FIFTY-ONE years after they all left school together – and 12 months later than planned, thanks to Covid – a bunch of friends met up to share memories, swap stories and eat cake.

“It was really emotional,” agrees Lesley Svensson, the former pupil of Laurel Bank Girls’ School – Glasgow’s very own Malory Towers – who organised the bash in Bellahouston Park’s House for an Art Lover.

“Most of us have stayed in touch over the years. We’re like a little family.”

Glasgow Times: Lesley Svensson and fellow former pupils of Laurel Bank girls’ school at a reunion at Bellahouston Park. Pic: Gordon Terris

Fee-paying Laurel Bank, with its distinctive, and much-disliked green uniform (green skirt, green blazer, cream blouse, green tie) was the first school to be founded by Scottish women graduates. Janet Spens and Margaret Hannan Watson, of Glasgow University, opened it in 1903, “to offer girls educational opportunities hitherto only available to boys.”

Glasgow Times: Laurel Bank class of 1971

It was one of three all-girl schools in the west end of the city, alongside Park and Westbourne. In 1996, Laurel Bank and Park merged, and in 2006, the school closed down for good. Its home on Lilybank Terrace is now luxury flats.

Lesley and around 30 former Laurel Bank pupils left school in 1971, and a reunion to mark the 50th anniversary had to be postponed from last year because of the continuing pandemic restrictions.

When it finally took place, however, it was a joyous occasion.

Glasgow Times: Lesley Svensson

“We had people coming from all over the UK, from France and Switzerland – one woman lives in New Zealand now and she was determined to come but sadly couldn’t make it,” smiles Lesley.

“I think what we all remember was the camaraderie of being at an all-girls school. It was like something out of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers for most of us.

“I joined at the age of 12 – I got the number 12 bus from our home in Bearsden and my brother went to Kelvinside Academy.

“I think the idea was that we girls would get on a lot better at school without the distraction of boys.”

She laughs: “I’m not sure that worked, really. I think it just made us want to meet the boys even more. They used to bus them in for after school dance practice, which was always an event.”

Lesley’s memories of her schooldays involve lots of hockey and tennis, design and cookery.

Glasgow Times: Laurel Bank class of 1971

“I wasn’t so academically minded,” she smiles. “I liked French, and biology. I remember we used to hold tea parties, too, for the veterans at Erskine. We’d collect and store up chocolate and cigarettes for them, and hand them out little goodie bags after singing war songs and performing sketches.”

The night before the reunion party, Lesley was surprised to receive a call from a couple who had discovered a huge collection of Laurel Bank memorabilia and photos in their home.

“They had moved in to the house of our old biology teacher, Mrs Hinchliff, in Killearn, and discovered she had kept all of this wonderful stuff,” smiles Lesley.

“It is really lovely.”

Some of the correspondence dates back to the war, with letters providing an interesting snapshot into what was a privileged way of life for young well-to-do girls and women.

One letter from the school to, presumably, the parent of Doris, reads: “Some time ago, Laurel Bank was invited to give an evening concert at the Women’s Institute in Bridgeton – would you very kindly allow Doris to dance in the Seann Trubhais?”

Another deals with evacuation arrangements for the school to Perthshire during the Second World War.

“It’s an important part of the history of the school,” says Lesley. “It keeps the school alive. Laurel Bank is part of the city’s history and of Scottish educational history too – single sex schools are disappearing.”

The morning after the reunion, Lesley and some of her friends went up to Lilybank Terrace to see the old building.

“We met a woman outside, who lived in the flats, and told her what we were doing,” says Lesley. “She said, oh, I think I live in your old music room!”

After leaving school, and a spell travelling in Europe where she worked in the household of an Austrian Count and Countess, Lesley came back to Glasgow to train as a teacher.

“I was sitting looking out of the window one day, and saw aeroplanes flying overhead and thought – there must be more to life and the world than this?” she smiles.

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“So I joined British Airways cabin crew. When I was a young girl I said I wanted to be a teacher, an air stewardess, a wife and a mother, and luckily I managed to do all of the above.”

Lesley is married to Claes, who is Swedish, and the couple have one son, Christopher.

“The reunion was a lovely event – we all enjoyed our time at Laurel Bank, and it gave us the confidence to experience life and all its different challenge,” she says.

“We came away with a broad education and everlasting friendships.”

Lesley adds, with a laugh: “Although, all of us have a distinct aversion to the colour green….”

*Share your memories of your schooldays with Times Past - and get in touch if you are planning a reunion. We would love to hear about it.