Career Profiles

Sibling Duo Alumni to Produce Legally Blonde Production

Since leaving Merchant Taylors’ Girls and Boys school, brother and sister duo, Laura and Mark McLaughlin, have been running stage school Plastersine Performing Arts Company. Laura graduated in 2006 from LIPA – Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and opened Plastersine with Mark in January 2008.

Since then, both Mark and Laura successfully auditioned for Manchester School of Acting, with Laura completing 2 years screen acting for beginners, and Mark still going every week for the last 5 years.

Director Mark has been on Hollyoaks several times, with a couple of small speaking parts, and was also the face of Cash Converters in 2014, where he was spotted by friends, family and students on the tv! Several friends would even have selfies outside cash converters shops with Marks face.

Both Mark and Laura pursued piano – Grade 8, trumpet – Grade 8, and vocals – Grade 8, with Laura then going on to gain her Associate Diploma in singing from the London College of Music.

She continued her passion for music and vocals by training with Dane Chalfin in Blue Print Studios Manchester for 5 years, learning Estill vocal techniques used on Broadway, Westend and film. She is currently waiting confirmation to do her CMT – Certified Master Trainer – exams in Estill.

Their latest achievement has been working on board P&O cruise ships during holiday periods, teaching the children on board in drama, singing and dance. With Mark and another team member recently returning from the Caribbean after producing Annie on board P&O Azura.

As a duo, they have produced the following musicals;

Seussical the Musical – 2013 at Ormskirk Civic Hall, Peter Pan the British Musical – 2014 in West Lancashire Theatre, Les Miserables – 2015 in Ormskirk School Theatre, and last year a HUGELY successful Grease, at the Atkinson Theatre in Southport, this first professional show!

Les Miserables was nominated for 10 NODA awards – National Operatic and Dramatic association, with 3 of our performers winning their categories, and Grease was nominated for 10 NODA awards this year too! The awards dinner is being held at the Floral Hall in February.

Following on from the well known classic Grease, a show that cost them £23,000 to produce, they wanted to keep things upbeat and modern, so they chose Legally Blonde the musical. Auditions are being held on January 28th / 29th, and with students from all over the North West auditioning for Les Miserables and Grease, Legally Blonde is sure to be just as competitive and successful, with no expense spared!

For information about their company and this show can be found on their website

From Renewable Energy to Vineyards


What started as an idea to open a French office for City Windmills, ended up with a relocation to Bergerac and a new career investing in vineyards. “Dordogneshire” as it is more commonly known, is part of Aquitaine and was under English rule for 300 years until the end of the 100 years’ war (1154-1453). Bergerac was part of Bordeaux until the wine appellations split in 1936 and it became its own separate wine region, just to the east of Bordeaux’s famous St Emilion.

Bergerac Wine Holdings ( was launched in April 2016, and I re-located there in August to operate my European businesses from a beautiful region full of chateaux and vineyards. (OC 1979) Jonathan Coulthard moved there in 2002, so there may even be an Old Boys re-union at some stage…

David Mapley 1978 leaver seen here with the Honorary Chairman, Comte Laurent de Bosredon

What Can a Fighter Pilot Teach a CEO?

Old Boy Justin Hughes attended Merchant Taylors’ between 1978-82 following his time at the prep school. He has now drawn upon his wealth of experiences to write a book illustrating how to transfer military approaches to working environments…


My first career was as an RAF fighter pilot.  I flew the Tornado F3 for 6 years and was then lucky enough to spend my last 3 years in the RAF on the Red Arrows.  I became the Executive Officer and flew around 250 displays worldwide.  I had no real longer-term career plan, so it was a case of working out where else I might be able to leverage my skills and experience.  I decided to set up a team building business applying my experience in the corporate world.

My break came before the business even started.  During my last summer on the Red Arrows, I flew in a flypast over Buckingham Palace in formation with Concorde for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.  As a result, I had the opportunity to take a flight to New York on Concorde.  The co-pilot asked me what my next job would be.  I told him about my plans for the business and he said I should meet his sister who was Head of Internal Comms at a large insurer.  They became our first client.

Since then, the business has grown in breadth and depth and is now a consultancy which partners with organisations committed to high performance.  There is a surprising commonality between the challenges faced by a fighter pilot and those which exist in large organisations.  A fighter pilot’s world is characterised by ambiguity, imperfect information and time pressure.  Sound familiar to anyone?  Over time, we have deconstructed the key factors which drive high-performance in that world:

  • People: the primacy of attitude over skills
  • Capability: building alignment before setting people free
  • Delivery: a process to close the gap between desired and actual outcomes
  • Learning: how to accelerate performance in real time

Bring these factors to life in an engaging way was the aim in writing my recent book:  The Business of Excellence:  Building High-Performance Teams and Organizations.  The book draws on lessons from the military, commercial and sporting worlds to illustrate and explain tools and methods which the reader can apply in their own teams.  Experience seems to show that the fighter pilot approach actually translates pretty well to other environments.


