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News > OS News > End of an era for generation of RPH Old Stortfordians

End of an era for generation of RPH Old Stortfordians

Sad loss of Elizabeth 'Bet' Soady from the Stortfordian Community

21 Apr 2021
Written by Jennifer Law
OS News

It is with great sadness that we inform the Stortfordian Foundation community of the recent death of Elizabeth ‘Bet’ Soady. Bet passed away very peacefully on Easter Sunday aged 96 with her beloved Daughter Anne at her side.

Always a staunch supporter of the School and of her ‘RPH Boys’ in particular. Bet was held in great affection by all those at the College who had the honour to know her. Wife of College 2nd Master and RPH Housemaster, Leslie Soady, and awarded the rare title of Honorary OS in her own right in recognition of her support of the school, it was always a great pleasure to welcome Bet along to OS events Most recently the RPH 90th Anniversary celebration in 2013 where she was a guest of honour and can be seen in this photograph of the event with past OS President Mark Jarrett & Former College Staff Garry and Beverley Hudson.

Unfortunately due to current Covid restrictions a very small private family funeral will take place in the local family church on 27th April, It is sadly unavoidable that the many people who would have liked to have attend the funeral are unable to do so. 

In lieu of flowers (at Bet's insistence) the family are inviting donations to the Brooke Hospital for Animals care of the Funeral Directors, Iles & Vincent of The Cornmarket Warminster BA12 9BX. Bet was a lifelong lover of animals, especially horses, which is the focus of the Brooke Hospital, (she herself supported them for many years) and in recognition of that love of horses she will be carried in a horse drawn hearse for the funeral.

We pass on our sincerest condolences to Bet’s family, including Daughter Anne and her Husband Paul Vingoe (GH,RPH,60-67) and all that knew and loved Bet – she will be so greatly missed by all whose lives she touched. 

An article will appear in our next edition of our publication but in the meantime we wanted to share a short dedication to Bet’s nine decade long relationship with the College and her genuine affection for the town of Bishop's Stortford.

Elizabeth Soady – 1924-2021

Elizabeth ‘Bet’ was born in Scotland but very sadly her mother died in childbirth. She spent her first 3 years with her paternal grandmother in Edinburgh. Her father had 3 married sisters, one of whom did not have children, Peggy Craig, married to James Craig the then Housemaster of Westfield Lodge at the College. It was decided that Bet should live with the Craig's during term times and spend the school holidays back with her Aunts in Scotland. Thus began a relationship with the College that was to span over 90 years.

Bet enjoyed the benefits of growing up within a school, joining her Uncle on School trips and playing tennis on the school courts. She was 15 when the war broke out and during its course she became a nurse at St George's hospital and went through the Blitz. Having left nursing towards the end of the war she joined the Housekeeping Department at the Cumberland Hotel, and what she learnt there would come in very useful as a Housemaster's Wife! Her Aunt, Peggy Craig, died in August 1939 so after the war ended it is believed that Bet returned to Stortford to look after her Uncle. He had by then left Westfield Lodge and had built a house, Kilrimand, on Hadham Road and remained a Master at the College until retiring in 1947 having completed 30 years service. 

In 1949 Bet married Leslie Soady who had joined the College Languages Staff after being demobbed from the Rifle Brigade in 1946. Initially they lived in a little thatched cottage in High Wych but then Anne, Bet’s Daughter, believes when she was about 2, they moved to 96a Hadham Road. 

In or around 1956/7 Leslie took up the offer of a job as Headmaster of a school in Pakistan. Thankfully for the College, despite everything having been arranged the contract failed to arrive. College Headmaster Arthur Evans offered Leslie the post of Housemaster of RPH in 1957 so that became the Soady’s home for the next 13 years.

(RPH 1965)

Their initial RPH years were before central dining was introduced to the College so Bet was responsible for all aspects of domestic life in the house, including the catering, although there was a cook supporting her. Bet’s Son-in-Law, Paul Vingoe (RPH, 60-67) gathers that the food in RPH was always reckoned to be the best! Certainly when it came time for him to go up from the Prep to the Main School in 1963, RPH was the house most people seemed to want to go into. Paul felt very lucky that he was allocated there, for more reasons than one!

When Headmaster Peter Rowe left there was a hiatus before Colin Greetham could join so Leslie was asked to be Acting Headmaster in 1970. The Soady’s moved in to the recently built Headmaster's House (now Young House), before, when Colin Greetham arrived, moving in to Birchwood, which was then designated the Second Master's House.

Leslie retired in 1982, having been diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson's Disease. Initially they moved to a flat in what had been the Chantry Mount Prep School in Chantry Road (which Bet had coincidentally attended as a child). In 1984 Leslie and Bet decided to move to Wiltshire to be nearer to their family where Leslie sadly died in 1994. Bet lived independently into her 90’s before moving to a nursing home in recent years when living with dementia.

Sending sincerest condolences to all that held Bet fondly in their thoughts and lives, she will be greatly missed by all those that knew her.

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