Viola Stirling’s Nature Diary: 15 Oct & 20 Nov 1921

Viola’s last diary entries were written in the Highlands of Scotland in August. The next diary jumps ahead to autumn weekends in Harrogate, Yorkshire. Viola went to a boarding school in Harrogate, Queen Ethelburga’s School, which she refers to in her diary as ‘Q.E.S.’ and by ‘San’ she likely means the school’s sanitorium. The original site of this school (west of the town centre) can be seen on old OS maps from the 1930s. Although the school still exists today, as Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, the school buildings Viola lived and studied in have since been demolished and replaced with housing.

Stirling Council Archives’s Stirling of Gargunnock collection includes a private jotter of Viola’s from her schooldays at Ethelburga’s a few years later, 1923-24, when she would be about 16 years old. She jokingly refers to it as the ‘Book of Bricks’ and fills it with cartoon-like illustrations and ancedotes.

Her jotter also reveals that she was a school prefect and house prefect in her sixth year. She mentions a ‘B House’ and ‘C House’. Given the nature of the jotter this may refer to ‘Bricks’ and something else of a humourous nature for ‘C’. According to the school today, it still uses the four original house names – Cantwara, Derwent, Eoforwic and Lyminge – none of which begin with a ‘B’.

The following short diary entry in November refers to another school’s playing fields, Birklands Ladies School. This was sited on Kent Road in Harrogate. In both entries she is noting sitings of magpies which she considers strange given the proximity to the town. However, magpies can be found in both urban and rural areas. The advantages to the magpie include the chance to escape gamekeepers and better access to food.


Oct 15 Harrogate near Q.E.S San 3.0 p.m.

Saw a magpie. Seems an unusual place to

find them almost in the town.

Nov 20 Harrogate Near Birklands Playing Fields 3.20 pm

Saw two magpies.