Court hat

   R U B Y   M A R S H A L L

Ruby Marshall   Court hat

I started my career in Social Work in the 1960’s, initially as an Almoner. Later, in 1969, I qualified as a Child Care Officer at Newcastle University, UK. I was employed as a Child Care Officer which included duties attending the local courts when I had been acting as a Gaurdian-ad-Litem in adoption cases.


I chose Court hat because …

… when attending Court, female Child Care Officers had to be ‘hatted’ or they would not be permitted to the Court. None of the Child Care Officers owned a hat, but in the Children Officers’ room was a hat which we all used when attending Court. It was known as the Court hat and had not to be removed from the Children Officers’ room except for Court duties. The hat was known as the ‘Princess Marina Hat’[1] – colour black, about three inches deep and comfortably sat on the top of one’s head!

The Children Department at that time consisted of  a Children Officer (CO), a Deputy Children Officer (DCO) and four Child Care Officers (I was one), one of whom worked part time. There were no male CCOs, but the DCO was male.

We had to work on alternative Saturday mornings, no such thing as being paid overtime, the expectation was you finished work when you were able, but not before 5.00.p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays used to be long days: when we visited foster parents we had to see the foster father of the children fostered and at that time the local shipyards and engeneering works used to work overtime until 8.00.p.m. Foster parent visits could easily last until 10.00.p.m. – but you had to be in the Office by 8.30.a.m. the following day – no consessions, just expectations! Our caseloads were quite heavy – I had 70+ cases. Home Office Inspectors used to ring the CO at approximately 4.00.p.m. to say they were carrying out an Inspection the following morning, when they would “pull in” a selection of cases which they chose to examine.

We got used to the mandatory Court hat and just accepted the fact one had to wear it. One CCO absolutely hated it, but the other three of us just accepted the fact, we had to wear it – no discussion whatsoever.

[1] Interestingly, there’s a song by The Kinks (a British pop band) – “She’s Bought a Hat like Princess Marina”!

One thought on “Court hat”

  1. Ruby, this Object is a lovely example of a personal object (in this case one that was not much loved!) giving us a real feeling for those early days of social work. Such a different world, professionally and culturally, and yet there you were ‘doing social work’ with aims and values that we fully recognise now.
    More historical objects please!


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