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Across the seas, and across the decades, one former farm girl has reached out to another

Vivien Leigh and Laurence Oliver at Heathrow bound for Australia in 1948

Alumna Helen June Rolton (nee Roberts), now 88 and living in the town of Hook in Hampshire, England, was so inspired by the story of Kristen Kay, the current Annual Appeal Scholarship recipient from Edith Creek on Tasmania’s far north-west coast, who was featured in a recent annual appeal letter to alumni that she wrote the following note to Young Dawkins, the Executive Director of Advancement:

Dear Young,

Thank you for your letter with its information about Kristen Kay. What an amazing young lady she! She has obviously made the most of her University experience.

I was particularly proud to note that she was the first in the family to attend a university, and that she was – judging from the background in the photography of her on your enclosed leaflet – a country girl. At a guess, she is a farmer’s daughter.

I, too, am the daughter of a farmer, but producing fruit rather than animals on our valley orchard in the Channel District. It was almost unheard of in my day for a girl with my upbringing and background to go to university.

I shall never forget the thrill of walking through those imposing doors of the main University building on the Domain. Thus began four years of study, culminating in a Diploma of Education after my BA degree.

During that time I had some inspirational professors and lecturers, including Professor [Albert] Taylor for English - also Joyce Eyre – and Professor [John] Elliott for his lectures on ancient civilisations. These were conducted in his study, where we all managed to squeeze around his large table. Since he smoked a pipe throughout, we all smoked cigarettes in self-defence. (I have since been to most of these countries that he inspired us to visit. At one point I wanted to be an archaeologist, but settled for teaching – my real aim in life).

We had some great visitors to the University, including Laurence Oliver and Vivien Leigh, who brought members of the Old Vic company out to Australia. In Hobart they performed Sheridan’s School for Scandal at the Theatre Royal. They were very impressed by this building. During a visit to the University, Laurence Olivier met the director of the current production under rehearsal – King Lear! He was a man of great personal charm, and did us the honour of taking our efforts seriously!

Yes, I loved my time on the Domain, and the opportunities for extending all kinds of experiences.

You will, Young, I hope forgive an 88-year-old for remembering her days at our wonderful University. I am sure that Kristen Kay feels similarly inspired.

Yours sincerely, Helen.

Helen wrote her letter to Young in early June. Kristen Kay graduated with a Bachelor of Agriculture during the August round.

Published on: 29 Aug 2016 3:57pm