Mom to three daughters, Annabelle, Phillipa and Olivia, St John’s D.S.G. Old Girl, Claire Balmer (née Chennells, Class of 1997) runs a property business with her husband, Duncan, in Eshowe, where their roots are entrenched. Claire’s eldest two girls are currently at St John’s D.S.G. and Olivia will follow suit next year. Claire spends a great deal of time toing and froing between two towns while following the girls’ very busy sports schedules. On top of this, she always has a few projects on the go, whether it be organising golf days, assisting the local running club or re-doing gardens. The Balmer family love to camp and spend time together.
What is your favourite memory of your time at St John’s D.S.G.?
When I think of St John’s D.S.G., I think of my time in the Boarding Establishment. Being dropped off as an 11-year-old at St Joseph’s, kindness comes to mind. In no time, I had made friends with girls from various grades and the fun began. Racing back at tea time to get one of Patty’s rock cakes and sipping on strong tea that had been brewing for us whilst at school was the highlight of my day, as well as the early evenings sitting along the dorm passages catching up with everyone’s news and planning our weekend activities. Then of course all the banter and whispering after lights out until we were punished with kneeling will also always be remembered!
I loved sport and everything it encompassed. Trips to the YMCA for basketball and indoor hockey; to the UKZN pool to do diving, the galas and hockey matches and even our Interhouse gymnastics competitions. The novelty of two hockey sessions on the AB Jackson Astro every week was such a highlight. It was the banter on the bus trips there and back. Whether we won or lost, we had fun. There was never a dull moment, and there would always be shrieks of laughter and great friendships were made. The great rivalry between the Maritzburg schools in the different sports allowed us to form such solid friendships with girls from other schools through the different seasons. These are all friends I have kept for life.
One memory our class of 1997 were chatting about recently, was our Confirmation Service. One of our mums had created a beautiful flower arrangement for the service. As the Bishop walked in, he knocked it, spilling water all over the floor. However, someone miraculously managed to catch the arrangement and needless to say, we had the complete giggles! Thankfully he found the humour in it too, and after 10 minutes of uncontrollable laughter we started the service again!
What do you think makes St John’s D.S.G. the special school that it is today?
St John’s D.S.G. is known for educating grounded, down to earth girls. It has always been a happy school with solid values, offering a good education, and great sport. Coming back to the school 25 years later to drop off my daughter, these memories came flooding back. Whilst there have been lots of changes, and beautiful improvements, much is the same, just better! The structure and careful planning to ensure each individual discovers herself and reaches her full potential is unique and is what makes St John’s D.S.G. so special.