably because I’m staying on, and I went in quite gaily. Miss Phillips gave me a brooch with the school crest on, which she gave to all the VI th, and then we talked for quite a long time. She said that either Anne Blake or I would be Head Girl next year. This flabbergasted me, as I had never given the matter a moment’s thought before, and have certainly never pictured myself as Head Girl! Miss Phillips said it would probably be Anne because I had to be in the labs. most of the time, but she implied that I would be a better Head Girl than Anne because she was not alive and alert enough. She said I had manged the cricket well, and then we discussed Miss Allen, and the ways of teaching English in schools, and books and srt. then she said ‘goodbye’ in a tearful voice, and said she was glad that she had managed to get through breaking up without ‘doing anything foolish’. I agreed.

Yesterday I had an appointment with Mr. Brooks at 9:30. He looked at my teeth, and ‘hummed’ and ‘hahed’ while my heart sank. He then said I would  to have an injection. I of course thought that he meant he was going to take one of my teeth out, and started getting into a bit of a panic, as I haven’t had either an injection or a tooth out in my life before. He then said he wasn’t going to take one out, but was injecting so he would be able to drill a tooth with a gigantic hole in.

He got the beastly thing ready, warned me it might prick, and showed me on a jaw bone exactly what he was going to do. He then stuck the wretched thing in and started probing it about inside my jaw. It didn’t hurt in the slightest, but I began to wonder if he was going to keep prodding all day, and my inside started turning upside down. At last, he got the thing out, and went behind me, and read a book or something. I was in a panic, and could not control my thoughts. Everything seemed deathly quiet and the slightest noise a thunderbolt, my hands and face got terrifically hot, and I saw my hands were covered in little drops of perspiration; I was quite sure my face was covered too. I tried to think of hundreds of different things, but all I could think of was that I might be going to faint, and I mustn’t let myself do it. After years and years Mr. Brooks came to the right side of the chair, and saw my face. I suppose I looked rather rotten, as he asked me if I was feeling queer. I muttered that I was a bit. He made me drink something, and said it tasted horrible, but I didn’t notice that it tasted at all. He made me put my head between my knees, and keep it there till I felt all right again. Then he drilled my tooth, and put the filling in. It didn’t hurt a bit, as the injection had made my jaw quite dead, and it did not revive until lunch time, and then it hurt so to open my mouth that I only had a cup of Bovril for lunch, a cup of tea for tea and a cup of chocolate for supper. But it was quite all right today.

I have got to go again on Thursday, and he says that there are two more teeth to be filled and injected. I don’t know whether one injection will do for both or whether they will both need an injection. I do hope they will only need one injection, and that I will manage to behave better this time. I am going to ask him to talk to me while he is doing the injection, if he can, because that might stop me working my silly self up into a panic. It is so idiotic to nearly faint when it didn’t hurt at all; I didn’t even feel the prick he said I would! He must think I’m a little fool. I must ask him on Thursday not to say anything about it to Dad when he goes next time, because it would only worry Dad and Mum to know about it, and Mr . Brooks might mention it not knowing that I had kept the matter quiet.

It rather worries me to think I am going to faint so easily when I am a doctor. I do hope I will get over it. It is the third time it has happened. I must really try to stop it happening again on Thursday, I ought to be able to.


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Monday, August 21st 1933

We went away on Aug 5th to Berrow, where we went last year with Helen and Lilian. Unfortunately we could not go to the Wellands’ again, as Mrs. Welland had been very ill with a bad heart, and so they were only taking one lot of people at a time, and could not take us.

Instead we went to Mrs. Bulbrook’s. It was quite nice and comfortable – we had all the upstairs to ourselves – but the Bulbrooks spoilt it all. At least they did their best to. Mrs. Bulbrook was a typical fat woman, and farmer’s daughter combined. She was jovial to the point of idiocy, and very, well, unrefined. She managed with very little encouragement – she never seemed to need that – to introduce herself into the family group, and on the second day of our visit came into our sitting room to play Dad at chess!

It was also unfortunate – for us of course – that Mrs. Bulbrook had a daughter, blessed with the name of Maggie. She was eleven, and apparently the only child available to play with Pat. The child became an absolute curse. Her speaking was awful, and her persistence in the face of coolness almost equalled that of her mother. We would go down to the sands in the morning, and half an hour after our triumphant entry, having with guile managed to leave Maggie behind, she would drift upon the scene from nowhere in particular, and soon be having an exciting game with Pat.

