At the end of September we were delighted to welcome back a very special alumna – Elisabeth Kirkby who left the school in 1937! Elisabeth, now aged 96, lives in Australia and was visiting family in Nottingham. Elisabeth is a retired English Australian theatre and television actress, radio broadcaster, writer, producer and director – she really has done so much with her life and is quite the famous Australian soap star. It was a pleasure to meet her and she had so many memories of NGHS to share which we were thrilled to hear.
Elisabeth’s form room had been one of the Languages rooms but she had little passion for languages and confessed to often falling asleep in French lessons! She recalled walking up to the school from the old Victoria station in Nottingham through the adjacent Arboretum Park in the days when there used to be a gate directly linking the park to the school. She also told us that during her time here, the Headmistress was Miss Merrifield, and she couldn’t believe that the room in which we all had coffee during her visit used to be the Head’s office.
Given her theatrical background, the thing that undoubtedly impressed her the most was our performing arts centre ‘the space’, and she was delighted to be able to witness part of our ‘Oscars’ ceremony for our recent House Performing Arts Festival. Elisabeth then also spoke to some girls who were waiting to go into their Drama lesson. She couldn’t stress enough how lucky they were to have such a fantastic facility right here at the school.
We were fascinated to learn about her life after she emigrated in 1965, originally spending fifteen years living in Malaya, writing, producing and directing for radio and the arts. She then moved to Australia where she was an original cast member of soap ‘Number 96’ which premiered in March 1972 with original cast contracts lasting just six weeks due to doubts about the success of the show. However, it went on to become Australia's 10th highest-rated television programme that year and was the number 1 highest rating programme in 1973 and 1974 – so Elisabeth became something of a celebrity.
It was wonderful to find out more about her varied life after ‘Number 96’. She became a politician and was the Australian Democrats' New South Wales state leader for many years, and became the longest-serving Australian Democrat member of parliament before retiring in June 1998. Then in 2014 she earned a PhD from the University of Sydney at the age of 93, becoming Australia's oldest university graduate; amazing!
We loved meeting Elisabeth and welcoming her back to the school. She was an inspiration. Her story is so colourful and varied that we wonder what she’ll be up to next!