I’m terribly sad to have heard yesterday that my primary school headteacher, and friend, Brian Thompson, has passed away.

Brian was an exceptional person, inspiring and helping equip hundreds of people to lead creative lives. He had a natural curiosity and wonder at the world, a wry and cultured sense of humour, and the school he created reflected and amplified these values in its students and in the community.

It was often noted that Brian could easily have been promoted through the education system, but that he chose to stay a headteacher, because he loved teaching and making that difference to people. Brian always had creative projects on the go, whether the children’s  books he published with Quentin Blake (update: and many more – see the Guardian’s obituary below), the annual school plays he would research and write himself, the silk screening, the sculpture..

I remember fondly going with him and my mother, who had forged a friendship through working together (she was his right hand woman as secretary of the school), to some of the plays and musicals he watched as research for his own work – these outings were a bit of light in what was a darker time for me around my parents’ divorce. We would also help out and water his plants when he and his partner were away and I was always struck by what wonderfully green fingers he must have had – the countless plants in that sunlit room that overflowed with such an extraordinary vitality.

I’m so glad to have seen them both as recently as a month ago – Minko and I were passing nearby, knocked on the window, and with great friendliness and cordiality were invited in for tea. We saw the house, some of the inventive beach sculptures he had made, their lifelong collection of art made by good friends adorning the walls throughout. I’ve since learnt that they had just heard that he was very ill and hadn’t long to live. Brian’s grace and humanity shone through, even more so now in the knowledge that they were dealing with such very difficult news.

I will always remember a good, kind and wonderfully creative man. RIP Brian.

Other lives: Teacher who sought to give children control over their education and their lives

Brian Thompson obituary | Education | The Guardian

[I posted this tribute To Brian a few weeks ago, and thought that now would be a good time to post it here.]

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5 Responses to My teacher, my friend. 

  1. Janet says:

    Very sad to have only just seen this post. Brian Thompson was also my teacher at Lionel Road School in Brentford. He taught me in 1970 in my last year of junior school. I have never forgotten him and often thought about him over the years. He was an inspirational teacher who opened my eyes to art and literature. He really got our imagination going and read stories to us, took us to the National Gallery in London and explained the paintings in a way that a ten year old could appreciate. He accompanied us on our school journey to Ross on Wye and taught us so much about map reading, castles, history and wildlife. A truly gifted teacher and a very sad loss. I still have a book that he gave to me at prize giving by David Mackay, a Flock of Words. I loved the poems in the book and will always think of him when I read it.

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks for sharing your memories, Janet, they accord very much with mine and, I know, with many others’ of him. I still think of him regularly, it is a rare person that affects so many people’s lives for the good and so significantly. I’m sorry to have been the bearer of sad news, but glad we could somehow, at a distance, share in good memories of him.

  3. Marilyn Benton (Hodgson) says:

    I have often wondered whathappened to MrThompson. He was our wonderful library teacher at Hartwell State School (Victoria, Australia) and he introduced us to Tolkein and CS Lewis. The library was in a portable classroom at the side of the school and our lessons would consist of readings from ‘The Hobbit’ where he would take on all characterisations (I still remember his marvellous voicings of Gandalf and Gollum) and he would draw wonderful chalk pictures on the crusty old blackboard. We wrote poetry and prose. He taught us how to care for books; he was our buddy and he was kind and funny. The year after I left he published ‘Once Around The Sun’ a collection of poems written by the Hartwell Chidren. 60 years later I have never forgotten him and thought of him often through the years. He began my great love of literature and learning and inspired me to become a teacher. I wishn I had been able to thank him for being my teacher.

  4. Jitander Dudee says:

    I only found out about Mr Thompson’s passing a few months ago from my brother who say his obituary in the Guardian and it brought back a lot of half forgotten memories. I never realized what an exceptional teacher he was until I reached adulthood because as a kid, I thought all teachers had a touch of the superhuman. I still find myself mentally humming the songs from his self-written musicals. One was about the Pied Piper of Hamlin and another about a French rooster if I recall correctly?

  5. Tom says:

    I couldn’t agree more – thank you for sharing your memories. I don’t know the rooster musical, but I played the Pied Piper himself (with help from an offstage flautist)! I also vividly remember his ‘Circe’, in which my sisters performed, some years prior

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