LEH's Ten Pound Pom
Jennifer Wells (LEH 1955-63) has put the skills she learnt at LEH to good use, passing on her knowledge and passion to benefit others, including rehabilitating prisoners facing life imprisonment.
"I haven't won national or international prizes, medals or attained fame or fortune," writes Jennifer Wells, nee Cumming, "but my post-Holles life may be of interest to my fellow alumnae since it has been so varied and the skills I acquired at school have been developed and used exponentially.
On leaving school, I qualified as a librarian before becoming a 10-pound Pom and emigrating to Australia as a single migrant - quite an adventure for a 20-year-old! I have been lucky enough to have had a wonderful personal life - marriage to a super Australian, two fantastic daughters and now four equally fantastic grandchildren. I live in Bowral in the Southern Highlands of NSW – the town where Don Bradman played his junior cricket.
Although my career has been expanded with the acquisition of bachelor's and masters degrees and involves some rewarding work in colleges of higher education and universities, I think all the extra activities in which I have been involved reflect the breadth of my interests and contribution to community life.
Miss Griffith taught me to play tennis in third form and, by golly, has that paid off! When I first came to Bowral, there was no tennis coaching available. During my days at LEH, I had spent time at Lilleshall Hall in Shropshire learning how to coach tennis, so I decided to introduce the sport to the children in my community. To my amazement, there were 75 responses to the advertisement I placed in the local paper. That was over 12 years ago and since then I've built up a coaching school, involving 150 children every week, as well as training other coaches, running competitions and tournaments and coached in most of the local schools. All this happened while my children were young.
As well as tennis, music was a large part of my life in those days. I valued all the hours of piano lessons with Miss Smalley as I accompanied assemblies at my daughters' primary school three times a week and was also the accompanist for the Musical Mushroom, a large production involving all the small schools (many were 1-teacher schools) in country areas surrounding the main towns. The choirmaster and I would travel to the different schools to rehearse the children and then we got them all together for a grand concert in a major music venue. In addition, I taught piano in my home.
When I resumed my career as a librarian in a technical college, I was asked to teach a Creative Writing course, a very rewarding experience. Miss Westmoreland would have been proud of me! Even more rewarding was my extra-curricular job at the local gaol. As well as setting up the library and teaching the prisoners how to manage it, I took on the responsibility of teaching prisoners literacy and numeracy skills. This was the activity in which I believe I have made most difference to people's lives.
In particular, I taught Andrew T, an illiterate young man who had been led astray by an older man and both had murdered a man who had abused them. He was given a life sentence. I saw him a few times a week before work and asked him to tell me about his life. As he recalled it, I would help him to write the words. Gradually over a couple of years, we compiled his life story, which became a published book. The whole exercise was therapeutic for Andrew since, as well as enabling him to read and write, he was able to look back on his mistakes and reassess his life.
While working at the University of Western Sydney, I became a staff representative on the governing body and was also a union representative, with the responsibility of resolving disputes between staff and management. This led to my being appointed Equal Employment Opportunity Manager and then working in Human Resources, negotiating employment conditions.
Since retirement, I have been lured back to coaching tennis. This is beneficial both physically and sociaIly. I also work for Tennis Australia, supervising junior tournaments in NSW.
Last year I joined U3A, the University of the Third Age for the over 55s. We have over a thousand members in the Southern Highlands and there is a huge range of activities conducted by the members. I teach a course called Cracking Cryptic Crosswords. I have done cryptic crosswords since my schooldays and, since having been asked to teach it, I have had to analyse how I do them. As a result, I find I can now do them much more quickly!
I visit England from time to time, have attended an LEH reunion lunch and have maintained some very special friendships with school friends, especially Moira Kendall, née McKenzie, who, with her husband, came out to Australia for my 50th wedding anniversary last year, plus Rosemary Chapman, née Evans and Janet Page, née Hughes.
If any other of my friends from school visit Sydney, I would be delighted to meet up with them."
Please see a selection of Jenny's photos in the gallery below.