Jean Wintrope

Jean Wintrope was born on Friday the 13th of May 1927. She was born in her house in Orchard Terrace and her brother Jim was born in 1925 and he still lives in the same house!  She was born Jane Maben Whillans but she has always been Jean. Jean’s mother was born into a family of nine and her name was Helen Millar Charters. Her father was born in Weens Lodge and his name was William James Whillans.  When Jean was a child, she thoroughly enjoyed making concerts and performing them – she even had a curtain!  Jean’s house had a massive garden and her family owned three allotments. In their garden they grew peas, potatoes, carrots, onions, rhubarb, gooseberries, raspberries and they also had  two apple trees – one with eating apples and the other with cooking ones. The garden was essential for putting food on the table. There was  a piano in the house and she learnt to read music.

A teacher named Miss Forsyth spotted Jean’s potential when she was just seven years old! A woman named Beatrice Miranda used to come every week from Edinburgh to produce opera and she saw true potential in Jean.  She used to have singing lessons on a Saturday at lunchtime in Edinburgh and she used to love it as she was able to go on the train!  She was chosen to go to the Scottish Touring Theatre. Jean was at Hawick High School between 1939 and 1943 and in this period of time, her friends were Madge Robson and Jean Dodds. She went to Guides and Singing Club with Madge. Her favourite subjects at school were Music and English. Jean’s favourite teacher at Hawick High School was Music teacher William R. Smith or ‘Smithy’.  Jean was never allowed to go to dances because she was a member of the Congregational Church and she was under very strict rules. She left school at the age of 16. When she was a teenager, Jean always wanted to pursue her dream of going to Drama school but her father wasn’t keen. Jean was 18 when she joined the Hawick Amatuer Operatic Society but before that she was part of the Junior Drama Club. The Opera had stopped in 1939 for the beginning of the war and in 1945 a meeting was held in the Farmer’s Room of the Crown Hotel to start the Opera up again. Jean can remember the song she sang at the audition. It was called ‘Pipes of Pan’. Jean got the part and went on to play the lead role of ‘Countrygirl’ in 1947. Costumes for the opera came from London and rehearsals were held in the Masonic Hall in Commercial Road.  Jean has participated in so many operas but her favourite is ‘My Fair Lady’ when she played the lead role, Eliza Doolittle.

by Connie Rafferty