Page 5. " The girls could not take off their panama hats "
Traditional Panama hat
Public DomainTraditional Panama hat - Credit: United States Federal Government
Schoolgirl in her summer panama?
Public DomainSchoolgirl in her summer panama? - Credit: Project Gutenberg

Panama hats originated in Ecuador and were exported from the mid-19th century onwards. They are made from a soft straw (obtained from the leaves of the toquila straw plant, Carludovica palmata) and often have a ribbon around the crown.

They have traditionally been worn with warm weather clothing, including schoolgirls' summer uniforms.

Page 5. " the Buchmanites "

The Buchmanites (also known as the Oxford Group), founded by the American Lutheran Franklin Buchman, were a Christian Evangelical movement active at an international level during the 1920s and 1930s.

Buchman travelled widely in Nazi Germany, and it is said that he entertained the hope of converting Hitler to Christianity.

In 1938 the organisation became known as Moral Re-Armament, and it remains in existence today as Initiatives of Change.

Page 5. " Mussolini "
Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in 1937
Public DomainBenito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in 1937 - Credit: Muzej Revolucije Narodnosti Jugoslavije

 Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) founded and led Italy's National Fascist Party.

He maintained a fascist dictatorship in Italy between 1922 and 1943, and began using the title Il Duce (The Leader) in 1925.

Following Italy's support for Nazi Germany in World War II, Mussolini was eventually executed by Italian partisans in 1945.


Listen on Spotify to Giovinezza (Youth), the unofficial national anthem of Italy between 1924 and 1943, with lyrics commisioned by Mussolini.

Page 5. " the Italian Renaissance painters "

The Italian Renaissance is the name given to a period of intense cultural activity which took place in Italy between approximately 1300 and 1600.

Renowned artists of the period include Giotto (1266/7-1337); Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510); Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519); Michelangelo (1475-1564) and Titian (1488/90-1576).



Page 5. " the interior decoration of the London house of the author of Winnie the Pooh had been described to them "
A copy of 'Winnie the Pooh'
Creative Commons AttributionA copy of 'Winnie the Pooh' - Credit: Chris Drumm, Flickr

 Winnie the Pooh, a much loved children's book about a honey-loving bear, was first published in 1926.

Its author, Alan Alexander Milne (generally known as A.A. Milne), lived during the 1920s/1930s  at 11 Mallord Street in Chelsea (now 13 Mallord Street) in southwest London.

Click here to see a photo of the exterior of A.A. Milne's former home as it is today.


It is not clear whether Muriel Spark is assuming some particular knowledge on the part of the reader at this point, or whether this is a deliberately enigmatic statement designed to add to Miss Brodie's undoubted mystique.

Page 5. " the love lives of Charlotte Brontë and of Miss Brodie herself "
Constantin Heger (c.1865)
Public DomainConstantin Heger (c.1865) - Credit: unknown
Portrait of Charlotte Brontë based on a drawing by George Richmond
Public DomainPortrait of Charlotte Brontë based on a drawing by George Richmond - Credit: Evert A. Duychinck

 Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) was an English novelist and poet, best known for her novel Jane Eyre She was the elder sister of Emily and Anne Brontë, who were also novelists and poets. 

In the early 1840s, Charlotte and Emily spent some time in Brussels studying languages and teaching at the Pensionnat Heger where Charlotte fell in love with the owner, Constantin Heger, who was a married man.

Charlotte's subsequent love life was not uneventful. She is said to have been proposed to on four occasions, and in 1854 she accepted the proposal of her father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls. She died in March of the following year whilst expecting her first child. 

Page 5. " They were aware of the existence of Einstein "
Albert Einstein in 1921
Public DomainAlbert Einstein in 1921 - Credit: Ferdinand Schmutzer (1870-1928)

 Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who is most famous for having formulated the general theory of relativity, which he published in 1915. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

His ground-breaking insight into the relationship between matter and energy is expressed in the equation E=mc2, which has become widely known (if not so widely understood!).



Page 6. " but not the date of the Battle of Flodden "
16th century weapon from N. Yorks said to be have been used at Flodden
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike16th century weapon from N. Yorks said to be have been used at Flodden - Credit: Monstrelet, Wikimedia Commons

The Battle of Flodden (often known as Flodden Field) took place in 1513 near the village of Branxton in Northumberland.

It was fought between Scottish forces under the command of James IV of Scotland and English forces under the command of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey.

The battle ended in victory for the English, the death of James IV, and a tragic number of casualties on both sides.


