|24 Jan 2018|
Dina Murdie (full name Diana Stella Murdie) has been working with people with a visual impairment for over 50 years and in the 2018 honours list was named as a Medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) for services to Sport for Visually Impaired People.
Now living in Colwall, Herefordshire, Dina told us all about her journey over a half-century career working with people who are blind or visually impaired.
After three years teaching in a mainstream school in the 1960s Dina became a PE teacher at Chorleywood College for girls with little or no sight. Set in fabulous grounds in Hertfordshire the school was a boarding school for around 80 girls who were visually impaired.
Dina has some special memories of the school, where she lived in a flat on the top floor, taking on a number of different roles in teaching and residential care. She also remembers the more unusual roles of caring for the chickens and ducks and the horses!
She said “Boarding school was a different world back then, and the girls came for a whole term at a time and usually had lessons on a Saturday morning but on the middle Saturday of a term there was a parents’ meeting. Travel was very different, they were only just building a motorway to link London and Birmingham and I remember going to Kings Cross Station with other staff to meet groups of girls off the train at the beginning of term”. She has very fond memories of many of her students in those days and can still remember names and faces as if it were yesterday.
Whilst teaching at Chorleywood, Dina was aware of the boys’ grammar school in Worcester – then known as Worcester College of the Blind – through inter-school swimming galas and also knew the PE teacher at Worcester Clive Spencer. The two were to become close colleagues when the two schools were merged in 1987 and Dina, along with six other brave members of staff left their homes and moved to Worcester. The Chorleywood School site closed and later become a retirement village.
Dina had been teaching at Chorleywood for 20 years when the merger took place so it was a huge decision to uproot her life and move to the Midlands. She bought a house within walking distance of the school while she the female students started to adapt to this unknown quantity…boys!
Dina thought the girls might get left out in the new establishment and set about ensuring the girls were integrated. On reflection, she thinks it was as much of a shock to the boys and remembers that their personal hygiene became a much higher priority once the girls arrived!
Over the next 10 years Dina threw herself into life at what was now called RNIB New College Worcester, teaching PE alongside Clive Spencer, teaching Braille and getting involved in Liaison with the families of prospective students. She also co-led the annual ski trip where a group of visually impaired youngsters and their teachers headed off usually by coach to the French Alps, onto a ferry and onto the slopes, which was no mean feat!
Sport for visually impaired people has been a passion of hers over many years. She was involved in Goalball in the very early stages of the sport and especially in making it accessible to girls. She has also had a hand in the Paralympics over many years as a coach, referee or volunteer and is still a highly respected member of the VI sporting community in goalball, although involvement in swimming and skiing is sadly no more.
These days you might think that life has slowed down – but the reality is that she is as busy as ever. She volunteers at the Worcester Royal Hospital and with Age UK, coaches and plays in the local table tennis team for the University of the Third Age and is still heavily involved with Goalball.
She is delighted to have been awarded the British Empire Medal, although she admits she had to ‘look it up’ to find out what it is all about. She said “It is really lovely to be recognised for 50 years hard work”.
She will receive the medal at the Guildhall in Worcester later in the year and will also be invited to attend a tea party at Buckingham Palace.