A WRITER who grew up in Lancing and Worthing is about to publish her first book – at the age of 63.
Born Susan Wilson, Sue Davies-Jenkins was brought up at Beach Court, the children’s home on the Brighton Road in Lancing which her mother Eileen ran with fellow London Hospital nurse and wartime army nursing sister, Miss Susan Dipper.
One of the other 25 Beach Court children christened Susan Dipper “Big Susan” - and it stuck, even recorded on her gravestone in 1983.
Sue attended Red House School in Worthing and when she got married in 1973, it was natural to pick fellow Red House girl Kate Greenwood from Broadwater as her chief bridesmaid.
In 1957, at the age of nine, Sue had won a place at Christ’s Hospital.
At the time the girls’ school was still at Hertford, but since the merger with the boys’ school in 1985, the girls enjoy the 1,200 acre site near Horsham alongside the boys, all wearing the traditional Tudor uniform of navy blue cassocks and yellow socks.
And it is in aid of Christ’s Hospital that Sue has written her memoir, Hang On Tight.
The sub title is Christ’s Hospital: From Girlhood To Governor, and as a Donation Governor of the School in recent years she has been able to help first a boy, and now a girl to enjoy all the benefits of a Christ’s Hospital education.
The boy, Dominic Parker, already had some knowledge of the school through his grandparents, Barbara and Malcolm Ritchie, who live in Henfield: his Nanny Barbara made the curtains for the Head Master’s house!
Dominic has contributed a touching piece to Hang on Tight about his last year at Christ’s Hospital which he’s called Life In A Grecian Pod.
After leaving school in 1965, Sue volunteered, and was accepted for VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), serving in Malawi for a year.
This is probably the last time she appeared in the Worthing Gazette.
She went on to the University of York, joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps, met and married a Welsh army officer, Michael Davies-Jenkins, and has found herself living in Wales for the past 34 years.
Apart from trying to teach, in 1983 she helped to set up a pilot scheme for girls in Dyfed Army Cadet Force, and served for some 20 years in the Army Cadets, eventually covering PR for reservists and cadets throughout Wales.
But as a grandmother now, Sue never forgets her West Sussex upbringing and describes lovingly in the book her mother and Big Susan at Beach Court, and some of the other stalwart characters who worked there, caring for all the children.
She writes about her friend Liz Drucquer and the other Guides in Worthing who continued to include her on camps even after she’d gone off to boarding school, and about Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, where she enjoys going back for Speech Day and reunions.
“I feel that the connection with the school has brought me back to my West Sussex roots,” she says. “It’s lovely.”
Sue has always retained strong links with Christ’s Hospital. With contributions from staff and a recent pupil, and many gems from the school’s past, Hang On Tight should bring it all back. Whilst not exclusively about Christ’s Hospital, the book shows how its unique ethos has permeated the author’s adult life, Sue says.
Any profits from the book will be donated to Christ’s Hospital (www.christs-hospital.org.uk).
Christ’s Hospital is now taking day children as well as boarders, and the youngest that pupils can be admitted is at the age of 11.
Founded by King Edward VI in 1552, it remains a charitable foundation, and parents of the children there contribute to fees only according to their means.
“That is why I thought it was so important to write the book,” says Sue, “not just to record a piece of social history, but in these tough economic times to help children now and in the future to enjoy the same benefits that I have done through this wonderful school.”
Hang On Tight, retailing at £9.95, can be obtained from the publishers, The Memoir Club. Email email@example.com or telephone 0191 3735660.