Shirely Mackrill - former Deputy Head passes away
Former students who knew her will be saddened to learn that Shirley Mackrill, Deputy Head at Herts & Essex from 1979 until 1993, died on 21 July 2017.
Liam Biggins, who taught History alongside Shirley, and who has worked at Herts & Essex ever since, had this to say about her:
Shirley was a force of nature and someone entirely passionate about what she did, and she did so much. She was a History teacher who wanted to bring the past alive for her students and she loved them to debate and to argue. She was always direct and plain speaking and woe betide you if you were on the end of a Mackrill tongue-lashing, as I was. The only consolation was that it was usually warranted and done always with the intention of driving on improvements. She worked tirelessly as a leader of the school and as a teacher within it. At her heart, she was driven by an irresistible desire to draw students out and make them better than they thought they could be. She saw extra-curricular activity as a vital component of their education and and often a more direct route to a child's real potential. With energy that could have powered the national grid, she worked tirelessly in leading visits and directing dramatic performances. As someone who appeared in the staff production of the Mackrill-directed Wizard of Oz, I still remember with a shudder the Mackrill stare when she discovered that, with two days to go I, as the person playing the Wizard, did not know my lines. By the night of the performance, I made sure that, if nothing else, I was word perfect. Here in miniature was the Mackrill effect. She would make her students try for fear of letting her down. Shirley was a real Yorkshire miner, digging deeper than anyone else, hewing out lumps of coal and fashioning them into glittering diamonds and in doing so, she touched the lives of so many and did such a lot of good in terms of the truest kind of educational achievement. She will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.
Libby O'Sullivan, another a contemporary of Shirley's remembered her also:
Shirley was an impressive figure even though she was small in stature. She always wore suits and heels and when I first started as a very part time teacher she seemed to be so important and way above me in status. She instigated the Year 11 visits to Russia every February and I longed to be selected to go. I did get to eventually but not till school had become much more egalitarian!
Peter Cochran used to direct a Shakespeare performance every November and in June/July. Shirley would direct a Hollywood style musical with a cast of thousands from every year group. I helped with the costumes and props for many of these extravaganzas. I remember The King and I, odd for an all female cast. Annika Kisby, Inger's daughter, played the king of Siam with a swimming cap on her head to create Yul Brynner's baldness and a lass called Faye Kelbie played Anna. We had to make lots of oriental tunics for the chorus of wives and children. Another time, my son, Chris and another boy were drafted in from TBSHS to be the male leads in Calamity Jane. This caused a disturbance in the ranks and some of the girls had to be persuaded that the love scenes just wouldn't have worked if girls took on those roles!
Shirley also directed a staff production every year. I was the Irish priest in Dracula Spectacula. Liam was the rescuing hero, I think. I played the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. Liam was the wizard himself and lots of the staff were rather adorable munchkins - those were the days!
Shirley was larger than life, dynamic, totally committed to school. She could be quite a scary figure, but was actually kind and supportive. She had a lovely infectious laugh. She got things done - extravaganzas of all kinds!