Page 6. " She had been an admirer of Garibaldi "
Equestrian statue of Garibaldi in Genova
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeEquestrian statue of Garibaldi in Genova - Credit: Twice25/Rinina25, Wikimedia Commons

 Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) was a soldier and politician. He played a significant role in the unification of Italy and is considered one of the country's national heroes.

During a lengthy career, he  fought in various military campaigns, including the Uruguayan Civil War, the First and Second Wars of Italian Independence and the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.

On a less illustrious note, he has also given his name to a type of biscuit and a type of beard.

Garibaldi biscuits
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeGaribaldi biscuits - Credit: James F. Carter, Wikimedia Commons


Page 6. " 'O where shall I find a virtuous woman, for her price is above rubies' "
King James Version Bible
Creative Commons AttributionKing James Version Bible - Credit: Ben Sutherland, Flickr

This is a slight modification of a quotation (Proverbs 31:10) from the Authorized King James Version of the Christian Bible.

The standard version reads:

Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.

Page 7. " 'She left the web, she left the loom, She made three paces thro' the room "
'I am half-sick of shadows, said the Lady of Shalott' (1916)
Public Domain'I am half-sick of shadows, said the Lady of Shalott' (1916) - Credit: John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

These lines are taken from the poem 'The Lady of Shalott' by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

The poem is loosely based on the 13th century Arthurian novella La Donna di Scallota  which recounts how Elaine of Astolat dies of her unrequited love for Sir Lancelot.

Listen on Spotify to a recitation of the poem by Dame Sybil Thorndike

Full text


Alfred Lord Tennyson (1857)
Public DomainAlfred Lord Tennyson (1857) - Credit: Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
Page 8. " to admire the clouds on the Pentland Hills "

The Pentland Hills, which extend for about 20 miles, are situated to the south-west of Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland.


The Pentland Hills
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Pentland Hills - Credit: Mtcv, Wikimedia Commons

Google Map


Page 10. " This is nineteen thirty-six "
Wallis Simpson in 1936
Public DomainWallis Simpson in 1936 - Credit: unknown
Edward Vlll in 1932 whilst still Prince of Wales
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeEdward Vlll in 1932 whilst still Prince of Wales - Credit: German Federal Archive

1936 was a politically turbulent year in both Britain and Europe:

In May, Italian forces captured Addis Ababa in the culmination of what was known as 'The Abyssinia Crisis';

In July, the Spanish Civil War broke out;

In August, at the Berlin Summer Olympics, only members of the Ayran race were allowed to compete for Germany as Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party pursued their racist policies;

In December, following a prolonged period of constitutional crisis, King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée.

Listen on Spotify to Edward Vlll's abdication address

Page 10. " 'This is Stanley Baldwin who got in as Prime Minister and got out again ere long' "

Stanley Baldwin (1920s)
Public DomainStanley Baldwin (1920s) - Credit: Bain News Service
 Stanley Baldwin was a Conservative Prime Minister of Britain on three occasions: 1923-24; 1924-29; and 1935-37.

He fought the 1929 General Election (which he lost) under the slogan 'Safety First', which was meant to imply that he and his party were trustworthy and a 'safe pair of hands' for the nation.

Page 11. " 'Leonardo da Vinci, Miss Brodie,' "
'The Virgin of the Rocks'
Public Domain'The Virgin of the Rocks' - Credit: Leonardo da Vinci

'La Gioconda'
Public Domain'La Gioconda' - Credit: Leonardo da Vinci
 Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was one of the most significant figures of the Italian Renaissance.

A many-talented individual, he made significant contributions in the fields of art, sculpture, architecture, music, mathematics, engineering, anatomy, botany, geology and literature.

He is generally considered one of the best painters of all time. His celebrated works include The Virgin of the Rocks, The Last Supper and La Gioconda (better known as the Mona Lisa). He was also a talented draughtsman, whose beautifully crafted drawing and sketches include the type of studies known as caricatures.

'The Last Supper' (1495-1497)
Public Domain'The Last Supper' (1495-1497) - Credit: Leonardo da Vinci





Page 11. " The answer is Giotto, he is my favourite "

 Giotto di Bondone (1266/7-1337), usually known simply as Giotto, was a Florentine painter and architect.

He broke new ground in painting technique, and is seen as one of the most significant figures in Early Renaissance Italian art.

His most famous works include a series of frescos in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua and the altar piece known as the Ognissanti Madonna.


