Paintings by evacuees will help celebrate school’s centenary

Scenes, such as this, depict the lives of St George's evacuees
Scenes, such as this, depict the lives of St George's evacuees
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THEY are the handiwork of wartime pupils sent to live in the countryside when their Edinburgh school was evacuated.

Yet these fascinating watercolours, depicting every day life as an evacuee, have never been seen by staff and pupils at St George’s School for Girls – until now.

Almost 40 paintings created by youngsters at the school more than 70 years ago have been revealed for the first time, as the Ravelston landmark prepares to mark its centenary year of boarding.

School librarian Nigel Shepley said: “Miss Tucker taught the girls here from 1906 to 1941, and I think she was very influential as an art teacher.

“When the school was evacuated to the countryside and she lost her art studio, she decided they would use the great outdoors and the houses they were staying in to do their work. It was a project to record what everyday life as evacuees was like.”

As the Second World War devastated Britain, staff took the decision to evacuate St George’s School and moved pupils to the Borders.

More than 200 girls and teachers went to live in four houses in the Bonchester Bridge area of Hawick and the watercolours show views of the surrounding countryside, as well as the girls having lunch and getting ready for bed in their dormitory.

Copies of a selection of the images have been used to create a 2012 calendar to celebrate the centenary of boarding at the school next year.

Mr Shepley dug out the paintings – which also show pupils sledging and washing up – from the school’s archive room. He said: “We were thinking about how to celebrate the 100 years of boarding and thought the paintings would make a nice display. We always knew these pictures were there but this is the first time we have publicised them.

“They look like the sort of illustrations you would get in girls’ storybooks and magazines at that time – they’re very good quality.”

Staff and pupils stayed in the Borders until nearly the end of the war, as the army had taken over the school building.

Mr Shepley added: “When the bombing wasn’t as bad as it appeared, lots of other schools came back to Edinburgh.

“The evacuees said they all had a nice time during the war away from all the fighting.”

He described the paintings as “one of the gems” of the school’s archive room, and among the more “interesting” and “colourful” items.

“I like the one of the pupils receiving the post because it must have been so important to them when they were away from home, not knowing whether Edinburgh was going to be bombed and perhaps missing home as well,” he said.

Head of St George’s School for Girls, Anne Everest, said it was the first time teachers and pupils at the school had ever seen the watercolours.

She said: “When the school was evacuated to the Borders, the art teacher insisted these girls kept a pictorial record of life there.

“It’s lovely for our present-day girls to see the pictures. They sort of look old-fashioned and are clearly 1940s, but in many ways the sort of activities they’re doing are normal everyday things like gardening, washing up and swimming.

“The pupils think the paintings are lovely. We’ve put them up in the St George’s Centre where the pupils have their lunch.”

The calendar, which features 13 of the paintings, is available to purchase from the school for £8.

Did you paint one of the watercolours? Call 0131-620 8734 or e-mail news_en@edinburghnews.com