Miss E. M. Mitchell - Retired in 1938
Though many there be who feverishly seek it, few are there, whose steps the benevolent gods direct aright to the Fountain of Youth, whose magic waters give grace to the bearing, sparkle to the eye and vigour to the understanding.
Some of us less-favoured mortals have seen, with envious wonderment, year follow year, without any apparent change in the Miss Mitchell of our earliest recollections. At Christmas Parties, the waltz still reveals her nimble grace, a dinner-room conversation is still enlivened by her ready wit and quick repartee. Very rare are the occasions upon which her quiet, dry humour does not find some amusing anecdote to cap those of others.
Having travelled widely, Miss Mitchell has culled the fruits of experience from a broad field and on her return, has filled others with a longing to go gleaning far from the home field. "There and Back," a talk given to the School Historical Society, after her last visit to America, was warmly praised as being "one of the most interesting lectures ever given." A former student says: "She is able in a most inimitable way to share the treasures of her experience by means of a happy gift of descriptive eloquence."
Another talk, "Castles in Spain," revealed to the hearers, the charm and grace of a personality whose sense of humour made friendship easy and travelling a thrill.
Adaptability and a sympathetic approach have won for Miss Mitchell a large circle of friends of many sorts and in many places. As History Mistress, she has presented the vexed problems of past events with the balanced reasoning of the philosopher, and has won thereby the continued friendship of students of widely-differing views. One such friend is a staunch Roman Catholic, another is at the present time a student at Westminster College, Cambridge. The latter writes: "There was always at the basis of her teaching an undisguised Calvinistic soundness and humble piety which has left its mark on many lives.
This impersonality of presentation has been enhanced by a profound and seemingly inexhaustible knowledge of her subject. The humble enquirer would seek enlightenment on some comparatively obscure incident and would receive such a wealth of information that he would depart in all meekness, amazed that "one small head" could carry all she knew.
As president of the School Historical Society, Miss Mitchell has worked with a never-flagging interest. A former student says: "As Treasurer of the Society for two years, I bear witness to her energy and zeal expended upon that Society for the purpose of making History a vital, human study."
The annual Historical
excursion organised by Miss Mitchell has always been one of the School's
most enjoyable activities. We acknowledge our thanks for a revived
interest in the tragic Bronte family after our visit to Haworth, and a
more sympathetic understanding of the proud Byron after seeing Newstead
Miss Mitchell has not been neglectful of the town of her adoption. We have seen History in the making in such visits as those to the Telegraph Printing Works and the Sheffield Fire Station. The happy spirit of comradeship has no small share in the delightful memories many still cherish of lumbering along the highways and byways in a Corporation bus to see the grim keep of Conisborough Castle, and the architectural jewels of Thorpe Salvin and Steetley.
Miss Mitchell's versatility - she was the top student of her college, Dalry House, Edinburgh - led her to desert her first love, French, when she tried to protect the hapless wight who would write "yeux-de-boeuf," and who insisted that if the feminine of "doge" was not "doga," it must be "dogeresse," from heading to his doom. Would she have remained faithful, had she known that later methods would have given her full scope for airing her French, which she still speaks like a native? French or History - it matters little - the student would still be charmed by her winning smile or reduced to shame by the caustic irony of a quiet reproof.
Though many years have passed since Miss Mitchell left her native land, her attachment to Scotland is so deep-rooted, that we do not fear for her the awful doom of "going down to the vile dust" from whence she sprung, "unwept, unhonour'd and unsung." A true Scot, she has the idealism of a Flora Macdonald with its attendant romanticism, and the shrewd business acumen of the proverbial Aberdonian. The years have inevitably brought her deep personal losses, but, with the stoical pride and high sense of duty of a Cornelian heroine, she has masked her grief under a guise of cheerfulness and faced her students with a smile.
In concluding, we wish Miss Mitchell many happy and care-free years, and hope that, after surfeiting her Wanderlust with a projected visit to Australia and the States, she will call the Historical Society and its friends to travel farther afield and room with her amongst the "banks and braes and streams," where Burns wood his "sweet Highland Mary," or hear with her the thundering voices of the old Gaelic warriors in the booming waves of Fingal's Cave or, inspired by her, catch the plaintive laments over the fallen heroes in the moaning of the wind on the mountain side of Morven.