Local Face: Sue Donald

  |  Published: Sep 1st 2011
Sue Donald

In much the same way as their parents moved out of London in the 1920s to raise their families in the suburbs, so did Sue’s parents, Marjorie and Ken Donald. They caught a train at Harrow, got off at Wendover and put a £50 deposit on a half built house in Thornton Crescent. They moved in in 1956 with Sue as a new baby, and by 1961 had two more daughters, Annabel and Caroline.

Thornton Crescent was full of young families and social networking at that time consisted of mums and their children gathering in each other’s houses. Most mothers did not work, there were few cars or televisions, and when Sue was small, no nurseries or pre-schools. Very early on, her father had created a playground in the back garden with a slide, a swing, a sandpit and a Wendy house (still in situ but decidedly ramshackle now). Her mother was an excellent seamstress and by scouring jumble sales, they did have the most fantastic dressing up box, full of what would now be classed as vintage clothing.

Sue has a cine film, transferred to DVD, showing these very sociable times of the late 50s and early 60s. Recently she found out through an old neighbour, that the Donald family had one of the few phones in Thornton Crescent and that her parents made it available, day or night to any neighbour in the event of an emergency.

Although her father was a commuter working in the city for what was then British United Airways and later with Freddie Laker, he did his own social networking in the Red Lion and the Two Brewers pub (now Rossinis). He also immersed himself in the football club and the cricket club. He was involved with the Memorial Hall and was on the Parish Council for a while but apparently his left wing politics caused a few ructions with the more conservative elements. He always said that his main contribution to Wendover was the clearing and re stocking of the Hampden Pond.

The three girls all attended Wendover Combined School then situated by the Clock Tower. Sue remembers the old Victorian classrooms with high windows and desks with inkwells. On certain days they had to walk, crocodile fashion, with their chairs on their heads along the Heron Path to St Marys Church. Sports days were held on the small plot of land along that path beyond the playground. Many teachers from the school lived in Wendover and through the years her parents became friendly with many of them. The children did find it somewhat disconcerting to have Mr Jenkins teaching them the money (old) table to ‘Men of Harlech’ (which Sue can still do) one day, then playing Canasta with her parents at home the next!

It must have been in the early 1960s that Wendover’s first swimming pool was built in the playground of the old school by the combined efforts of a lot of the dads, Sue’s included. As she recalls, it cannot have been much longer than 10m and relatively shallow at possibly 1m but it was very exciting.

Most people couldn’t swim but her family were quite water confident and her mother, despite having no car and three young children, took them all for lessons at the outdoor unheated Vale Pool in Aylesbury. Later on, her mother trained as a swimming coach and they transferred to Amersham pool. Her parents campaigned for a pool in Wendover and became heavily involved in the annual Carnival to raise funds for what is now the community pool on the John Colet site.

After setting up local swimming classes for adults, mums and babies as well as reaching dozens of schools and encouraging people to teach swimming (Sue included) her mother died relatively young at 54 in 1981, and the changing rooms at the Wendover Pool were opened posthumously in her name.

Sue started ballet, aged 5, at the Yvette Sargeant School of Dancing and transferred to Grace Mapplethorpe’s Rozelle school at 9 continuing until she was 18 when she went to Teacher Training College. Her father persuaded Grace to move her dancing classes from the old Junior School to the Memorial Hall where they remain today.

By 1982, having travelled and been abroad, Sue returned to Wendover to live, but, unable to continue working having just had her son, Jackson, she trained under Grace to become a dancing teacher. She worked with Grace until she retired to Cyprus in 2001. With her two colleagues, Melissa and Corinne, both Wendover girls too, they manage the three branches of the Rozelle School in Wendover, Winslow and Bedgrove.

As well as teaching swimming and apart from a few private jobs, Sue’s first official post was teaching Years 4 and 5 at Wendover Middle School in 1986, when the pool would open each April and close in October. The weather was rarely conducive to teaching; generally too cold, too wet, too hot and always windy. The water however was very warm so the children were happy once in the water. Thereafter, Sue took on, amongst many other schools, Wendover’s Years 6 & 7 at Green Park. Once the Wendover Pool was covered in 1997, the school transferred all its classes to the site, where Sue continued teaching until she was sadly made redundant this year.

When her father died in 1993, she moved back into the family home. Her sisters and their families ‘come home’ frequently to recharge their rural batteries and relive their Wendover connections and roots. Sue believes her parents would have liked that a lot and says their parents represented a new wave of young people in Wendover in the 50s, bringing with them a refreshing revival of the need for an active community spirit.

That drive has left a legacy from which she in particular and indeed Wendover Village have benefited and continues to do so.










































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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