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© Rob McGibbon, 2013

15th February

News reaches Thomas Higgins and Peggs that Olive has been struck down with influenza. Peggs sends a telegram saying she will travel at once to Paris, but Olive replies: “Do not worry – nothing serious.”

As usual on Sunday mornings, the girls at the school attend mass in the chapel wearing their black veils.

“On fête days we go to mass twice or once a day wearing long white veils (on other days we wear black veils) + all looking most bridal-like, I only go to mass, Sundays + fête -days.”


16th February

A telegram to Thomas and Peggs brings reassuring news that Olive’s condition is improving.

17th February

Further news from Paris reveals that Olive’s condition has worsened overnight, so Peggs leaves on the earliest boat for France.

Much later, most likely after Peggs arrives at the school, an emergency telegram is dispatched to Thomas Higgins, who is urgently located in Margate town. The telegram states Olive is now gravely ill.

Thomas is able to arrange for his friend Sir Maurice Abbot-Anderson to accompany him immediately to Paris. Sir Maurice is the leading physician to Princess Louise, the Princess Royal, and her family. She is the eldest daughter of King Edward VII.

When Thomas and Sir Maurice arrive at the school they discover that the two doctors treating Olive – one French and an English doctor resident in Paris – have all but given up hope. She now has double pneumonia. Sir Maurice begins to treat her…

18th February

This day had been circled by Olive.

With hardly a break from the bedside, Sir Maurice continues to treat Olive, with Peggs and Thomas in constant attendance…

19th February

Today is Thomas Higgins’s 50th birthday.

Sir Maurice continues to work around the clock trying to save Olive’s life…

19th February

An entry from the journal of the ‘Mother House’ of the order of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, the convent adjoining L’Institut de Notre Dame des Champs. Sadly, all the students have been evacuated in light of Olive’s illness and the school has fallen quiet.


“We are having here for the night a young girl from the nearby Institute. All pupils have been sent home due to the very serious illness of a 17-year-old [sic] girl from England. Her parents are by her side. We all share Miss Teillard’s worries.”



[An error in the journal: ‘Vendredi’ is Friday, the 19th is Thursday. However, the school would not have delayed moving the girls out]

20th February

Sir Maurice continues to treat Olive. Remarkably, she is recovering strongly and seems to be through the worst…


Back in Margate, The Hydro Hotel re-opens after six weeks of renovation work and the local newspaper publishes a glowing review of the extensive changes. A completely new level, adding 30 bedrooms, has been constructed on the roof. A new dining room has been built and an ultra modern heating system – with radiators throughout – has been installed. The entire hotel has been re-decorated, including murals in the main areas. New guests are welcomed to the hotel for the opening weekend.

21st February

An exhausted Sir Maurice Abbot-Anderson continues to treat Olive, but he is satisfied that she is out of danger.

Today was circled by Olive because it would mark the beginning of an extended holiday for Lent and she would have been staying at Lily’s now.

24th January… Got up feeling very gay, sure something nice is going to happen! yes it does happen, I hear of a holiday of 4 days end of February, how lovely, do hope Dad + Peggs let me go to Lily, also going to move to other dormitory with nice Mlle [Giomar] who speaks English! Have a lovely day with Lily, go to a lovely cinema, best one have ever been to, pictures splendid, never seen such crowds in the Metro before! lose 2 trains in the crush, lovely dinner at No.10, return feeling very gay, 5 minutes late, but beery nose quite nice!! to-day’s indeed been lucky!!

26th January… Wake up feeling extremely gay, could not sleep early for thinking…why can’t I speak French!? Oh it does seem so hard! draw some “Fairies” to send home, can’t wait, must write home about holiday, am getting so excited, receive letter from Auntie + 5/=, very good indeed of her, especially useful at present…day seems to drag! news that I cannot change the dormitory to-night, what a fag! never mind, am very tired, could sleep on a mat!

27th January… write a long letter to Dad + ask about holiday, do hope he lets me go to do Lily’s! Go for a walk in Luxembourg Gds, quite a change…receive a letter from Peggs + one from Frank, feeling a bit homesick, wish to goodness I didn’t get these fits!! usual lessons, one with the old girl (for piano) who has a rotten cold which she very kindly puffs at me! usual evening, bed in new dor’…

30th January …write a long letter to Peggs in the morning, longing to have an answer to dad’s….

31st January …another week gone! hurrah! only 9 more, thats not so bad, 2 letters from Peggs Oh! the joy, but so sorry she’s not very well, how I wish I were at home + not stuck miles away from helping anyone!! good news of the holiday, can go with Lily! Oh! I ought to be happy with everything so nice! + so I am really! except that I would give anything to have Dad + Peggs! music-lesson, how I loathe them in this place, + the old girl too, she’s no idea of playing! anyhow! Easter wont be long now its the last day of January, I could shout, I’m so pleased!! hares and rabbits tonight. hope I get a present this month. 62 more days!!!!!…



22nd February

Olive is well and appears to have fully recovered. It is an incredible turnaround and Sir Maurice is convinced enough that her health is stable that he will leave for London. He must attend the King’s Levee at St James’s Palace on Tuesday. He boards the train at Gare du Nord and takes a ferry from Calais to Dover.

Thomas and Peggs remain in Paris. Olive has a matter of great significance to discuss with her father.

The nuns of Our Lady of Sion attend the first of two mass services in the school’s chapel.

…I only go to mass, Sundays + fête -days.

…rolled out of bed at 7 o’clock, very sleepy + cold! premier dejeuner, after, sit in infirmary till girls come up from mass. 9 o’clock study french, later go to drawing. dejeuner, more french, till tea, french again, dinner, recreation, more serviettes to hem. talk of Bon Marche in not over polite english!!

…The chapel is very pretty, but frightfully overheated + the benches none to comfortable, a small organ, worked in the old-fashioned-style by the feet, sends out weird sounds assisted by the old fat french Mdlle who puffs and blows in time to the music + makes one feel quite hot!!!

23rd February

Olive has been profoundly affected by her ordeal. She tells her father that she wants to be baptised into the Catholic faith and asks for his permission. She has been surrounded by so much prayer during her illness, from the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion and Father MacCarthy, to her dear friend Lily and her beloved step-mother Peggs.

Thomas gives his blessing and it is agreed that the ceremony will be held at a future date when Olive is fully well.

People across Paris are preparing for elaborate celebrations to mark the beginning of Lent.

7th February… had awful nightmare, but do not mind because it is Saturday which means the end of another week! 8 weeks today we go home + 14 days today is the short one. Oh! I am longing for it, there is to be a wonderful carnival in Paris, everyone turns out for it! have had a letter from Mr Abrahams today, was very pleased to receive it. Hurrah!  Father MacCarthy came to see me, talked to him for an hour + three quarters, have had a really nice day today! + Sunday tomorrow, like the prospect immensely, Lily + I must enjoy ourselves extra specially, do fancy work in evening retire 8.15pm.