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Lancaster Girls' Grammar School - School Song

Updated on December 13, 2010
The impressive frontage of my old school.  This is just small part of it.
The impressive frontage of my old school. This is just small part of it.

When I first went to my senior school, there was a strong sense of it being a very special school. It was not a private school, it was just a grammar school. None of us really knew what a grammar school was, but we knew that we had earned a place at this prestigious institution by virtue of having a bit of a brain. We were instructed to remember how privileged we were, to know that we had been given an unequalled opportunity to excel, and that we were expected not to squander it. Of course, squander it we did, by and large - we were just ordinary kids, who had no real sense of our own potential, just like any other kids. Hindsight can be cruel, but best not to be dwelt on.

In those first three terms I can remember a tremendous feeling of pride: pride in myself, pride in my friends, and pride in my school. I was proud of my neat and shiny blazer with the school crest on the breast pocket. I was proud of my navy and maroon tie, of my blue lab coat with the complicated tie fastenings, of my maroon gym skirt that my mum had embroidered my name onto with a chain-stitch. I was proud of my white airtex blouse and navy gym knickers, and I was proud of my wicker basket for taking home the delicious fancies that I had made in Home Ec lessons (for delicious fancies, read greasy traditional English breakfast, and disastrous pineapple upsidedown cake.) I was proud to belong to a school with traditions and rituals, sayings and statues that were almost one hundred years old. (Okay, so that's not very old by the standards of plenty of other institutions, but pretty old to someone who was only eleven.) That pride never lessened, but it did eventually become less of a novelty.

But something that always brought back that sense of honour, and even brought a lump to the back of the throat and a blinked back tear to the eye, was our beloved school song. Now, I have never actually heard another school song apart from that of St. Trinian's. My partner, Kev, went to the boys' school on the other side of town, and he says they didn't have a school song.  So, I don't know whether ours was a good one, but we liked it. The first line, does refer to the fact that the school was situated on an actual hill looking down on the town (not at all in a condescending way!) And the line 'coming of victory' refers to sporting events, and is sung (or rather shouted, tunefully) very loudly; followed by '... or defeat', which is sung very quietly in subdued and saddened tones. I can't provide the tune for you at this point, because I haven't the musical notation to post, and there ain't no way I'm going to record myself singing it for you! Maybe I'll get some school friends together and we'll record it. But for now, here are the words, for your visual enjoyment.

In our small world upon the hill

We live, we live together.

And half forget, that good or ill,

A wider world awaits us still,

And draws us thither.

Yet though in quiet we sojourn,

To know our guiding light we learn,

Our guiding light we learn.

And this alone shall be our light,

The lamp of beauty, truth and right.


Friendship our pathway has prepared

With joy, with joy and laughter.

The binding ties of secrets shared,

Of common tasks, delights compared.

For ever after

Will draw us close when we discern

The light that here we first saw burn,

That here we first saw burn.

And this alone shall be our light,

The lamp of beauty, truth and right.


Then if we part or if we meet,

Yet keep, yet keep we ever,

This thought of strength with which to greet,

Coming of victory, or defeat.

That time shall never

Dim our fair memories, or turn

To darkness light we made to burn,

The light we made to burn.

It shines in darkness, and in light,

The lamp of beauty, truth and right.



Once every so often we had a whole-school-photo taken.  I am in the fourth row (if you don't include those four girls at sitting at the front as the first row), eighth girl in, two above the teacher in the purple jumper and white collar.
Once every so often we had a whole-school-photo taken. I am in the fourth row (if you don't include those four girls at sitting at the front as the first row), eighth girl in, two above the teacher in the purple jumper and white collar.

Looking at those words, half of which we were always ignorant of the meaning of, I am plonked right back on the laminated floor of the school hall, with my knees under my chin, my A-line navy skirt just covering those knees in my First Year (not so by the Fifth!) I am looking up onto the balcony where the sixth formers sit, awestruck at their beauty, poise and all-pervading aura of wisdom. Mrs Barber, the headmistress, stands on the dais, the colour of her tights always perfectly matching her chiffon scarf (today, in my memory, she is wearing teal), contrasting beautifully against her tweed skirt suit, the perfect embodiment of a century of proud history. The grand piano sits in the corner, deafening those unfortunate enough to be sitting virtually underneath it.

We did squander that opportunity in many ways. Top marks were there for the taking for anyone who wanted them; the knowledge was willingly taught if not readily absorbed. Every one of us had the ability to be straight A students if we'd applied ourselves, I'm sure of it. But most of the time we were distracted, simply because we were teenagers, easily distracted, forgetting what we had gone to that school to do.

But now I can see that the school was about more than results on paper, more than league tables and unconditional university offers. It was about good friends, about lovely memories of very fun times (some bad ones too, I had some horrible times at school - but doesn't everyone?), about belonging to a century of tradition and history, of learning about good values and comradeship. Instilled in us (in me at least - I can't speak for every girl) was a strong sense of the world being our oyster, and we were constantly encouraged to look out into that world, to love it, to learn from it, and to contribute something to it. That is my abiding memory of the school. I went out into the world knowing that I could achieve anything. I forgot that for a while, or at least I knew it, but I forgot to put the work in. I'm making up for it now though, I'm happy to say.

