Old Girls’ General News

MTGS Welcomes Back Recent Leavers for Returnees Day

The Girls’ School was pleased to welcome back recent leavers for its annual Returnees Day.
Returnees Day is an important date in the School calendar and serves a dual purpose. It allows recent leavers to return to the School following their first year of University and share their experiences with staff and friends, but also offers vital advice and guidance to the current Lower Sixth, as they begin their final year of study and start to make decisions about their own University choices.

Our returning girls were extremely generous in giving their time, and answered any questions the pupils had. Following this they assembled in the quad for refreshments and to meet with staff. During this service, they received a humorous and insightful speech from Marie-Clare Gervasoni about the benefits of the Old Girls Association, and how it can be a vital resource for them following the completion of their own studies and entry into the workplace.

Our thanks to the girls for returning and to Head of Sixth Form Mr Lawell for organising the day.

OBA Cambridge Dinner 2017

With faint whiff of final exams looming over the University, thirty Old Crosbeians and their guests gathered in the Upper Hall of Peterhouse. Our number included those from East Anglia plus some who had extricated themselves from the demands of London to meet with school friends and a contingent from Merseyside, including our newly induced OBA President, Jeremy Myers. There was a hearty cluster from the more recent years, particularly 2008 and 2011.

After a fizzy reception, there followed good food and wine. Cries of “Most delicious – the best yet” and “The Chef has out done himself” were heard afterwards – and indeed he had. The School Song was rendered with some tuneful singing. Our former President, Dave Holroyd, Director of Music, would have been proud of the legacy that he has left behind in Cambridge or perhaps it was the high proportion of youthful attendees?

The speeches gave an update on the School and its good health. Simon Sutcliffe, History teacher and Head of Cricket, representing the Boys’ School, gave a fascinating history of the School, dwelling on the dark ages of the early Victorian period. At one point, there were only 4 pupils, all of them children of the headmaster and three of them girls! Who knew that one of Headmasters from that period had a wife aged 17 years old? Fascinating – it certainly piqued my interest in reading Luft’s history of the School!

Arthur Meadows, Cambridge Dinner Organiser, 1988 Leaver

Old Crosbeians Wessex Lunch 2017

Two Bank Holiday weekends left just two other Saturdays in May’s calendar this year. The usual competitive bids from family occasions and holidays for those two dates meant that recruiting attendees for this year’s Wessex Luncheon proved to be rather more difficult than usual. Fortunately it all worked out very well in the end with those Old Crosbeians returning from previous absence more than compensating for those members who were unable to join the party. The May weather proved rather less reliable although it didn’t rain and the Hampshire countryside was, as ever, at its freshest and greenest best.

This year we were especially delighted to welcome Jeremy Myers in his office as the Association’s President since we have had his company on two previous occasions as the guest who has travelled the farthest. A man who certainly deserves some recognition as ever willing to brave the uncertainties of the British national railway network on a weekend.

Others present were Richard & Shirley Cropper (fortunately managing to miss any traffic jams this year !), Norman Dixon, Steve & Gisela Duckworth, Michael & Barbara Durham, Keith & Ann Evans, John, Robert & Mary Goble, Bill & Lynne Hacking, Michael Purse, Michael & Maureen Sharp and Alfred & Isabel Witham. Unfortunately, Sylvia Scott had the distinction of being the sole representative of the Girls’ School this year but we continue to attempt to raise awareness of this OC event with their local alumni.

Jeremy Myers took advantage of the occasion to repeat the salient points of the recent decisions made by the Schools’ Governors and to remind us that the quatercentenary of the School’s foundation was already the subject of extensive planning ahead of 2020. He also took the opportunity to affirm that his successor as President, David Cairns, would be looking forward to attending the Wessex Lunch in 2018. Finally, after both the Loyal Toast and that to ‘The School’ he led the customary choral finale to a reasonably competent rendition of ‘Crescat Crosbeia’ before the company departed on their homeward journeys after yet another thoroughly enjoyable OC Occasion.

Always a good sign, a table of empty plates! Our President, Jeremy Myers is talking to Shirley Cropper and Michael Purse, a Past President, seems well contented with his lunch.

Hugh Parkman and Sylvia Scott take a break from recalling some breaches in the ‘Berlin Wall’ social restrictions that existed between the two Crosby Schools during the 1950’s.

Four more satisfied lunchers : Michael & Barbara Durham (right), Keith & Ann Evans (left).

Liverpool City Drinks 2017

This year’s annual Liverpool City Drinks took place at the historic Racquet Club Hotel in Chapel Street.  Over 60 former pupils (of all ages), former staff, parents as well as current school staff attended throughout the evening.  The event was organised by the Schools’ Alumni Relations department and sponsored by the Old Girls’ Association.  It was great opportunity for those working in the Liverpool area to network with people from the Merchants’ community and to catch up with old friends.

