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Manchester High School for Girls

Doris Angel: 1924 - 2019

In August 2021, we paid tribute to an important member of the Manchester High School for Girls community, Doris Angel.

Doris sadly passed away at the age of 94 in 2019, and following a delay due to Covid-19 we were finally able to celebrate her life with a memorial rose planting at MHSG in the presence of family and friends. Doris led an extra-ordinary life, and the best person to tell that story is Doris herself. The following are words prepared by Do, as she was affectionately known, for Founders' Day in 2005:

“On my first day at MHSG, in class 4 Transitus, I had to do an English dictation; the teacher read a passage and we had to write it down accurately. I came bottom of the class with 61 spelling mistakes! That might or might not be the reason that Mrs Lee-Jones has asked me to speak today. My first day was in January 1937. I had arrived in Manchester only days earlier, an 11-year-old refugee from Nazi Germany.

I was born 80 years ago in 1924 in the city of Stuttgart in Southern Germany. The youngest of three much-loved children, we lived in a big house, our family on the ground floor, our grandparents on the top and cousins in the middle. Our family was Jewish but non-observant, assimilated. We had dropped many of the practices that had defined the Jewish people as different. We considered ourselves as German first and foremost. My Father had fought in the First World War for Germany.Now he was a successful textile merchant.

When I was nine, Hitler came to power. He defined the Jews, amongst others, as being an underclass. My life changed. The girl who I had thought of as my friend, whom I had sat next to for three years, complained to the teacher that I smelt. I was moved to sit o nmy own. Jews were no longer allowed to employ help in the house, so my family moved to a smaller flat. We were not allowed to go to the theatre or concerts anymore.

My parents had the foresight to realise that they would have to leave Germany. Sir Thomas Barlow, a Manchester manufacturer, provided work for my father, which enabled us to get a visa and move to England. My sister, brother and father moved to Withington, and I helped my mother to pack up the flat and we followed. My maternal grandparents and cousins joined us in Manchester.

My family was lucky; we escaped before the war. My Mother’s sister, Irma, did not leave, and she was last seen in 1940 in a concentration camp. Following my rather low score in English, the Head Mistress, Dr Mary G Clarke, met me. She explained: “There are some things we will never teach you. But we will teach you the King’s English!” After that I attended 16 English lessons every week!

The Head Mistress welcomed many refugee girls, some after the war. Many of them had suffered a more traumatic time than I had. She gave each of us the education she believed we needed. She also made us feel welcome as Jewish girls who could be proud of our religious and cultural heritage. The school was pioneering in its multi-cultural approach at a time when this was not yet the norm.

With the outbreak of war, pupils from Manchester High were initially evacuated from the Dover Street premises to Cheadle Hulme School. Later we returned to the new site at Grangethorpe Road, but this was bombed in the blitz on Manchester in 1940.Fortunately, the bomb dropped during the Christmas holidays and no one was injured.We moved to buildings provided by MGS, Withington Girls’ School and others. Despite all the problems caused by the war, people supported one another and our education continued.

When I was in the sixth form, my mother fell ill. I was needed at home to look after her,my grandparents and the working members of the family. I had to leave school at the end of the first year of sixth form. By then I spoke English like a teenage girl from Manchester High, if not quite like George VI.
My mother’s health improved, and I attended college. I had to choose a training that would be useful in war work, so I opted for domestic science. During the war, I worked as a canteen manageress. In my first job, I had to arrange the frying of 2000 portions offish and chips every day!

After the war I married and I continued my education at UMIST, with a post-graduate course in Human Resources. I worked at Sale County Grammar and later returned to Manchester High School as Domestic Bursar. I stopped work when my children were born. Both Ann and Sarah attended Manchester High School and I now retain my links with the school through the Old Girls’ Federation.

When my youngest daughter was two, I was nominated to be a Justice of the Peace, a magistrate. I soon came to the view that many people who ended up in the court system needed help and support and not only punishment. Therefore, I became involved in the Probation Service in Manchester and nationally, in a voluntary capacity.

I fought for fair wages for probation officers and decent premises for the probation service, so that they could serve their clients effectively. It also became apparent to me that some people became involved in crime because they did not feel they had a stake in society. Many of them were homeless. I decided to join a Housing Association, again in a voluntary capacity, and to join others in ensuring that safe, affordable housing was developed for some of the thousands who needed it.

My choice to give time to these voluntary activities was clearly influenced by the ethos of my family, but also by my years at Manchester High School. At the school I had been introduced to a number of social projects, including raising money for deprived people in Ancoats and visiting wounded servicemen in Broughton House.

When I look round Grangethorpe today or read the High Flyer, I see a school light years ahead of the school that I attended, in terms of its facilities and the breadth of the education. I believe it is a place where girls of diverse faith and cultural backgrounds have the chance to enjoy friendships and develop understanding and respect for one another.

I am sure that you will grasp the opportunities open to you, through the privilege of being part of a pioneering school.
For each of you, these will be different, and you will sometimes get knocked back, just as I was when Hitler came to power and my family had to migrate and when I had to break off my education because my mother fell ill. Or as the school was when it struggled in temporary premises during the war.

But remember: be resilient and team together. You will each find a way of both forwarding your own careers and making a difference to society."

In 2017, our archivists, Pam Roberts and Gwen Hobson sat down with Doris and one of her daughters, Ann, to record Do' telling her story in her own words You can enjoy her incredible story here 'Doris Angel: A Life Remembered'.

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