Retired teacher flies back to Edinburgh from New Zealand for reunion after breaking knee and ribs on last trip

Last visit ended in agony after she broke two ribs and her kneecap in fall

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Thursday, 28th November 2019, 6:30 am
Elva is back in Edinburgh and hoping to meet with former Royal High Primary pupils

A RETIRED teacher has returned to the Capital from the other side of the world in a continuing quest to be reunited with her former pupils.

Kiwi Elva Gouk’s last visit ended in disaster and agony last month after she tripped and fell on George Street a day into her holiday - cracking two ribs and smashing her kneecap.

Now the 82-year-old has jetted back from her homeland more determined than ever to track down her former Royal High Primary children from 36 years ago.

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One of Elva's classes

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“I’ve come again especially for them,” said Elva. “I’d be so happy for them to come for a chat and some laughs.”

The Evening News reported last month how Elva discharged herself from the Royal Infirmary following her fall before flying home - much to the amazement of medics.

“I drove them mad,” she laughed. “I asked them if they wanted me to walk out of the hospital or to dance out of there.

“I’m fine, I’ve been mowing the lawns, cleaning and walking around back home.”

And this trip has failed to run smoothly either, her luggage lost in transit in Doha. “I’ve had to sleep in my clothes,” she said.

Such single-minded stoicism should come as no surprise - given Elva’s ancestry and her own history of overcoming adversity.

Her grandma was the first white woman to arrive in the Maori town of Taupiri in 1842.

Her aunt, Edith Orr was matron at New Zealand’s biggest hospital and set up the nation’s first retirement home - all after treating casualties in the First World War.

Continuing the family tradition of endurance, Elva brought up three children single-handedly - now all leaders in their respective fields.

She dumbfounded doctors by curing herself of arthritis at the age of 41 - by chewing on golden raisins dunked in gin.

And after needing surgery to repair horrific nerve damage in her back after a tree she cut down fell on her, she discharged herself from hospital after four days. She was 75 at the time.

“They were such happy times"

“I believe it’s a case of mind over matter,” she says, with a glint in her eye as she points to a six-inch scar on her back.

So she was never going to let the small matter of broken bones stop her trying to find pupils she taught at the Royal High Primary School on a placement in 1983.

“They were such happy times,” she smiles. “I couldn’t believe it when I arrived. It was Christmas and I went to the school and the welcome was amazing.”

School days were spent arranging fun adventures and activities with the children, while days off featured lunches with the Lord High Commissioner and the Victorian Society.

She even met the Queen and Queen Mother at a Garden Party in June. “She was still wearing her hair net,” Elva recalls of the Queen Mother.

“She was lovely and we were just talking about what it was like being a New Zealander living over here.”

Another highlight came when the All Blacks played at Murrayfield and students dressed her all in black to watch Scotland take her team all the way in a now legendary 25-25 draw.

Elva is now planning a reunion for any former pupils or colleagues at the Motel One hotel on Princes Street this Sunday.

“She’s an inspiration,” said concierge Iain Pettigrew, 60. “She reminds me of my mum - that generation that just gets on with it.”