I went back to the school, with some friends, for a reunion in the school's centenary year in 2007. It was beautiful. We took many photos of things that we wanted to have a record of forever, such as door handles that we remember turning, windowsills that we remember sitting on, classrooms that we remember learning in, parquet flooring that we remember walking or sitting on. The place had changed a little with the addition of some shiny new buildings, some shiny new interactive whiteboards in place of the old black chalkboards, and some shiny new teachers. Mrs Barber, with her magnificent rainbow collection of tights, had retired, replaced by a younger model. But mostly it looked the same, smelled the same, sounded the same. The corridors were still enormous and lined with dark wooden bookcases, cupboards and trophy cabinets. The turret rooms where the books were kept were still accessed by spiral stone staircases. The gardens were still verdant and healthy, and the Art Block still had that same delicious smell of acrylic paint and white spirit (that memory has actually just brought a tear to my eye.) The new developments to the school made us returners feel a strange sort of jealousy; we couldn't go back to the beginning and start again. The new girls have so much tremendous opportunity, and I wish for them that they might realise how lucky they are to be part of such a school. The school is keeping up with its more modern counterparts, but it seems, by all accounts, to be keeping a firm hold on its staidness, and some of its stuffiness. Tradition is still cherished, there is still pride in a rich and glorious history. I'm proud to be an Old Girl of Lancaster Girls' Grammar School.

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      Gillian Mary Taylor 3 years ago

      How enjoyable to read all your comments.

      I attended the school from 1954 to 1961 and wonder if any of my contempories are still around. I remember the school song well, especially on the last day of term when we all looked up to the balcony to see if the sixth formers were crying.

      We wore navy gym slips and then navy pleated skirts in the sixth form, with ties according to the house- I wore a red one for red house. I certainly remember not eating in the street and to this day still feel it is bad manners.

      All the teachers were female, except for one male Latin teacher- I used to feel sorry for him! I remember that several teachers were unmarried having lost their boyfriends in the war. I used to admire them for having remained faithful.

      I left in 1961 to attend Leeds University to study Modern Languages and from there moved to Madrid, Spain where I married and had three chidren, now in their forties. I taught in a private secondary school in Madrid for over 30 years where I tried to keep up the principles taught by LGGS.

      I wonder if any of my contempories still keep in touch. It would be great to meet up and visit the school.

      Gillian

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
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      Linda Rawlinson 4 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Oh Sophie, I'm so pleased! I passed by the school today, with my eldest son in the car, and was sad that none of my children will be able to go there (I have three boys - and the boys' school is great, of course, but I have no memories of it to share with my children). My son thought that the outside of the building looked beautiful, and it did today, with the sun desperately trying to make an appearance.

      I'm glad that they're still strict about the uniform. Did the maroon sweatshirts leave fluff all over your white shirt the first few times you wore it? I remember that we got ours for the first time in the summer, and many of us kept them on in the tremendous heat because we were embarrassed about the maroon fluff.

      It actually sounds as though they have become more strict about the skirts - we had rules about the length of the skirt and so on, but I think the teachers were at the end of their tethers trying to police them. (My year and those above and below were particularly rebellious I think! A couple of girls were expelled when I was there.)

      Great to hear from you. I'm thrilled that not so much has changed. It always did need a few extra buildings.

      Maybe I'll get to see it all again at the next reunion.

      Linda.

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      Sophie A 4 years ago

      I am now just finishing my first year of university, having left LGGS last year. Although we all hated learning the school song in the first few years, we grew very fond of it, and it brought many of us to tears in our leavers' assembly! Despite the addition of all the new buildings (including a new sixth form block that became operational this year) there are still sunny places to sit - whenever Lancaster gets any sun that is! Outside the art block was a favourite. As I joined the school in 2005, I was lucky enough to have Mrs Barber as headteacher for two years before she retired; what a tremendous lady!

      Also, don't be fooled by the addition of trousers; they were still very strict about the uniform. Top buttons were to be done up at all times, shirts tucked in, and they even made special coloured rulers with which to measure our skirts ("Six centimetres above the knee when kneeling").

      I loved reading this. It's all very familiar - even down to the part about being deafened, sitting under the grand piano - and it showed me just how little the essential fabric and core values of the school has changed. LGGS truly is a wonderful school, and I, like you, am disappointed I can't do it all over again!

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
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      Linda Rawlinson 4 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Oh Jean, thank you so much for sharing those memories. I wish I could hear more, from people who went to the school at different times. So many girls!

      I pass by the school occasionally and gaze on it very fondly, wishing I could go in and see my friends there. Little ghosts of us, everywhere.

      Thank you for reading and sharing.

      Linda.

