I feel greatly honoured to have been asked to write a valete for Julie Wass. I know just how much the Brambletye community has meant to Julie. It has been her second home. “Brambletye,” she says, “will always hold a special place in my heart with many happy memories and it has been a privilege to help take care of so many children over the years.”
Miss Wass arrived at Brambletye in 1983 at the tender age of 19 having been appointed by Donald and Sheila Fowler-Watt. In those fuss-free days without excessive paperwork, people like Julie were able to get on with their job and set themselves high standards. In Julie’s case it really is true to say that ‘they don’t make them like that anymore’. She has provided loyal support and friendship for a number of Matrons and School Sisters down the years, most notably Janet Emm and Vicki Brooks. She has ‘held the fort’ at crucial times when the boarding community has had its own ‘mini-pandemics’ or at key times such as the packing of trunks at the end of term. Pupils about to go into Sunday Chapel were frequently greeted by Miss Wass brandishing a hair brush or checking that their shoes were clean, laces tied, top buttons done up and shirts tucked in! Standards matter to Julie and she, quite rightly, was keen to pass these on to the children. She has also taken a particular pride in looking after the choir robes that are still worn by the Senior Choir at our main Chapel Services and at Carol Services today.
For the past 37 years Brambletye has been a huge part of Julie’s life. The lights often burned late in her various work locations as Julie worked tirelessly to ensure that all the appropriate kit had been ‘thrown out’ and washed, that everything was in its right place ready for the following day. She has worked for four different Headmasters and their wives and, in the time that I have known her, I have seen her adapt successfully to the changing requirements in all aspects of her job: health and safety, pastoral and medical care and, over the years, playing a key role in looking after and overseeing our Gap Students. At all times her priorities have been loyalty to the school and devotion to the children. Many OBs will recall receiving a little ‘tough love’ from Miss Wass and will, on reflection, be grateful for it. Many of these same OBs and their parents too, have often returned to Brambletye not just with a view to visit the school they loved and say hello to their teachers but also to say a special hello to Julie, someone whose care for them was second to none when they were at the school.
In spite of the diverse complexities of her role, Julie has always liked to keep things simple. She has always ‘got the job done’ in a traditional but highly professional manner. Sports coaches over the years will have experienced the thoroughness of a Miss Wass kit inspection on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and her insistence that, quite rightly, the coach has the same responsibility as the children for ensuring that all the used kit is returned for washing at the end of a long afternoon. This was something she quickly established with me on my arrival in 1997. Julie gave me a valuable lesson in the importance of communication, organisation and thorough preparation. It is a lesson I have valued and implemented ever since!
Julie will be sorely missed by us all, particularly by all those Brambletye pupils whom she cared for day and night, and to whom she has helped to give a solid foundation for so many of the life skills essential for adulthood – manners, standards and caring for others, just to mention a few. Julie has understood the commitment and dedication required of someone who has ‘signed up’ to life in a boarding school - and her loyalty to Brambletye and its pupils has been unwavering. Miss Wass, we salute you - you are ‘simply the best’.