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<p>The pupils and staff of the English School in 1950. Standing left is Nancy Macdona. Seated is Otto Weise. Standing back row centre with the big hair is Amy Weise. Photo: BSN</p>

The pupils and staff of the English School in 1950. Standing left is Nancy Macdona. Seated is Otto Weise. Standing back row centre with the big hair is Amy Weise. Photo: BSN

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From strong roots grow mighty trees

Conflict subsided in the Netherlands in 1945; a sense of normalcy was restored as people returned to their pre-war lives. Yet, The British School in The Netherlands, or The English School, as it was then known, remained closed. Devastatingly, the school had shut due to the invasion of the Netherlands during World War II. Thanks to Nancy Macdona and her determination, the school would eventually open again.

By Magdalena Godzina

In the early 1930s, Nancy worked as a governess for a wealthy Dutch Anglophile family, the Weises. Despite it being a strictly professional relationship, Nancy grew close to the Weise family, especially the children.

Around 1935, Gwen Brunton-Jones (whom you may remember from previous articles) approached Nancy with an intriguing job offer to teach music at her small school.
Prior to working for the Weise family, Nancy had considered following closely in her mother’s footsteps by becoming a professional concert pianist; however, she ended up training to be a teacher before leaving to pursue numerous jobs overseas. Although she’d miss her job dearly as the Weise family’s governess, the new position was tempting.

The English school
Nancy accepted Gwen’s offer and spent four happy years as a music teacher at The English School. She grew very fond of both the institution and the people within it. After the war, she returned to the Netherlands with a clear goal in mind: to re-open the school. However, it would be no easy task amongst the chaos and austerity still lingering after the conflict.

After several months with no money, premises and no guarantee of pupils and staff, Nancy had reached a wall. Amidst the momentary despair, an incredibly generous old family friend, Mr Weise, offered to support the school financially for a reasonable period, paying all the rent, the salaries, the running costs, the bills, until it became clear either that there was no future for such an enterprise or that it was going to be able to pay its own way. The offer was impossible to pass up, and that was the start of the second beginning of The English School in The Hague.

Amy Weise
It was a humble yet successful start in February 1948; two rooms were rented in a building on Jan van Nassaustraat 16 with only a small handful of students attending. The staff comprised four mostly unqualified teachers, including Mr Weise’s daughter, Amy Weise. Hoping to prevent her from becoming a spoilt young girl with no need to work, Amy was put in charge of the infants at the school for several years.

After 13 successful years, Nancy Macdona retired. The English School in The Hague had since relocated to its own premises on Tapijtweg in Scheveningen. The student body grew to over 200, with nearly 20 qualified teachers on the staff. Both Dutch and British authorities now recognised the school, and so the school was visited by Queen Elizabeth and Queen Juliana.

90 years old
Mr Weston, our school archivist, reached out to Nancy Macdona after her retirement and kept up a correspondence with her until she was 90 years old.

From the small seed first planted by Gwen Brunton-Jones, The English School became The British School in The Netherlands and has since flourished into a mighty tree, a wonderfully diverse school community that is like a second home to all its students.

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