The Whistle

In September 1955, I took up a teaching post at Chelsea Central (Secondary) School, Bagleys Lane, Fulham. It was my first appointment; I was very young and inexperienced.


On my timetable, I requested and was given a morning of outdoor sports. As the school had no playing field attached, a bus took everyone to a Sports Ground quite a long way into Surrey.


That first weekend, I set off to Lillywhites in Piccadilly Circus. I purchased a tracksuit, which, I believe cost me 10/6d and an Acme Thunderer whistle, price, 2/6d.


Chelsea Central School was equipped with a metalwork shop run by a very able craftsman, Bert Fenton. I asked him if he would please engrave my name in my whistle. When he returned it a few days later, he had inscribed it on three surfaces: DEIRDRE RISHWORTH HER WHISTLE….I TOOT ONLY FOR DEIRDRE….PUT YOUR LIPS CLOSE TO ME…


Needless to say, I cherished my personalised whistle. It was well used.


I went to Town Thorns Residential School in January 1970. Apart from the classroom during school hours, we also performed evening and weekend duties. It must have been on a summer’s evening in the early 1970s when I took a group of girls onto the playing field and organised a game of rounders. I was wearing a navy blue shirtdress with pockets on the front. I had the Acme Thunderer, not on a tape around my neck, but in my pocket. Later that evening, I found to my dismay that the whistle was missing. In spite of an intensive search and the offer of a reward, there was no sign of it. Sadly I resigned myself to its loss.


The years passed by. In 1986 the school closed down and was subsequently pulled down to make way for the new building as it is today. I did not think I would ever go back to Town Thorns. A couple who were good friends of mine, Jean and Keith Giles both now deceased, bought a flat in 1993, and I became a regular visitor.


It might have been two or three years later when I received a phone call from Keith to say that my whistle had been found. As far as I can determine, at the Guy Fawkes bonfire party, a lady lost her ring. A metal detector hunt homed in on the Acme Thunderer. Cliff Chester had been the school caretaker and had remained as Caretaker for BEN at that time. Between him and Keith who knew that my mother’s name was Rishworth, the owner of that whistle, myself, was established.


I went to pick it up. It was, naturally, dirty and clogged with mud. It had lain in the ground for more than twenty years. I cleaned it up. Its incarceration has not impaired its function and it still makes a good loud noise. It is not used, but rests in a secure place among my sentimental bits.



Deirdre (Rishworth) Hancock


January 2010