Family values

How two letters from the 1930s led Catherine Walker to trace the history of her grandparents’ studies at UCL

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This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.

When Catherine Walker graduated from the UCL Institute of Education with a Master’s in Museums and Galleries in Education in 2018, her father presented her with two old envelopes marked ‘On His Majesty’s Service’. Inside were teaching certificates awarded to her grandparents, Bill Walker and Celia Dean, who had also attended UCL.  

“As Celia read French and Bill studied science, I think that they must have met on the playing field. Both were sporty, playing hockey and rugby respectively,” says Catherine. “I was surprised to discover that Nanna was allowed to do a degree in the 1930s. She even spent time in France as part of her studies. I’m very proud of her.”

The couple did their teacher training immediately after their degrees and went straight on to teach, Bill staying in London and Celia near Folkestone. “When they married, Celia kept it a secret at her school. In those days, you had to give up your job if you were a married woman,” explains Catherine. Bill served in the RAF for eight years and was a squadron leader in the D-Day landings. On returning to civilian life, he worked his way up to being headmaster at a school in Harrow. Meanwhile, Celia, having brought up their children, returned to teaching French in 1960. “She was a very determined woman,” says Catherine. “Her daughter, my aunt Rosamond, also attended UCL, completing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. It seems that the desire to educate runs deep in our family.” 

  • Be part of Portico - do you have a story to tell? We would love to hear from you: alumni@ucl.ac.uk

This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.

This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.

When Catherine Walker graduated from the UCL Institute of Education with a Master’s in Museums and Galleries in Education in 2018, her father presented her with two old envelopes marked ‘On His Majesty’s Service’. Inside were teaching certificates awarded to her grandparents, Bill Walker and Celia Dean, who had also attended UCL.  

“As Celia read French and Bill studied science, I think that they must have met on the playing field. Both were sporty, playing hockey and rugby respectively,” says Catherine. “I was surprised to discover that Nanna was allowed to do a degree in the 1930s. She even spent time in France as part of her studies. I’m very proud of her.”

The couple did their teacher training immediately after their degrees and went straight on to teach, Bill staying in London and Celia near Folkestone. “When they married, Celia kept it a secret at her school. In those days, you had to give up your job if you were a married woman,” explains Catherine. Bill served in the RAF for eight years and was a squadron leader in the D-Day landings. On returning to civilian life, he worked his way up to being headmaster at a school in Harrow. Meanwhile, Celia, having brought up their children, returned to teaching French in 1960. “She was a very determined woman,” says Catherine. “Her daughter, my aunt Rosamond, also attended UCL, completing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. It seems that the desire to educate runs deep in our family.” 

  • Be part of Portico - do you have a story to tell? We would love to hear from you: alumni@ucl.ac.uk

This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.

This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.

When Catherine Walker graduated from the UCL Institute of Education with a Master’s in Museums and Galleries in Education in 2018, her father presented her with two old envelopes marked ‘On His Majesty’s Service’. Inside were teaching certificates awarded to her grandparents, Bill Walker and Celia Dean, who had also attended UCL.  

“As Celia read French and Bill studied science, I think that they must have met on the playing field. Both were sporty, playing hockey and rugby respectively,” says Catherine. “I was surprised to discover that Nanna was allowed to do a degree in the 1930s. She even spent time in France as part of her studies. I’m very proud of her.”

The couple did their teacher training immediately after their degrees and went straight on to teach, Bill staying in London and Celia near Folkestone. “When they married, Celia kept it a secret at her school. In those days, you had to give up your job if you were a married woman,” explains Catherine. Bill served in the RAF for eight years and was a squadron leader in the D-Day landings. On returning to civilian life, he worked his way up to being headmaster at a school in Harrow. Meanwhile, Celia, having brought up their children, returned to teaching French in 1960. “She was a very determined woman,” says Catherine. “Her daughter, my aunt Rosamond, also attended UCL, completing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. It seems that the desire to educate runs deep in our family.” 

  • Be part of Portico - do you have a story to tell? We would love to hear from you: alumni@ucl.ac.uk

This article first appeared in issue 8 of Portico magazine, published November 2021.