For comments or queries: Dr Ali Jan
CJM - Jesus and Mary Convent School Murree - India (now Pakistan) in 1915.
CJM in 1915 (Courtesy: CJM - Murree)
Virgil Miedema's A Glimpse Through the Forest
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Click here to read report Murree convent to lose 135 years of history with decision to draw curtains on boarding school

Mariana Baabar

The News Wed, 20 Dec 2006
My personal comment regarding the above report on CJM by Mariana Baabar (A well-respected and renowned political writer who writes for The News)

"I have deep personal reverence for all the convent sisters, specially the Principal, Sister Mercedes and the teachers like Ms. Couttes etc who have dedicated their whole lives in the service of the Lord and for the cause of girls' education in this part of the world. The visit to the school was held in all transparency. I have cordial relations with the school admin. The Sister (Principal Mercedes) welcomed us wholeheartedly in the best convent tradition and there was absolutely no indication or evidence of any secrecy, cover-up or any intrigue whatsoever.
Having said that however, I like everybody else, am not yet convinced by the different reasons being cited for the closure of the boarding institution which is the core issue. The town of Murree has no dearth of day-schools for the local population. The decision will mainly deprive Pashtun girls of a great boarding school and 130 years of history and legacy, since many generations of the boarding pupils have come from the Frontier province in the past. It is related that after partition in 1947, when the British and Indian girls had left, the nuns considered closing it but men and Khans from Swat, Charsadda, Mardan, Hoti areas and even some Tribal people appealed to them not to end it. They pleaded that if the boarding is closed, where would they send their daughters for education, as it was and still is the best girls' boarding in the country.
Whatever the real reasons for ending this legacy, the fact remains that CJM will no longer be the same school like it used to be in the past, which is very sad indeed. It will turn into something like another Presentation Convent Murree for instance, (
former best boys' boarding school and my alma mater) which is now a girls' day-school for locals since last few years and the standard has noticeably deteriorated. Sadly, the whole flavour of the old school has changed and this is exactly what will happen to CJM I fear.
This decision is bad news for anyone who has a soft corner for the British-era hillstation which has already lost much of its old charm due to over-crowding, the infamous New Murree Project, deforestation, haphazard and illegal construction mafia etc.
I have offered to share my expertise in matters such as preservation of their valuable old records, photographs and other items, setting up of a resource centre in the school show-casing their history and founding of a much needed alumni office and contact directory. It is rather unfortunate that CJM alumni are not consulted or represented in any important decision making policy matters. I had passed on some documents to the Principal containing contacts of the British Library's Endangered Archives Program that can provide grants and help in preserving their records." --
Ali Jan Jan Dec 26, 2006
Some General Comments (Running short of space to publish all of them)
It's seems a shame for such an old institution to take this action. The report seems to indicate that the closure of the boarding is not being forced by government. Are funds lacking to keep the boarding open? It seems as though times are changing, and the need for the boarding to stay open is no longer there. I am assuming the school will still be open for students. O'Neil Peters, Toronto, Canada <e-mail>

My name is Ayeshah Alam. I am personally very upset with the closure of the boarding school. I was there and I think it is such a shame as my happiest childhood years were spent there. I know I inherited my fighting survival spirit because of the school. Most of what is good that I have learned and carry forward in my life has been a direct influence of the years spent there. If there is anything I can do to help with keeping the school open. I know Sr. Mercedes. She taught me for a few years and I can understand their dilemma. I'm sure it must have been a very difficult decision for them. if someone can come up with a solution that works for everyone then I would certainly like to do my part in it. Thank you for your concern and interest. Ayeshah Alam, Karachi. <e-mail>

As someone who still has fond memories, nearly 70 years later, of the time spent as a boarder at CJM (1937-1940), I feel so sad to think that soon those 'dorms' will no longer be filled with noisy, giggling, mischievous young girls. Girls who when missing their mothers were comforted and cared for by those dedicated nuns; Mother Lawrence, "Lolly" and others were always there for us, whilst at the same time teaching us to be independent and strong. Coming from varied backgrounds and religions we learned to live together in harmony. So many girls throughout Pakistan will now miss this wonderful experience. My late mother, older sister and cousins were all ex-pupils and would, I know, have gladly petitioned against the Boarding closure. For all of us it was a secure, happy, and unforgettable time.
Angela Middleton (nee Quigley), New Zealand <e-mail>

I read with great sadness of the decision to close the Jesus and Mary Convent boarding. I read the comment from Sister Mercedes saying change is inevitable, indeed this may be the case but that does not make it either, right or a good thing.
My mother (Beryle Hart, pupil from 1920) spoke so many times about her time at the convent and I have passed on the stories to my children and grandchildren. For us the school is a very precious part of our history even though I have never been to your country, I would like to think that one day either my children or grandchildren will have the opportunity to visit, and see it for themselves. I sincerely hope that others take notice and realise the error in its closure. Margaret O'Reilly, United Kingdom <e-mail>