Never-the-less we had a very jolly holiday, and enjoyed it tremendously. Mummy was badly in need of a rest, and is I’m sure feeling much better now. The weather was remarkably good – only one really wet day. We did nothing exciting; we visited Burnham Carnival one day, and played tennis once , but generally slacked, spending the day divided between the sands and bathing or golfing; and the sand dunes watching the real golfers!

Today was the beginning of a new phase for Alan. It was his first day as a business man. He got into Scottish Widows in the end, entirely through the influence and persistence of Mr. Spence, who seems very struck by him. He seems to have got on all right, although I think he was, very naturally, rather nervous about going today. It doesn’t seem right that Alan and Jim are both earning their living whereas I am still, and will remain for some years, living on the family.

I don’t see that it can be helped, but I do wish I was not costing such a lot to Mum and Dad. Anyway I mean to jolly well repay them as soon as I possibly can. I’m becoming increasingly sure that I was wise to choose medicine as a career. But perhaps the results of the Higher Certificate will change my opinion!

Ruth Bensusan-Butt wrote to me, inviting me to stay with them these hols. It seems rather strange as she had never seen me, although she knows Dad and Mum well. She says she has heard all about me from Auntie Isa, so perhaps she will be prepared for the shock awaiting her! She is asking me so that her daughter Barbara and  I can get to know each other. She is taking up medicine too, and will be at about the same stage as I will at London University. I do hope we will like each other, because it would be great fun to be together all the way through the University as Ruth and Auntie Isa were before.

I’m rather nervous about going. The time is approaching as time has a habit of doing, and I’m getting panicky because they are rather rich and change for dinner and that kind of thing. I know I shall disgrace myself by not doing things properly. As long as they are not society people, with constant visitors and going out every night I shall probably survive it. If they are I’m taking the first train home!


P.S. I managed the injection all right. My iron will prevailed. I don’t think I’ll succumb to one again.

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Monday, October 31st 1933

It’s two months now since I last wrote here. The visit to Cheltenham was topping; Barbara was awfully decent, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Ruth Bensusan is charming; I like her immensely. She is the type of person I really like – there seem to be very few about!

I passed the Higher Certificate, though not at all easily. Joan failed, but was able to go to Bristol University all right, it exempting her from First Year, as she only failed in subsidiary, which Bristol don’t count. Jean also passed, beating me in Chemistry, and we were nearly level in the other things. I am determined to do better in December for first M.B., but I haven’t worked at all this term yet!

I’ve taken up golf, so have Mum, Dad and Alan, and we go to Failand every weekend. It’s grand sport and good exercise. Mum and I are hopeless but mean to improve.

Last Saturday the Sixth gave the Staff a social. We had great fun, it was by far the most successful social I’ve been to. We played “Mormons” and then a crime game in the dark. We drew for partners – two mistresses and one girl going together. I got Miss Press and Miss Millward – both nice. Miss Millward is a student from Bristol who is teaching us Zoology types; Dogfish and Rabbit. She is awfully good at netball and hockey. I hope she will be playing in the University first XI hockey match tomorrow against us. At the social she was awfully decent, misbehaving herself beautifully. I country danced with her at the end several times, and we were very vigorous indeed, twirling each other round at about 60 miles per hour. She has got a very oval face with a pointed chin, and is nicknamed “the Egg”. She is awfully nice I think, although some people don’t seem to like her. I hope she plays centre for the Staff next Thursday against the sixth at netball, because then she will be against me.


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Saturday, November 28th 1933

Reading my last times’ gossip I see that there were several answers to “wondering” now available! Miss Millward did not play in the University match, she captained the second  against us the other day. I got my second hockey colours that match though, and my first from the Cheltenham match a fortnight ago. We lost, after a terrific game – 3-2. They got their last goal in the last one and a half minutes. Miss Millward did play centre for the staff against the sixth netball. It was great fun – we won quite easily. She was awfully nice. I heard from Joan that she also fences well and rides remarkably well, as well as being good at nearly all games, and swimming too. Quite an athlete, and jolly brainy too, lucky bounder! The staff beat us at hockey though by 3-1. Miss Tate got all the goals, she was against me until half-time, when they shifted round. In the second half I had Miss Close and Miss Price, both quite good.

