This week: Founder’s Day, 3rd April 2020
An empty school feels very strange. As members of staff we’re all used to going into our buildings occasionally when the students aren’t there; on an INSET day, or dropping in over the holiday or at the weekend to do a bit of work. That feels different, like a very brief pause in proceedings, not like the strange hush that has descended on some of our buildings over the past few days.
However, the main school building has been open, and it has been wonderful to welcome the students of key workers who have been with us this week and who have really cheered us up. They have reminded us that all our students are very much with us in the school in spirit, and very close by in reality. Camden School for Girls is still functioning in the virtual universe, and eagerly anticipating the day when the gate will re-open and the whole community will pour back inside.
Today we remember our founder, Frances Mary Buss, who is always with us in spirit. We can’t be together as a community, but we can imagine the purple, green, yellow and white of the posies; suffragette colours enlivened by Miss Buss’s favourite flower, and the glorious music from our choir and orchestra. We can imagine our students and staff, and many friends, parents and alumni coming together to celebrate her legacy, and I’m delighted that our exceptional young leaders, the Head Students, have written their speeches for inclusion in this special edition of the Friday News.
I hope the words of the commemoration provide you with a sense of the tradition that surrounds Founder’s Day. For those of you who have been to Founder’s Day before, they will bring back memories of previous years, and for those of you who are new to the occasion these will help you to understand how we pay tribute to our founder.
So, to begin our commemoration:
It is in the providence of God our Creator that we were born, and that we are growing into maturity and responsibility within the long and splendid traditions of our School. We have come together this morning to give thanks for the years of our School's life and work. We have our history, and we are making it, that others in years to come may enter into life ever
more abundant. Let us therefore be glad that we are here, and let us lift up our hearts to the Lord our God, who has been our refuge from one generation to another.
I hope you will now enjoy, as I have, the words of our head students, who have precisely captured these strange and difficult times, while recognising the importance of Miss Buss’s legacy in their lives and communicating a strong sense of optimism.
As part of our commemoration we sing these beautiful words by William Blake, mindful that they were adopted as the ‘Women Voters Hymn’ on the suggestion of Millicent Fawcett, leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, in 1918.
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear, Oh! clouds unfold
Bring me my chariot of fire
I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
We finish with a reminder of the contributions made to the school by individuals and organisations through the decades since its foundation.
Now, according to our bounden duty, let us thankfully commemorate the school's Founder and benefactors, by whose noble liberality good learning has been advanced and the school itself endowed with special benefits. And in the forefront we commemorate FRANCES MARY BUSS, who, in the years 1850 & 1871, did found two Schools for Girls in North London, and under whose fostering care virtue and studies grew and prevailed in them, and they attained to their development in the two Schools now called by her name. Let us therefore give thanks chiefly for this, our Founder, who gave her best gifts of mind and will to establish her work for the benefit of future generations.
And after her we commemorate those who gave likewise of their gifts to the same good end especially:
And we further commemorate with thankful hearts:
EMMA JANE ELFORD, FANNY LAWFORD, ISABELLA DRUMMOND, OLIVE WRIGHT, DORIS BURCHELL, MOLLY DENNIS, CAROL HANDLEY, NOREEN MANNING, GEOFFREY FALLOWS and ANNE CANNING Headteachers of the Camden School.
The many dedicated teachers who have served this School, among them ADA FLORENCE FOX, LUCY EMMA SHAEFER and AMY GERTRUDE HARRIS, whose memorial is the series of stained glass windows on the first floor corridor. We also gratefully commemorate those whose have enriched the School with lands and buildings:
And so for all our Founders and Benefactors, whose services we have thus publicly recited, and for all those whose lives and friendship have enriched our time in this place, to the perpetuating of their memory and to the testifying of our own thankfulness, we give praise and thanks to God.
I wish you all health and happiness on this Founder’s Day.