Scone Palace1941-1942,  Dunalastair 1942-1947,  Grendon Hall 1948-1951

 

In September 1939 when the Polish army was facing defeat by the joint forces of Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union, the Polish Command issued an order for all those able to do so to make their way to France where the Polish Government and Polish armed forces would be reformed in order to continue to fight alongside our allies, Britain and France.

 

Following the fall of France in 1940, the Polish Government in Exile and a substantial part of the Polish Forces, some with their families, were evacuated from ports in the south of France to the UK. The Polish Government in Exile, now based in London, recognised that they needed to make provision for the education of young people who managed to flee Poland.

In February 1941 the Office for National Education (Urząd Wychowania Narodowego) of the Polish Government in Exile in London decided that a school be established to cater for Polish girls living in Great Britain.

 

Scone Palace in Perthshire, once the crowning place of the Kings of Scotland and the  rightful home of the celebrated Stone of Scone - also known as the Stone of Destiny,  opened its doors in March 1941 to  the Marie Curie-Skłodowska  Polish secondary school for girls.

 
The school started without any textbooks or resources, just five staff, including the headmistress Mrs. A. Małuska, and 56 pupils. The biggest drawback was that the  facilities of Scone Palace had to be shared with Craigmount Girls School which had been evacuated to Scone from Edinburgh at the outbreak of the Second World War.
 

Despite the difficulties, new teaching classes were gradually introduced beginning with the upper forms and adding the lower forms as the school developed. By December a school chapel was added, a choir and girl guides were established  and enough books were collected to open a modest library.

 

 

Scone Palace in Perthshire,

The school was maintained by the Polish Government in exile and many prominent visitors such as; General J Haller, Bishop Gawlina and the President of Poland W. Raczkiewicz demonstrated support for the school.
 

Mrs. Jadwiga Wyszogrodzka with Halina Organistka, Danuta Zielińska,

Krystyna Messinger and Janina Dybowska

Prof. Roman Bakun with Halina Gorgolewska, Lala Shön

 

The school library

The choir

Iza Maszadeo

At the Piano Mrs. Makowska with Zofia Chrobok, Krystyna Karpinsk, Danuta and Krystyna Horrocks Lala  Shön and Danuta Koperska

Janina Koperska, Jadwiga Andzejewska, Wanda Jarosz. Wanda Krzyczkowska and Hala Gorgolewska

Girls engrossed in a science lesson.

Morning exercise

Girls from the school in national dress, enacting a Polish harvest

 Lala Shön,  Danuta Zielińska, Wanda Wojciechowska.

Visit by President of Poland W. Raczkiewicz.

 

Visit by Bishop Gawlina and Generak Józef Haller

   
 

Fr. Lorenz,  Danuta Koperska, Irena Filipiec, Wanda Krzyczkowska, Danuta Zielińska, Janka Koperska, Hala, Organistka,Wanda Jarosz, Basia Gorgolewska, Jadwiga Anrzejewska, Wanda Dobrowolska, Krystyna Kulig, Hala Tomaszewska. Danuta Horrocks, Krystyna Horrooks, Hala Gorgolewska, Hala Smardzewska, Hela Gajdzik, Róża Wasylkowska, man at the back Wojciech Dłużewski.

 

 

With the intake of new students the school was expanding  but, given the differences of culture and language, it became increasingly difficult to share the building with Craigmount Girls School and misunderstandings  grew between the two schools.  It was decided to look for new premises for the Polish school and, in August 1942, the school relocated to Dunalaster House Pitlochry Perthshire.
 

Dunalaster House

 

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The Dunalaster estate, situated  in the southern part of the Scottish Highlands about 18 miles from Pitlochry, lies along the river Tummel between Tummel Bridge to the east, and Kinloch Rannoch to the west. The estate was home to Clan Donnachaidh, which includes names such as Robertson, Duncan and Reid, and the estate contains the burial ground of the chiefs of the Clan Donnachaidh. 

 

Requisitioned during World War II this magnificent 2-storey, square-plan Baronial mansion, with 3-stage circular turrets, forty three spacious rooms and  extensive grounds,  proved to be ideal for the school, enabling it to evolve and expand.  The pupils, teachers and  headmaster Dr. Mieczysław Pawłowski were delighted with their new premises.

 

With more space and without the need to compromise with others sharing the building, the school became not only academically successful, but was also able to embrace to the full, Polish tradition and  culture expressed in song and dance. Some of these activities were taken into the local communities, where the  girls gave displays of Polish Regional Dance in Glasgow, the military school in Falkirk and  delighted wounded Polish solders recovering at the Polish Military Hospital no.1 in  Taymouth Castle

 

Over the next few years the school underwent  many changes.  A new principal, Mrs. Zofia Niedźwiedzka took over in 1943 and eight new teachers joined the existing staff. The school was now accepting new students.  Some were children that had been deported to the USSR with their families and had to do a lot of catching up because of serious gaps in their education. 