The Business of Excellence, published by Bloomsbury.  ISBN 978-1-4729-3022-4

Jerry Edey 1965-75 – My Life after Merchant Taylors’

My visit to Crosby in September 2016 was to join my friend of over 50 years, Andy Oakes, for the celebration of his 60th birthday but a conversation with Doreen Iddon in the Development Office at the School led to me having a look round the school for the first time since I left in 1974 and sharing some details of my subsequent career for Merchants’ Tales.

I spent 12 years in all at Crosby Prep, Merchant Taylors’ Prep and Main School and left very much imbued with the MTS culture. I was rather more successful at the sports and “leisure” side of things than academic excellence so no University for me but straight into the big wide business world. After a brief time in a quantity surveyors’ office I began my 32 year banking career with Midland Bank International Division Liverpool. I rose through the ranks in Liverpool and, after 5 years, I was offered a significant promotion to Bromley International Division which brought my wife and me to the South East where we settled and started a family. After 3 years in Bromley I soon learned that the streets of London were indeed paved with gold especially for bankers working in the City. For the next 24 years I worked for German, Austrian and French banks in the City specialising in finance of international trade and offering trade facilities to mainly medium and large FTSE 100 companies. I ran the UK trade finance offices of these foreign banks.  During that time I also set up and ran a trade finance company offering trade finance to small companies secured by the goods being financed.

MTS had given me the resilience, confidence, self-sufficiency and ethic of successful team work as well as the ability to get on with people of all types and cultures. I travelled extensively overseas gaining business. Competition within and outside the City was intense but believe I not only coped but flourished in that competitive environment.

After 32 years in banking I needed a complete change from the now 4 hour round commute and all the overseas travel so, at the age of 52, I shifted down from my career to a job as Mayor’s Attendant to the Mayor of the Borough and town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. I have enjoyed this great role for 8 years now. I accompany the Mayors to all their functions and appointments in and outside the Town Hall acting as PA on the road, responsible for security of the solid gold mayoral chains and of course I drive the limo!

Apart from my working career my life has been very full with many highlights. I have a wonderful wife these last 34 years and 3 happy and successful grown up children. I have played a tennis tournament at Wimbledon with Andy Oakes, played football at Wembley in front of 35,000 people and my love of nature / wildlife has led me to snorkelling with killer whales in the Norwegian Arctic, cage diving with Great White sharks off the Southern tip of Africa and trekking tigers on an elephant in India, to name a few adventures.

I meet up with my Old Crosbeian buddies from time to time (see photo) and my children live in Reading, Sheffield and Liverpool. My Liverpool roots, friends and family may well lure me back to Merseyside to live within the next few years.

Photo – Jerry & Friends:

L to R   Mark Litherland (works for local government specialising in property/estate management),      Jerry Edey, Andy Oakes (is now working as a qualified accountant but has previously run a trading company & a chain of retail outlets), Mike Dickinson (who attended Liverpool College) and Steve Breen (Senior Partner at a Southport & Waterloo law practice)








Elliott Hargreaves Career Profile

I attended Merchant Taylors 2002-2007, passing my GCSE’s (2 A*s, 3As, 3Bs and a C – cheers Merchants!) and I went on to Formby High for College. After much deliberation, I opted against university and decided I’d try and build contacts and experience in the work place, so I moved down to London and began work in my dad’s music management company. A couple of years into London life, we diversified the company and expanded it into sports and events, where Fusion Festival was born. Fusion caters for young teens and families, where children aged 5 and under can enter free! For the past three years, Fusion Festival has been held in Birmingham’s Cofton Park and has seen international superstars grace the stage, such as Jessie J, Pitbull, Ne-Yo, The Wanted, McBusted and Ed Sheeran, to name but a few.

In 2016, we’ve moved the festival to Liverpool, Otterspool Promenade and Park, on September 3rd and 4th.

Caitlin O’Brien – A Career in Medical Physics

Pick up my UCAS personal statement today and you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d booked a flight to CERN and was halfway to a career in particle physics. Instead, when I arrived at Nottingham to study Physics, the breadth of topics available and the freedom and flexibility of my course opened my eyes to opportunities I had never really considered, or even knew existed. A combination of an excellent department, enthusiastic lecturers and career opportunities, eventually lead me into medical physics.

As graduation approached I had two main options: train with the NHS for 3 years to become a qualified medical physicist, or take up a fully funded PhD in Biomedical Imaging at Oxford University. I decided on the latter, although I have many friends who opted to go down NHS route.

