Edith Falla – Girls’ Division Staff, 1945-1980
Edith Falla taught Mathematics in the Girls’ Division for 35 years, under the Headships of both Miss Meade and Miss Higginson. Upon her retirement in July 1980, the following tribute was made to her:
“At the end of this term Miss Falla retires after 35 years service; she has left an indelible imprint on the life of the school. Her unswerving high standards of conduct and intellectual achievement are their own memorial and will not be forgotten by the thousands who have come into contact with her.”
Below, you can read the obituary published following Miss Falla’s death, in the 2005 edition of the Girls’ Division Magazine.
Miss Falla was born in Wigan in 1920. After completing her secondary education at Wigan Girls’ High School, she went on to study Mathematics at Bedford College, London, prior to a further year’s study at Cambridge University.
After returning to Wigan to live with her widowed father, she took up her post as a teacher of Mathematics in the Girls’ Division in 1945.
Jean Bowker nee Boardman was taught by Miss Falla in the Sixth Form in the late 1940’s. Most of Jean’s Advanced Level lessons were one-to-one with her teacher as she was the only girl in her year taking Mathematics and Further Mathematics.
Jean recalls that it was Miss Falla who encouraged her to apply to Cambridge and to try for Newnham College. “I stayed a third year in the Sixth Form in order to take the then obligatory Cambridge Entrance Examination. In preparation, she and I struggled with mechanics problems; we never left any unsolved—if there was one which neither of us could do, Miss Falla wrote to a friend whose husband sent us the solution by post. In case Cambridge rejected me, Miss Falla prepared me for Oxford and London University entrance as well. These exams were in January. It was not much fun repeatedly sitting by oneself in an exam room doing a three hour paper. Miss Falla must have felt sorry for me when the time finally came for the Cambridge Entrance. She handed me a small box— and, when I opened it, inside there were four chocolates! I appreciated that and have remembered it for fifty seven years.”
Over the years Miss Falla enabled numerous girls to go on to study Mathematics at degree level, creating a fine reputation for the Department in university circles. Marjorie Horrell nee Jackson and Kathleen Lockwood nee Marshall studied Advanced Level Mathematics with Miss Falla in the early 1950’s and went on to take Oxbridge entrance examinations. Marjorie describes Miss Falla as “a most conscientious teacher who obviously loved her subject and always had our welfare at heart. Kathleen and I owe much to Miss Falla; without her we would not have gone to Cambridge—or be married to the husbands we have! I taught with Miss Falla from 1956 to 1958; although she was Second Mistress then, she found time to help and encourage me.” Kathleen’s sister, Effie (now Crompton) and Kathleen Trustrum nee Johnson were also taught by Miss Falla and went on to study Mathematics at Cambridge. It was Miss Falla who took them to meetings of the British Association for Advancement of Science and introduced them to the Mathematical Association.
Miss Falla’s love of literature is recalled by Lesley Ainsworth. “When I started in the Third Form in 1968, Miss Falla was in charge of the Junior Library. I used to escape into the volumes of Angela Brazil school stories which were kept there! Miss Falla really was quite a special lady—always immaculately dressed with snow-white hair totally in place. I always think of her in an emerald green suit with her glasses perched on the end of her nose. She had an enthusiasm for her subject that she could inspire in others. Behind the stern exterior, there was always the kindly smile.”
Those of us who worked with Miss Falla in the Mathematics Department reflect on her passion for her subject and for her teaching. She was able to recall the smallest detail about an individual’s progress without recourse to her mark books. As Head of Mathematics, she was clear about the high standards she expected, but she was also fiercely protective of her colleagues. When it came to allocating work within the department, she was always scrupulously fair and quick to offer support when it was needed.
The same rigour was applied to the timetable which she masterminded for many years. There was no computer program to help in those days but, for Miss Falla, time-tabling was the equivalent of a game of chess—which she always won, managing to find a way of juggling the timetable each year in order to deliver an increasingly complex curriculum.
Miss Falla may have appeared formidable to some. There were, however, many acts of kindness to give the lie to that impression: a gift carefully chosen for a colleague’s first child, visits to a pupil admitted to hospital with a serious illness, support for her brother-in-law when his health began to fail. She was devoted to John and Jane, her sister’s children: she was, and remained, an important part of their lives.
After her retirement, Miss Falla kept in touch with colleagues in the Maths Department and with a number of former students. She continued to enjoy her gardening, reading and doing the daily crossword. In later years, she became frail following a fall in which she broke her hip. She was, however, able to retain her independence until January this year when she moved into a residential home. She died very suddenly, but peacefully, in April.
A gifted mathematician, a highly principled, kindhearted person, Miss Falla was a unique character. Those of us who knew her will not quickly forget her.
J Margaret Dickinson