Edie Timm was an object of mockery when she was starting out in life on St Helena, thanks to a severe stammer. She refused to let herself be laughed down.
She took herself off to the UK to improve her education, and launched herself on the path that led to her being awarded an MBE in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
One moment stood out in her journey of transformation – the moment when she ran into her tutor’s arms for support when she had to read a poem in public. She managed it without fluffing a word.
In a message of congratulations, Governor Mark Capes has praised Edie’s “tremendous strength of character”.
Edie, who rose to become chief education officer on St Helena, has now told Saint FM radio station how she refused to let her speech problems hold her back.
“I stammered all the way through to adulthood,” she said. “Young ones laughed at me. Adults laughed at me here in St Helena.”
Because of her stammer, she was held back in her career, and not sent to the UK for training in her work as a teacher. But in fact, when the overseas trip did come, it proved to be a turning point.
“In UK,” she said, “no-one laughed at me.
“I had to study for my O-levels and A-levels, at Wynyard Hall Teacher Training College in County Durham and I was the only overseas student.
“It was a ladies’ college. All the students were taken with me and they were all kind and, you know, helped me where I needed to be helped.
“My tutors were good – very good, in actual fact. I said my poem for the final exam in my tutor’s arms, because the hall was so big and I had to throw my voice and I couldn’t start and I just ran down the hall into my tutor’s arms and I said the poem, Lenin, without stammering at all.”
Edie stayed on in the UK and even taught in British schools. Eventually, family reasons brought her home.
She became the first Saint to be head teacher of Prince Andrew School, a job she held for four years before taking over from Basil George as chief education officer. “I also trained school teachers here after I came back from UK.”
She told how she faced a choice when she was young. “With people laughing at me, children here on St Helena at that time laughing at me, I would either go under and not do the things that I’ve done, or come out on top.
“I made my mind up I was going to live and live it well, so I became stronger.”
Of her MBE, she said: “I’m overwhelmed. I’ve done everything in my life which I’ve enjoyed, here in St Helena and in UK.”
And her closing words showed she had put her past pain behind her: “I want the world to know how they have helped me, because so many people have helped in many ways and I want them to know that I appreciate it. Thank you.”
Governor Capes – the Queen’s representative on St Helena – has offered his “warm congratulations” on the royal recognition. He said:
“I am delighted that Edith Timm has been honoured with an MBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours, announced on 16 June. I feel sure that anyone who knows Edith will agree that she fully deserves the award for her services to education and to the community.
“Edith faces all the many and varied challenges of life with cheerfulness and tremendous strength of character, setting a fine example for others to follow. I hope the entire community will join with me in sending her warm congratulations.”