Oliver Daphne


Daphne Oliver

A long-standing member of staff and former pupil at Leiston and Summerhill School, Daphne Lilian Oliver was not known there by either of her given names but by almost everyone as `Olly’. The only person in school who routinely called her Daphne was A S Neill, the founder of the Summerhill.

Neil’s ethos centred on the idea that the happiness of the child should be the paramount consideration in its upbringing and education and that this should grow from a sense of personal freedom. He didn’t call people by ‘nick names’, as a matter of principle, in case they didn’t like them.

Daphne – Olly – was a pupil in the early days of the school, when prohibitions on being in certain parts of the school or its grounds applied. She was a ‘bit of a problem’ pupil, who once threw a golf club at Neill’s head!

Later she came back as a housemother and for over 30 years looked after the boys, cleaning for them, washing and mending their clothes.

She took part in the school jazz band, wrote and directed plays, mostly about a batty old witch, and put together the Wall newspaper.

As Daphne Oliver, she was a member of the local Leiston Communist Party and was elected for a time as a local councilor. A close confidante of both Paxton and Lee Chadwick (see separate entries), she co-published the “Leiston Leader" for many years – cycling around to deliver it.

For a while she left the school at 5.30amevery morning to travel on an old moped to work at a factory in Ipswich, leaving the school grounds where she lived in a caravan after her uncle’s cottage in Snape had burned down.

When she retired from Summerhill, Olly got involved in many things in Leiston – the Long Shop Museum, director of a local charity supporting teenagers), the local brass band and many other things.

Daphne Oliver died in June 2008


Source: Zoe, Summerhill News, August 2008

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