Photo credit: BBC News
The legendary educator discusses HMS Dasher, teaching and finding a meaningful career
We’re at the 80th anniversary of the sinking of HMS Dasher. What’s next in the quest for answers?
Dasher went down on 27th March 1943. The funeral was 3 days later and 23 bodies were buried, 13 in Ardrossan cemetery. Officially no further bodies or body parts ever came ashore. However a week later on 6 April 1943 Admiral Eccles sent a signal, a copy of which we have, saying that ‘bodies are being washed ashore, identified and buried along the coast.’ We have many testimonies from survivors who say that they helped to identify up to 40 bodies laid out in rows. So we know beyond doubt that more than 23 bodies came ashore.
The hunt for these sailors’ unmarked resting places will go on. But LIDAR and geophysical surveys are needed. I have funded these so far but cannot afford any more. So the next step is to get enough money to fund surveys of the areas which we have been told are possible unmarked graves.
What were your parents like and how did their work and example affect your own life choices?
I hardly remember my father and the work on Dasher is not for him alone. When they were brought ashore the 149 survivors pitifully asked ‘Where are the boys?’ It is The Boys, all 359, we seek.
My mother was left with 2 small children and had to find her first ever job, which she did at the UKAEA. Her resilience, lack of self-pity and her ambitions for her daughters have always inspired me.
Tell us about your first job – what was the interview like and can you remember your first day?
I took my degree and teaching qualification but I wanted to be an officer in the Women’s Royal Army Corps which necessitated 3 days of psychological and practical testing, and interviews. I was amazed to learn that I had passed. On my first day, and many subsequent ones, I was terrified that I would not reach the expected high standards.
What’s the best day’s work you’ve ever had?
The birth of my children. That is an enduring achievement and blessing.
We all have our heroes in life and work – who are yours?
I have had some iconic bosses and learned so much from them: the Commandant in the army; the Chairman at HSBC and the Chaplain when I was a Head. EQ and integrity are keystones.
What is your single greatest achievement and how did it come about?
I have been lucky and throughout my life people have been very generous giving me their advice and guidance.
If there’s one piece of advice you’d give the younger generation what would it be?
All actions have consequences.
What book has most changed your view of education?
‘The Persistence of Faith’ by Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sachs. It brought home to me the fundamental importance of making a school a community in which all feel they belong. In that security, they can thrive.
What would you say to parents whose children are struggling to find a meaningful career?
Reach out for expert help. The workplace has changed and parents and grandparents may not be able to guide and provide opportunities as they once did. I find the online applications in which you have to pass increasing difficult tests, to be unhelpful, particularly when no feedback for either success or failure is given. Get help!