 

Pupils attending the school in 1942

 
To boost the numbers pupils the school  attempted  to establish a coeducational system in the lower classes the first eight boys were enrolled that year This coeducational system continued until 1944/45 the experiment was then discontinued. On the photos below are some of the first intake of boys. 
 

Staff:-Mrs. Helena Grzymirska,  Mrs.Jadwiga Wyszogrodzka ,Mrs Maria Litewska, Fr. Lucjan Bernacki, Director Mieczyslaw Pawłowski, Mr. Roman Bakun, Mrs. Irena Górska, mr. Włodzimierz  Stachnik,  Mrs. Bronisawa Okoska, 

 

 
Basia Sołtyska Marytk Leszczyńska Renata Kwoka, Danuta Kirklewska, Stenia Bąk, Jadzia Krucińska
Lala Shön, Danka Koperska Krysia Karpinska Danka Horroks Hela Gajdzik Irka Łukasiewicz
Zofia Kinel Wanda Jarosz Irka Pawłowska Janka Kopersk Stenia Jaroń Irka Filipiec
Ewa Misiuro Nuna Dybowska Iza Maszadro Maria Lifszyc Danka Zielińska Hala Organistka
Tota Dębińska Krysia Messinger Wanda Krzyczkowska Hala Gorgolewska Zosia Karpinska Ala Bachurzewska
Wanda Wojciechowska Krysia Bukraba Alicja Makowska Hanka Bogucka Hala Smardzewska  
 
   

Janka Dybowska, Iza Maszadro, Tota Dębińska

 
 

Teacher Mrs Maria Litewska with Irka Filipiec, Wanda Jarosz, Stenia Jaroń

Fr. Feliks Brzóska  Teresa, Milczak, Wanda Bąk

 

The upper form saw new girls  arrive  from the armed forces.

Irena Głowacka, Hanka Głowacka, Irena Michorecka, Zosia Reder.

Krysia Mindak, Mira Jatoń, Dzidka Mrazek, Jadzia Sołtyska, Zosia Klamut,

Mrs Maria Dębrowska.

 
 

Headmasters Dyr. Zofia Niedzwiecka with her staff. Just before the school moved to Grendon Hall

Mr. Józef Więckowski, Mr. Kazimierz Fabierkiewicz, Mrs. Helena Romiszewska, Fr. Lucjan Bernacki,

Mrs. Agnes Martinet, Mrs. Maria Dąbrowska, Mrs. Bronisława Okońska,  Mrs. Henryk Nowicki.

 
     
   
 
Irka Bałaban, Zosia Klamut, Basia Strączak, Dorota Kwiatkowska, Joasia Sołtyska, Wanda Bąk,
Hanka Morawska, Danka Kirklewska, Danka Leliwa, Renata Kwoka. Jadzia Krucińska, M. Mierzwińska,
Hanka Głowińska, Krysia Chętkowska, Krysia Szymańska, Marytka Leszczyńska, Iza Dzieślewska, Halina Kudaj,
Teresa Bartel, Hanka Jóźwiak, Hala Skibińska, Hanka Tchórzewska, Ewa Radecka, Krysia Bernakiewicz
Janka Fait, Danka Marszewska, Janka Maksymowicz, Krysia Pitak Stenia Maksymowicz Danka Gorgolewska,
Mira Jaroń, Stenia Gołaś, Krysia Schmidt, Jasia Zbaraszewska Teresa Święcicka, Róża Wiegosz,
Teresa Robak, Lala Shön, Krysia Karpińska, Danka Horroks, Basia Gostyńska, Janka Mrazek
 

The year 1946/7 started under the leadership of Helena Romiszowska who deputised few months until  the  new head  Mrs. Janina Płoska was appointed Mrs Płoska  remained head until 1951. When the school  the closed  the  remainder of the girls moved to Stowell Park  and Mrs Romiszowska  became headmistress.

 

In 1947 responsibility for the education of Poles in the UK was assumed by the Committee for the Education of Poles in great Britain, formed under the auspices of the 1947 Polish Resettlement act, and chaired by Sir George Gater.  The Gater committee recognised the need to cater for much larger numbers of girls arriving either with their families from displaced persons' camps in India, Africa, the Middle East and various parts of Europe or as orphans in the care of the Polish armed forces, decided to move the school to larger premises at Grendon Hall in Buckinghamshire.