London City Drinks 2016

10th November 2016

On a crisp autumn evening, over 120 people called in at this year’s London City Drinks event held at The Merchant Taylors’ Company Hall.  For some, it has become a regular, informal meeting point with school friends, for others it was a first visit and a chance to not only appreciate the beautiful venue but also reconnect with the Merchants’ family.  Alumni, staff, parents and the recently appointed Chair of Governors, Beverley Bell, mingled to catch up on careers, school news and views.

If you live in the London area or visit the capital through your work, look out for the date of next year’s event and consider joining us.

However did we manage without the internet? Catriona Smith (née Carmichael)

…and where idle googling can lead you…be careful!

 Like many of you, I received an email in February or early March about the weekly archive items which would be featured on the Merchant Taylors’ Schools website from 2016 to 2020 to mark the 400th anniversary of the school.

I actually ignored it until one day when I was thinking about the impending family reunion I was helping to organise for descendants of my maternal great-great and great grandfathers, the Plint clan. My eldest brother (an old boy of MTS) was collecting information about various members of the family to provide an up to date biographical document so that the cousins who didn’t know one another very well could find out more about each other, and if they came to the reunion, meet face to face as well. Additional information on our common ancestors formed a large part of the document. Quite a few members of the Plint and Carmichael clans were pupils at MTS/MTGS over the last hundred years or so, as were cousins on other sides of the family. It’s a small world.

Perhaps it was this very vague train of thought which prompted me to remember the school email and look at the website to seek out the archive entry. I was taken aback to see on the very first entry a picture of my great aunt, Constance Plint, (known to me as Aunty Connie, who was a pupil from 1906 and then a teacher at MTGS, completing her qualifications by distance learning during WW1, truly an achievement in those times).

I contacted my brother and we arranged with the school archivist, Anita Barry, to have a copy of the picture to put in the family document. (It formed part of a collection of documents about Constance Plint given some years earlier to the school by one of her nephews’ family who had the original papers including references for future jobs. It makes interesting reading.)

But before I phoned the school I was intrigued to see what other offerings the archive blog had put on the website…. You know how it is with the Internet, once you get hooked into a search.

I looked at the entries which were there, about 4 weeks’  worth, and was further astounded to see that the one issued on my birthday 8th April,  was a picture of my German exchange group from 1967! Not only that but my actual name was mentioned in the accompanying write up. I am the one hiding behind my pen friend Sabine, who has pole position next to Mrs Woodhall, our German teacher.  (Mrs Woodhall was a scary but very talented and inspiring teacher for me.)

This was altogether an embarrassment of coincidences….. but rather comforting in a funny sort of way. Putting oneself in context, so to speak.

I think I have recovered now from the searchlight of unexpected fame, and can thoroughly recommend looking at the archive blog: you never know what you will find.

As a footnote, especially if you have a large family, I can also recommend a family reunion: ours was in July and a wonderful weekend of catching up and making new acquaintances was enjoyed by nearly 80 people of all ages from 3 months to over 85 and from all corners of the world. And all of  whom had one common ancestor not so far back, in the 18th and 19th centuries …  If the members of the various families represented who could not make it in person had been there we would have numbered well over 100. Now that puts one in context!

Helen Releases First EP as ‘Gazelle’

Since leaving MTGS in 2010, Helen Gaskell has embraced her creativity, turning her attention to music in pursuit of a dream career. Helen sang and played piano throughout school, having been captivated by jazz from an early age. On leaving Merchants however, she went on to study Chemistry at Newcastle University. During an exchange year in Versailles, her desire to pursue her creativity led her to quit the research project she was working on and move to Paris where she moved into an underground art commune and worked as an au pair by day. Here she developed her musical capabilities, quickly teaching herself to play the guitar and singing in a band with her housemates. This ignited her love for the seminal electronic rhythms of Jamie Woon and influential beats of Robert Glasper.

Inspired to write songs from an early age, Helen’s first composition ‘Jazzy Chocolate’ on clarinet was driven by discovering a love for Nina Simone. Helen has now traded in the clarinet for guitar and is writing her own material inspired by singers like Etta James, Melody Gardot, Lauryn Hill, and India Arie. Performing her music as ‘Gazelle’ regularly in Liverpool bars she was picked up by the management company ‘tri-tone’ and has since been working in Parr Street Studios on her EP.
Her unique vocal sound has impressed listeners on BBC radio 6. BBC radio Merseyside listeners tune in most Saturdays to hear her on the BBC Introducing show and Helen’s first official ‘Gazelle’ gig was for the BBC 1xtra music showcase. Helen is now working towards writing an album in hope of getting signed. These exciting steps for Helen have enabled her EP to now be available on Spotify, Apple Music and can be downloaded on iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/undiscovered-love-ep/id1160325956
To stay tuned with Helen’s latest releases follow her SoundCloud account at www.soundcloud.com/thisisgazelle.