I’m still surprised by how little people know about medical physics as I am reminded every day of the large and direct impact it has on peoples’ lives. Medical physics is the basis of any technique we use to image the human body such as ultrasound, MRI or X-ray, as well as playing a crucial role in drug development, cancer treatment and understanding mental health, to name but a few. So far in my short 3 years of studying medical physics I’ve worked on projects involving Osteoporosis, Schizophrenia, Epilepsy and Cardiovascular disease. My current project involves trying to measure oxygen uptake in the brain using MRI, with the aim of improving treatment planning and outcome of stroke patients. We’ve recently had the go-ahead to scan our first NHS patient which is incredibly exciting.

I’m not sure if my future lies in academia but if reading my personal statement has taught me anything it’s that you can never predict the opportunities that are going to come your way or where you’re going to end up.

Nicky Swift (1991-98) – A Career in Musical Theatre



It’s been eighteen years since I left MTGS, though in some ways it only feels like a few! I went straight to Birmingham University and got my music degree, followed by a post grad year at The Royal Academy Of Music (musical theatre course). It was always the route I wanted to go, but along the way I was met with a number of people who tried to discourage me from such an unsteady career! Don’t get me wrong, a career in the performing arts is hard.really hard, and you have to want to do it more than anything else in the world. There are constant knock backs and people will criticise you to your face about your singing/acting/dance but, along the way, you develop a thick skin and when you do get offered a job, you forget the tougher days. It’s hard work but if you believe in yourself you can achieve anything in life.

I’ve been lucky, I have an incredibly supportive family, friends and partner. I’ve been fortunate enough to work pretty consistently in the business, from a two year stint at Les Miserables in the West End to shorter jobs up in Liverpool at the Everyman Theatre and The Royal Court, (the latter which incidentally has another ex MTGS girl working as casting director). I’ve worked on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, TV appearances, Buddy the musical, Cats (back in the day when I could still kick my leg high enough!) and now I’m touring the UK in Footloose the musical where I’m playing one of the leads. I get to see a different city every week, I get to catch up with old school friends along the way and perform to a wider variety of audiences. In this show I also get to play the piano, flute and sax as we are not only the actors on stage but we are also the band. These days my casting bracket has changed.  I’ve gone from playing the smaller character parts, or understudying the principal roles to being cast as the ‘mum’ parts….yes, I’m now at that awkward age, I’m embracing it.  These parts are usually more interesting anyway… at least that’s what I tell myself! My life is full, I have made tremendous friends over the years and continue to make more as I go from job to job, every day is different and I am hugely grateful for that.

In November I will take two months off, I will rest my voice, have some family time, join my partner on his tour for a while and actually have some ‘me’ time….after 11 months of doing a high energy show like Footloose, seven very fast costume changes per show 8 times a week, playing the sax whilst roller skating and dancing for an entire 80’s megamix at the end of the performance, I think I need a rest!

Top Industry Accolade for Anna Ratcliffe (1999 Leaver)

Former pupil Anna Ratcliffe (1999) and Director of The Michel Roux Jr Cookery School in Clapham, London, has been honoured with a top industry accolade for her work at Cactus Kitchens.

The school works with a number of male chefs however the team running the business is entirely female. The school was crowned 2016 Cookery School of the Year at the Food and Travel Magazine Reader awards celebrating the best in the worlds of food, drink and travel.

Anna accepted the trophy at a ceremony at the RAC club on Pall Mall saying “The support we’ve received from mentors, and workshops we’ve attended, as part of the growth schemes have been invaluable in helping us gain essential business knowledge and set sound strategies for future growth.”

“It’s incredibly heart-warming to be rewarded by the Food and Travel readers for all the hard work we’ve poured into the cookery school. The entire team – the admin staff, the home economists, the chefs and I – all love what we do and I think that really shines through in our daily approach and is the reason our customers have voted for us.”

The cookery school was opened in 2013 in partnership with Michel Roux Jr and since then has grown from employing just 2 full time members of staff to 7. They have received support from the government’s Growth Accelerator programme for small businesses and are now being mentored by the British Library’s Innovating for Growth: Scale Ups programme. Anna also took part in Escape the City’s Start-Up Tribe in 2015. Hundreds of cooking enthusiasts and food lovers have since had the opportunity to cook alongside the trailblazing chef, his protégés and an array of award-winning stars of the kitchen.


Anna is pictured holding the trophy! The chefs in the picture all work for the famous Roux family, are along the back, and from left to right are: Toby Stuart – Executive Chef for Chez Roux Group, Chris King – Executive Chef for Chez Roux at The Langham London Hotel, Steve Groves – Head Chef for Roux at Parliament Square (former Masterchef: The Professionals Winner), Rachel Humphrey – Executive Chef for Le Gavroche.
To find out more about the school please follow this link

CNN World Sport Presenter – Patrick Snell (1986 Leaver)

It’s fair to say 2016 is already proving another very busy year at CNN International Sports and I’m truly privileged to have been a part of it! As one of the Atlanta-based Presenters, or “Anchors” if you prefer, on CNN World Sport it’s been a whirlwind last few months with one of the most captivating and engaging stories I’ve ever worked on, playing a major role.  Did anyone really see Leicester City’s most unlikely of English Premier League title triumphs actually happening? What an incredible achievement for Claudio Ranieri and the Foxes and I have to say richly deserved in the end too!

