Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 15, November 16-30, 2023
Anglo-Indians, both men and women, gave so much of themselves to the railways and education sectors in India. While the railways were mostly staffed by men in the early 20th century, most Anglo-Indian girls took up teaching or secretarial work, and if more adventurous, became air-hostesses. Some women went on to excel in the teaching arena and even to hold prestigious posts as headmistresses or on the Boards of various Trusts. This story is about a lady teacher who moved to Lovedale, a small hill-station in South India, in 1949, to devote her life to teaching children at a boarding school there.
Situated in the Nilgiris, Lovedale is a picturesque hill station 5 km from Ooty in Tamil Nadu. The serene understated charm, stunning vistas and salubrious climate make Lovedale a perfect retreat, especially during the summer months. Located at 7,200 feet over mean sea level, Lovedale was founded in 1812 and still retains its colonial flavour in the form of old-world cottages, bungalows and even a gothic church. Lovedale rose in prominence after the Nilgiri Mountain Railway became operational – Mettupalayam to Coonoor in 1899, with an extension to Ooty in 1908. The mountain railway, 45.88 km long, connects Ooty/Lovedale with other hill stations like Hillgrove, Runneymede, Coonoor, Wellington, etc. The School (formerly known as Lawrence Memorial Royal Military School, the namesake of its founder Brigadier-General Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence KCB), is a co-educational private boarding school located at Lovedale, on the Nilgiri Mountains of Tamil Nadu. Though it came into existence on 6 September 1858, 705 acres of land were purchased for its premises in April 1864, near the Lovedale railway station.
Mrs. Enos is literally a “living” legend and is synonymous with the school, as quoted by her past students, colleagues, and neighbours too. Born in Mercara, Coorg, she moved to the Nilgiris at a young age. She completed her one-year Montessori Training at Church Park Anglo-Indian Teacher Training Institute, Madras, followed by a one-and-a-half years’ Teachers’ Training course at St. Teresa’s, Cannanore (now known as Kannur in Kerala).
Mrs. Enos feels she was driven by a call to teach children, and her first job brought her to St. Joseph’s Convent, Coonoor in Tamil Nadu at the age of 22, where she lived with her mother.
Mrs Enos’ story is remarkable, during a time when women were just proving themselves to be “pillars of society”, with a long way to go towards being equal to working men in India. While working at Coonoor, Ms Mary Cunningham was offered a position at Lawrence School by Major Richardson, a tough army officer – in her own words. In those days applications were first sent to the Public Services Commission in Delhi, and interview letters were sent from there.
She arrived at Lovedale station in early 1949, which in those days was deserted with just a station master and a porter, who helped her with her luggage till the school – all for only 25 paise! Dr. Lakhani, the caretaker of the school, greeted her warmly. Her room was small, but cosy with a blazing fireplace. Lodging was provided, but food had to be paid for at the school’s staff dining room with a fully attired bearer (who are now called waiters). There were already some Anglo-Indian and even Burmese lady teachers at Lawrence School Lovedale, but Mrs Enos was among the first few. She fondly remembers the Matrons – Mrs. Phillips and Mrs. Parker, the Stewardess, Mrs. Fowles, and Violet Brown – her colleague and dear friend.
Mrs. Enos joined the prep school, and taught there for 35 years during the tenure of several Principals and Headmasters. As per an ex-student, “Ma (as lady teachers were respectfully called) Enos was the pillar of the prep school community at Lawrence School, Lovedale”, during those years.
Beginning with rowdy young boys and girls, Mrs. Enos eventually found her feet and ensured that discipline and cleanliness were maintained in the classroom. She gave particular emphasis to good enunciation and handwriting, as many alumni fondly remember. Says one old student, “Mrs. Enos to me IS Lawrence School Lovedale the first lady.” Says another, “From all our classmates, if there is one teacher that we have an absolute fondness for, it is Mrs. Enos.”
Prithvi Krishnan, Class of 1987 remembers her well, “She not only taught my batch, she also taught my mother and both my brothers.” Priya Thyagarajan, Class of 1983, first met her in 1974 as an eight-year-old, and her English language diction made a huge impression on Priya’s professional life.
