When did you start at Prior’s Field and what did you originally go there to teach?
I came to PF in January 1974, initially just to do some after-school flower arranging classes. How things were to change!
I became friends with Melanie Brown, the games teacher. We played tennis and before long she had me helping in her department. I had played many sports when I was at school and was just about competent enough to umpire the netball and lacrosse house matches. I also took some junior lessons. Pictured below.
Is there a particular memory which stands out?
I always remember the day when I had a group of girls on the netball court and they suddenly all stopped playing, looked at me and one of them said "Is it true Mrs Gay?"
I had found out at break just before the lesson that I was pregnant. So the first people I told that my baby was on the way were PF girls! I will never know how they knew.
What was the tennis like at PF?
I continued to work in the PE department as the school tennis coach when my daughter started school in 1982. I am very grateful to the school for sending me on the LTA coaching course. We had some great tennis players and had much success in various school leagues. In those days I drove the minibus to matches - having passed the driving test taken by the maintenance man!
You taught English as a Foreign Language for 35 years, how did that come about?
I started teaching English to the overseas girls when I qualified for that some years later, and this gradually took over from the tennis coaching. These girls were very special to me, being universally hard working, respectful and appreciative. It is not easy being thrown into an alien culture on your own at a young age with little knowledge of the language. In my final year I became guardian to several girls. This happened because one girl had had a miserable half term with a single lady and subsequently was very upset in my lesson. She tearfully asked me to be her guardian.
What did you love about PF?
I loved every moment of my time at PF. The flower arranging, tennis coaching, English teaching (all in small groups) and guardianship gave me the opportunity to establish relationships with young people that would otherwise not have been possible. I was able to reach into other cultures and age groups, which was a privilege, and has enriched my life.
Are you still in touch with any girls?
I am still in touch with many girls living all over the world and I occasionally meet them. Many now have children of their own, of course. Only last week I had a message from a girl in Korea who wants to put her daughter's name down for the school. She is now a well-known fashion designer in that country.
Where did your extended knowledge of the school come from?
When John Spencer came to teach History of Art, this relatively new A-Level, I asked him if I could sit in on some of his lessons. The Headmistress agreed so I went along whenever I could. He was an inspirational teacher and thus my interest in the social and architectural history of the school was born. I particularly love the Voysey designed air vents, window latches and fireplaces.
Finally, I have to mention the wonderful enduring friendships established with my colleagues at the school. I have so many lovely friends, all with a wealth of knowledge in their sphere.
So their company is always stimulating and fun. It is comfortable and easy being with people you know so well, and of course who know you. Without doubt these friendships will last as we all grow really old - they have already stood the test of time.
Thank you Prior's Field!
Cherry Gay on the tennis court
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