Ask anyone who went to Telford Middle/Junior School which teacher they remember most fondly and you will find that at least 80% of them give one name above all others: Mr Tedstone.
Ken Tedstone – everyone knew his first name, though I don’t know why – was a small, slim man who already resembled a walnut. He was one of those teachers who always appeared old, although as his eldest child was barely 20 at the time I was taught by him – and as he only retired a few years ago – my guess is that he was in his late 40s or early 50s at the time.
The strange thing is that most of those who love him so much, were not actually taught by him, myself included. To most, he was known for two things – a curious and idiosyncratic approach to playing the piano during school assemblies, and teaching cricket.
For virtually every boy at that school, he was not just our first cricket master, he was our only cricket master. None of the comprehensive secondary schools in the area really taught the sport and if you wanted to be actually coached after the age of 12 you had to go to one of the fee-paying schools in the area.
Many of us learned so much from him, both in the school’s one cricket net (which was actually built in my third year there, there’s a photo of me in the nets with former England and Warwickshire cricketer Alan Oakman on the day they were opened) and on the curious rubber surface that passed for a wicket.
I have three very fond memories of being taught cricket by Mr Tedstone. They all come from my last term at the school. The first was at the start of term. The routine was that the sports teams were posted on a notice board just outside the door to the boys toilets. Often, the cricket teams were put up several days in front of the match, with one or two spaces in case a boy particularly impressed Mr Tedstone.
For the first game of the year, though, it was more of a case of picking those he would remember being decent players in the previous year – a difficult feat when everyone except me would have been in the year below and therefore not expected to play for the school unless they were very good.
The side that went up would therefore have read something like this:
1. Nigel Dixon (c)
2. Stephen Bolt (wk)
3. Stephen Clarke
4. Marc Goodey
5. Andrew Howard
and possibly one or two others. I was stood looking at the list when Mr Tedstone came past. “Ah, Richard,” he said, “I’d forgotten how good you are” and then, in his beautiful, clear, handwriting, he added me to the side.
Now, I know that you can take that comment two ways, but what a wonderful confidence boost for a young lad. I was in the team, and I never lost my place. At the end of the season I was awarded the ‘Most Improved Player’ trophy – I’ve only ever won two others in all of the years that have gone by.
As for the other two memories? Well, come back on Friday…