Anne Wright (c.1925-1981)

Aileen Fyfe
Thursday 7 April 2022
Drawing of Anne Wright
Portrait of Miss Anne Wright, Warden of Hamilton Hall, 1966 to 1980. Image Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library, ID HC1082

Anne Wright had a life-long connection to St Andrews. She was born here, the daughter of an academic; was educated here; and spent the last 15 years of her life as Warden of Hamilton Hall and lecturer in Modern History. In between, she was a secondary school teacher in London and then in Fife and Tayside.

Anne’s father was John N. Wright, a Durham-educated philosopher who had arrived in St Andrews in 1920 as ‘assistant’ to the Professor of Logic & Metaphysics. He would eventually become the Professor of Logic & Metaphysics, and Master of the United College. During Anne’s childhood, he was lecturer at University College in Dundee (1924-36) but the family remained in St Andrews.

She studied History at St Andrews and graduated in 1946. According to her obituarist, she had a ‘profound religious faith’, and for four years after graduation, she worked with a Church of Scotland organisation that had provided ‘Huts and Canteens’ during the war: Anne ran a hostel in post-war Berlin for members of the forces and their wives.

After returning from Berlin, she did teacher training in Dundee, and spent the 1950s teaching in various schools in London. She returned to St Andrews in 1961 for ‘personal reasons’ that may have been connected with her mother’s poor health. The retirement notice for Professor Wright would note that for several years, ‘ill-health has prevented Mrs Wright from attending any University functions. But… their elder daughter Anne has been a gracious deputy for her on many occasions.’ Anne Wright was clearly well-known and well-connected in the St Andrews academic community in the 1960s.

She taught for a few years at St Leonard’s school, and at Grove Academy, but in 1966, a new opportunity arose: the wardenship of Hamilton Hall (a residence for women students) fell vacant. The role of warden was primarily administrative and pastoral but, as the advertisement put it, candidates were expected to combine their role with ‘some university teaching or research’. The advertised salary started at £1,470pa, which is just over three times the stipend offered to a PhD student the same year, and the warden also received free board and lodging. The residential requirement placed on wardens meant that the role could not be combined with marriage or children.

Anne Wright became warden of Hamilton Hall in 1966 and, due to her degree and teaching in History, was also appointed as a lecturer (possibly part-time?) in the department of Modern History. She was the only woman there, as Doris Ketelbey had retired in 1958, and Margaret Lambert had left in 1960. The department of Mediaeval History had Lorna Walker, the warden of University Hall, and Ann Kettle – but the two departments seem not to have mixed.

Her background in school-teaching would have given her a different set of skills and experiences from most of her academic colleagues: she actually had formal training in teaching, which was not something expected of academics until the twenty-first century. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that her love of teaching was said to be ‘an example to her colleagues’.

Anne Wright died of cancer in April 1981, aged 56. According to her obituarist, she would be remembered for ‘her exceptional devotion to the interests of her students and of the University, and her great sense of compassion. In all she did, whether as Warden of Hamilton Hall or as a member of the Department of Modern History, she devoted herself to her duties to the point of self-sacrifice’. A former colleague recollects that her marking exam scripts when in hospital at the end of her life.

After her death, her friends, colleagues and former students set up an Anne Wright scholarship for postgraduate research in Arts, and an Anne Wright Memorial Fund ‘for the benefit of the students of the University’.

Key sources:

University of St Andrews Alumnus Chronicle (June 1966; June 1981 and June 1991).

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