To go back in history, on being presented the King’s (UK) Colours and accorded royal patronage in 1922, the name of the school was changed in 1925 to the Lawrence Memorial Royal Military School. The school was then handed over to the civilian authorities of the Government of India in 1949. A momentous event during Ma Enos’ time was 6 September 1949 – Founder’s Day; when the Union Jack and India’s tricolour flags were draped on the drums, and then only the Indian flag was raised, replacing the earlier British flag. The Governor of Madras and other dignitaries graced this grand occasion. Subsequently the name of the school was changed to The Lawrence School, as it is known today. The Founder’s Day was later moved to 14 May for administrative reasons.
Some unique aspects of this boarding school at the time were the beautifully maintained gardens by the students, which were given prizes once a year. Also, the boys practised at the rifle range – a sport that was removed from most boarding schools by the 1980s. The school’s hospital also operated an “outpatient” facility for the village folk and other residents of Lovedale in those days. These practices were discontinued later on.
Mr. K.I. Thomas joined as Principal/Headmaster in 1950 and made a huge difference to the school in many ways until 1971. Secularism was practiced and religious services were held every weekend for the Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and even the Parsis. Mrs. Thomas, the Headmaster’s wife, played an active role as well and initiated the Ladies’ Club. They met once a month, cooked for each other, and learned to sew, knit or play croquet. This helped build camaraderie among the women staff and alleviate monotony. But sadly, this club too died a natural death once Mrs. Thomas left.
Ma Enos fondly remembers the days when one could buy a vegetarian puff, a meat/egg/veg. sandwich, some French fries, and a cup of tea for less than one rupee at the tuck shop in school! A gracious Anglo-Indian middle-aged lady, Mrs Barnett, ran the tuck shop and the local Boughton Bakery – a place for relaxation in her tea-rooms. Sadly, no more though.
Mr. Thomas encouraged Ma Enos to attend a “Handwriting and Dramatics” workshop, so that she could coach the students for the many plays produced for the Founder’s Day celebrations. The children worked hard and prepared well, with several weeks devoted to preparing costumes and stage-sets. Prem Rao fondly remembers the play “Robinhood” while he was in prep school in the early 1960s!
Ma Enos remembers that children soon began traveling home by train along with “escorts” or staff deputed for this task. It was quite organized – a week earlier there was a Mock Train Parade at the Top Flats (sports ground in the school), where placards were held by the staff with the names of the destination stations. Children lined up in front of their station’s name and followed the escort to the train. The Headmaster “acted” as the Station Master, announcing the train’s arrival. On the actual departure day, food, extra money, and a First Aid kit were carried for the journeys and attendance taken. During the journeys, children sang songs, including the Lawrencian school song, and sometimes pinched wares from the station vendors along the way – this led to them being called “Lovedale monkeys”!
She misses the Lovedale of old – with the beautiful gardens, wild raspberries and hill guavas, and of course the lake, which unfortunately is just a stream now, with the marshlands taking over. After retirement in 1981, she continued her contribution to the education sector and set up the Angelica coaching school in Lovedale, also a feeder school to Lawrence School, with her husband’s (Valentine) help. Mr Enos’ family were well-known musicians, while their children – Tina and Marcel, also studied in Lawrence School. Marcel went on to become a teacher and headed the St. Joseph’s College of Education in Mysore, while Tina went on to a career in advertising in Ogilvy and Mather.
In 2021, as per Prem Rao – an ex-student from the school, Ma Enos was “100 not out”. Many old students turned up in Lovedale in August 2021 to wish her personally, while birthday wishes poured in from different parts of the world. Says Dennis Johnson, Class of 2018 – I can’t even remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but she remembers what she had for tea in 1949!
Ma Enos remarks, “A dedicated teacher’s job is a thankless one, they say; but in reminiscence, I see that almost all the children who have passed through my hands, are doing well for themselves – That is thankfulness itself! I have given the cream of my life to Lawrence School, working hard with determination, taking the rough with the smooth in my stride, and trusting in my daily prayers to the Good Lord for strength.”
“One important aspect of her personality, that was instilled in both students and family, was being fiercely independent and keeping her mind occupied at all times (colouring, the daily crossword, Sudoku, or her favourite-Solitaire) in addition to her deep faith, has been key to her richly blessed life of almost 102 years,” says Tina, her daughter. – Courtesy: Anglos in the Wind.