Sunday, September 5, 2010


  I taught music and drama at Wheathampstead Secondary School, Herts from 1966 to 1968 and have fond memories of the children I taught.  My colleague, Vera Brunskill was a flautist and had a recorder group.  She and I taught ourselves the guitar and worked with groups of children who were keen to learn the instrument in the days when the Beatles were all the rage.  I have a recording of a number of the children who were keen enough to give up their break to come in to the music room to work at their singing.   In particular I remember Reginald Dyke and Denis Andrews, who sang duets together, Sheila Faulkner, Mary Rose and Jeannette Wright. I wonder where they are now!

Wheathampstead Secondary School library. Mrs Vera Brunskill (flute), Jean Campbell (Collen) (guitar) and children playing and singing Cheelo, Cheelo.

       I directed several plays at the school and enjoyed the improvised drama classes, where everyone let their imaginations run wild, although imagination was often tempered with TV series of the time, notably Till Death Us Do Part!

From the Herts Advertister.

         During the time I was there the school was officially opened by the Queen Mother. We all spent a great deal of time practicing our curtsies for the moment when the headmaster, Mr JD Thomas would present us to the Queen Mother.  Her private secretary came to the school several months before her visit to ascertain what she would discuss with each person being presented to her.
        Although I am British by birth, I had lived in South Africa and had studied singing with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth, who were living in Johannesburg at that time. I was told that the Queen Mother would discuss South Africa and my association with Anne and Webster, whose singing she had always enjoyed.
     The day of the visit was very exciting for staff and students alike. The music pupils and I played and sang Cheelo Cheelo, a South African folk song made popular by Miriam Makeba, for the Queen Mother in the school library.  I still have several photographs of us in that performance, and being presented to her afterwards.  She was very charming and I'm sure everyone who was present will remember that memorable day thirty-six years ago.
Me, Mrs Covey-Crump (in background) Queen Mother, Mr J.D. Thomas, Vera Brunskill.

I returned to South Africa in 1968, where I met my husband and married in 1970.  I kept in touch with some of the children for a while, and with Vera Brunskill until the early 1990s.  I was sorry to hear that the school in Butterfield Road is no longer there, as it began with great promise and had so many wonderful open-hearted children and staff.
Jean Collen (copyright 2010)


Dear Jean You have asked what happened to your former pupils. Well Jeanette Wright is now married to Chris Heilbronn with 2 children, David 21 studying Mechatronic Engineering Kathryn 15 still at school. We are living in Auckland New Zealand. It was quite a suprise to hear Wheathampstead school had closed. I too have fond memories of the Queen mum’s visit. How she managed to look interested and attentive while I rambled on about sets and mathematics is beyond me but I suppose she had lots of practice. I remember our singing our lessons together you were always so encouraging and generous with your time. There was a dog I used to walk at lunch time did he belong to you or Mrs. Brunskil. Mr. Thomas was a wonderful headmaster and Mr and Mrs Newcombe who met the school and married shortly afterwards were fantastic teachers. I also used to baby sit for the art teacher Mrs Kirby who had her sitting room painted a dark purple walls and ceiling. When her home made ginger beer on Wheathampstead Secondary School, Herts (1966-1968)

Dear Jeanette, I was delighted to hear from you and to learn what you have been doing over the years. I've been suffering from sciatica recently so perhaps treatment by an osteopath is just what I need! I remember you well and still have a tape of you and some others singing during the breaks at school, and all the teachers you mentioned. I wonder where they are, nearly 43 years later. Mrs Brunskill had a long-haired dachshund,so I imagine you took him for walks at lunchtime. I heard that she had died in St Albans a few years ago, aged over ninety. My last visit to the UK was twenty years ago, when I visited Anne Ziegler in North Wales, my Scottish roots in and around Glasgow, and friends in Notts and Lincolnshire. I had hoped to go to St Albans to see Mrs Brunskill and other friends, but I was only over for a short time and I was driving by myself on rather congested British roads, so did not manage down South. I wish you and your family well in New Zealand and hope that you on Wheathampstead Secondary School, Herts (1966-1968)

on 3/30/11