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  • Wendy Percival

Who, who else... and why?

Well, I’ve solved one mystery, at least, in the past week or so! Hooray! Though it did spark another… don’t they always?


Some while ago I set out to solve the mystery of my gran, Winifred Griffiths, apparently being sent away to boarding school to “calm her down” (see On the Trail of the Mystery School). I was thrilled that my investigation yielded results and my hunch of which school it could have been was proved right when Herefordshire's archivist found my gran’s name in the admission records of St Elizabeth’s school, Bullingham.


But it seemed odd to me that Winifred’s parents, who attended the local chapel, would send their daughter to a Catholic boarding school 60 miles away in another county.


Questions to answer


Last week, while reading through some letters that my great aunt Clarie (Winifred’s elder sister) wrote to my mum in the 1980s, I came across something which revealed all. Well - not all, exactly… but on to that in a moment.


I was amused to read that when Winifred returned from her year at St Elizabeth’s, she’d put on so much weight the family had hardly recognised her - on account of the stodgy food the nuns fed the pupils, was Clarie’s conclusion!


But something else comes to light later in her letter, where she mentions a Mrs Parker.


After reflecting how lovely her little sister's singing was from an early age, Clarie writes:


Then for some reason, Mrs Parker, who had now become a Catholic as she had lost her daughter, a beautiful girl of 12 years old, by an unexpected illness, persuaded Mum and Dad to send Wyn to a boarding school.


While that goes some way to explain why Winifred was sent away to school, it leads to the inevitable question - who was Mrs Parker?


According to Clarie, she was a great friend of Mum's and had apparently been present at Winifred's birth, sending Clarie "out to play" when Clarie had been sitting on the stairs wondering about the strange cries coming from the bedroom!


But why was Mrs Parker was so influential in such a momentous decision to send Winifred away to school? And what’s this about a daughter who died? All very intriguing.

Another “who” question

In another of her letters, Clarie mentions Winifred attending an audition with the Carl Rosa Opera company when they came to Wolverhampton, after which Winifred joined their ranks. I’d known about the audition but what I hadn’t known was that it had been arranged by a relative - a cousin of Clarie and Winifred’s mother – who, had been on the stage for years, and so had her husband. Which cousin was that, I wonder?


So, two people to investigate to add to Winifred's story – the thespian cousin and the mysterious Mrs Parker. As ever, when I have answers to these fascinating questions you'll read about them here!