Judas's kiss (Scrovegni Chapel)
Public DomainJudas's kiss (Scrovegni Chapel) - Credit: Giotto di Bondone


Ognissanti Madonna
Public DomainOgnissanti Madonna - Credit: Giotto di Bondone


Page 11. " like Joan of Arc "

 Jeanne d'Arc,  known in English as Joan of Arc or the Maid of Orléans, was born in northern France ca.1412.

Claiming divine inspiration, she led the French Army to several victories in the Hundred Years' War, but was eventually captured and tried by the English before an ecclesiastical court.

She was found guilty of witchcraft and burnt at the stake at the age of 19.

In 1920 she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV, and subsequently  became one of the most revered saints of the Roman Catholic Church.

Page 12. " 'Tiger Tim's forsooth' "

Tiger Tim and his friends from Mrs. Bruin's jungle school were comic strip characters designed to appeal to very young children.

Following their appearance in The Rainbow comic in 1914, the characters were given their own comic named Tiger Tim's Tales in 1919. This was renamed Tiger Tim's Weekly in 1920.

When Tiger Tim's Weekly merged with The Rainbow in 1940, the characters continued to appear, and when publication of The Rainbow ceased in 1959 they were transferred to Jack and Jill, making their final appearance there in 1985.

Click here to see Tiger Tim's Annual from 1933 and here to see Tiger Tim's fan club badge.


Page 12. " Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness "

John Keats (1819)
Public DomainJohn Keats (1819) - Credit: Charles Brown
This is the first line of a poem by the English Romantic poet John Keats entitled, 'Ode to Autumn'

Full text

Listen on Spotify to a recitation of the poem by Robert Donat

Page 12. " I was engaged to a young man at the beginning of the War but he fell on Flanders' Field "
Poppies on a preserved trench near Diksmuide, Belgium
GNU Free Documentation LicensePoppies on a preserved trench near Diksmuide, Belgium - Credit: LimoWreck, Wikimedia Commons

The area known as the County of Flanders between 862 and 1795 is now divided between France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

During the First World War, Flanders' Fields referred to several battlefields, most notably to Ypres, Passchendaele and the Somme.

'In Flanders Fields' is the title of a well known poem written in 1915 by John McCrae. It was this poem which inspired the wearing of the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance.

Page 12. " He fell the week before Armistice was declared "

The First World War Armistice (the agreement to end hostilities between Germany and the Allied Powers) was signed on November 11, 1918 in a railway carriage in the Compiègne Forest in northern France.

The signatories were Marshall Ferdinand Foch, representing the Allies, and the politician Matthias Erzberger, representing Germany.

The poet Wilfred Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918, exactly one week (almost to the hour) before the Armistice. It is likely Muriel Spark would have been aware of this fact.




Page 12. " He came from Ayrshire "

Ayrshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Inbhir Àir) was, prior to 1975, one of the administrative counties of Scotland, and is now the name of one of its registration counties.

It is situated in the southwest of the country, on the shores of the Firth of Clyde, and is one of the most agriculturally productive areas of Scotland.


Ayrshire landscape
Creative Commons AttributionAyrshire landscape - Credit: ThingOnASpring, Flickr
Google Map


Page 13. " After that there was a general election and people were saying "Hang the Kaiser!" "
Kaiser Willhelm II (centre) with Generals von Hindenberg and Ludendorff (1917)
Public DomainKaiser Willhelm II (centre) with Generals von Hindenberg and Ludendorff (1917) - Credit: unknown

 Willhelm II (1859-1941), generally known as The Kaiser, was the last German Emperor and King of Prussia.

Following Germany's defeat in the First World War, he signed the instrument of abdication on November 28th, 1918. He went into exile in the Netherlands.

Kaiser Willhelm was the grandson of Queen Victoria, but this did not prevent him becoming a much-hated figure in Britain during the war.

The general election referred to took place on December 14th, 1918. It resulted in a coalition government, with David Lloyd George remaining as Prime Minister.

Page 13. " Hugh was one of the Flowers of the Forest "
Scottish bluebell
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeScottish bluebell - Credit: Lis Burke, Wikimedia Commons

 Flowers of the Forest is a Scottish folk tune which has been on record since the early 17th century.

Various lyrics have been written to the music, the most famous being Jean Elliot's 1755 lament, written in Scots, to commemorate those who died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 (see Bookmark p.6).

Full text 

Flowers of the Forest is often played at funerals and to commemorate the deaths of soldiers, particularly Scottish soldiers.

