I guess all of us have been influenced and encouraged by an inspirational teacher or two? Mr My Chips is a born and bred Yorkshire man called Michael Scarborough who taught English at the grammar school I attended back in the sixties.
With hindsight it wasn’t an easy time for me: my father had died three years earlier and though I probably didn’t realise it then, his death left me feeling lost and insecure.
Mr Scarborough – and he definitely didn’t realise it at the time – passed on to me something even more vital than a deep love of words and a passion for reading and writing. He gave me back a little of the confidence and self belief which dad’s untimely death had pretty much shattered.
Here’s one way he helped.
When ‘sir’ introduced the class to Macbeth and asked pupils to read parts aloud, he cast me in the Lady Macbeth role. Me! I saw it as an honour, relished the spotlight and discovered I had a ‘voice’ in more ways than one. So much so I went on to enjoy a career in broadcasting as a BBC TV journalist and producer.
I’m a full-time author now but over the years often thought fondly of Mr Scarborough. I wanted very much to thank him for helping a shy insecure schoolgirl into making a good living from working with words – writing and reading them.
Time and again I tried contacting him but, no joy.
Then (long story short) . . .
Via a circuitous route that involved several laps of Friends Reunited, Facebook and YouTube, last autumn I finally tracked ‘sir’ down. Given nearly half a century had slipped by since our last contact I wasn’t even sure he’d remember me or recognise the name in his inbox. He did and I was genuinely overjoyed when he replied.
Since then, we’ve exchanged several emails and reminiscences and I’m hoping we’ll meet again later this year. We might even try organising an old school reunion.
Among the many things I’ve now learned about – as opposed, from – Mr Scarborough is that he, too, went on to work in broadcasting mainly on schools programmes for ITV and Yorkshire Television.
Oh, and I’ve also learned not to call him Mr Scarborough, or sir. After all this time, we’re on first name terms.
I was curious to see how he looks now and asked if he’d send a recent photograph. I smile fondly every time I see it, so: Thanks again, Michael. Here’s lookin’ at ya . . .
I won’t complete the line – he might make me write it out a hundred times.