“No, Annie dear, we want someone for junior rugby.” I ignored Dick Taylor’s advice, and applied, offering junior drama instead of rugby. The post was actually for English and History, subjects I had taught 20 years earlier at the girls’ grammar school, and which I had been teaching at Truro School for a term, filling in for Watson (Watson Weeks – TS 1957-1992) while he was on sabbatical in Oxford. I enjoyed my return to teaching and was familiar with the school. After all, many of the staff were our friends and I had been helping Watson with the school play since our marriage in 1962. And I had appeared annually, with other staff wives, in the Masters’ Play, a three-act farce which delighted the students every Christmas. There is nothing better than seeing masters losing their dignity and often their trousers!
Truro School was gradually evolving into full co-education. The first girls arrived in the mid-seventies, but old habits died hard. Most masters still called students by their surnames – not appropriate for girls! There was no female cloakroom for staff. When I showed Veronica Edwards (TS 1984-1995) round the school, she remembers my pointing out the toilet along the corridor beyond the sewing room, the one in the chapel, and the one in the sports hall. There were only two televisions in the school, and these had to be booked in advance. Trying to get the second form history class to see the historic raising of the Mary Rose, which we had been following all term, was difficult.
As more women joined the staff in the eighties, Barry Hobbs (TS Headmaster 1986-1992) appointed me Senior Mistress in the mid-eighties and, with his permission I held a meeting for the female staff to see if there were any particular problems affecting them or the girls. We were all surprised that the male staff were quite indignant! In retrospect I am amused at their reaction. Did they feel threatened? I am glad that attitudes have become much more relaxed. I did attend several interesting meetings at other HMC schools who were moving into co-education.
When Brian Jackson (TS 1954-1994 and interim Headmaster 1992-1993) took charge before Guy Dodd (TS Headmaster 1993-2001), I relieved him of the responsibility of providing cover for absent staff, and for organising invigilation for public examinations. As there are exams on every day of the summer term, this is quite time consuming. I expect it is done by computer now. Anyway, this was not enough for Guy. His first job for me was to improve the girls’ uniform which was a dull grey skirt. I felt that a kilt did not easily date (though it can easily be shortened just by turning over the waist band) and I enjoyed looking for the right colour plaid. I believe this is still worn over 30 years on.
Then came the appointment to Head of Sixth Form. In an attempt to add culture to the senior students, I formed the Burrell Society, to introduce Science to the artists, and Art to the scientists. Once a month I inveigled staff, old boys and parents to lecture the Sixth Form. I remember Peter Allen (TS 1981-2012) introducing physics, talking about ping-pong balls and space. Watson analysed a scene from the film ‘The Heat of the Night’. Nigel Haywood CO73, described life in the diplomatic world. And OT parent Rick Stein, revealed that he went into the restaurant business because the police kept closing his nightclub in Padstow.
When Wednesday activities were introduced, I spent a happy year teaching cooking to the Sixth Form. I felt they needed basic cooking skills to see them through college. Every week a group would descend on my kitchen to cook eggs, sauces, vegetables and follow simple recipes. They had to cook, eat and clear up between 2.00pm and 3.45pm. This activity ceased after a year. I never knew why. Too few students? I could only fit 5 into my kitchen. Too much fun? Health and safety? So, I had to find another activity and remembered the boxes of Scrabble in the junior library.
The Scrabble club revealed much talent, and I enjoyed touring Cornwall and Devon with teams for tournaments at weekends. Best of all was the introduction of a National schools’ competition in London, after regional heats. We reached the finals 3 years running, and in 1997, Harry Oram CO99 and David Trethewey CO02, became the National Scrabble champions. There should be a cup somewhere in school! And Brett Smitherham CO97, later became World Scrabble Champion.
Watson and I enjoyed working together. We always shared an A-Level English class and made it the custom to entertain them to lunch on the Sunday before exams began, we said it was too late for revision and wanted them to relax. The sun always shone on our luncheon parties, which were usually hilarious. Was it Jessamy Young CO91 who fell in the pond? Over the years we had arranged many theatre trips to London, Bristol and, especially to Stratford. And I remember driving to Plymouth to the Theatre Royal on a dark, wet December night, in a new school minibus. I became increasingly concerned by a red warning light that kept appearing. I was so worried that I could not concentrate on the play. Peter Lang (TS 1959-1992) reassured me the next day. “Oh, it’s the light that comes on when you are exceeding 50mph.”
I joined Watson in retirement in 1997. Between us we served 50 years at the Truro School chalk face, or rather, the white boards. Not a bad innings, but one that the Collinge family will soon overtake with three generations teaching there!