One Family Unbroken - Across Three Generations
I. The Fentons
|Three generations of the Fenton family: grandmother Pat Fenton, mother Kim Fenton and granddaughter Robyn Lamsam - all attended Diocesan Girls' School.|
Patricia (Kotewall) Fenton entered kindergarten at DGS in 1930 and graduated from Class 10 in 1941. Pat is especially proud of having been the head girl. Among her duties was to accompany the headmistress, Miss Gibbins, to assembly each day.
|Class of 1941 with Ms, Gibbins. Pat (far left, 2nd row from the front)|
At the time, school started each day with roll call at assembly. The school hymn was the same as it is today, "Our Father by whose servants..."
Pat was also responsible for ringing the school bell after each class. She recalls that was a perfect excuse to leave the classroom when the teacher started asking questions!
At that time, there was one prefect in each class. From Class Seven onwards, the prefect would be voted in by the girls themselves. The head girl and the prefects enjoyed much clout and a few perks, including having the roof top of the Gibbins Wing reserved for them and their friends.
Class Prefects (1-6)
As captain of the netball team, Pat recalls being able to miss the weekly test at the last lesson of each Monday due to matches. One day, though, it rained and she had to sit for the test!
|Netball Team (Patricia Kotewall - Captain)|
While at DGS, Pat first had Miss Sawyer as headmistress. She remembers her as being very kind-hearted and allowed Pat, then the youngest girl in the school, to sit on her lap while she was doing readings or recitations. Later, Miss Gibbins became headmistress. Pat recalls she looked stern but was generally believed to be kind at heart. It was Miss Gibbins who introduced Chinese lessons into the curriculum.
One of the school rules enforced at DGS for many years was banning Chinese being spoken on campus. However, sooner or later, everyone spoke in Chinese.
Another rule was to punish a student who had forgotten something by sending her out to run errands such as buying things. Pat says, rather than feeling chastised, she found that punishment to be enjoyable! Interestingly enough, in those days, school uniform was not mandatory.
|Teachers who taught Pat|
During Pat's era, a rainbow of nationalities attended DGS: Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, British, etc. All classes were held together in one huge room, with disparate teachers holding court in different sections. The first lesson of the day was always Scripture.
Pat recalls one class named "Class Five Remove". Girls from the "outside" who mainly spoke Chinese and did not attend DGS before Class Five had to study one year of "Class Five Remove" before going on to regular classes.
Pat Fenton lived on Hong Kong Island. She took the Star Ferry and then a bus to get to 1, Jordan Rd. The #5 bus cost 5 cents. Today, most cross harbour students would take the MTR for more than $10 per trip.
Pat vividly recalls doing homework on the ferry on her way to school every morning. With her elder sister going to the same school, Pat used to ask her about likely topics for exams, and one old standby in geography tests was always the monsoons.
In three simple words, school for Pat Fenton was, "Just great fun!"
Kim Fenton Lamsam, daughter of Pat Kotewall Fenton, attended DGS from kindergarten in 1956 to Upper Six in 1970. At the oral entrance exam, Kim was asked whether she knew any Chinese. Her answer was, 「I only know 紅中.〞She became an instant "teacher's pet" !
Kim Fenton – Omega Sportsgirl of the Year, an award which was incidentally, also won by Robyn twice. How many mother-daughter winners could there have been?
During Kim's studies at DGS, the headmistress was Dr. C.J. Symons. Kim says she's very fond of the lady, despite her 'stern and strict' ways.
Kim claims her best memories of DGS was playing all day. Before classes in the morning and during breaks and lunchtime, she played. Sports mainly! When school finished at 4 pm, she played some more. She was the captain of the hockey team, a member of the badminton team and the netball team. She also did swimming and track. Kim says she is very grateful to the School for being very supportive and encouraging of sports.
Kim admits she had a reputation for being 'naughty' in her school days. She would ask Pat to write letters for sick leave so she could spend Wednesday afternoons at home playing mahjong!
Some of the teachers Kim remembers are Mrs. O'Connell who taught English oral and trained the girls for Speech Festival and Miss Manealy who taught music. Drama, music, the choir, sports as well as religious inculcation were integral to the all-round nurturing that Kim appreciated very much at DGS.
On the whole, she believes DGS gave her a great education. Despite her self-proclaimed academic indolence, Kim breezed through all her exams!
Years after Kim left DGS, while her daughter Robyn Lamsam was studying at the same school, Kim attended a fateful PTA meeting. While on campus, she found out one of the literature teachers did not turn up. Kim went to see Dr. Symons and offered her services as a teacher. The headmistress joked, "You can't be lazy anymore!" Kim responded, "I've grown up already!"
For the next decade, Kim taught English, English literature, history and liberal studies at DGS.
Kim recalls she had many fun moments with her students. Once, anticipating the girls would play tricks on her on April Fool's Day, Kim pre-empted their foolery by putting stink bombs in the classroom and locking the door!
It's easier to move a mountain than change one's character, as they say!
Robyn Lamsam was the third generation of the Fenton family to attend DGS. And she carried on the legacies of her mother and grandmother in being high calibre sportswomen, and having great fun while at it!
Robyn attended DGS from 1983 to 1996. Robyn describes herself as being a child delinquent during her Junior School years. She loathed mathematics. In fact, she did not enjoy studying at all. She always failed Chinese and was just an average student. On the other hand, she did lots of drama.
|Robyn receiving the Queen's 「Badge of Honour」 from ex-HK governor, Chris Patten, in 1996. She is the youngest recipient of this honour ever in the British Commonwealth.|
The turning point for Robyn came at Senior School, when Mrs. Elim Lau, her headmistress, gave her a personal lecture. Robyn took it to heart and began motivating herself. Robyn won the English prize for Form One and was awarded "Student of the Year" in Form Two. Robyn says she enjoyed Senior School more than Junior School, as she had the opportunity to actively participate in a wide range of interests, including debate, orchestra, sports and drama.
She recalls despite all the extra-curricular activities, she was always very conscientious about getting good grades. And she got along well with all her teachers. Her mother says Robyn's commitment and self-discipline, together with the School's support, enabled her daughter Robyn to bring out the best in herself, excelling both academically and physically.
|Robyn taking the curtain call of the 1996 school musical, "The King and I".|
The highlight of Robyn's school years was playing the role of King in "The King and I". That year, she missed out on being chosen for the Olympics' HK swimming team by a very slim margin and was extremely disappointed. Of course, Robyn is best known for being one of the strongest swimmers HK has ever had, representing the territory repeatedly in the Olympics, Asian Games and lesser sports meets. She was also called upon, as a local sports celebrity, for tasks such as presenting sports prizes at HK University.
But Robyn maintains that the life-enriching experience through taking the lead role in the musical was far more rewarding than competing in the Olympics. The scale of the production, the cast, the grandeur, the team efforts and the time put in all added up to an unforgettable, invaluable experience for Robyn and her school friends. Robyn also has deep impressions of the thunderous cheering and soaring DGS spirit pervading all the Interschool events for athletics and swimming.
Robyn did not follow her grandmother's footsteps to become head girl but she thinks she was perhaps a bit too unconventional for the role anyway. All in all, she describes life at DGS as "super, duper fun"!
Robyn remains a high achiever in university. She is now studying for a Master's in International Relations in Australia. She also freelances as MC for sporting events such as the recent Sampras-Federer Match 2007 in Macau, and will be compering for the Olympics Equestrian events.
Kim and Robyn believe that DGS girls are always distinguishable by their air of confidence. With an all-round education and a high proficiency in languages, they express themselves well and appear self-assured.
Well, the Fentons certainly live up to this legacy, from generation to generation.