How pupil Betty ‘the French girl’ learned to speak proper English

A picture of the whole school at Layton Hill Convent in 1925. Betty Tattersall (nee Hastwell)  is on the back row, sixth from the right. Below, Betty at her  100th birthday party
A picture of the whole school at Layton Hill Convent in 1925. Betty Tattersall (nee Hastwell) is on the back row, sixth from the right. Below, Betty at her 100th birthday party
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The oldest past pupil of Layton Hill Convent, who recently celebrated her 100th birthday, has been reflecting on her schooldays.

Betty Tattersall (nee Hastwell), who lives in Fairhaven, was born at the Market Hotel, Market Street, Blackpool, overlooking the open market.

Betty Tattersall celebrates her 100th birthday

Betty Tattersall celebrates her 100th birthday

She says: “During my early childhood, my mother worked in Paris and I was left with an aunt. I attended St John’s school close to The Hippodrome. One day, when I was about five, my mother turned up and said ‘I am taking you back to Paris’.

“In 1923, my mother was working at the Casino de Paris, and my aunt and uncle decided it was time I came back to England from my school at Saint Denis, near Paris. They thought I should return to learn to speak ‘proper’ English. I felt quite happy about it because it was going to be something different.

“My Aunt Gertie had been to Layton Hill and I boarded there. The first few days were very strange and they called me the ‘French girl’, which became my nickname. My lessons concentrated on reading and speaking English, so while the others concentrated on algebra and science, I was reading books and writing and getting an education in the English language.

“I was later quite good at geography and history. My teachers were Miss Saul, Miss Simmons and Miss Whittaker, Mother St James and Mother Stanislaus.”

Betty, who is pictured sixth from the right on a 1925 photograph of the whole school, recalls: “My aunt used to visit me once a month and bring big cream cakes. I used to say ‘Did you buy them at Collinson’s or Jenkinson’s?’ but she never told me. Then, one day she said ‘I get them from Woolworths’. We were mortified! We were snobbish, you know.”

From the second floor by the dormitory, she could see Layton village and, in winter, a few lights, but there was no street lighting.

Betty admits: “You imagined yourself cut away from the world, you were isolated from the town’s people. On the other side of the school, you had the Pennines. I actually got a prize for painting the view of the Pennines.

“We went for walks after lunch and wandered on one occasion onto the dry bed of Stanley Park lake, when they were excavating it. I always say to people I have walked on the bed of the lake!”

Betty says: “The nuns were very good and understanding. Mother Mary Benedicta, headteacher, always said I was a leader although I don’t know where she got that from. There was always a child passing out in chapel because it was early morning and I had to carry her out and give her to a nun, who met you half way, to revive her.

“We always thought Mother Benedicta would have been someone in society if she had not entered the convent. The day I was leaving, she said ‘Well Betty, you have not been one of our best scholars but you will always be a leader and I will always be able to rely on you’.

“My years at Layton Hill were very happy and they prepared me for life. I returned to Paris where I became an interpreter.”

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