Anne-Marie Hutchings joined Bolton School in 1983, and became Head of Modern Foreign Languages in 1986, a post she held for a further 15 years. She sadly died in 2004.
Madame Hutchings was an inspirational teacher for her pupils and was held in extremely high regard, as the following interview with Deborah Lyon (née Done, Class of 1989) shows:
When was Madame Hutchings at school and what did she teach?
She joined as Head of French when I was in Lower Fourth, in 1983. She went on to be Head of Modern Foreign Languages.
Can you describe her teaching style?
She was terrifying, absolutely terrifying on the surface, but when you got to know her she was quite simply a wonderful women. She ruled with a rod of iron and didn’t stand for any ill discipline; you had to be on time, focused on the task in hand and your books and homework had to be immaculate. However, she had a great sense of humour once you got to know her – very dry. Once she warmed to you and let you see that side of her, then you couldn’t have met a more genuine person. Her favourite expression, normally aimed at me and Kathy Knight, my friend who sat next to me and went on to become Head Girl, was “Que vous êtes pénible », which means, ‘How naughty you are’. Even nowadays when we see each other we’ll sometimes say “Que vous êtes pénible” to one another!
What made her special?
There were so many things that made her remarkable. Physically she was really imposing and beautiful, with long, jet black, poker-straight hair and amazing cheek bones. We all used to think she was so glamorous – very French, and very striking. She used to waft up the corridors with her skirts billowing and heady perfume drifting past. At that time, many pupils didn’t go on foreign holidays; some had never been abroad. So a real French person seemed very exotic to us, driving along Chorley New Road in her little Citroën 2CV. She was a brilliant teacher. She knew her subject inside out and pushed all her pupils to fulfil their potential, including those who were less able. She invested a huge amount of time in her charges. She was just phenomenally good at what she did; dedicated and knowledgeable, as well as being a great friend and mentor when you got to know her.
Do you have any stand out memories?
Once I’d forgotten to do some homework and she made me stand up and tell the class why that was. In French. I was only in the Upper Fourth and I made up a whole story, where I had been walking to school and an elephant had eaten my homework. I always recall her repeating in mock horror, “Un éléphant?” Luckily, she saw the funny side and let me off for the misdemeanour; she said that if I could relay such an intricate excuse on the spot in French, then I must be making progress in the subject.
Another time, I had visited my French exchange correspondent in Moulins for a second year, this trip on my own. I was around thirteen years old. Unfortunately I developed appendicitis. The nurses spoke no English at all, so my French improved immeasurably during the weeks I spent in hospital. I returned to School and Madame Hutchings asked how my summer had been. When I explained in graphic and gory detail my adventures at Vichy Hospital, she raised a Gallic eyebrow and merely replied, “Well. That will improve your French more than anything else that’s ever happened to you.” That was all she had to say. And she was, of course, right. It was a typical Madame Hutchings’ comment – understated and very dry. She was a class act.
Can you describe her in three words?
Sophisticated, intelligent, fun.