It would be a real disaster for me as the boarding school is part of the family history. My mother Joan Mary Elizabeth Cowmeadow/Brown, was brought up there. Her Father died just four months before she was born and my grandmother brought her to the nuns in Murree in 1911.  From there too she was married and I was born in Murree and went to school there too. My mother also taught there so for me it is history.
Moreover boarding schools are sometimes the only way girls can get a good education. They live in small villages quite a way from the school and I remember (vaguely) when I was a student there in those days 1935 and onwards that there were also native students. Do hope that the nuns will reconsider as they have contributed a great deal to the education of young Indian and Pakistan children. Wishing you success in your attempts to have the decision reversed.
My son Michel went on holiday 5 years ago to India/ Pakistan. One of the stops was Rawalpindi, I told him that Murree was close, so he rented a taxi and went there. He found the Convent and Michel took several photos...he did ask to see any records and he was told that they were no longer available! Joan Mellor, The Netherlands <e-mail>

It was very kind of you to send me the Murree convent records of my mother and aunt from 1914. They were only at the convent for a very short time. At the outbreak of the Great War my Grandfather (Captain Job Clarke) went on active duty and sent his family back to South Africa. He died a few months later of dysentery in a hospital in Colaba, Mumbai. He was buried in Sewri Cemetery. Apparently the site of his grave is overgrown and has not been maintained. My grandmother got some kind of a lump sum payment from the Army and that was enough for the family to survive in Cape Town until the children were grown. My mother (Zoraidah) married a South African and I was born in 1932. Dr E D F Williams, Finland <e-mail>

It is a shame they want to close the CJM boarding. The education there was excellent and it was a safe harbor for growing girls. They gave us a background in ethics, culture and prepared us for life outside the Convent. I have never met any of my old schoolmates who were not happy there and have special memories of the fun times we had.
I was the only American at the school when I went there 1940-1943. I had previously been in Woodstock and St. Denys' for 3 years. The nuns were very kind to me and no one made fun of my accent as they had done in St. Denys'. After leaving CJM I went back several times to visit my favourite nun, Rev. Mother Antonio. She died shortly after she gave me an Irish card prayer that she said she had kept all her life. I have it to this day.
Mary Keller-Peterson, USA <e-mail>

I joined J&M Murree in 1944 and completed my Senior Cambridge in 1953. I feel a deep sense of nostalgia when I reflect upon those lovely days. We were taught to be self-confident. I was sad to read the report about the boarding closure in The News. I can perhaps understand why they finally chose to take this course, as Sister Andrew once told me some years ago that it was getting difficult to find good teaching talent and the same level of dedication in teachers as compared to previous years. Many of my peers were from the Frontier. Some of the names I can recall are: Kishwar Khanzada, Arif Sahibzada, Shandana and Zareen Ghani Khan, Nasreen Wali Khan, Zakia Sherafzal, Gwen Middlecoat, Daphene Begum etc. I still carry a photo album from the days I was in the boarding school. Begum Naseem Rauf Khan (Chimma) Peshawar, Pakistan

I read with great sadness the intended closure of the boarding. I was not a pupil there myself as I with my sisters came back to England aged 7 in 1947 to board here. A chilly experience!
Of course we knew of the wonderful CJM though we summered in Nathia Gali. It will be just so sad if it closes, specially as it has such a healthy number of pupils so I hope they can keep it open with its marvellous traditions and records for the future of all the splendid girls in Pakistan. Elspeth Woolcott, United Kingdom <e-mail>

First of all I would like to wish you and, everyone connected with Convent of Jesus and Mary, Murree - "A very Happy New Year." I am Shahanshah Ahmad, I joined CJM  in 1965 and passed Senior Cambridge in 1974.
The closure of "Boarding part" of the school is a very sad news, as my childhood is deeply rooted with everything of the school - the sight of the daisies, the sound of the cuckoo, the rustling of the leaves, the first snow-fall and the bare trees all bring back sweet memories of the school. I remember all my wonderful friends and the beautiful shared moments together; including Miss (Mrs)Walsh who gave us singing and piano lessons.
Cynthia Haq was in my class- I would like to get in touch with her and with anyone else Senior or Junior are welcome to write to me. I am a doctor and running my own school at primary level - trying to instill all the wonderful things I learnt as a child in school including character building, hand writing, poetry and library reading. Shahanshah Ahmad <e-mail>

My mother hated boarding school, but I dont think she ever realised how it had moulded her into a very independant woman with an education she was proud of. When she came to England after independance and was looked down on for being part Indian, she was educated enough to see ignorance for what it was, and rise above it. She had many trials in her life but always came through them. I wonder if she would have been able to cope so well if it had not been for her early grounding at a boarding school.
I would say if the Jesus and Mary school wish to lose their standing as schools of excellence they are going the right way about it. They are sacrificing quality for quantity. This has been done in many schools in England with disastrous results.
There is also a more sensitive issue with boarding schools, a percentage of the children who attend them come from broken families, my mother's parents had seperated when she and her sister went to boarding school. Other children were orphans or maybe only had one parent. These people will in effect be excluding children who need them, which does not say a lot for their religion.
The ruling body who run these schools have lost their way, where is the pride in what has been built up by generations before them, they have replaced it with greed for money. Annabelle Sutton, United Kingdom <e-mail>