Margot (as she was always known) was born in St Peter Port, Guernsey.
Her mother Eda Aline LeMessurier was a member of the family known as the Post Office LeMessuriers. The first postmaster – Nicolas – was her great great grandfather. His grandfather Nicolas seems to be the first to put two S’s in the name, and indeed many other LeMesurier descendants only have one.
Her father William Stringer came from a Lancashire family. William’s grandfather John began as a school teacher, but in the 1871 census is recorded as a master engineer employing 4 men and 3 boys.
The two met when she was the headmistress of the girls school in St Peter Port Guernsey and he was the head master of the boys school. An interesting mix of cultures. It was my impression that Eda regarded her husband’s family as being “in trade”, in contrast to her own lineage. Margot’s sister Desiree was born in Sept 916. A family anecdote says that Eda had reluctantly agreed William could go and enlist (5th Lancashire Fusiliers) since she was not pregnant. She turned out to be wrong!
In 1926 the family moved to Darlington because William had a promotion. Eda’s parents Alfred and Mary Ann went with them. Eda was an only child, and did not want to split the family. It would have been a big wrench, going from Guernsey to Darlington and leaving many family behind. After 3 years’ study at Darlington High School for Girls Margot earned her school Certificate with credit in English, Latin, Written French, Mathematics,Chemistry and Physics and distinction in Oral French. She had also studied Modern History, Art, Needlework and Geography. Her needlework was beautiful, and she could dressmake, tat, knit, crochet and do various forms of embroidery.
She spent another year at school, and passed her Advanced pianoforte exam with honourable mention and a comment which said “definite promise”. She told me much later that at some point her teacher had said that she had excellent technique but not the talent to put real interpretive feeling into her playing.
Her parents were supportive in her wish to go to University and study mathematics. She applied to Oxford for a scholarship, but was unsuccessful. Later she told us that she had not had sufficient knowledge of how to behave in interviews. When her sister applied in her turn, Margot passed on all her tips, and Desiree was successful. There is no indication what part was played by ability and how much by behaviour, but Mother put her success down to the information passed on.
By this time the family had moved to Exeter, the result of a promotion to School inspector. Margot enrolled as an external student at London university in 1931, attending lectures at the University College of the South West of England in Exeter. This was the precursor of the University of Exeter, which received its charter in 1955.
Margot was much closer to her father than her mother. William had a car by now, and they spent happy days driving around Exeter enjoying the countryside stopping for the occasional cider at a pub. They had a serious conversation just before she sat her final exams. She was an excellent tennis player and played for her college. Naturally this took time. The question they discussed was whether to fail the exams so that she could take another year and get a very good degree, or just sit them and move on. They decided she should sit them.
She graduated with a Mathematics B Sc in 1935, and obtained her Teacher’s certificate at the end of 1936, again from London University. The next step was obtaining a teaching position in Birmingham – so she finally left home. She found this a very positive step, she and her mother really did not get on. Of course as soon as she got down there she joined the local tennis club. Here she met Arthur Spencer, an engineer from Auckland NZ.(left B’ham in Aug 1937 engaged in Feb 1938) He had gone to England as a result of the depression in 1932.