Our Unsung Hero
Christine wins national award!
Christine and I made the trip down to London on Tuesday 10th October in the knowledge that we had made the final in two categories of this year’s Independent School of the Year Awards. Not only was Christine up for ‘Unsung Hero’, but Belhaven was in the running for ‘Independent Boarding School of the Year’ – quite an accolade, considering our size.
Having dropped our bags at our hotel near Kings Cross, we hopped in a taxi and went to ‘The Last Judgement’, appropriately enough, for a drink with a lovely group of OBs who had made the effort to come and see Christine. This was undoubtedly Christine’s favourite part of the day away – seeing so many friendly faces and catching up with their news gave her a great lift and allowed her to forget her nerves for a bit!
Fortified with a lemonade, Christine then braved the grandeur of the Law Society with me. We were just about the last to arrive - the room was tightly packed with Headteachers, marketing gurus, photographers, journalists and judges – and we made our way to the front, both being unable to see much from the bar! We did not win the Boarding award – that honour went to Sandroyd, a prep school with a similar ethos to our own – and so attention focused entirely on Christine.
We clutched our apple juices tightly.
The moment at which Christine was announced as the winner will live long in the memory – down went the apple juice and off she went to collect her award – bulbs flashed, applause rang out and I was asked to go and tell everyone a little more about this wonderful lady. I was able to start by relating the extraordinary fact that Christine started working at Belhaven almost a year before I was born, on 23rd April 1980, and that that Tuesday, 10th October 2023, was the first day that she had taken away from work since her husband’s death in 1990.
I told of how she knows what every boarder has for breakfast and of how this helps to create the homely atmosphere that defines our boarding – and how her interest in the children’s lives extends far beyond their time at Belhaven, creating that incredible link that OBs feel when they return to the school. Invariably, the first two things that they notice are that the Hall chair has gone and that Christine is still here.
We had an event-free return journey and there was time for just one last surprise – we took Christine back to school to walk down the driveway, lined with the children and staff, so that everyone could celebrate with her. Christine has made an enormous difference to the lives of so many Belhavians, and it was wonderful to see that contribution acknowledged with the award.