Australian family claim school Life-Saving certificate after 73 years!

An e-mail to school from a lady in Australia enquiring about information on her mother Ray Johns, a pupil during the 1930s, has led to a Life-Saving certificate dated 1938, which had been lying unclaimed in the school archives, being collected and taken back to her family in Australia.

Maria Johns, known as Ray, came from a North Pembrokeshire coastal farm, Llanferran in St Nicholas, and gained a Howell’s Scholarship to board at school, where she spent the years 1931 to 1938. An academic high flier as well as an able sportswoman (she captained the 1st XII lacrosse team, played in the 1st XI cricket team and was a member of the Star Gym group), she gained a place at Bedford College, London University, to read Science. Ray completed her degree in 1941 at Cambridge University, majoring in Botany and Geography, as Bedford College was evacuated there during the war. It was at Cambridge that Ray met her future husband, Noel Buckley, an Australia Naval Officer who had just completed a post-graduate Law degree at Cambridge. Ray joined the WAAF as a meteorological officer and the couple married in 1942, moving to Melbourne, Australia, in 1945, where they brought up their five children. Sadly, she died in October 1989.

Ray’s youngest daughter, Joanna, contacted the school archivist, Mrs Janet Sully, in August, asking whether the school could provide any information or photos relating to her mother’s schooldays. Amongst Mrs Sully’s findings, to her surprise, was the Life-Saving Certificate, which had never been claimed. The school swimming pool had been completed the previous summer and Ray would have been among the first cohort to have gained Life-Saving awards at the school.

By chance, another of Ray’s daughters, Dr Paula Leverett, was visiting Cardiff from Australia with her husband last month and so was able to have a tour of the school and collect the certificate. She said, “As one of Ray’s daughters, I took great pride in accepting on her behalf an original Life-Saving Certificate that Howell’s School had kept in the archives for an incredible 73 years.”

Posted 09 May 2012


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