“On my first day, I remember being absolutely petrified, but excited at the same time. My Dad walked me to the top of the road where the school coach picked up from – I remember there being just one other girl from my primary school going to Belvedere. My Mum knew that Belvedere was a really good school and that’s why she had put it down as one of my choices. Although I’d seen the girls getting off the bus with their berets on and carrying their lacrosse sticks, I lived in a part of Liverpool where that was strange to see.
My parents were both from a working class background. My Mum worked in the local village part time so she would be at home for my sister and I and although Dad was doing well at work, he wasn’t in a particularly senior role – so I don’t think they would have been able to afford full time, school fees for me and therefore a bursary gave me the opportunity to access an education which otherwise I don’t think I could have accessed. When I passed the 11+ and Belvedere offered the place, they were extremely proud, because all the family knew, that I was probably the only one in our family that was going to a school like Belvedere.
I was nervous about going, but I had had a walk around prior to my first day, so I had met some of the staff and also some of the pupils. I thought all the buildings were so beautiful, because it was four big cream houses that were all linked together. I had my uniform and my beret on and my mac seemed to be far too long for me and my Dad kept saying, ‘no, you’ll be fine’, I had a briefcase and I remember thinking it was like I was going to work. I think I still had the same skirt at Sixth Form that I had in Upper Three, so that was funny. It was lovely.
In those days, we had elocution lessons, we had domestic science where we learnt to use the sewing machine, it just seems so old fashioned now, but at the time I thought it was brilliant because I learnt to knit, I learnt to sew, I learnt to cook, but at the same time I had a real passion for sport.
I got to play to a very high standard with my lacrosse, so I used to love going to school because we seemed to be playing lacrosse from morning to lunch time and after school and I had a lot of good friends, plus the teachers were just lovely. My PE teacher was amazing and played lacrosse for Great Britain. I was determined that I would also play lacrosse for Great Britain and I did! And the next time my Mum and Dad were watching me was with an England shirt, it all started at Belvedere. We were absolutely such an incredible lacrosse team, we were fearless. We had come from a mixed background from council estates and all sorts and yet we were just these girls that were just so tough when it came to playing lacrosse and we just won everything. We always did. The PE department recognised in us this talent and nurtured it. I remember my Dad and my sister came to watch the first game and of course it was complete mayhem, everybody just follows the ball around, it was mad. And I remember my Dad saying, ‘seriously, is this going to be your passion?’ and me saying, ‘yes, I just love it I love it, I want to play lacrosse all the time!’
Although I played a lot of sport, academically I worked very hard – as the class sizes were quite small (compared to my primary school), we got a lot of attention which was amazing. The teachers told us that if we worked hard, our grades would improve and that’s exactly what happened to me and all of a sudden, I was at the top of class for various subjects. My parents were very proud and they used to love going to parents’ evenings because they knew the school was giving me the best opportunities possible. I was doing well academically, but all I ever wanted was to play lacrosse and be a PE teacher.
I remember my teacher was trying to encourage me to go to university and I did consider going to Durham to study history. I remember my Dad went to school to see Miss Downs, the headmistress, and she said to him, ‘well it’s all well and good Linda playing lacrosse at this age, but what’s she going to be doing when she’s 30, she can’t be running around a lacrosse field at 30!’ My Dad replied that if it was what I wanted to do, I should be encouraged to do it. So although I had the grades to go to university, I chose to go to PE teacher training college and after college, I taught for a while before going into business. I was the able to return to teaching after I’d had my children and left the corporate world after a long career.
Belvedere gave me the sense that I could be anything, do anything and gave me the confidence to try so many different things – there were so many opportunities for us to take advantage of. For example, big stage productions with our ‘brother’ school, Liverpool College for Boys and connections with local communities. I used to go and help at the local prep school, I went to debating society and Christian union for a while. So it wasn’t just about academia and sport and there was always something going on.
For girls like me, it is amazing to be able to go and have teachers that see something in you and then nurture it and make you exceptional and give you the confidence to go out into the work place and be anything you want to be. As a teacher, I taught near Belvedere in Toxteth and saw a lot of poverty. I met so many young bright girls and thought about how they could have the opportunity to go to a school like Belvedere.
I think bursaries are really crucial and having a greater mix of people at fee paying is beneficial for everyone. When I was at Belvedere, there was a real mix of girls – with some paying full fees and living in parts of Liverpool that were very privileged and other girls that came from council estates, but at school we were all on a level playing field and were all learning different things from each other.
The direction of my life was very different to other girls from my area and that was really down to the choice my parents made about senior school. My Belvedere experiences have definitely stayed with me through my life and I still share my experience when I am teaching and listen to children talk about their futures. Belvedere instilled in us values like respect and kindness that are important regardless of money or status. We had a really good mix of classmates and I think we learnt a lot from each other.
Belvedere taught us not to judge a book by its cover – it didn’t matter where we came from, we were in this together. And I think if girls today can take these skills into the workplace and careers, they will do well”.
Lacrosse Coach- Glendalmond College and England Lacrosse Association
Alumna, Belvedere Academy
Class of 1978