The years have brought the usual ups and downs – successful teaching careers, marriages, families, divorces, prosperity, austerity and the gradual but inevitable dwindling of numbers in their annual gathering, however, the survival of the group owes much to Anne Laing, co-ordinator, chairperson and the Edge Hill College guild ‘rock’ for 25 years.
Edge Hill University is recognising Anne’s commitment to the Guild and the University by awarding her with an Honorary Fellowship this year, the institution’s milestone 125th anniversary.
Upon receiving her award, Anne said: “It is with a full heart that I find it very difficult to express thanks. To receive this honour is very touching – my real reward for my years of service is the love and appreciation of the members and the opportunity to touch people’s lives that have been a privilege to share.”
Anne has been the Guild chairperson since 1985 and has worked tirelessly to ensure the group stays in touch. As well as general administration of the group and overseeing the official reunion, she opens her own home every summer to all remaining members for an informal get-together.
The Edge Hill College Guild has been in existence since 1896, when it was set up to help members experiencing difficulty, promote sociability and strengthen the ties between the institution and its former students. By 1910, it had 582 members, and had given nearly £175 to help old students in times of need and ill health. Although it ceased to operate as a formal body in 2008, all members remain fiercely loyal to Edge Hill and carry out a vital ambassadorial role, promoting the University across the country and beyond.
“Considering where we were located”, says Anne, “which was very rural, there was little going on outside socially so we were self-sufficient. I was one of the last fee-paying students of my era so college was a struggle for some, but the Guild was always there to help those who felt the pinch.”
Anne was part of the all-female cohort which was relocated to Bingley in Yorskhire during the Second World War, when the campus was requisitioned for use as a military hospital. According to Anne, it was a move that cemented the bond between herself and her classmates.
“Edge Hill was a quite a small college then, just 67 in my year, so we all took care of each other. Bingley brought us closer together still, so were actually more like a family than just friends and one always makes an extra effort to stay in touch with family!”
Upon graduating, Anne began teaching at Bredbury Secondary Modern School for Girls, teaching Science and Gardening, along with some English and Maths. Anne took the decision to focus on teaching pupils with physical and learning disabilities and was appointed Deputy Head of Massey Hall Special Residential School in Lancashire in 1953. After marrying in 1957, Anne continued to teach until her retirement in 1984.
“Teaching was my passion particularly working with pupils who were less able, which I found very rewarding. Edge Hill College always had such an excellent reputation for its teacher training so I was very fortunate in gaining my various posts since it was so well-regarded.”
“I still have a great affection for the college along with all Guild members. The modern campus looks absolutely wonderful – very different to when I studied here when there were many small hut-like buildings dotted around, left over from when the army had used the building as a hospital.”
“Using the catchphrase of this year’s 125th anniversary, I hope Edge Hill continues to shape futures as it shaped mine and wish the institution every success in consolidating and securing its own.”