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
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      Linda Rawlinson 4 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Thank you for reading, and remembering and sharing :) The old place is huge now - well, still squashed into the same spot on the hill, but there are so many more buildings there. I hope the girls still have places where they can sit in the sun at lunch time. Those are the nice bits that I like to remember. And now I wish I could go back - I'd appreciate it more if I could.

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      Jean Graves nee Riley 4 years ago

      I was at the school 1940 - 46. We all carried gas masks and usually there was a clatter during prayers when someone fainted!

      The school song was written by Miss Laing who taught English.

      I had a happy time there but was not unduly academic as my parents paid for my schooling. I went on to get my SRN at St. Mary's Paddington London. I am now nearly 84. Miss Wright was our headmistress and we were all terrified of her as she was crippled with arthritis and could hardly walk

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      Catherine Duda 4 years ago

      Obviously meant school songs...

      Sorry

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      Catherine Duda 4 years ago

      I read this with interest, as I had been discussing school sons with my daughter. I was there from 1972-75 when Miss Owens was Headmistress. I hated it at the time, but am quite nostalgic reading your piece. Thank you.

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
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      Linda Rawlinson 5 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      It was very much like that when I was there. Sadly, maybe, I think standards may have relaxed somewhat since I left. I think that good manners are still very important, and the ladies are still expected to deport themselves well at all times. But they wear trousers now! There was no beret when I was there, but we did have blazers, and for PE it was navy knickers and maroon gym skirts.

      I have also tried to instill the values I learned at school into my sons - it doesn't always show, but they're still very young and boisterous, and I'm certain they'll be splendid young men when they're a bit older.

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      Norma G 5 years ago

      I attended LGGS from 1949 until 1953 and sometimes wonder if many of my contemporaries are still around all comments about the school are much later than my era. Our gym kit was navy blue, our ties were the colour of the "house" we were in and all the staff were female. Good manners and decorum were instilled in us throughout our time there. No eating in the street and berets to be worn at all times to and from school, even when walking to the games field. I have tried to follow these standards throughout my life and instilled them into my daughters if whom I am very proud. Well done LGGS

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
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      Linda Rawlinson 5 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Oh wow Jenny, how cool. You were a few years after me then - nice to know that the place still makes its girls happy and that they still sob when they leave! I don't have any girls - just three boys - so I won't get to see the inside of it again, until the next big reunion! Maybe I'll get to see what the boys' school is like though :)

      Thanks for reading, and especially for leaving a comment. Were you just Googling school that you found this article?

      Linda.

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      Jenny 5 years ago

      I went to this school from 2002 to 2009, such memories! Singing the school song at our leavers assembly left most of us sobbing, myself included. What a wonderful school it was and still is I'm sure.

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      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      I went to this school from 1988 to 1995 epi :) I'm 33. It's a very old-fashioned school indeed, and it's only in the last couple of years that the girls have been allowed to wear trousers! (As far as I know the navy gym knickers are still compulsory!)

      Still haven't written that hub about 'anything' - I'll get onto that this week...

      Linda.

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      epigramman 6 years ago

      ...hold on hold on - let me get this right - you went to this school?????? in your profile picture you look so young - so this story here must date back only about 10 years ago - don't worry I'm not bs - ing you - I just happen to know my math - very well - and yes I have very good eyes too - and yes you are one heck of a great writer too !!!!!!! Seems you can write about anything and make it sound great!!!!!

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      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      That's funny Darski :D There are several Lancasters in the US, I believe?

      You're so right about that that interaction - that's what reminds me that school is important in so many ways, when my kids are having a hard time at school and I want to teach them at home. They're better off being around other children and learning how to deal with problems themselves - and enjoying their own good times that have nothing to do with me :)

      Thanks Darlene :)

      Linda.

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      Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      This is funny, I grew up in Lancaster so while reading your hub I became so confused. Finally, I realized you were in the UK and my Lancaster was in California...but this is a great hub, really awesome. My best friend from high 7th grade and up are in contact and we are still best friends. I adore her and we love to talk about all the things we did. School is so much more then paper, were learn about interaction and growing in a way kids that are home schooled will never learn. Rate this up. love it peace & love darski

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
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      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Aren't memories powerful sometimes? Wonderful. That's marvellous that I made you cry, and they're not even your memories!

      :)

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      Strawb 6 years ago

      You write so beautifully - your last 2 sentences made me cry.

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image
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      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Funny thing is that I didn't really know how much the school meant to me when I was there as a pupil. I suppose that's pretty common.

      Thanks for commenting - glad you enjoyed my memories :)

      Linda.

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      attemptedhumour 6 years ago from Australia

      It must be nice to relive those memories and certain smells can suddenly take you back to earlier times. I was pretty lucky at school as i was never really bullied. I was was just bored senseless and never did any homework ever except for writing thousands of lines of 'I must not' do this that or the other etc. I don't remember our secondary school having its own song either. Thanks for an enjoyable stroll down your memory lane.