I first heard this term in conversation with Walter Baynes – the Dixie Grammar School Association archivist and fount of knowledge on all things Dixie. Walter maintains close contact with the school through the annual laying of a wreath on the grave of former Dixie student, Herbert Black. Students are always fascinated by Walter’s knowledge of Dixie history at these occasions – they return with a real sense that they belong to a community that will always remember them, but also that the baton passed from previous generations of Dixie students is firmly in their hands.
Fortitude, or courage in the face of adversity was used by Walter in reference to Anne Jones, founder member of the Dixie Grammar School Association.
Anne was one of the first to greet my family to the Dixie Grammar School and from the outset it was abundantly clear how very proud she was of her association with the school. My communication with Anne was always by handwritten letter: in her last letter to me, she donated a book to the library in memory of a dear friend of hers – a fellow student at the school. I was delighted to be able to share the donation with the school in assembly along with excerpts of her letter in which she highlighted the traits of a Dixie student – among them, fortitude. Anne was the epitome of ‘Dixie fortitude’ – not least in the inspirational courage she showed as she neared the end of her life. She knew October 2019 was to be her last DGSA reunion, but she wanted no fuss. I am very proud to have known Anne, and will remember her with great fondness, not least for her Dixie fortitude, commitment to her old school and ability to laugh no matter what the situation.
There has been a school in Market Bosworth since perhaps before the 11th century and certainly a school with the name of the Dixie since 1601. Visitors to the Dixie always comment on the sense of history as they walk around the senior school, the building of which dates from 1828. Throughout the school’s history, the baton of Dixie fortitude has been passed from generation to generation. Lady Florence Dixie (1855-1905), former resident of Bosworth Hall was honoured recently with a Leicestershire County Council Green Plaque on which she is described as an ‘author and campaigner for women’s rights’. Representatives of our school attended the unveiling during which she was described as a ‘woman ahead of her time’.
Lady Florence Dixie held strong views on the emancipation of women, proposing that the sexes should be equal in marriage and divorce, that the Crown should be inherited by the monarch’s oldest child, regardless of sex and even that men and women should wear the same clothes. She played a key role in establishing the game of women’s association football and in 1895 became founding president of the British Ladies’ Football Club, stipulating that “the girls should enter into the spirit of the game with heart and soul.” At the time, women had to wear corsets and high-heeled boots, and although this rule was eventually relaxed, they still had to wear bonnets, with the game being stopped “if any woman headed the ball and it dislodged either bonnet or hairpin which had to be replaced before the game could resume.”
In 1895 she wrote: “There is no reason why football should not be played by women, and played well too, provided they dress rationally and relegate to limbo the straitjacket attire in which fashion delights to attire them.”
Lady Dixie and those involved in the early days of the British Ladies’ Football Club embodied fortitude – despite the heckling from the crowds, pitch invasions, press censure and derision, the club sponsored by Lady Dixie went on to play over 100 exhibition matches. The Dixie Grammar School is proud to carry her family’s name.
In these unprecedented times, with all the challenges of remote learning and social distancing, Dixie fortitude is needed by our community as much as it ever was. The Dixie is about people and relationships, not building and facilities and it remains important for us all to show kindness in our dealings with each other. Remote learning is a real challenge to us all – and its success depends on students, not just teachers. There are bound to be frustrations, technical issues and it is vital that we remain calm, patient, determined – that we show Dixie fortitude. By doing so we can all turn these strange times to our advantage. It is also important that we all find the courage to look beyond ourselves, our own problems and despite the situation we are in, to consider how we can make a positive difference to the lives of others around us. As a school we have already donated over 270 pieces of protective eye wear to local NHS services and we are planning, later in the term, for a lunch delivery service for members of the local community in need. We are also planning for a Dixie summer school, running for five weeks over the summer holidays to help support our parents as they re-establish working patterns.
It is sometimes what appears to be the smallest of acts which have the largest effect and I have been delighted to share acts of generosity, ingenuity and courage from Dixie students and the wider Dixie community on our social media channels. The baton of Dixie fortitude is in safe hands.