Today we (first XI) went to Bath for the shield hockey match against Bath Royal School. We lost 2-1 after a terrific fight. The play in the circles resembled a rugger scrum much more closely than a hockey match! We all like Bath Royal better than any other school we play. They are just as decent or rather “good class” as Cheltenham, but without that awful conceit, and “looking down” on everybody air that nearly all Cheltenham girls seem to have.

I got my admission card for first M.B. this morning.  My entrance number is 1813 which adds up to 13, and ends in 13, so goodness only knows what is going to happen. I’m not sure whether it is a good or a bad sign! It is getting so near now that I’m getting quite worked up. Auntie Sylvia and Uncle Futa have awfully kindly offered to put me up for the fortnight or week. I am hoping against hope – for it isn’t likely – that I’ll be able to be back by the 18th or 19th to play in the Old Girls hockey and netball matches.

Alan went to a foot harriers meeting at Yalton this afternoon. Mummy and Daddy took him out in the car. He thoroughly enjoyed himself, and was one of the only two to be in at the kill. I must confess that all kinds of hunting make me slightly sick. I know that’s exaggerated , but nevertheless, quite seriously, I do hate the very idea of any kind of hunting. It may be because I’m a girl, and so not so callous as boys or men, but I can’t bear to see anything hurt. A few weeks ago Daddy was telling us about some worms he and Pat had put out for a robin they were trying to tame. He expected me to say “how nice” or something, but I, without thinking, said “how delightful” very sarcastically, thinking of the poor worms being eaten alive, and wriggling. (This is one of the things I just can’t bear to see.) He exploded a bit, saying I was making a fuss about nothing, and hinting I did not really mind a bit. I flared up, and, as everyone seemed against me, and I was really in earnest, I dissolved into tears. I have never cried like that before. It really hurt me. I thought I had grown out of crying, but I don’t think I ever will.


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1932 diary Meg

Meg’s Diary 1932

by Margaret Taylor, age 17 years
Covers January to December, 1932

There are fewer diary entries this year. Meg is in her penultimate year at Clifton High. She enjoyed trips over the summer holidays, and is still agonising over whether she is a good enough person, and her shyness at social functions. On armistice day, she has some interesting musings about War

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Tuesday, January 12th 1932

Well, it is now getting near the end of the Christmas hols, and we shall soon all be trotting back to school. I shan’t mind!

We had an awfully jolly Christmas, and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. You would not think it possible, but the last two or three days have been almost good enough for summer – warm sun and quite warm air in the mornings, but it has rained a bit in the afternoons.

We (Science people of VI b ) did quite well in the exams. I think the mistresses are quite pleased with us.

BotanyI  76%I  81%I  79%
ZoologyI  76%I  75%I 81%
PhysicsIII 56%II 62%II 64%
MechanicsII 67%IV 40%II 70%
Chemistry TheoryIV 32%III 52%III 58%
    “       PracticalIII 50%II 68%III 58%

I sent Christmas cards to tons of people, among whom were five Mistresses – Miss Rootham, Miss Gare, Miss Allen, Miss Denny and Miss Thomas. Miss Allen and Miss Denny sent me one in return. I think it was awfully decent of them, and certainly was very surprising!

Jean and I are rather worried because two or three of the Christmas set will be coming up to join us next term. It will not be nearly so nice with six as with only three people.

Jean and I are going to the 30th Bristol Guide Company tomorrow. We went last Wednesday and had a lovely time. The Captain who is awfully nice asked us to bring a game each next time, so we are getting rather nervous. I love Guides and have got my Ranger 2nd Class all except the garment (which I have just made) and taking a team game, which we will do at school next term.

Pat had a party a week ago last Wednesday, and invited back all the children who had invited her, there was a noise! It must have been heard all over Clifton I should think! But they all enjoyed themselves, which is the great thing. I am having a more modest affair on Friday, and have thought of anything we can do yet!

I have bought a wire-haired fox terrier with my £2-10-0. I call him Kim, and he is a sweet little thing, I’m awfully fond of him already although he has only been here just over a week. He was very shy and frightened at first, but has improved a great deal lately and has become much more like the normal mischievous puppy.

