Date Posted... Feb 15th 2024




OT Feature: Sam Willsher CO03

In the latest edition of The Truronian 2022/23, we are delighted to share even more stories about just a few of our Old Truronians who have kindly shared their journey after leaving Truro School with the Development and Alumni Relations team. One of them is our very own: Development and Alumni Relations Manager, Sam Willsher, who attended the School between 1994-2001 as a boarder from the Isles of Scilly. Sam takes the titles of Old Truronian, current staff member, and now also current parent as his son, Max, has recently started in the 1st Year.

Did you enjoy your time at Truro School?

Immensely! So much so that I jumped at the chance to work at Truro School when the opportunity arose. Looking back though, I am not sure a 16-year-old Sam would have believed that one day I would return as a member of staff and actually be allowed in the staff room.

Do you have any special or specific memories of your time at Truro school?

So many to mention!

I lived on the Isles of Scilly and was a boarder at both the Prep and Senior Schools from 1994 to 2001. Being a boarder meant that I was lucky enough to experience so many special Truro School memories.

Sport was my thing at School and as soon as I started at Treliske (now Truro School Prep) I went to every sports club going. That’s the great thing about being a boarder, you could go to every after-school club and I took every opportunity that came my way. I was keen to show Mr Hobson (Hockey), Mr Neale (Football) and Mr Lear (Rugby) my sporting enthusiasm and was warmly welcomed into the school’s sports teams.

A standout Prep School memory that I look back fondly on were the adventures that we had after evening Prep in the ‘side woods’. In small groups we would patrol the outer borders of the school grounds on the hunt for wayward golf balls from Truro golf course. We would trade different golf ball makes and colours. I’m pleased to report that this tradition is still going strong. Ironically, today’s Prep School pupils are highly likely to find some of my wayward golf balls when teeing off from the 3rd hole.

Playing in the Senior School’s 1st XV rugby team whilst still in the 5th Year was a personal sporting achievement which I was really proud of. Receiving my Rugby colours tie (which I still wear occasionally at work) in a whole school assembly meant so much.

I can also clearly remember receiving my end of term 1st Year school report from Poltisco Housemaster Mr Collinge (TS Teacher of Mathematics 1961-1989). I was instantly surprised and taken aback when he praised me for my drastic improvement and near straight A* grades. Only to quickly discover (to Mr Collinge’s horror) that he had picked up Samantha (Sam) Abraham nee Wilshaw’s CO03 report card and not mine in error. At least, for a few short moments I got to experience what it was like to be an A grade student!

Did you have any specific career dreams or aspirations? Or when did you first decide upon a particular path?

In the 3rd Year we were tasked with delivering a career presentation to the class. Mr Vanstone and Mr Golds (TS Teacher of French and English, among other subjects 1968-2007) were our 3rd Year form tutors. I sat there in awe of many of my classmates who at that early age already knew what career path they wanted to pursue. They knew what subjects they had to study at GCSE, A Level and at university to achieve their goals.

At 14 I was less committed than my peers on knowing what I wanted to be when I was older. I come from an entrepreneurial family and grew up within the family business – Papers Past. This unique business sells original newspapers from the day you were born. Growing up around the family business meant I learnt first-hand the importance of talking to customers, selling products and how a business was run. From memory, my career presentation was on becoming a Sales Rep (I think) getting leads and closing deals sounded fun to me and on reflection isn’t too far off the mark from how my career journey developed.

What did you do immediately after leaving Truro School?

Shh! Don’t tell anyone, but after leaving Truro School at the end of my GCSE’s I went to the ‘other educational establishment’ up the road in Truro. This was a hard decision to make as I didn’t want my Truro School journey to end. However, in hindsight it was the right decision for me at that time in my life. I successfully completed a sports diploma course with the view to study a sport related course at university and potentially become a PE teacher. However, one subject on my course which stood out for me was the Business Studies module. Upon finishing my sports diploma and still not knowing 100% what I wanted to do as a career left me at a crossroads. After much thought and wanting to keep my career options broad I started a business degree at Cornwall Business School run in partnership by Plymouth University. The transferable skills which I gained from my love of sport backed up with the experience of gaining my business degree (along with my time at Truro School) set me up well for life in the real world!

Where do you live now?

As a family we live in Truro. I’m lucky enough to be able to walk to work after dropping my older two children off at primary school. When walking up the path to the main school building, I often get flashbacks of my time at Truro School. A standout memory was one evening that we used a longboard to luge down the ‘snake’. No doubt we took inspiration from the movie Cool Runnings but I certainly would not recommend this activity now after speed bumps have been installed.

