Friday, October 23, 2015


Dear Sister Barbara, 

          This letter is addressed to you as
          headmistress of the High School at St
          Theresa’s, better known as Rosebank 
          Convent, Johannesburg.
          I don’t think you will find many people who will agree that your punishment fitted the crime or complied with any kind of Christian value.
          The crime, if there was one, was so insignificant as to perhaps warrant nothing more than our daughter Belinda Abbott (now Glynn) being told not to be late again.
          But for some reason only you will know you decided that what she had done was so horrendous that you had to belittle her in front of the whole school.
          Here was a girl with an unblemished record in her final high school year being told by you that she was not welcome to attend the prize giving rehearsal. This was in spite of the fact that she was due to get the Art Cup and had been the top art student in her class year after year.
          The situation was made worse because the only reason she was half an hour late for the evening rehearsal at your expensive private school was that your science teaching was not up to scratch. This resulted in us having to pay to send her to Graeme Crawford, who ran extra science classes for children at top private schools.
          As you probably know he subsequent founded the Crawford Colleges in South Africa and then Reddam schools, the first of which was in Sydney when he emigrated from South Africa to Australia.
The dress Belinda designed for the Matric Dance in her second last year
of school. She attended this as she headed the team that did the decor for
that year's dance
          Belinda’s Crawford lessons were arranged and paid for in advance. At the time we had no way of knowing that one of them would make her slightly late for the prize giving rehearsal. In a letter to you I explained why she was late and I assumed that you would understand it was not her fault. 

        Can you imagine how devastated she must have felt? And this was compounded at the actual prizing giving that followed shortly afterwards when she was not given the Art Cup.
          After Belinda had left your school with an impressive matriculation result, insult to injury was added with that unbelievably insensitive letter.
          As the Art Cup was a floating trophy winners had to return it in time for the prize giving the following year. And the letter asked us to please return it – THE ONE SHE WAS NEVER GIVEN.
          I’m all for discipline at schools but not when it has this kind of outcome, made worse by the fact that yours is a Christian establishment where Belinda should not have ended her school years by being so unjustly crucified.
          Fortunately this crushing experience did not hold her back. If anything it might have spurred her fashion designing career on to the heights it has now reached in Australia (belinda glynns fashion scoop). Ironically this is where Crawford, her extra science tutor, went as well.
          She had what Australia’s Fashion Journal described as a Scoop at the recent Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. Not bad for the girl you did your best to crush.

          Jon & Gayle her disgusted parents.

P.S. As a result of your vindictive behaviour Belinda turned her back on Christianity and never again entered the doors of a church.
May the Lord forgive you Sister Barbara, although I’m not sure that Belinda will.
*Note: I sent a draft of this to Sister Barbara before I post it and invited her to comment if she wished but I got no response from her.

Belinda's half sister was Mandy Holman at the time and at the age of 58 she still has vivid memories of how cruel those nuns were. "I remember," she said,"being hit with a ruler behind my knees in the office of Sister Emelda for 'stealing' 5 cents from Angela Gray in my class. This, after she had tried clawing it out of my hands with her nails. Angela was in fact trying to steal MY 5 cents. But as I was the one from a divorced home(not common in those days) I was assumed to be the thief. Not only did I get a terrible hiding I have never forgotten the injustice of it. I had to hand over my 5c to the thief."


  1. They were known to be more Irish than Merciful.

  2. I agree.The nuns were.cruel and sometimes vicious.

  3. I've often wondered what causes this cruelty, not mercy and certainly not Christianity. In my day it was actual physical and mental abuse, to myself but also having to watch others suffer. The main perpetrators were Sister De Padua and Sister Monica. They ruined a lot for me. First time I've ever mentioned this, thanks for the chance, sorry for the length. Known as Nicole Davies at school, 70 years old now.
    Nikki Clark