I first met Irene Rigold in the fall of 2014. I am always trying to meet as many friends of the School as I can possibly can. Miss Rigold was on my "can't wait to meet you" list as Steve Porter (KES Director of Finance) told me that Irene had a very interesting tale to tell.
So, what is Irene's incredible story? Well, she was born in 1928 in the village of High Halden in England. In less than one year, she lost her mother, Doris, to cancer and her father, Ernest Edward, to a heart attack. Her three older siblings were unable to look after Irene and so between her four spinster great aunts from Folkstone and friends of the Rigold parents, it was arranged for her to stay in a foster home. Family (no matter how far removed) was expected to look after orphaned children. The four great aunts took over the fees to send Irene's brother, Bernard, to six years of boarding school. They also covered the first year in a small local private school for Irene. After that first year, the great aunts realized that they could not afford to keep both of the younger Rigold children in private school. Friends of Irene's parents stepped in and filled out the necessary paperwork to enroll Irene in a prestigious boarding school.
This is how Irene found herself in the care of Christ's Hospital School in Hertford, England. Because of the generosity of unknown benefactors, Irene was able to attend the School from 1938 to 1946. It was at Christ's Hospital School that Irene learned the importance of thrift, economy, perseverance and generosity. In fact, upon her graduation, she was given a substantial Bible, and in it was inscribed: "I charge you never to forget the great benefits you have received in this place, and, in time to come, according to your means, to do all you can to enable others to enjoy the same advantage; and remember that you carry with you, wherever you go, the good name of Christ's Hospital. May God Almighty bless you in your ways and keep you in the knowledge of this love, now and forever." This was a message that Irene would embrace!
Irene then trained as a nurse at St. Thomas's Hospital in London and later received further training in midwifery. Irene's mother was a nurse and it was while she was in France during World War One that she met Irene's father, a British soldier. They married at the end of the war. Although Irene was only seven when her mother died, she knew that her mother had wished for Irene to nurse as well. She followed her mother's wishes.
We know that Irene was destined to be a nurse, but how did she end up in Canada? When Christ's Hospital School closed for the holidays, Irene would need to be fostered. One family, the Marchants, took Irene in. She became close to their young daughter, Felicity. When Felicity later married an aeronautical engineer who was immigrating to Montreal for work, Felicity told Irene that she should move to Canada as well. Irene considered this invite seriously and would eventually take the plunge. In 1956, Irene Rigold crossed the Atlantic Ocean and emigrated to Canada. She settled in Montreal to work at the Montreal General Hospital. In 1962, Irene received a healthy bursary from the Hospital and did a year at McGill in the Bachelor of Nursing programme. She would spend forty years nursing in Montreal. However, eventually, Irene decided it was time to retire.
Irene had made a good friend during her year at McGill and this friend, Mary, had moved to Windsor. Mary convinced Irene to move to Windsor, Nova Scotia as well. So, in 1996, Irene made the move and even before she had arrived, she was a friend to our School. Mary's grandson wanted to attend KES, but the family did not have the funds. Irene paid Chris' fees before she had even stepped foot in Nova Scotia!
Irene then sent Chris' younger sister to KES. Once the younger sister graduated, Irene approached the School about sponsoring other worthy students. Irene's patronage has allowed many lucky students to attend our School. In fact, this academic year marks Irene's 20 years as a key philanthropist at King's-Edgehill School. Recently, Irene was recognised for her voluntary and charitable efforts by Christ's Hospital School. She was awarded the Old Blue Special Recognition Award which is designed to celebrate the achievements of those Old Blues who have made an outstanding contribution to their chosen profession, their community, the Arts, sport, and charity. Irene has dedicated her life to helping others. She sponsors a cat in the best rescue operation in England, Cats' Protection. She volunteered more than ten years with the Windsor Elms. And, just recently, Irene has adopted an orphan of her own, Sparky. Irene lives in a Seniors' Complex in Windsor and a gentleman in his 90s passed away and left behind a handsome ten-year cat. Irene's early life circumstances were sad. She lost both of her parents and never lived with her siblings after the death of her father. She split her formative years between boarding school and two foster homes.
Yet, because of the education she received from Christ's Hospital School and through the friendships she nurtured throughout the years, her need to help others has grown greatly. Because of this plucky, spirited woman, countless students have attended King's-Edgehill School. I can only hope that the help these students received will foster the same dedication to charity that Irene's own experiences fostered in her. Irene Rigold, thank you for being the exceptional philanthropist you are!