Former head of Rugby High dies aged 95

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A “formidable” former Rugby headmistress who enjoyed a range of varied hobbies has died aged 95.

Margaret Chamberlain was head of Rugby High School of Girls from 1972 to 1978. She moved to the village of Braunston in 1973 and remained in the same house until her death.

Miss Chamberlain was born a few months before the First World War ended. It was unusual for girls to go to university in those days but she won a maths scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge and graduated just a few months before the Second World War began. She then trained as an auxiliary nurse, but her services were not needed in the war effort so she reverted to her planned teaching career.

Miss Chamberlain worked in several schools and held headships in London and Bristol before taking up her final post in Rugby. She retired six years later.

In 1973, she bought her house in Dark Lane overlooking the canal. Her deputy and good friend Eileen Thorpe bought the identical house next door.

Both were committed Christians, and before moving to Braunston, Margaret had been head of a Church of England teacher training college in Bristol

Despite being described by her university tutor as “a scholar”, she had many non-academic interests. Villager and friend John Foster said: “The backgammon matches with her former deputy were legendary in Braunston.”

She was also keen on fly fishing, and was an avid birdwatcher. Camping was another enthusiasm, while Miss Chamberlain held an extensive knowledge of wild flowers, keeping a detailed record of all the varieties she saw on her camping trips.

These excursions took her to, among other places, the Scilly Isles. On several of these trips she met the former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who had his own holiday home there.

Mr Foster added: “In later years, this once formidable lady became an enforced recluse as profound deafness made conversation impossible.

“Nonetheless, despite failing health she was determined to stay in Dark Lane, where the view of the canal was a constant joy to her. With the help of live-in carers, she succeeded in staying in the place that she loved and she died at home.”

The funeral of Miss Chamberlain, who never married, took place at All Saints’ church, Braunston, on Thursday.