Listen on Spotify to the Scots Guards play The Flowers of the Forest

Listen on Spotify to Isla St Clair sing The Flowers of the Forest

Click here for the sheet music to play it yourself!


Page 17. " when she was out walking at Puddocky "

Puddocky (sometimes Puddockie) is a section of the Water of Leith (the main river that flows through Edinburgh) at Canonmills.

Being an area noted for its frogs and toads, it is sometimes thought that the name comes from puddock, the Scots language word for frog.

However, it has also been suggested that the name is a corruption of Paddock Hall or Paddock Haw.



Water of Leith near Canonmills
Creative Commons AttributionWater of Leith near Canonmills - Credit: Stuart Caie, Wikimedia Commons
Google Map





Page 18. " a flashy winter coat trimmed with fluffy fox fur like the Duchess of York's "
The Duke and Duchess of York in 1927
Public DomainThe Duke and Duchess of York in 1927 - Credit: unknown

 Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1900-2002) became the Duchess of York  in 1923 when she married Prince Albert, Duke of York, the second eldest son of King George V and Queen Mary.

Following the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936, she became Queen consort when her husband ascended the throne as George VI.

She was widowed in 1952  when, as the mother of the present Queen, she became known as The Queen Mother.


Page 20. " across the Dean Bridge "

The four-arched Dean Bridge crosses the Water of Leith at Dean Village.

It was designed by Thomas Telford and opened in 1833.


Dean Bridge, Edinburgh
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDean Bridge, Edinburgh - Credit: Brian MacLennan, Wikimedia Commons

Google Map


Page 21. " Down she came and found a boat Beneath a willow left afloat "


The Lady of Shalott
Public DomainThe Lady of Shalott - Credit: John William Waterhouse


As in the preceding paragraph, these lines are taken from The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson (see Bookmark p.7).

Page 22. " Regard the Mona Lisa over yonder "

The Mona Lisa is a world-famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, currently on display at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. It is sometimes known as La Gioconda or La Joconde, which translates as the joyous one or the laughing one. 



Page 22. " The babe leapt in her womb "
Altarpiece depiction of the Visitation (c.1434-35)
Public DomainAltarpiece depiction of the Visitation (c.1434-35) - Credit: Jacques Daret

This is a slightly modified quotation from the Authorized King James Version of the Bible's New Testament (Luke 1:41):

And it came to pass that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in the womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.

It is a reference to the visit by the pregnant Mary, mother of Jesus, to Elisabeth, mother of John the Baptist, whilst she too was pregnant. The event is generally known as the Visitation.

Page 22. " Come see where golden-hearted spring "

The first line of Clifford Bax's lyrics to the minuet from Berenice, an opera by Handel.

Listen on Spotify


Page 23. " the sea-maiden of the Hebrides "

Possibly a reference to The Sea-Maiden, a Scottish fairy tale collected by John Francis Campbell, which first appeared in 1862 in Popular Tales of the West Highlands.

Alternatively, this may be a reference to the mermaid that is said to have been sighted off the coast of Benbecula (Gaelic: Beinn nam Fadhla), an island in the Outer Hebrides, in 1830. It is said that she was killed by a local boy and buried on the island.


Google Map


Page 23. " If I were to receive a proposal of marriage tomorrow from the Lord Lyon King-of-Arms I would decline it "
Sir Francis Grant, Lord Lyon King of Arms in 1933, accompanied by H.R.H. The Duke of York and the Rev. Charles Warr
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumSir Francis Grant, Lord Lyon King of Arms in 1933, accompanied by H.R.H. The Duke of York and the Rev. Charles Warr - Credit: Mark Nesbitt
The Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms (often known as the Lyon Court) is the body which deals with all heraldic matters in Scotland.

The office of Lord Lyon King of Arms dates back to the 14th century and is possibly related to the ancient Celtic office  of Seanchaidh, or King's Poet.

The Lord Lyon is empowered by a Scottish parliamentary act of 1592 to prosecute anyone who uses unauthorised coats of arms.

Page 23. " like Sybil Thorndike "

Sybil Thorndike and her daughter in 1941
Public DomainSybil Thorndike and her daughter in 1941 - Credit: Imperial War Museum
 Dame Agnes Sybil Thorndike (1882-1976) was a well known British actress.

She is particularly noted for her potrayal of Joan of Arc in George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan, a role she played on numerous occasions between 1924 and 1941.

Click here to see a news report featuring Sybil Thorndike in 1933.