RETIREMENT The Holly Leaf (February 1951)

Mrs E M Wiggens M.Sc.- Retired July 1950

When Mrs. Wiggens, formerly Miss Hibberd, retired last July after almost twenty-seven years of service, the City Grammar School lost one of its most eminent and popular teachers. On the last day of term, before a crowded assembly, she said farewell to the students, thanking them for their good wishes and charming gifts. She said that she desired all present to look forward to new, yet distant horizons of opportunity for service. There was to be no looking backward, no vain regret. This indeed was characteristic of her outlook on life.

At the close of her childhood in Woodseats, she entered the Girls' Central Secondary School, which occupied then the present building of the City Grammar School. As a girl here she was remarkably gifted, soon being singled out as a leader. She was also brimful of mischief and fun. Possessing great ability, she achieved a few years later in the Oxford Senior Local Examination the highest distinction in Botany in the country. This success decided her career. Leaving school for admittance to the Pupil Teacher Centre, she decided to specialize in Science. Here she laid the foundations of her subsequent skill in teaching and in her Biological attainment. Leaving the Centre, she entered Sheffield University, determined to specialize still further, this time in her favourite subject, Botany. Overcoming all difficulties, she finally gained a First Class Honours Degree in Botany, a rare qualification. A year later she finished her University career with a distinction in teaching in the Diploma of Education. Truly a brilliant record for one so young!

About this time, the Pupil Teacher Centre had received an influx of Junior Probationers to meet the post-war demand for more teachers in 1923. Applying to fill a vacancy so created, she was appointed then as an additional Botany teacher. She remained on the staff till recent retirement, witnessing many changes, chief among which was the change of the Pupil Teacher Centre into the City Grammar School.

As a teacher, Miss Hibberd was full of enthusiasm for her work. Tall, commanding, with a clear resonant voice, and an unsurpassed gift of humour, her very incisiveness was an inspiration. She had also the great gift of getting round the shy, awkward or even rebellious student and so gaining the best out of him. In the presence of anything mean or of doubtful honesty she was stern and rightly indignant. She was also self-reliant, independent and courageous in expressing her convictions. Indeed, she required courage for what lay ahead, for she was bereaved of both her parents in the selfsame year. Before this, she herself had felt the keen edge of the surgeon's knife. During the lonely years which followed, she read widely and deeply. She applied her special knowledge to her teaching to such good purpose that many students owed their distinctions in Botany entirely to her sound teaching. She loved all living things. It hurt her to see even a plant die. She was quick at repartee and could be a stimulating conversationalist. Though no sportswoman, she played a good game of tennis and was an excellent swimmer. She was also musical, having passed examinations in pianoforte. And how versatile! Who can ever forget what a fin sales woman she was, both at school and at the field on Sports Days. There was, before the advent of rationing, a plentiful supply of sweets and chocolates. No counting of coupons then! That - and the scarcity - came later.
 

War again in 1939 saw her volunteer for service with the evacuees. She stayed at Loughborough for a short time until recalled to Sheffield. As the war went on, the increased demand for Science students led to an alteration being made to the school' syllabus.

A "Switch-over" from Botany to General Science was made. This gave to the girls the chance of taking up the study of Physics and Chemistry, and to the boys an equally important opportunity of learning Biology, so that all could have a basis for a degree in Science or Medicine later on. The success of this scheme can be estimated by the fact that for three consecutive years the Medical Scholarship was won by students who owed to her their Botanical training. She also took over the teaching of Zoology during the illness of a colleague and friend. About this time occurred her marriage to her life's partner,. Mr. W. Wiggens but she still continued to teach, to the joy of many past and present students.

Her interests outside school were many and varied. She maintained her academic interests throughout her professional life. She was awarded in this connection the Woodcock Prize by Sheffield University about 1924 or 1925. This was the first award ever made and was for excellence in an essay on "The Evolution of a Flower". She was also awarded, some years later, the Diploma in Public Administration, again obtaining a "first class".

Foremost among her other interests was her love of travel. Abroad, she had visited the Continent and later Canada. At home, she was never so happy as when out motoring in her car, sharing the beauty of the countryside with chosen friends. Her friends were numerous, including among them many old students. There are also happy memories of her fine work at the various farming camps organized by the school during the last war.

The school indeed will miss her. She gave of her best to it. Now that she has gone, it is the wish of all that the future years may bring renewed health to her husband and the greatest possible happiness to them both. They can then enjoy participating in interests common to both of them, particularly gardening.

To conclude, one cannot fail to mention her greatest interest of all - her interest in the Methodist Church she attends and where she has influenced so many young lives by her sacrificial service. Her parting works gave proof of this and made all feel "Whose she was and Whom she served".