Uncle Fred has just gone back to Paignton. He came up on Friday for a change of air. He really is the funniest person I know. He has no money at all (except Auntie Isa’s) and yet he is as extravagant as can be. The funny thing is he doesn’t know it!

Goodbye for a little while.

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Sunday, March 27th 1932

Today I found God. I have been waiting for this for a long time, and now it’s happened.

I know that there is a little bit of God in my soul, and I feel almost overwhelmingly happy.

I must spend all my energy now in making myself worthy, and in preparing myself to carry on His work as a missionary.

This evening I went to church for the first time in the evening for a very long time. Usually we either go round to the Butts’ or they come to us, but this week they had some relations staying with them, so our visit was postponed. It seemes as if God meant me to go because Mr Hart, who preached, woke me up and showed me God for the first time in that way. Mr George Young told me I was going to be a missionary; now Mr Hjart has opened my eyes.

I can’t say how happy I feel, but I feel also very unworthy and shallow, but now I have got the power to be better, and with God’s help I am going to be.

I know I am going to get to know God better, and I really am going to follow Him all my life. It is wonderful, and very awe-inspiring, and it makes my very heart sing. I feel I can do anything, with His help. My daily life will have to be reformed, and I must change my whole character, but I mean to do it. Nobody knows – it’s a secret between Him and me, and it is a very great secret. It will be very wonderful if I can make others find God, but now I am shy, I don’t think I’m ashamed, but I don’t like to talk about it. Perhaps I shall get out of that.

My whole life lies before me, with God’s help I am going to make the very most of it.

Abide with me!


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Sunday May 29th 1932

It is a long time since I wrote anything of my daily life, and the family.

Since I wrote last I have been to a Guide Camp at Loxlease in the New Forest. We had a lovely time , and got to know the Blackheath girls who joined with us. June Penney was the nicest, I think, and it’s time I wrote to her again.

I am now vice captain of the school for cricket, and have to run the second eleven, and perform many duties. I am also in the swimming team, and dive for the school.

As a  result of all this activity my work is not progressing as well as it should be, and I shall have to swot for the end-of-term exams which will be on the whole year’s work.

Jim was without a job when the Bristol Evening Times was bought up by the Evening World, but has got a reporter’s job again on the new paper – the Evening Post.

Today I have been in bed all the time. I got a sore throat at the Guide meeting we held on Friday in the pouring rain up at the field. Therefore I missed the Guide Service held at the Colston Hall this evening, because of Guide Sunday, which marks the coming of age of the Guide movement. Jean, Joan and I cleaned Miss Thomas’ car for Guide week.It made me late for a music rehearsal, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Jean, Joan and I have all ‘cracked’ on Miss Gare the Physics mistress. It makes life at school most exciting and we have great fun in her lessons. She is really sensibly decent, not only ‘nice’. We don’t know what to do when we meet her, and get red, and the funny part is that she does the same! We don’t know if she likes us, but I don’t think she dislikes us violently, although she would not show it if she did.

Every week Jean and I teach the Transition reading. It is great fun, and we enjoy and look forward to it. We also take Form II for games once a week.

I’ve been reading a book about a girl who was born from a mother who had never married and all about the hard time she had to keep straight. It seems to me that it is awfully unfair, although awfully easy, to condemn people for doing wrong. Probably you would have done the same under the same circumstances.

I also believe that there is Beauty in everything, however ugly, if looked at in the right way, so I am going to look the right way in future if I can.

Life is very interesting and very complex, and I want my life not to be a blot in the pattern, but it will be if I’m not careful and steady.

Good night!

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Sunday October 8th 1932

It is a long time since I wrote last, but it seems very little of great interest has happened since then.

For the summer holidays I went away three times – once with Jean and Ken on a hiking tour of Exmoor, for three weeks; once with the family to Burnham, or rather Berrow. Helen and Lilian came down to stay with us , and added greatly to the success of that fortnight. The other holiday was one I spent with Jean and Joan at Tynings Farm on the Mendips, for the last ten days before school.

The hiking holiday was great sport, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it certainly made us come back heaps fitter than before we went. I only wish Alan had gone. I shan’t say much about this holiday here, because I have got my letters, which give a running commentary on the subject.

