Claire Crowson | King's College Taunton

Claire Crowson

Our BTEC Sport pupils enjoyed an engaging day with @RFU community coach, Chris Hurd and Clare Daniels, the first fe… https://t.co/gQtIKvUYoo - 21 hours ago

Although I was only a pupil for two years, I really am a product of King’s.Twenty years before I started, my mother, Miss Kay, joined the staff of the junior school as it moved from upstairs in the Main school to its new home of Pyrland Hall. She duly met and married my father, “Boris” Wilson. Four years later, my brother was born on the first day of the Michaelmas Term (22nd September!), at home in Stoke Road in the early hours of the morning. Dad rang Mr Unmack to tell him, and the response was, “Splendid, Wilson. See you at the staff meeting later.” No paternity leave in those days! Dad had to leave Mum entirely on her own apart from new baby – I was staying with the Padfields at Pear Tree Cottage.

In 1963 Dad became housemaster of Bishop Fox and we moved to Fullands – a wonderful playground for children with the huge grounds, but I realise now a hard place for Mum to live, sharing the house with a porter (for whom she had to cook morning and evening to start with) and a matron. Our accommodation was all mixed in with the boys – to get to our one bathroom (shared with the matron) we had to go past the boys’ bathroom, and there were dormitories above and below my bedroom. I have memories of the building of the block behind Stoneleigh, the acquisition of The Holt and the founding of Tuckwell house, plays in Big School, the building of the Bishop Wilson Hall and Music School, and, of course, we spent many happy hours in the old swimming pool.

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When I joined the Sixth Form in 1972, there were 12 girls, six in VI-1 and six in VI-2, allocated in pairs to the boys’ houses. I was the first child of a master (no women on the staff in those days!) to be allowed to go to the part of the school their father taught in – before that, my brother (along with other sons of masters) had gone to Pyrland, but they were not allowed to go the Main school. I believe that these days it is absolutely the norm for staff children to go to the school – as it should be.

Having grown up in the school, I think I had more idea of what it was going to be like than some of my peers, for whom all those boys – and the attention – seemed quite a culture shock. Two of my peers and I were the first girls to sing in the chapel choir, and a favourite memory has to be the spine-tingling singing of Adeste Fideles by candle-light in the carol service – would the tapers we held set long hair on fire?!Hearing Widor’s Toccata on the radio always takes me back to processing out of chapel on a Sunday morning.We were, I think, also the first girls to have PE lessons – in the old gym with dear Sarge. It could not be agreed what “standards” we should aim for in athletics and swimming, so we were let off those. I played in the house hockey team and dived in the swimming sports – in those days, there were no separate boys’ and girls’ competitions.I also remember playing the piano (badly) in the House Music competition. As a girl, we were guaranteed parts in house plays, and I remember spending a lot of time rehearsing and performing plays and also doing make-up and back-stage stuff. I particularly remember being Lady Hamilton and having to sing songs which we had set to hymn tunes.

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Having grown up in the school, I think I had more idea of what it was going to be like than some of my peers, for whom all those boys – and the attention – seemed quite a culture shock. Two of my peers and I were the first girls to sing in the chapel choir, and a favourite memory has to be the spine-tingling singing of Adeste Fideles by candle-light in the carol service – would the tapers we held set long hair on fire?!Hearing Widor’s Toccata on the radio always takes me back to processing out of chapel on a Sunday morning.We were, I think, also the first girls to have PE lessons – in the old gym with dear Sarge. It could not be agreed what “standards” we should aim for in athletics and swimming, so we were let off those.I played in the house hockey team and dived in the swimming sports – in those days, there were no separate boys’ and girls’ competitions.I also remember playing the piano (badly) in the House Music competition.As a girl, we were guaranteed parts in house plays, and I remember spending a lot of time rehearsing and performing plays and also doing make-up and back-stage stuff.I particularly remember being Lady Hamilton and having to sing songs which we had set to hymn tunes.

Michael Rogers at that time was a languages teacher, and I remember the rest of my French set not being impressed when we arrived at our lesson in one of the pre-fabs down past the chapel and he announced that we were going to watch the wedding of Princess Anne on the tv!I was also taught by Ben Sykes, Roger Mott and John Lee (I couldn’t be in Dad’s English set), all of whom stayed at the school a very long time.We left Fullands in 1978 and Dad retired in 1985, but his connections with the school went on till he died in 2006, so I continued to get King’s news.

After King’s I read French at university, and during my year abroad when I worked as an assistant, I realised that teaching was undeniably in my blood.I am now in my 39th year of teaching French, in a girls’ grammar school just south of Manchester which reminds me in many ways of Bishop Fox’s where I went before King’s, when it was still up Kingston Road towards Pyrland.I have been married 35 years and have two children, neither of whom went down the teaching route.Being in Manchester and still constrained by term dates, it is hard to get to OA events, though I do still go to Taunton regularly to see Mum.

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