Where do you work now and where is your employment based?

Truro School, or more accurately the Tower Office, on the top floor of the main school building. My desk is in a corner of the office where (in my time as a boarder) the then common room’s TV was located. I can still remember watching Neighbours in this room with Chris Cooke, Rob Turner, Chris (Cre) Williams, Nelson Chan, Tom Glover and Luke Harrison – CO03. As soon as Neighbours finished at 6pm there was a mad dash for the door with everyone flying down the many flights of stairs to grab dinner in the dining room.

What does your current role entail?

I officially started working at Truro School back in January 2020 as the Business Development Manager for Truro School Enterprises. You don’t need me to tell you what happened in March 2020. It was a challenging time to start a new role and the ever-changing economic environment and subsequent lockdowns did not help the matter. Despite these setbacks and challenges I learnt a lot during this time as was supported by some amazing colleagues. In April 2022 I saw the Development & Alumni Relations role being advertised and jumped at the opportunity. With the support of my colleagues in the Development Office, Amanda and Jo, the last 12 months in this role have been an enjoyable journey, despite the steep learning curve working in a new sector.

Simply put, my role as Development & Alumni Relations Manager can be broken down into two sections – engagement and fundraising. Engagement with our Old Truronian Community & fundraising for life changing bursaries through the Truro School Foundation. These two elements of my role are two passions of mine. I love nothing more than chatting all things Truro School and reminiscing about school life with Old Truronians at reunion events. I was also compelled to donate to the Truro School Foundation in 2020 after the sad passing of my late Headmaster Guy Dodd (TS 1993-2001) and the creation of the Guy Dodd Bursary Award Appeal.

I have had the privilege of meeting so many interesting and inspiring Old Truronians with many tracing their life successes back to their time Truro School. Our paths may not have crossed during our time a Truro School but it does not take long to realise that we have many shared experiences. Our Old Truronian Community are generous in not only donating to the Truro School Foundation but also giving their time and career advice to our current students. It is clear to see that many former pupils still hold ‘Esse Quam Videri’ close to their hearts. I look forward to meeting many more Old Truronians and please do reach out and connect if you feel compelled to support our current pupils with career advice or you are able to support life changing bursaries through donating to the Truro School Foundation.

Is there anything that you are especially proud of relating to your life or career?

In life I am hugely proud of my whole family. Despite the challenges which have been thrown our way, things do not get us down for long and I am hugely excited for the adventures which are yet to come.

In my career I’m proud of joining the Development & Alumni Relations team. I feel immensely lucky to have joined a department who have already achieved amazing things. Of course, there is always more to accomplish when it comes to engaging with our Truro School community and fundraising for the Truro School Foundation. As a team I hope we can have real impact on achieving these goals.

Did you consider any other career?

Whilst completing my business degree I worked at Marks & Spencer at the weekends in the menswear department and subsequently got promoted to a manager role. I aspired to get onto the highly competitive M&S graduate scheme and move out of Cornwall. I was not successful with my application and made the decision to move away from retail.

I have always been open to opportunities and stepping outside of my comfort zone (although it can be scary at times). A prime example of this was after leaving M&S I signed up to a recruitment agency in Truro and vowed to say ‘yes’ to every shift or short-term job which was offered to me. This resulted in me working in a lot of different businesses and organisations. It was exciting to experience how different businesses worked and I quickly got to know which types of industries I did not want to work in. I was lucky to also be able to work with my dad at Papers Past and fondly remember us hustling hard at the N.E.C Trade Shows, pitching our unique products to interested buyers from small corner shops to international businesses. I learnt a lot from these experiences and continued to keep my eyes open for other opportunities if they arose.

A chance meeting with a friend of a friend (all set up by Mr Frewer – Truro School Prep Deputy Head) led to what I thought would be another short-term job but instead resulted in a fun and rewarding marketing role at a company called Treasure Trails. I had now moved from a unique business selling birthdate newspapers to one selling self-guided family treasure hunts across the UK. Treasure Trails had experienced some issues with its core business model and was in the balance when I joined.

Despite this uncertain future we worked hard in improving the product, understanding the core customer needs, and building the online exposure of the business. These simple principles (along with a sprinkling of luck) turned the business around and when I eventually left my role as Head of Marketing 6 years later the company was employing 7 full time members of staff and generating strong year on year growth. It was one crazy journey where we made many mistakes along the way, but I was proud to play my part in that particular story. I guess my 3rd year careers presentation wasn’t too far off the mark after all – Mr Vanstone will be proud!

