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News > School History > Legends of Lady Barn > Remembering the Women of Lady Barn

Remembering the Women of Lady Barn

The girls of the 1920s, saw some of Lady Barn's most acclaimed authors and entertainers. Let's take a look at their roaring achievements...
Beryl Elizabeth Reid
Beryl Elizabeth Reid

Over the years, the school has seen plenty of its girls become some of the most successful and creative women of our time. The Class of the 1920s, in particular, saw some of Lady Barn's most extraordinary and celebrated alumni, all of whom are recognised as the Lady Barn legends. Follow the lives and discover some of our other historical legends, on the News page. 

Beryl Elizabeth Reid OBE

Actress and Comedian

Born in 1919, Beryl is arguably one of Lady Barn's most famous attendees. Beryl joined the school in the 1920s and later went onto the all girls' secondary school, Levenshulme High School. 

Beryl struggled with dyslexia during her school years but her love for the stage and TV helped her confidence grow from strength to strength. Her career began in 1936, where she started performing in professional theatre productions, including summer sessions and Christmas pantomimes. By the 1940s, the BBC had sought out her comedic flair and she was given her own radio show, A Quarter of an Hour with Beryl Reid. While her radio career flourished, it wasn’t until 1954 when she starred in her first credited film role, The Belles of St Trinian’s that her film career took off. However, Reid’s career-changing move in 1965 was her adaption of a lesbian radio actor in Frank Marcus’ stage play, The Killing of Sister George. It was her role in this drama that landed her an Antoinette Perry Award for her preformation and the 1966 Broadway production, won her a Tony award.

Beryl later became a familiar face on British telly, appearing in several games shows and comedy programmes. Her humour and wit will never be forgotten, and her charm is something Lady Barn will fondly remember. In 1986, Beryl was awarded an OBE from the Queen for her services to the entertainment industry.

Source: BFI screenonline

Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw

Mathematician, politician and author

Another Lady Barn House legend to be recognised for commitment to their career by the Queen, is Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw. Kathleen attended the school from 1918 to 1926, when the school was still at its Withington site. During her time at school, Kathleen fell ill, causing her to become almost completely deaf. She quickly learnt to lip-read and wouldn’t receive her hearing aids, allowing her to hear again, till 30 years later. However, this did not limit Kathleen's academic success. Once leaving school, she went on to graduate from Oxford University in Mathematics, becoming one of the most well-known Mathematicians of her time. Two of her biggest career breakthroughs were her work with magic squares and the popular Hungarian puzzle game, The Rubik’s Cube. Although, it was her excessive work of solving this puzzle that led to the first-ever case of ‘mathematician’s thumb’. Just like today’s i-pad neck!

Her passion for the subject was kick-started at Lady Barn House School. The Headmistress at the time, Miss Jenkin-Jones, was a fanatic maths whizz and inspired many of her pupils to fall in love with the subject. Not only did Ollerenshaw fall in love with maths at Lady Barn, but it was also where she met her future husband, Colonel Robert Ollerenshaw.

As her career progressed, Kathleen wrote several books, including The Girls School: The future of the public and other independent schools for girls. By 1970, the Queen had recognised her service to education, awarding her a Dame title and in 1975 she served as the Lord Mayor of Manchester. Annually, the University of Manchester honours Dame Kathleen with a dedicated lecture, ‘Ollerensaw Mathematics Lecture’. In 2012, to mark her 100th birthday, the university awarded her another honorary degree. She had previously received honorary degrees and fellowships from several universities, with Lancaster even naming their observatory after her.

Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw was a mathematician, politician, educationalist, author and astronomer. The dame was certainly a legend within education but, more importantly, we honour her as a Lady Barn legend.

Source: University of Manchester

Marghanita Laski

Broadcaster and writer

Marghanita was born into a prominent family of Jewish intellectuals and educated at Lady Barn in the 1920s. Following her secondary education at St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith, Marghanita attended Somerville College, Oxford to read English. After the birth of her two children, Marghanita went on to write six novels, including Tory Heaven (1948), Little Boy Lost (1949) and The Village (1952). She also became a well-established critic, writing books on Jane Austen and George Eliot. Her prolific reading and writing meant she repeatedly contributed to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), inputting over 250,000 entries. In 1973, she was cast away by Roy Plomey’s on BBC 4’s Desert Island Discs, taking the OED as her book of choice away with her.

From 1980-1984, she became Chairwoman of the Arts Council’s Literature Panel. And in 1982, she became the Vice-Chairwoman of the Arts Council of Great Britain.

A woman of beauty and intelligence, she will also be remembered at Lady Barn for her strong opinions and dynamic personality.

Source: David Higham 

If you have any memories or stories you wish to share with the community, please get in touch at friends@ladybarnhouse.org.

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