We’ve Only Just Begun

Dear Amy,

This is an occasion of great importance. I simply do not know where to begin. There are times when no words appear appropriate or grand enough to suit.

So I feel, in that vein, that you and I should simply ‘make a beginning’ – right here. It’s lovely to meet you Miss Amy Johnson, way back in October 1922, where you have just arrived to begin studying Economics at Sheffield University, aged 19.

“Thank goodness I’m here and settled, although, oh, it was dreadful leaving everybody at the station! I’m sure it makes you feel worse people coming to see you off.

I wrote to you last night, but the letter sounded so miserable I tore it up, and I feel a little more cheerful tonight. So am having another try.

There are two more girls in these lodgings with me, and I have two friends lodging 12 houses off, so I shan’t have much chance to feel lonely. We all registered today, and I have decided irrevocably – (will you have to look that word up?) – to take French, English, Latin and modern European History. I start work tomorrow at 9.30. There is a dance on the 10th and another on the 12th, also the Varsity Ball sometime in November, so I shall get some dancing.”[1]

Whether they have experienced it or not, most can relate to the heart-sinking feeling of leaving the comfort of home for a new, uncertain place. Even the most daring of 19 year olds I am sure, cannot say that they haven’t felt a hint of nerves and sadness at leaving their home to go to university.

We – myself and our readers – have joined you at an appropriate time. We are beginning a new journey with you, following you in a new chapter of your life. We join you from 2016 – a time where we are looking back at your life and celebrating. We celebrate you, Amy, for all your achievements. You may not see it now, on your first day at university, feeling uncertain in the big wide world, but in time you are going to grow into an amazing, unstoppable force. Remember the girl who chopped off her plaits with the pretty bow in an act of independence and defiance?[2] Who didn’t let being a girl stop her joining in any sport she pleased, and could ‘slog the boys all over the pitch’ in cricket?[3] That’s your fire! It’s within you, there in 1922 as you prepare to begin your new chapter. Reignite that fire, Amy!

I can’t possibly continue without mentioning Hans.

“Wish I’d somebody here to take me out! When are you coming over? Don’t wait until the weather’s too bad, will you? Although I’ll have to learn the geography of this place and the surroundings so as to be able to show you round properly. At present, I’d like somebody to show me round. I’m going to look out for somebody very nice, with a motor cycle or car, else I’ll only be a shadow by Christmas.”[4]

Mr Hans Arregger. Your Hans. Because of course, all of your words are for him. We are simply interrupting your letters – and please forgive our rudeness – not with the intent of disturbing anything, but with that of a fondness for your youth and all the adventures it entailed.

You fascinate the world, Amy; everyone wants to know everything about you. I know it may feel intrusive, and there are some things I shan’t dwell on too much…But it is clear to see that the man you often refer to as an ‘adopted brother’ in your early letters is the object of your affection, frustration, jealousy, defiance, anger and love.

It’s all in the game of love…

Amy Johnson letters used with kind permission of Hull Local Studies Library, Hull History Centre

Links:

http://amyjohnsonfestival.co.uk

http://www.historytoherstory.org.uk

HerStoria: Women’s access to higher education: An overview (1860-1948) http://herstoria.com/?p=535

 

[1] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 3 October 1922.

[2] Gillies, Amy Johnson: Queen of the Air, 21.

[3] Marchant, Amy Johnson Flying Legend, 2.

[4] Johnson, communication with Arregger [Letter]. 3 October 1922.

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