Is there any advice you could offer anyone considering a similar life or career path?

This is going to sound so very cheesy but, be brave and follow your own path. However, make sure you have a safety blanket around you of people who you can reach out to for advice and guidance if you need it.

However, if you were like some of my 3rd year pals (Ben Hyatt CO03 and James Conran CO03 I’m looking at you) and know exactly what job you want to do then map the stages out and crack on and achieve those goals. Alternatively, if you are unsure about the next step or struggling to find your calling in life keep your eyes open to opportunities. Instead to following a fixed career path try and build transferable skills which you can keep in your career toolbox.

Please tell us a little about your family life

I am married to Lucy (an ex-Truro High School student). We have three children Max 11, Emily 8 and Rosie 2.

Max started Truro School in September 2023, much to Mr Laity’s disapproval as this news makes him ‘feel very old’ as he can remember teaching me back when I joined as a 1st Year in 1996. I have reassured him that this ‘Willsher’ is the model student and nothing like his father!

Are any of your family still located in Cornwall?

Lucy and I are super lucky to have the support of our families who all live relatively local, although my dad, step-mum and grandma have recently relocated to the wrong side of the Cornwall/Devon border.

Having our wider family close means that we often have weekend family adventures together. Bringing our children up in Cornwall is a real honour! Seeing their happy faces when jumping waves or climbing trees in the woods makes me feel lucky that we call Cornwall home.

What are your hobbies or how is your leisure time spent?

Family life and weekend club logistics currently dominate my leisure time. However, I am playing the long game with all three of my children when it comes to getting back into hobbies that I once enjoyed. I coach the under 11’s cricket team at Truro Cricket Club and wishfully look ahead to a time when Max and I might both play in the same senior cricket team together. If I could only get Emily or Rosie to enjoy playing golf, then my mission would be complete. Wish me luck as Emily’s passion is drama and being two, Rosie is only interested in Peppa Pig at the moment!

Are you still in touch with anyone from your time at Truro School?

I made some amazing friendships at Truro School which are still going strong more than 20 years later! The shared experience of Truro School brought us together, but our friendships have grown and developed long after leaving.

Our local friendship circles are made up of loads of Old Truronians. When time allows and calendars synchronise, we enjoy family meet ups with Adam Hayward CO03 & Becky Hayward CO03 (nee Simmons), Michele Pennington CO03 (nee Hammond) and Natalie Cape CO03. We are massively outnumbered by children, but it is always great to catch up when we can.

I also try and meet up with my old ‘partner in crime’ Tom Glover CO03 as much as possible and it does not take long for us to reminisce about our time as boarders in Poltisco and Trennick.

Crazy to admit it, but 2023 marks 20 years since my year group left Truro School. If you are reading this article and are part of the class of 2003 then it would be amazing to catch up at our next 101st Annual Reunion Dinner on Saturday 28 October. Forgive me for the shameless plug but it had to be done!

Do you feel your time at School, or anything about your time here, helped you to progress in later life?

Boarding life at Truro School meant that I had the privilege of meeting and living with a whole host of different people. This valuable experience has helped me to build personal friendships and professional connections which have stood the test of time.

I’ve also tried to carry the school motto with me throughout my life. It is a great ethos to follow. ‘Esse Quam Videri’ has also been introduced to my children in the hope that the meaning behind the motto will have a positive impact on their life’s as it has on mine.

What are your immediate / long term plans for the future?

These questions are always so tricky to answer. It reminds me of the job interview question of ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?’

My family and professional live has firmly been built in Cornwall and despite the grass sometimes looking greener elsewhere, I see us continuing to call Cornwall home.

As a proud Old Truronian I am also really looking forward to becoming a Truro School parent and seeing what opportunities my children might take along their senior school journey. I hope to play an active role within the Truro School community and continue to highlight the important fundraising work that Truro School Foundation does to support life changing bursaries.

Life is more than just work, so I am optimistic of getting back to those long-lost hobbies and enjoying life’s adventures with family and friends when they come along.

Are you an Old Truronian? Can we share your story in The Truronian? Simply complete the interview questionnaire online or contact the Development and Alumni Relations team at [email protected]. We want to hear from absolutely everyone – every single Old Truronian story is interesting and important.