Tommy Corke

 Do you remember
Tommy Corke?

Tommy was an art teacher at Kettering Grammar School in the 1950s and possibly in the 1940s as well. He lived in Geddington, was quite a ‘character’, loved his football and was well known in the local pubs.

Professor Alan Brookes lives near Oxford now, but went to Kettering Grammar School, leaving in 1958, and was taught by Tommy, who was a great influence on his life and subsequent career. He would like to honour Tommy’s name, but needs more information and stories about his time here.

To jog memories, perhaps the following supportive information might help:
1  Mr Perry was the science teacher at this time,
2  Barry Chambers, who became a Kettering Borough Councillor, and Mayor in 1973, was a fellow pupil,
3  J L Carr was Headmaster of Highfields Primary School from 1952-7 and Professor Brooks received many letters from him.

If you remember Tommy Corke and have any information about him or his family, please get in touch with Professor Brookes on 01491 873109.

I mentioned this name at home and was told the following:
He loved his football very much and if play wasn’t up to his standard, he would run round the football field (off Grafton Road at that time) with an axe! Any more stories like this?

7 comments on “Tommy Corke

  • Malcolm Baird says:

    I was a pupil from 1953 to 1955, when I was moved to Corby Grammar School as it had opened in 1955, and remember Tommy being very explosive in his teachings! He was also great at painting in any medium, especially dirt from the classroom floor.

    • Hello Malcolm,
      Thank you for your comment, it seems that all memories of Tommy Corke are good ones.

  • Alistair Dawson says:

    I was at KGS from 1952 until 1959. Tommy was a “one-off”.We even had a
    song about him.

    During an art class in the huts (temporary accommodation that lasted too long)
    one winter day a lad in my class placed a blackcurrant fruit gum on the top of the
    coke-fired stove.

    It bubbled, finally giving off a puff of smoke and a smell like burning rubber – much merriment ensued. and Tommy had to decide what to do.

    The stove had been located in a corner of the room. Tommy began at the opposite corner, asking every boy in turn if he had put the gum on the stove.

    Poor Dave S****s, sitting by the stove; the last boy to be questioned, got a few cuffs around his ears from the irate Tommy. Having predicted his fate, he took it “like a man” as we used to say.

    Tommy was also a councillor in Geddington and was frequently mentioned in THE NORTHAMPTONSHIRE EVENING TELEGRAPH, standing up for tenants against
    the Buccleuch Estate’s property managers.

    I guess we all liked him.

  • David McPherson says:

    I was at KGS 1st to 5th forms at the same time as my friend Alistair Dawson. I don’t remember the incident he describes but it sound exactly like a prank one of our classmates would get up to. Mention Tommy Corke to anyone of our vintage who attended KGS and they all remember Tommy Corke. He was a one-off. My main recollection is that Tommy would talk about all subjects under the sun for threequarters of the lesson and we would only do some “art” in the last quarter. In that respect, I would say he was an ineffective teacher but he probably realised many if not most of us were not remotely interested in art and his stories were much more interesting. His comment on my school report in form 1R in 1953 on art was “a weak subject” and I have no quarrel with his assessment which was spot on. A real character.

    • Hello David
      I’m always impressed by the amount of memories that former pupils have of their teachers. Tommy must have made a strong impression on his pupils, to have such a good reception.
      Thank you for your comments, Pam

  • Patrick Bright says:

    I attended the KGS from1949 to 1953, and remember the “tin huts” with their “fry-you or freeze-you” Tortoise stoves.

    THE SONG (mentioned above by Alistair Dawson),
    about the unpredictable Tommy Corke,
    was sung to the tune of ‘Do you ken John Peel’
    with words (as I still remember them)
    that went as follows:

    Do yer ken Tom Corke with his funny kind of talk
    With his pork-pie hat, and “his dirty little rat?”.
    Do yer ken Tom Corke, when he’s out for a walk,
    With his square-sided chalk in the morning.

    Author unknown (but must have been a sixth former!).

    I believe that before the War, TC taught woodwork at the school,
    but this activity was stopped by wartime restrictions on materials.
    By way of compensation, he could spend the greater part of an art lesson
    talking only about…woodwork.
    I thus learnt from him (without demonstration) how to sharpen a plane iron to perfection.
    But woe betide any “dirty little rat” who wasn’t paying attention.
    He could sling a stick of his favoured square chalk to reach any target in the back row with great force and accuracy. Since Art was my best subject, I got off fairly lightly with him.

    Incidentally, he did regularly wear a pork-pie hat.

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