Monday 5th Jun 2023

Sally Ramshaw (nee Armstrong) – 6s 50-57


Submitted by Terrill Nicolay (6s 50 -56)

I have a photo of Sally, aged about 12, with long fair plaits and in a Hertford summer uniform dress. She is standing on the school field, beaming at the little box camera. Somehow that cheerful but observant smile and steady stance remained typical of her over the decades.

Sally came to Christ’s Hospital on a LCC scholarship after her excellent 11+ results, and her younger brother Calvert was to be accepted at Housey some years later. Their parents visited the school frequently when we were allowed days out, so that I knew the family quite well by the time I left 6’s, where I had shared Sally’s liking for humour, board games and cards, though unfortunately not her talents for mathematics, singing and needlework.

In the second half of the 1950s the career options presented to CH girls were still mostly restricted to teaching or some choice in the medical field, and in fact the school was sadly lacking in up-to-date career advice.  With good A-levels in Mathematics on leaving, Sally joined the Legal & General Assurance Society to begin the demanding training as an actuary, an unusual step for a CH girl at the time and not suggested by the school.  Although she quite enjoyed the work, she confided in later life that she realised that her true calling would have been as an archivist. She and husband Hedley were keen family historians, travelling the country, particularly in Cumbria, and made many friends and interesting discoveries about the past.

Sally and Hedley met at Legal & General, where Hedley was to have a highly successful career which involved frequent travel abroad.  When married and starting a family, they made the decision that Sally would be a stay-at-home wife, so that attention to the children would be prioritised. In return, Hedley promised that in later life and retirement, they would travel widely, a promise which he faithfully kept.  Over many years they visited far-flung corners of the world, from the Galapagos to the Namib, sometimes on small cruise ships or on specialist tours focusing on wildlife, another great interest.  An additional passion was music, and several needy classical musicians benefited from Ramshaw support. They regularly went to Cyprus for the annual chamber music festival, frequently attended the Wigmore Hall and the annual Chamber Music Festival at nearby Hatfield House, as well as getting together with friends for musical evenings. Sally was also for many years a member of the St Alban’s Bach Choir.

Sally never allowed her status as a so-called stay-at-home wife to prevent her from making an exceptionally valuable contribution to society.  Having lost beloved parents, brother and sister-in-law to cancer, she raised many thousands of pounds for cancer research through the local fund – raising group which she jointly founded in their home town of Harpenden. She also spent a day each week in the Cancer Research shop in nearby St Albans, additionally volunteering for Meals on Wheels, Helping Hand, and the Harpenden Trust.

Her mother had been an outstanding cook (as I much appreciated as an undergraduate at UCL when invited to Southgate for one of Mrs Armstrong’s legendary Sunday lunches) and her father a keen gardener. Sally and Hedley grew quantities of soft fruit in their garden, turning it into jam for sale in the shop for the benefit of others. Sally also kept the accounts, held fund-raising coffee mornings, and generally gave tremendous support to cancer research. This was recognised by an invitation to the Queen’s Garden Party some years ago.

During much of her adult life Sally was caring for seriously ill relatives, raising three cherished sons, Geoffrey, Douglas and Edward through school and university, and in later years welcoming their own families, though it must have been a great sadness for her not to have seen Douglas and Tina’s twins in Canada, when Edward and Maria’s Max and Ella were such a joy. We were fortunate, though living in Cape Town, to see Sally and Hedley on a number of occasions, on visits to England and when they came to Africa. We persuaded them to divert to Cape Town for a week early in 2018, and intervening years all fell away. Sally always found time for her many friends and wrote wonderfully detailed emails to keep the distant ones up to date. It’s hard to believe those idiosyncratic and vivid communications will never again appear in my inbox.  She will be very much missed at Old Blues gatherings, and by her many lifetime friends from Hertford days.

It is a sad irony that Sally’s life was claimed by the cancer she had so valiantly helped to fight – that “stay -at – home – mum” who contributed so much more to society, her family and friends than if she had had a fashionable conventional career. Perhaps there are lessons in that.

Our deepest sympathy to Hedley, their sons and their families, who cared so lovingly for Sally in her last days.

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