The holiday at Berrow with the family was really topping. The only fault was that the place gave Dad bad asthma, and even Alan had a touch of it. We spent our time, mostly, in being lazy – bathing, basking on the deserted sands, watching the golf, or reading a book on the sand dunes, and sometimes playing tennis on the Cricklands Hotel courts. Alan entered for a Junior Tournament, and did quite well. We went to watch almost every day. I saw the Westons – Sally and Jill – there, and they did excellently.

The three of us – Jean, Joan and I – had a lovely time at Tynings, although the weather was not quite so glorious as it had been for the first two holidays. One day we cycled to Berrow, and called on the Wellands – the people with whom we had stayed when we went there. Their dog Laddie is a topping animal, and played hide and seek with us on the sand dunes.

We are hard at work at school again now, and our school days are rapidly slipping by. I wish they wouldn’t. I don’t feel a bit grown up and dignified, although I’m in VI a now. I am in the first teams at present for hockey and netball, but I’m not sure to remain there. Jean is captain of netball, and therefore very important and busy.

We are all three still ‘gone’ on Miss Gare, who has lately been giving us lectures on good behaviour, because now we have to set the new VI bs a good example. Bah!

I have not changed about wanting to be a medical missionary, and I am pretty certain that I wouldn’t want to now. I have been reading what I wrote on March 27th, and it makes me a bit sad. I have drifted away from God a bit, in fact I don’t stay near for longer than an hour or two. But anyway I have managed to get back again always, and am always making good resolutions. A good many of  VI a are going to lectures by the Reverend Roberton and Cannon Narborough at the Cathedral school on Fridays. I have only been to the first one so far, but I think they are going to be very good.

Will try to remember to carry on next Sunday.


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Sunday November 6th 1932

I have not written, as I originally intended, every Sunday. This is principally because nothing of great interest has happened  lately. School life is pretty monotonous, although it is very jolly too.

Last Thursday the Sixth gave a ‘Social’ to the staff – not all, about 30 – and it went off rather well. We played a dreadful game called Ducky-ducky in which you have to be blindfolded and guess the person who replies ‘quack-quack’, when you have succeeded in catching them. It was not very popular, as all feelings of respect – or coldness – between staff and girls cannot be quite overcome even at a social. After supper, during which I sat next to and entertained (?) Miss Marshall, we played charades, and it was great fun. The other side acted Hamlet, and we did Guy, as it was Guy Fawkes day on Saturday. In the lst scene I was the guy, and was adorned (among other things) with a wretched boa-arrangement, which tried to get right down my throat every time I breathed in!

Last night – Nov 5th – we had a small celebration in Pat’s honour in the back garden. One of the rockets went off almost before Mummy had lighted it, and left us all absolutely breathless, and gaping up into the sky at a fast vanishing streak of light. We were more cautious with the other, and had to wait through several heart-rending seconds of suspense before it went off. It landed, with great gusto, in the Elliots’ garden. Later we – Dad, Mum, Pat and I – went to the Zoo, and saw a gigantic bonfire, and the fireworks, which were very good indeed this time.

I have written to Miss Bowser about being a missionary, and her reply should be very interesting.

A new gym mistress has come just lately – Miss Price. She is awfully nice, and very competent! Flea and Jean, who naturally see a lot of her being netball captains, are both completely and utterly crushed on her. It is awful fun watching them, and Miss Price, and they do hate being teased about it, although they don’t try to hide it.


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Friday November 11th Armistice Day 1932

It is Armistice Day today, and we had a little service at school at 11 o’clock. The two minutes seemed very short this year – there is such a lot to think about.

Miss Phillips talked to us very nicely at first prayers and said that we must think not only of the sacrifice and bravery of those who died, and those who were crippled or maimed, but of the carrying on of their work, and the determination to throw all our weight always in the cause of peace.

Today always seems to be a mixture of feelings to me. There is something grand, awe-inspiring, in the contemplation of the war, and the sacrifice of millions of men and families. But also there seems a deep sense of mockery, of sarcasm, even of sham in all of the Armistice Day celebrations. It seems so easy, so obvious, to say ‘what good has all this war – this sacrifice done to anybody’ and all the poetry, the noble sentiments portraying men as heroically and willingly laying down their lives, instead of blindly scrambling forwards, probably stiff with fright, longing to have an opening to escape and run away from all the noise, the stench, and ugliness of the ungodly side of men’s nature, and then meeting the enemy – men like themselves, feeling the same thoughts – of home – and longing for the same thing – peace – and then the slaughter; blind, ruthless, senseless slaughter. It does not seem possible that Man, created in the image of God, could or ever would, do such a thing. Anyway it seems false, rings hollow, to speak of supreme and selfless sacrifice in connection with this atrocity. The only good thing war did, that I can see, is to create a horror of war in the minds of men. This was certainly a good thing,and I hope the lesson will never be forgotten.

