When Jean Norgate attended a School Reunion and Book Launch in 2003 in the village where she had lived as a child she got more than she had bargained for! Out of the blue she was reunited with an autograph book she hadn’t seen for some fifty-five years!
As a twelve year old girl, then Jean Savage, she was given the little book for Christmas in 1947. Collecting autographs was all the rage and Jean was a very popular girl in the small village of Froyle, near Alton in Hampshire, so it didn’t take very long before the book was filled with those weird and wonderful messages we all remember writing in someone’s autograph book at some time!
1948Jean had just started at the nearby Alton Modern Secondary School and, along with entries from teachers and prefects, were those of her best friends, Pat Milne, Mary Stevens, Evelyn Pritchard, Sylvia Fry and Marion Beckhurst, seen here with Jean, (fourth from the left) at around the time they were making the following entries in her little green autograph book.
Marion’s contribution was:- “I went to the pictures tomorrow, I took a front row in the back, I fell from the pit to the gallery, And broke a front bone in my back”.
Mary wrote:- “Can’t think, Brain numb, Inspiration won’t come, Can’t write, Bad pen, Much love, Amen”.
Pat’s entry reminds us that rationing was very much in evidence at the time of writing:- “Little Jack Horner sat in a corner, Eating his mother’s pie. How did she do it? Without any suet, And fat as big as a fly”.
Sylvia continued the nursery rhyme theme with:- “Jack and Jill went up the hill, To get a pail of water. Jill came down with half a crown. Jack came down later”.
And Evelyn penned:- “Fall from a ladder, Fall from above, But for goodness sake, Jean, Don’t fall in love”.
Time passed and Jean did fall in love and get married, and the autograph book was totally forgotten. In fact over time the book simply disappeared, as things do. So, when Jean went along to the village hall in Froyle to pick up her copy of the latest book by Froyle author, Annette Booth, the last thing she expected to find there, after all these years, was her autograph book. But there it was and there was no question who it belonged to. On its slightly faded pages were the words, “Jean now and forever, Savage now but not forever” and Jean recognised the little book immediately. You can imagine everyone’s surprise and delight as more and more people recognised their hand writing. Who would have thought it would have resurfaced after fifty-five years - and back here in Froyle, just yards away from Jean’s family home.
The man who found the autograph book was Colin Young from nearby Aldershot. He enjoys visiting car boot sales and picking up any form of printed memorabilia. He paid 5p for the autograph book, having picked it up and recognised a couple of the names. “I realized it was of local interest”, he said, “So I asked the stall holders where it had come from. They told me it was from a house clearance in either Egham or Croydon, both of which are miles away.” How it would have got there is anyone’s business, although Jean does remember having a Godmother living in Egham in the late 1940's. Did she take it to show her and leave it there all those years ago? And if so, what are the chances that fifty-five years later material from a house clearance in Egham would turn up at a car boot sale in a village just a few miles from Froyle and the autograph book be picked up by someone who actually recognised the people who had written in it? The odds must be staggering!
2003Colin had lived in Froyle as a small boy and attended the village school, so he had also received an invitation to the School Reunion & Book Launch and thought it would be the perfect place to hand over the autograph book to its rightful owner. It caused quite a stir, as so many of those who had originally written in it were present at the event, in particular Jean and four of those best friends from school - the ‘Famous Five’, as they now like to call themselves! This photograph shows the girls as they are today, from left to right, Pat Pritchard, nee Milne, Mary Cranstone, nee Stevens, Evelyn Pasquet, nee Pritchard, Jean Norgate, nee Savage, and Marion Allen, nee Beckhurst. Sadly, Sylvia Fry passed away some time ago.
Jean simply could not get over the fact that the book had resurfaced after all these years and literally within a few yards of her childhood home. Not only did it bring back happy memories, but it has renewed past friendships and the ‘Famous Five’ have met for coffee on more than one occasion since then to relive those schoolday memories.

To ensure that the autograph book doesn’t get lost again Jean has decided to donate it to The Froyle Archive.

Colin Young and Jean Norgate Colin Young presents Jean with her autograph book

If you remember any of the ‘girls’ and would like to get in touch you can contact Jean by e-mail at
or Marion at