Robert Munday has told us that Mrs Winifred Newell passed away peacefully in Machynlleth, the Welsh town of her town of birth, on Saturday, 8 December, 2012, aged 90.
Robert, Old Latin and husband of Ruth Newell and, thus, Mrs Newell’s son-in-law, has described her as a “formidable lady with a heart of gold. We all have fond memories.”
Old Latins of her era ( the 1960s and 70s ) held Mrs Newell in the greatest respect and will be saddened at her passing. It has been a difficult year for Ruth – her father, the Reverend Aubrey Newell, passed away in September. Yet, despite spending four or five days each week in remote mid-Wales, Ruth became Mayor of Buckingham, again.
I have so many reasons to be thankful towards Mrs Newell. When I arrived in 1968 to teach Chemistry, physics and mathematics, Win Newell acted as the third, part-time member of Ivan Bush’s Chemistry Team. Her support, kindness and bonhomie knew no bounds – she clucked around me like a mother hen around her chick. Quickly, RLS felt like home.
In those days, chemistry was rooted in practical experience. Mrs Newell, a proud Welsh lady, will never be forgotten by those pupils who were initiated by her into the mysteries of that great German invention: Herr Bunsen’s Burner. Her lessons were rigorous. Having overheard them from the Prep. Room on a number of occasions, I can remember their lilt and precise enunciation. The sensation may be evoked by recalling part of Henry Reed’s great poem:
To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing.
Luminous ( sooty) flames and non-luminous (hot) flames, hot zones and unburnt gas were analysed and soon every pupil knew which flame and which area to employ to ensure that the contents of boiling tube simmered but did not spurt . “Don’t aim it at your neigh-bour, Bett-er-idge.” [ No safety spectacles in those days.]
Above all, Mrs Newell was a kindly, human presence. She wore her football team on her sleeve and was ready to spend extra time out of lessons to ensure that slower learners were not disadvantaged. One of the last survivors of the “old School” but not one to be left behind by the march of time. It was Mrs Newell that introduced me, in 1975, to Primo Levi’s Il Sistema Periodico.
Ruth Newell has written to me with some memories of her mother and I’m appending these:
I asked Robert what he meant by ’formidable’, and he meant it ‘as a teacher, you wouldn’t dare mess her around’!
As a Mum she was very caring, kind and hard working.
I think she taught at the RLS from 1962 to around 1984, and I do recall her giving up lunchtimes to work with pupils as you’ve said, and she was brilliant at explaining things in a way pupils could understand. She did speak clearly and she said the French Assistants said they could understand her clear speaking with her welsh accent.
She was a good teacher and got good exam results and certainly I wouldn’t have got my O level Chemistry without Mum’s last minute tutoring …
Former pupils have talked about Mum working with them in the lunchtimes teaching them knitting - squares for blankets which were sent overseas, crocheting, and sewing clothes peg bags. I also recall Mum organising and serving refreshments at school plays I used to help her in operating the urns, it was just tea, coffee and squash in those days [ Ah, yes, glug, glug, times change, Ruth. I'd forgotten how in those dry days, RLS could have been in deepest Welsh Wales.ED]
She also taught games – Hockey and would referee matches at weekend and transport members of the Hockey team. She also taught Maths and I recall her updating her knowledge through a Modern Maths course at Oxford. [I wonder if Mrs Newell ever used her SMP (School Mathematics Project) knowledge on Jeremy (Jem) Betteridge. ED]