Another wonderfully eye-catching story took place just down the road from us at CNN’s global headquarters here in Atlanta at the famed Augusta National with English golfer Danny Willett capturing the coveted green jacket at this year’s Masters Tournament.  I was delighted for Danny just as I was at last year’s US Open at Chambers Bay in beautiful Washington State when young Jordan Spieth won his second career Major after a thrilling finish.  On that occasion I was blessed to have a first-hand view of how he kept his nerve and held off the challenge of his compatriot Dustin Johnson.  It was great to interview the young American one-on-one afterwards about it all and he was even gracious enough to let me see how it felt to get hold of that famous trophy!


20 years ago the eyes of the world were on the city of Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics. Two decades on and the Summer Games were staged for the first time ever in South America with Brazil hosting.  Our team covered many compelling stories……The historic exploits of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps immediately spring to mind of course. And rightly so.  But among many other memorable highlights were the hosts winning a first ever Gold in the men’s football tournament and what an occasion for Fiji who won their first ever Olympic medal in the Rugby Sevens Competition.

But a busy sporting year shows no sign of easing up! We’ll be following All the top football leagues closely as they swing back into action and then there’s the small matter of golf’s Ryder Cup and on a personal level I can’t wait to get to Hazeltine where the American team will be looking for their first win over their European rivals since 2008!  A victory “they” would say is long overdue!

Alan Hunter (1940-48) – The Junior Training Corps

In Merchants’ Tales, summer 2015 edition, there is discussion on the Officers’ Training Corps (O.T.C.) and the Combined Cadet Force (C.C.F.)  However, between the two was the Junior Training Corps (J.T.C.)  From here I call on memories and all relies on the accuracy, or otherwise, of these memories.

The J.T.C. was formed in the early days of W.W.II, replacing the O.T.C.  At the same time the 1914-type uniforms, including puttees, were superseded by battledress.  Captain (‘Reggie’) Hargreaves was in charge, though he retired on the return, from war service, of Major Ken Bowman and ‘Twig’ Gribble.  Jeanie Pattinson, Lt. Col. Gribble’s daughter, shared memories of her father in the summer 2015 edition.

It is my recollection that joining the Corps was not compulsory but the majority of pupils did so.  Parades, the last part of Tuesday and Friday afternoons, ran on to 4.30pm: school normal finishing time was 4.10pm.

Mr Winhall was in stores and issued uniforms.  We supplied our own boots.  Mr Cooney ran the indoor rifle-range somewhere in Crosby.  The •303 rifles had •22 bores.  Firing with standard •303 rifles took place at Altcar Rifle Range.  ‘Tug’ Wilson seemed to be in charge.  I believe he was on the school ground staff, as was Mr Kito (‘Amos’) who was also involved with J.T.C.

Regular Army personnel examined us in Certificate A, parts I and II.  I obtained the rank of Lance-Corporal and had ideas of an army career.  I was advised against it; good advice for someone with short sight and well below average in sport.

When I first joined the J.T.C. we had Field Days: Annual Camps were only held after the war.  The one I attended was at O.C.T.U. Eaton Hall, Cheshire.  We were instructed by newly commissioned officers.  In our hut I was Lance-Corporal to Sergeant (Gillie) Fisher).  Our group included Alan Meadows.  We met up a few years later when we worked at Coles Nurseries, Town Green, near Ormskirk.  Alan had served in Kenya during the Mau Mau troubles.

In addition to the annual camp, one year we were offered week-courses with various units.  I chose to join the Royal Engineers (R.E.) at Merebrook Camp near Malvern.  Hearing the R.E. March recently, I found myself joining in: “We’re marching back to Merebrook Camp, to Merebrook Camp, to Merebrook Camp, where they don’t know tea from tissue paper, tissue paper, marmalade or jam ….”  Cadets came from units all over; one from South Wales was stopped by the Military Police.  He hadn’t Cadet Corps flashes up.  In those days we wore uniform to and from camp and on parade days.  At Merebrook we were involved with such things as Bailey Bridges, explosives of various kinds, making temporary and permanent roads and airstrips.

Another Course was at Longmoor Military Railway, which, to my regret, I wasn’t able to attend.  C.C.F. started in 1948, about the time I left MTBS to work in commercial horticulture.  I assumed I would be called up in due course, for National Service.  However, at that time, two years in agriculture/horticulture was counted as the equivalent.  I did twenty years!