A Cracking Story!

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Many children at Arlington know of the safe which is located in the Arlington house. We’ve never found a key for it, visiting locksmiths have thrown their hands in the air and declared they cannot open it, and as it is bolted to the floor, Marilyn simply popped a pot plant on top, treating it rather like a plinth.

A couple of years ago, Clinton and I took all the Fives to see the safe, using its mystery as a provocation for our Unit of Inquiry, and during hard lockdown, those children on site were fascinated by it and, determined to open it, bending paperclips in earnest.

With Pam moving into what was Marilyn’s office, she took the step of contacting a safe cracker, and let me tell you, on the day of his visit, productivity at Arlington reached an all-time low.

On Thursday 21 January, the safe was cracked, and I was honoured to be the one to finally swing open the door. What we found inside took our collective breath away; it was Margaret Elizabeth Lyttle’s Order of Australia complete with medals, certificate and seals. Those of us there were delighted and proud beyond words. Mug, as she is affectionately known, was, of course, recognised in 1989 for her contribution to education, and it goes without saying that her imprint on the educational landscape remains significant today, and continues to inform our school, our practice and in turn the many children who come to Preshil.


I was working here in 1989 as an assistant teacher in the Fives, and I can’t recall there being any fuss made at the time. Libby Shade, one of our wonderful our archivists, related that Mug was not one to be fussed over as she was against the cult of admiration of a particular person. For her, all people are worthy of admiration.

As we embark on another year of living and learning together, this discovery reminds us that it is a daunting and tremendous honour that we are the custodians of her vision. This find is a lovely reminder that her work was not just impactful for those of us lucky to have known her, and those of us carrying on her work, it is a reminder that she was something truly special well beyond the front garden and the back gate.

Together with our archivists, we will contact Mug’s relatives to discover what their wishes are for the medals and citation. Until then, they will be in our reception should you wish to visit with them.

Cressida Batterham-Wilson
Acting Head of Arlington Campus

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