Completing the census form last night (I know that’s early – naughty, naughty) left me slightly disappointed with what was asked, having spent some months now looking at census documents from 1841-1911. For example, in all the censuses of the 19th century, the middle names of all the people in the household were often recorded. This can be extremely helpful to the genealogist searching for, for example, John Kingsford Inge (Inge is a surprisingly common name in Kent and Surrey). Nor was the specific place of birth recorded – again, a very useful way of checking that you have the right person. Even if the subject of your enquiry had moved halfway across the country between 1851 and 1861, you could be fairly sure ’twas he or she from the place of birth, e.g. Ickham, Kent. Now all you are required to supply is ‘England’. Good luck to our great-grandchildren when they try to track us down in a century’s time.
Thanks to cautious (ha!) use of the hints option on Ancestry, the family tree has now grown to over 2000 people. Dan regularly tells me off for researching people who are only related to me by marriage, but, if youhave ever done any research into your family tree, you’ll concur that it can become an obsession until the tree has so many twigs you can’t remember how some of them grew.
Thanks to this obsession, however, I discovered a fascinating lady called Norah Newbury Inge (my third cousin, five-times removed), the daughter of a school headmaster from Wimbledon. Born in 1900, Norah comes into view for the first time after the 1911 census in 1936, when she returned to Britain from on the P&O ship ‘Strathnaver’. She had been working as a school teacher in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon).
In 1942, she was evacuated along with 1000 Japanese women and children from Singapore to India, listed as a missionary, but no doubt teaching too. Returning to Britain in 1946 on the ‘Andes’, she is certainly listed once more as a teacher and probably found plenty to do in India in those four years. She may also have attended her cousin Vernon’s wedding in 1944 in Delhi.
In 1948, Norah became the principal of St Margaret’s Primary School in Singapore. St Margaret’s is the oldest school in Singapore, founded in 1842. The school’s Wikipedia article suggests that she did some good work there: “Domestic Science became part of the school curriculum, a netball team was formed and a Girl Guide company was incorporated. It was Inge who first conceived the idea of building a separate secondary school.”
Norah was heavily involved in the Guiding movement, acting as a Colony Commissioner until Singapore achieved indpendence 1965. She was awarded the Medal of Merit in 1950 and the Beaver Award in 1959 for services to Guiding. Whether Norah was still in Singapore right up until independence is not clear. The last passenger listing for Norah is from a trip home in 1957 on the S.S. Patroclus. She intended to stay in Leicester for four months, but then to return to Singapore. She remained principal of St Margaret’s until 1958.
At some point, Norah finally retired to Britain. However, in September 1986, she returned to St Margaret’s at the invitation of a group of old girls to celebrate Children’s Day. A local newspaper recorded th
e event and adds some interesting information about Norah’s significant contribution to Guiding in Singapore:
Singapore’s oldest girls’ school, St Margaret’s, celebrated Children’s Day yesterday with a special 86-year-old guest. She is Miss Norah Inge, a former St Margaret’s principal and founder of the senior section of the Girl Guides in Singapore.
‘We were the first Ranger company in Singapore’, said Miss Inge, who flew in from Britain on a visit arranged by old girls of the school. To her, pioneering the Rangers for 16- to 21-year-olds was something she had to do, as the girls were growing too old to be Guides.
Her Ranger company comprised girls from several schools. She was also the first girl guides trainer with a camping licence, enabling her to take girls on camping trips.
As principal from 1948 to 1958 of St Margaret’s – the oldest girls’ school, founded in 1842 – she introduced domestic science and mother craft, which taught girls to look after babies.
She had the personal touch, and even ventured into the water to teach girls to swim.
But Miss Inge remembers her career as principal in somewhat different terms. ‘I was one of the very few principals who knew most of the parents. I used to go to every home that had a girl in the school’, she said. In those days, she recalled, several areas of Singapore were slums. ‘I don’t think many principals have the number of personal contacts that I still have’, she said.
And, not surprisingly, though Miss Inge is well on in years, she has not cut her ties with teaching. Twice a week, she teaches in a school for the mentally and physically handicapped in Britain, where she lives.
From the Straits Times, 1986
Still teaching at 86 – she must’ve been a phenomenon. Norah died in 1995, aged 95.