Cheltondale Memory

The Rt Hon the Lord (Michael) Jopling (Cheltondale, 1948)

During my years at Cheltondale (1944-1948), as healthy adolescents, we used often to think of girls. But during that time we never had sight or sound of the Ladies’ College. However, at the end of my last term, Miss Popham relented and we were invited to a Play Reading with the girls.

It was a pretty staid occasion. I forget the play but it could well have been Much Ado About Nothing. The girls sat on one side of the room and we sat opposite. However, when we returned to the House full of the excitement of having spent the evening with GIRLS we were all thrilled, although conversation with them had been limited.

House prayers that night were taken by the Under Housemaster W.E. Bell. We were somewhat startled when he read out a prayer which included the words, ‘to continue our intercourse with the Ladies’ College.’ There was a good deal of tittering at this.

Years later, as a member of the Cabinet, I paid an official visit to Northern Ireland. They gave a dinner party for me and asked if I would like anyone to be invited. By then, W.E. Bell had become Sir Ewart Bell, had player rugger for Ireland and had become Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service. As I had not seen him since leaving school, I said it would be good to meet him again, if he was not too busy. I was delighted when he appeared on the night.

After the dinner, inevitably, they suggested that, ‘the Minister might like to say a few words.’ So I got to my feet and said how good it was again to meet Ewart Bell, and I told the story about ‘our intercourse with the Ladies’ College.’ This again caused much hilarity.

Then Ewart Bell got up and said, ‘The story that Michael Jopling has told is true in every detail. But he may like to know that I did it for a bet with the College Chaplain [Mark Ruston] who was standing outside the open window, to hear whether I did it!’