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NEWS > Former Staff > Elaine Brown

Elaine Brown

Having taught at Prior's Field for 19 years, Mrs Brown became a firm favourite amongst the girls, but what was the funniest thing that happened during a lesson?
17 Nov 2020
Former Staff
Lucy Makin and Mrs Elaine Brown (1973-1992)
Lucy Makin and Mrs Elaine Brown (1973-1992)

What were you doing before Prior’s Field?

Before Prior’s Field I was at the Royal Holloway at Egham where I got my degree in Botany - they don’t have Botany on its own now. When I lived in London, I would visit St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, as they had a musical evening after evensong; that’s where I met my husband and within a year of leaving the Royal Holloway, we were married. We had three children under three-and-a-half before I started at Prior’s Field. I have had five children altogether.

I did a course at the Sixth Form College in Guildford to prepare me to teach. That was the most valuable £8 I have ever paid in my life! They were mostly public school boys on the course who hadn’t got the required grades. It was very interesting for me because I observed two or three different teachers, so it brought me up to date a bit with the science. The trouble is with science is it is out of date in no time at all. I had never done Biology as such, which is a mixture, so we had to do things like comparing a mammal with a flowering plant! The sciences were all so separate when I grew up.

How did you hear about the job and what were your first impressions of PF?

We knew the Deputy Head of Charterhouse and his wife, Shirley Harrison, who taught a little Chemistry at PF. She encouraged me to go to Prior's Field for the interview, so I did and I started teaching the lowest form of the senior school.

At the first staff meeting, I remember we were asked to go without our pay because the school was struggling, financially. I don’t know what the political state was at the time, but it meant that people stayed in their jobs and it gave some stability to the school. That’s really what saved it, I think. It’s amazing how the school picked itself up.

Do you keep in touch with any of the Old Girls you taught?

Maryclare Prowse née Cutliffe (OG 1971-1976) sent a taxi for me and I joined in their reunion. I had a lot of fun with about 12 or so of the class. They were very nice and flattering! I also came back to PF for the 1978 reunion in 2018 for the girls’ 40-year Sleepover Reunion. We had a lovely lunch and it was fun to catch up with everyone.

What did the pupils enjoy the most and do you have any funny stories from your classes?

They all liked human biology and all things to do with human relationships. It is more difficult to get pupils interested in plants, although plants are our life-support system! The environment wasn’t so much in focus when I first taught at Prior’s Field, like it is now.

The funniest thing that happened in a class was when one girl labelled all the parts of the male and female reproductive organs the wrong way round. I know her name, but I won’t say!

What did you enjoy about working at PF?

My best memories are the friendships I made there and people like Rosie Ingram, Charles Lloyd-Jones, Carol Gibbons, Susan de Laszlo and Yvonne Graham. Of course, there were others too. Cherry Gay still looks as young now as she did then. She’s very good at including me if there is a get-together.

What have you done since you retired?

I was asked through Charles Lloyd-Jones to teach at the convent in Midhurst. I went for two terms and stayed for three years! I got on very well with the children there and I was there until I was 65, when I retired again.

After that, I put my name forward and got onto the QUANGO committee representing the environment. I specialised in pesticides and did that for five-and-a-half years. I also did a History of Art course with a friend for a while in Godalming which was fascinating. I learned a lot and I kick myself if I can’t answer the questions on University Challenge! I’ve been running a book club, too, for the U3A. We meet once a month.

To finish, we have a question from Old Girl Eugenie Walker née Harper for you:

Eugenie: I am going into educational psychology and neuropsychology and a lot of it is down to you imbuing me with a love of Biology. You can’t beat a good teacher!

I always remember you talking fondly of your children and you must have grandchildren now. Can I ask if you have spread the love of Biology to them? Are any of your grandchildren in science in some way?

Mrs Brown: I remember a lovely girl called Eugenie, yes.

The answer is yes. My eldest grandson is doing cancer research in America. He was 30 yesterday! He is married and they are there for three years. He does a lot of work with fruit flies!

I am really grateful for what Prior’s Field did for me for all those years and it’s really good to see it flourishing.

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