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Gryphon Gallery: Primrose Adamson

Stuart Brambley, School Archivist
The first “GNS” alumni to return as a teacher.
Prior to 1924, GNS (Norfolk House School) was essentially an elementary/middle school accommodating girls up to 14 years. However, provision for senior matriculation (graduation) was a dream for Headmistress Dora Atkins, who ultimately decided to take the risk. In 1924 there were five girls in the top class and Miss Atkins wanted them to stay on and form the nucleus for the introduction of the Matriculation program. Two chose not to stay but Primrose “Primmy” Adamson joined the school thus having four girls to form the first secondary class. Two of the four dropped out after one year, but Rosemary Johnston and “Primmy” stayed the full course and have the distinct claim of being the first full graduates of GNS (NHS) in the 1926/1927 school year.

As mentioned in last week’s Gryphon Gallery only a handful of students have returned to teach at their old alma mater. Primrose Adamson was the first in GNS (NHS) history. After her matriculation year, according to our records, she stayed on at NHS as the art teacher and remained with the school until 1945. It was not uncommon during those early years for teachers not to have gone on to further education, taking on teaching roles based on the say-so of the headmistress. A talented artist in her own right, the two watercolours shown were painted by her in 1929 and 1931 for a student. Miss Adamson was also the teacher who encouraged and inspired students Rosemary James Cross, Joan Willshire-Martell, and Myfanwy Spencer Pavelic to later become nationally recognised artists.

The photograph above is a rare capture of Miss Adamson sitting with Miss Helen Riach at a picnic in 1941. Miss Riach was the first teacher hired by Dora Atkins after Julia McDermott left NHS to get married in 1917. 

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We wish to acknowledge and respect the Lekwungen-Speaking Peoples on whose traditional territory we stand, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and Wsáneć Peoples whose historical relationships with the land, where we live, work, play and learn, continue to this day.