The thought of another war, and it has been said in all seriousness, and by those who should know, that there will probably be another in about the next ten years, is unbearable. I pray God there will not be another, and if everybody decides there will be no more war there probably will not be one.


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Sunday December 18th 1932

The same old trouble has been cropping up again, and I have been rather worried about it. A Miss Parnell wrote to Mum inviting Jim, Alan and me to join a holiday dancing club. Of course Jim couldn’t because of his work. Alan wanted to, and wanted me to!  I still loathe dancing at parties and things where there are boys, although I enjoyed the dance thing we had at club.

Somehow with only girls it is absolutely different. Boys make the whole thing a flirting contest. I always feel terribly sensitive at functions, and am always ready to notice the slightest feeling of ‘unwantedness’ which I think is one of the most utterably miserable feelings possible. I am absolutely plain, if not ugly, and added to that I feel, and probably look, quite out of place and unutterbly uncomfortable at dances or mixed parties, so I am left alone, and try to appear not to mind. This makes me seem superior and aloof, and things get worse and worse. Blow dancing, parties, boys, everything! I am sure it is much more sensible to stay at home and read a decent book. The enjoyment of this is infinitely superior to the hilarious gaiety of parties. This is partly proved by the feeling of flatness and dejection that, with me at any rate, always follows the last farewell after a social afternoon or evening. It is shallow, ephemeral enjoyment, not like the passive enjoyment or contentment of the mind which is caused by a good book, or good music.

That reminds me – Alan is jazz mad. He has got a mandolin, and is quite good at it. He plays dance tunes unendingly, and hums or taps jazz all over the house. We have tiffs because I cannot bear jazz, at least not in comparison to classical music. It, like most modern enjoyments and modern outlooks, seems shallow, full of sparkle and noise on top and nothing underneath. All this is extremely cynical, and sounds suspiciously  as if I were moralising, but I do feel it, and strongly too.

I am afraid my sensitiveness has given me an inferiority complex. I always feel that I am worse at the thing I am doing than anybody else is. Maybe I am, but perhaps it is thinking it that makes it true. For instance, the 1st XI forwards had a hockey practice on Saturday. I was quite happy at first and got on quite well. When shooting once however I took my eye off the ball and muffed it completely. Peggy Heaven murmured ‘good shot’ sarcastically and made me feel a fool. Consequently I got worried, and went from bad to worse, missing the ball altogether more than once. The others all did good shots, and I felt terribly inferior, and began wishing I wasn’t in the first after all, as I am the worst one ther, but they haven’t any wings so they can’t chuck me.

This feeling of inferiority comes often in other things too. I joined Guides late – as a cadet in VI b. I was elected a patrol leader this term (probably because the  VI b s who voted too were newly arrived and did not know I had only been a guide a year) and am the most inexperienced of the leaders, with inexperienced guides in my patrol. I am also secretary for the Cadet company and have to perform all the horrible little social jobs that I am hopelessly muddled about, and forget the most important things.

Again, since I joined late I don’t know the country dances, and make a mess of things at the country dance parties. Consequently I stay away when possible, and go back knowing even less afterwards! It is all a terrible muddle, and all because I am so beastly sensitive. I wish I was like Mary who would not think about that kind of thing. It is all right for boys at dances and things. They only have to ask a girl to dance, and she can’t very well refuse. But a girl has to wait to be asked, and if she is plain and out of place, and sensitive, she won’t be asked and then endures torture sitting in full view of all the others, unwanted. I am not going to risk that if I can help it.

I hope doctors don’t have to go to dances and things, but perhaps I shan’t mind when I am older. Oh, dash everything, I’m going to stay at home and go out alone. It’s safe and more enjoyable whatever anybody says.


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Now working on Meg’s Diaries

All Meg’s poems have been added to the new site now…. I am starting to add the diaries.

So far her first three years are done: 1929, 1930 and 1931.

Read here…. Meg’s Diaries