I was born in Bath, Somerset in 1950. I left King Edward’s School (alumni include Thomas De Quincey and Bill Bailey) after completing my “A” levels and spent a year working at the Bath Boating Company- running the boat hire side of the business and also helping with building rowing boats, punts, canoes, skiffs and racing fours. During my time there I “skippered” a motor boat for visitors to Longleat house, safari park and lake. Here is a three minute video clip of a super8 movie– including hippo-riding (not to be recommended!) It is not great technical quality as it is a converted (twice) file from a recording of a recording…In 1969 I went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and trained to become a Drama teacher.
I spent the next 30 years or so teaching. I worked in England, Wales, the Irish Republic and southern California. Eventually I took early retirement from a post as Headteacher of a Pupil Referral Unit- a school for children with Emotional, Behavioural and Social difficulties who had been permanently excluded from mainstream schools. I now live in south west Scotland.
I have an M.A. in education, specialising in Behaviour Management and an Advanced Diploma in Counselling from the University of Cambridge. I was a contributor to two academic books, have had several articles published in The Times Educational Supplement and won a short story competition run by Radio Leicester. I have appeared several times on local radio and television, also on national television on “The Time, the Place”, a talk show hosted by John Stapleton. At one school I became known throughout the region for my work with visiting writers. I was asked by the Arts Council to contribute to a training video they were making for school governors. I employed Barbara Machin as a Writer-in- Residence. Barbara went on to create and write episodes of “Waking the Dead” and write for “Casualty”. Barbara won a BAFTA for “Casualty” and an international EMMY for “Waking the Dead”. She has written and produced for many other series, too. Working together with a group of children they created and published a novel which was launched at the school by Ruth Rendell. Here is a link to a tv news item on the venture.
My ancestry can be traced back through England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland; one of my forefathers was Sir Francis Drake. However, it is my great grandfather (my mother’s mother’s father) with whom I feel the most immediate affinity.
Alfred Wills was a plumber in the city of Bath. Following a meeting with Leicester Gataker, Alfred learned to dowse for water. He became highly skilled and was in demand internationally. He also showed signs of what now would be called “psychic abilities”, but Alfred did not pursue these; instead he continued to build up the family business- which became a large building company- and to fulfil his duties as a lay preacher at a non-conformist church in Bath.
Alfred’s daughter, Elsie, and her friends, used to hold séances on a regular basis; it appears that the “psychic gene” runs in the family.
(For much more about Alfred, you can download a pdf file, Plus-ca-Changewp , (it opens in a new Tab),mostly taken from his own diaries, some from family memories and research and some from newspapers at the time. It is a remarkable story)