You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thisisgazelle and follow her on twitter and Instagram @thisisgazelle.


Old Girl Sian ‘Wins her Wish List’

Old girl Sian Stephens (nee Evans) 1980-87 was sitting at her desk one Monday morning opening emails to the busy careers enquiries mailboxes she managed as the national Recruitment Manager for a UK luxury boutique hotel chain when an email from a TV Company caught her eye. Looking for lively couples to apply for a TV quiz show to win their dream wish list by answering general knowledge questions on a range of topics against the clock and is hosted by Shane Ritchie on the BBC Lottery show on Saturday night. Sian saw this as an excellent opportunity to try and win their dream holiday to visit their best friends who had moved to Perth in Australia and as both her and her husband enjoy quizzes and know their general knowledge and trivia so Sian applied. A few weeks later Sian had forgotten all about the show until she got a phone call from one of the show’s producers who invited her to audition there and then over the phone. Sian’s husband Phil also received a phone call which was somewhat of a surprise as Sian had forgotten to tell him! However they both passed the initial audition and were then invited to a live audition with 6 other couples in Manchester. We were very nervous and I made a few comical errors Sian recalls, but managed to win over the producers who selected them for the show.

In August 2015 the couple along with 5 of their friends who were invited to come and watch for support, travelled up to the BBC studios in Glasgow to film the show in front of a live studio audience.  It was very nerve racking but Shane Ritchie was lovely and really made us feel at ease Sian remembers and we overcame our nerves to win an amazing 6 out of our 7 prizes which totalled £35,000 including our dream holiday to Thailand and Australia, a festival in our garden with live band, DJ and Hogroast, room makeover, a man cave for Phil and a spa weekend by answering all our questions correctly beating the clock to even get some as an instant win. Sian’s topics included nature and popular culture and has credited her Merchants education as helping to give her the thirst for knowledge and keeping up to date with current affairs – I knew my General Studies A Level would come in useful one day she states!

The couple had become somewhat celebrities after appearing in the local paper twice so decided to organise an evening for friends and family at a local tennis club when the show was aired to help raise money by holding a raffle for their friends charity Believe Organ donation (believe-ods-org.uk) started by the widow of local boy Stuart Bates who was tragically killed with his young son by a speeding driver last Christmas as they walked home from a family party. They continued their fundraising by collecting donations for the charity at their recent festival in their garden.  Sian is a keen athlete and charity fundraiser and with her previous company Lloyd’s Register EMEA (marine surveyors) was chosen by the CEO as one of the runners in an international team from offices around the world to compete in the gruelling 250,000 anniversary Athens marathon in 2010 raising over 40k for various marine charities. In 2010 Sian also started a charity project called the Breakfast Club for local homeless shelter the Whitechapel Centre in Liverpool which involved volunteers from her office serving breakfasts to the Homeless on a weekly basis which launched the volunteer programme still going today.

After Sian left school she attended Surrey University achieving a Joint Honours in English and Sociology then continued living and working in London in Health Club Management for over 13 years. She then moved back to Crosby in 2002 and married childhood sweetheart Phil Stephens whose sister Elizabeth was deputy Head Girl in 1986/7 and eventually buying her childhood home which she shares with Phil and their 3 children.

Brendan King Visits to discuss Old Girl Beryl Bainbridge


Last week we welcomed author Brendan King into school to reveal the real woman behind the popular novelist and MTGS Old Girl, Beryl Bainbridge and discuss his recent biography of her.

Beryl was at MTGS from 1942-47.  Brendan talked about her time at school and said she struggled academically, he recounted some of her diary entries at the time – 6th Feb entry “Damn it, these teachers”.  She was quite a rebel and was known as Basher Bainbridge.  In her later years she came back to visit MTGS and admitted that she wasn’t our ideal student.  Brendan said that Beryl’s time at MTGS wasn’t all negative and credited some of her writing success down to her former inspirational English teacher Miss Peck. Dame Beryl Bainbridge went on to become one of the most popular and recognisable English novelists of her generation.

Brendan worked for Beryl in the late 80s originally as her proof reader.  He said they complemented each other well as Beryl was spontaneous & instinctive and he was logical & disciplined. He worked with her up until 2010 and helped to prepare her final novel The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress for publication after her death.

The talk was well attended by former staff, Old Boys and Old Girls, some who had known Beryl at School.  A group of our own sixth form girls also attended.

In his biography Brendan displays a frank portrait of Beryl Bainbridge, revealing the real woman behind her popular image as a quirky eccentric. The biography Love by All Sorts of Means is now available.


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.