Dorothy Snell’s fabulous memories as a Former Pupil in the 1950s

Dorothy Snell (née Wilson)

1950 – 1960

My name is Dorothy Snell (née Wilson). I attended Albyn School for Girls from 1950 till 1960 and, after graduating from Aberdeen University and Teacher Training College, I returned to Albyn as a member of staff teaching French and German for 2 years from 1966 to 1968. After that I moved to Germany to teach in 2 army schools : King’s School in Gütersloh and Edinburgh School in Münster. I met my husband at King’s School and we had 2 children. On our return to the UK in 1985, we settled in Surrey and my husband and I taught in schools in Guildford. I joined the teaching staff of Tormead School, an independent girls’ school, in January 1986 and retired as a full-time teacher of French and German in 2003 at 60. However, I returned immediately to Tormead as German assistant, a post which I held till 2018, when I decided that at 75 it was time to call it a day and enjoy my retirement. I loved teaching and am still in touch with a number of former students. As Head of German at Tormead I ran an exchange programme with a school in Regensburg and took part in Guildford’s exchanges with its partner town of Freiburg. It was a pleasure to promote meaningful relations with our German friends and to instil an interest in the culture of  Germany.

My interest in becoming a teacher was sparked by an occasion at Albyn in 1959/60. I was a Prefect in the 6th Form and on this particular occasion all Prefects were assigned to look after/teach classes while the staff met to discuss the allocation of school prizes, following the results of the prize exams. I recall teaching Latin and I really enjoyed it. It was strange in some ways to return to Albyn as a member of staff, because I served in the Modern Languages Department which was headed by my former French and German teacher, Miss Nicol, who was also Deputy Head. Several of my old teachers were still on the staff such as Miss Morrison (English and History), Miss Mackenzie (Classics) and Mr. Davies (Geography), to name but a few, and Miss Kidd was still Headmistress. Another former pupil joined me soon after at Albyn. Sheila Fraser taught English and RE. We wore our graduate gowns every day while teaching and sometimes used the dangling sleeves to wipe the chalk off the blackboard! In the future I would only wear my gown for Speech Day or any other occasion like the Carol Service when staff had to form a procession.

No doubt there are many experiences that I could mention of my years as a pupil at Albyn and more will probably spring to mind. However, here are a few random ramblings :


  • A perk of being a Prefect was to join Miss Kidd for a cream bun tea!
  • We hated wearing our green berets and removed them as soon as we were out of sight of school, but, if we were spotted , we had to wear the dreaded school hat, either the green felt one or the summer boater, as a punishment for a specified length of time.
  • Patricia H, better known as Tricky, and I always won the 3-legged race at Sports Day.
  • At some point during my 10 years at Albyn another Dorothy W joined my Form and so we were referred to as Dorothy M (Maitland, in her case) and Dorothy L (Lawrence, in my case).
  • Anne B and I studied Higher History with Miss Morrison. Lessons consisted of her reading aloud from our history book but she would fall asleep at frequent intervals. To our astonishment and amusement, when she woke up, she carried on reading from the exact place where she had left off. Sadly neither if us passed Higher History. We later learnt that Miss Morrison was an author and wrote late into the night. Many years later when I was back in Aberdeen visiting my parents, I walked down to the fish shop near where she lived in Duthie Terrace and spotted her slumped over the wheel of her car outside her house. I tapped on the window, afraid that she had been taken ill, but she had simply fallen asleep.
  • My Dad had to sign a certificate each term to say that I had not been in contact with any infectious disease. This was enclosed with my report which he had also signed.
  • I had to choose between Science and Languages and between Latin and Art. My knowledge of things scientific is nil but luckily my husband and son studied Physics.
  • I was the only girl studying German and Latin in the Sixth Form in my day and so I had no one to talk to about these subjects. 
  • As Leavers we rebelled when it was suggested that ”Land of Hope and Glory” should be dropped from the Prize-giving format.

They say that the world is a small place. Well, to illustrate that, I came across a number of girls at Tormead who had been at Albyn and one of my A Level students (when I was acting as German Assistant) told me that her mother and sisters had been pupils at Albyn.

Two of my friends at University, with whom I am still in touch, Kath N and Jennifer L, taught at Albyn after me. Indeed Jennifer was Head of Languages, then Deputy Head and finally Headmistress.

I have close ties with Tormead and am invited to special events. Obviously things have been different since the pandemic hit us. Luckily my granddaughter has been able to begin her studies in Physiotherapy at Southampton, although she is not able to enjoy the normal university experience, and my two grandsons will shortly be returning to school, one to Year 8 and the other to Lower Sixth. We hope that their education hasn’t suffered too much.

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