This week our student of the week is Julian Morgan née Bamfield. ‘Please don’t be misled by my name’, she assured me – ‘I am female .. although more than once I was entered into the boy’s exams!’ Julian was a student from the mid 1940s till mid 1950s and was one of the first three boarders at 12 Liverpool Rd.
MEMORIES OF THE HAMMOND SCHOOL
I was fortunate to have a mother who not only loved adventure but she also had a passion for the arts – music, dance, visual arts, the lot; and this passion she was keen to hand on to her offspring. In the mid 1940s, when I was eight and my elder sisters were away at boarding school, she and I would make frequent forays from our home near Wrexham to Liverpool for matinee performances of Ballet, Opera and Indian dance recitals. Buoyed up with excitement I hummed and danced my way home and wanted to learn how to do it all. Being a somewhat plump child the idea of my going to dancing classes was initially greeted with some derision but one Saturday morning I found myself dressed in my best party dress, shoe bag containing pink satin ballet slippers in hand at the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester.
Around the edge of the vast ballroom similarly dressed little girls sat with their mothers. On the floor lines of older girls were being put through their paces. I watched enthralled and then the floor was empty and I was pushed forward to join my first dancing class. The experienced girls occupied the first three rows, I was right at the back where help was at hand in the form of an older student who was there to guide. Could it have been Margaret Benson, Nancy Davies or Sheila Orme? How I loved those classes. To music played on a black grand piano we skipped with skipping ropes, waltzed, polkaed, jumped and hopped – you name it we danced it and all led by the imposing figure of Irene Hammond.
To me Miss Hammond was tall, but I was small then; she was not good looking with protruding teeth and, I think, a wig. I think so because it was sometimes a bit lopsided. Very strict, and always dressed in a dress with a long black skirt which revealed long black knickers when pulled up, she was a wonderful teacher. Her mime lessons could be funny or tragic, praise was always given where due and it was a huge honour to be selected to demonstrate a particular dance. Discipline was paramount – hair had to be swept back and held in place by hairband or ribbon, shoe ribbons tied correctly, curtsy and shake hands on the way into class, same on the way out with a special curtsy for the pianist. In time I worked my way up to the front row where I bust my guts to please Miss Hammond and nearly died of happiness if chosen to demonstrate. I longed for long legs like hers with the classic dancer’s arched foot. On the way home on the bus one Saturday my mother said that Miss Hammond had asked if I would like to join the Grade 1 ballet class at the studio in St Michael’s Row. I was on my way to heaven.
For classes at St Michael’s Row my mother made me a black tunic, with knickers to match. At first I was the different one but soon we were all in them and worked our way through the RAD grades now, sometimes, being taught by Betty Hassall who was much stricter than Miss Hammond. We did barre work which was very grown up. Miss Hammond came to tea once at home and brought me a book – ‘The Making of a Dancer’ by Arnold Haskell. Then I knew I was to be a ballet teacher just like her!
What wonderful memories – thank-you so much Julian!
Part Two to follow…