 

Grendon Hall in Buckinghamshire

 

The Hall was built in 1880 in the Jacobean style by the Revd Randolph Piggott, Rector and Squire of Grendon Underwood for his brother, although his brother never took up residence there.

 

With the onset of World War II, the Government purchased  the hall  for use by MI6.  In 1942 when MI6 and SOE (Special Operations Executive) became separate organisations it became an SOE base known as wireless station 53a, one of four home based receiving stations for messages from overseas agents. The house was run by a staff of 40 women belonging to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY).  Nissen huts were built in the grounds to accommodate  the staff  of  signallers and coders who worked with Marconi CR100 machines.  One of these is on display in Bletchley Park Museum.

 

Probably the two best known agents, who are thought to have had connections with Grendon Hall, were Odette and Violette Szabó.

 

Grendon Hall,  with 22 rooms of various sizes, spacious grounds including two smaller dwellings, a number of outbuildings,  stables and the Nissen hut barracks left over from the war, became an ideal location to house a boarding school for Polish girls.

 

The outbuildings and some of the huts were converted into dormitories, the remainder became the kitchen, dining hall and a gymnasium with  theatre  facilities. The bomb shelter became a library and  one of the huts was converted into the school chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Ostra Brama. The majority of the classrooms were in the main house. The move to Grendon Hall took place on 20th April 1948.

 

Two new teachers joined the staff and the number of pupils grew to 120, of which only six were from the original intake of 1941. This large influx of children coming to the UK from Africa, India, the Middle East and many parts of Europe to be reunited with their husbands and fathers, brought it's own problems. 

 
These disparate groups, traumatised by war, with huge gaps in their education and an almost total lack of English language had to be moulded into a cohesive community with a common ethos and shared purpose.
 

Girls in the grounds of Grendon Hall

The pupils were now required to wear uniforms, which they made themselves as part of their handicraft lessons.  Although they returned home for the school holidays, leave of absence during term time was granted in only the most extraordinary cases.   

Social life flourished with various youth organisations such as Marian Sodality and Guides as well as less structured groups such as a Co-op circle, English Club, The 33 Club as well as a sports club named Wisła which staged competitive matches and tournaments.

 During the 1948/49 year the school achieved a high degree of stability and fully developed a broad range of school activities.  The staff expanded to 16 and the number of pupils grew to 211 with the new pupils, a diverse group, coming from Africa, India, the Middle East and Europe.

 The school now faced the challenge of transition from the Polish system of education, which was in place since 1941 in Scone Palace and later Dunalaster House, to the UK system. All lessons were to be in English except Religious Education, Polish History and Language.

 

There were worries within the Polish community that this could gradually change the ethos of the school. Although the transition to teaching an English syllabus placed additional demands on both staff and pupils the non curricular activities continued, although at a slower pace.  There were excursions to important towns and cities; Oxford, Cambridge, Canterbury and the like. 

Visits to concerts and theatres to see Polish plays by Mickiewicz, Słowacki, Budzyński and Bulicz as well as English ones by Sheridan, Bernard Shaw and, of course, a visit to Stratford-on-Avon to see Shakespeare performed in his mother tongue.   Not content just to watch others perform there was an active drama group performing Polish classics not just at school but also in Polish displaced persons camps to audiences counted in many hundreds.

 Notable Polish musicians, actors, artists and authors gave guest lectures and ran workshops for the girls.  These extra curricular activities were free for children whose parents were on National Assistance, children of working parents contributed 3shillings per week.

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

Mrs. I Zawadzka with her class, Roma Bomba, Longina Leszczyńska, Stasia Piękoś, Wikta Tyszczuk, Bronia Polak, Mietka Kobylec, Tosia Marek, Władzia Poręba, Bogusia Sawicka, Halina Leskowicz, Zosia Zawadzka, Helena Łabędź, Kama Czerniak, Irka Król, Wanda Draus, Zosia Ruczkowska, Halina Rurkowska, Krysia Branicka

 

 Pupils from Class V with Headmistress Mrs. Janina Płoska

 Fr. Józef Gołąb and teachers 1951

 

 

Farewell to Grendon Hall 1951

 
The school received a number of visits from Sir George Gater as well as other members of the Committee for the Education of Poles.  All were impressed by the standard attained.  Despite these successes and the excellent reputation enjoyed by the school, in 1951the Gater Committee took the decision to close down Grendon Hall and the remaining girls were transferred to Stowell Park.
 

A reunion held in London of ex-students from Scone Palace, Dunalister and Grendon Hall  2/6/1991

 

Thank you to Mrs Krystyna  Kosiba (Bernakiewicz) for the  book  and information about the schools "A Remarkable School in Exile 1941-1951" and Anna Romiszowska for many of the photos.

 

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