Bolton School Former Pupils

Lesley Ainsworth

Lesley Ainsworth (1968-1975), Former Head Girl

After school I studied law at Oxford which was a bit of a shock to the system after Maths and Physics A levels. Having failed to work out what I really wanted to do I found myself starting articles with a firm of solicitors in London in 1979. Thirty three years later I looked up from my desk and decided it was time to retire! In the intervening years I had specialised in the relatively new area of competition law and, after stints in Brussels and New York, had returned to London, where I became a partner in the firm in 1988. Since 2013 I have been a Panel Member at the Competition and Markets Authority which is the UK authority that enforces competition law. Not quite poacher turns gamekeeper but something like that. Combining a legal career with bringing up two children kept me more than busy but since retiring from private practice I have also had the opportunity to take on the role of governor at two local senior schools in St Albans and to run the juniors’ kit shop at my son’s rugby club – my first retail venture. I am still trying to find time to do more painting (art not walls) and walking, although I managed four days on the South Downs Way this summer with fellow old girl Anne Fletcher (née Sharples). I’m still hoping to do the Pennine Way one day.

What is your connection to Bolton School?
I started in the Third Form aged 11 in 1968 having won a free place with a Lancashire County Scholarship. I can still remember the embarrassment of turning up on day one without a fountain pen and wearing my very baggy navy gabardine pinafore dress which had enough room for expansion to fit two of us in it. I was delighted to be appointed Head Girl in my Upper Sixth year.

What is your fondest Bolton School memory?
Sitting in the Third Form library under Miss Falla’s steely gaze devouring Angel Brazil’s boarding school novels from the 1920s; trips to Cautley and paddling in the stream below Cautley Spout; the Lower Vth Christmas Post—we were Harvatt’s Hounds (and I still have one of the posters!); touring outposts on Hadrian’s Wall led bravely by Miss Smith; and, of course, singing We Three Kings at Carol Service with Mrs Shuttleworth’s beautiful angels flying above. I could go on…

Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at school?
Miss Hughes, who taught me maths at O Level, embedded a love of the beauty of maths in us. Our end of term treat was to become a human computer operating a basic binary adding machine with Miss Hughes beating out the operations as we lifted or lowered out arms in accordance with our ‘programmed’ instructions. We were her devoted group of ‘Blossoms’ and she was our ‘Blossom in Chief’ – and great was the wailing and weeping when she left us for Leeds Girls’ High School. However Miss Dickinson and Miss Falla ably picked us up and saw a number of us through both A Levels (no AS in those days) and Oxbridge entrance exams in maths.

What has your experience at Bolton School given you personally?
Some great lifelong friends, a huge pride in the School and a very sound spring board for life.

What is the best advice you can give to today’s Bolton school pupils?
Carpe diem! or Seize the day! Take the opportunities that are open to you and always push yourself to do something that is a bit more challenging than you think you can manage.

Get used to coping with set-backs. You need to develop resilience to deal with the ups and downs that are inevitable in life.

Don’t forget the line in the School Prayer ‘From those to whom much is given much shall be required’ and try to do your bit for others—not easy when you are trying to juggle job, children and other family responsibilities I recognise.

How do you feel about the 100 campaign for Bolton School’s bursaries?
When I was at School we had the benefit of both the Direct Grant system which reduced fees for all pupils but also a number of free places funded by local authorities. This meant that a significant number of bright children whose parents could not have afforded the full fees, or indeed any fees, could benefit from the education that Bolton School offered. In a world where the division between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is getting wider it would be fantastic if we could establish a Bursary Fund that would enable the School to recreate that wider access which was at the heart of Lord Leverhulme’s original vision.

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