Dimsie Head Girl and Dimsie Grows Up by Dorita Fairlie Bruce

Dimsie Head Girl by Dorita Fairlie Bruce was published in 1925. Dimsie isn’t in the running to be head girl of the school the Jane Willard Foundation, but Jean, the aspiring poet turns out to be so feckless and dippy as head girl that she eventually has to be sacked by the headmistress Miss Yorke, and Dimsire takes over.

It was the middle school girls who had caused all the problems, they’re always determined to bend any rules to their own advantage. They’ve been banned from keeping pets so decide to start an orphanage for animals, unfortunately this leads them to abduct (steal) a kitten from a street in the nearby town. Their antics are giving the school a bad name.

I found this quite entertaining, at almost 100 years old they’re a dip back in time to another age, but schoolgirls are much the same – whenever.

Dimsie Grows Up by Dorita Fairlie Bruce was published in 1924, confusingly as Dimsie has left the school. The book begins with her saying good-bye to her family home. Her father had died unexpectedly and that had scuppered Dimsie’s plans to go to university to study to become a doctor. That’s now unaffordable and she and her mother have given up their home in England and based themselves permanently at their Scottish home in the west of Scotland. It’s been in the family for generations and Dimsie’s grandmother had been well known locally as a herbalist. She had cured many illnesses in the local population in the past, but she’s now dead. Dimsie hopes to follow in her grandmother’s foosteps and sets about rejuvenating her herb gardens, with a view to setting up her own business and selling herbs to pharmacies.

Meanwhile, there’s a new mystery neighbour living nearby, bizarrely he wears a brown velvet mask, so cuts a bit of a sinister figure.  But after World War 1 there are lots of maimed men around. One other in the neighbourhood is a young doctor who is lame, he had befriended Dimsie on the train up to Scotland. When Dimsie’s plans seem to be hitting the buffers he encourages her to carry on, and helps her by being able to give her some business contacts. But an incident which allowed Dimsie to help a young sick girl goes a long way towards kicking her business off and she’s getting a good reputation locally as a herbalist. Of course this was all long before the NHS was set up when poorer people couldn’t afford to see a doctor.

As you can imagine this one was very different from the previous Dimsie books which are all set in the boarding school, I really enjoyed the different setting, and I couldn’t help laughing when a train strike causes a big problem with the train coming to a complete stop in Lancashire as the strike started.

I find it quite surprising that a book which is 100 years old focused on a young female school leaver and her determination to have a career, despite serious problems  being thrown in her way,  she also has a supportive mother!

Thank you again to Clodagh in London who so kindly sent me her Dimsie books as she was looking for a good home for them.


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