Skip to main content

Clare Grogan

A wonder woman in primary school who held cheese and `wine' parties and a young, hip secondary teacher stand out for `Gregory's Girl'

A wonder woman in primary school who held cheese and `wine' parties and a young, hip secondary teacher stand out for `Gregory's Girl'

Two teachers in my life stand out. The first is Mrs Quigley, who was my teacher at Notre Dame Primary. I hadn't seen her for ages and then, about 10 years ago, I bumped into her and it struck me that of all the teachers I had, she really treated every single one of her pupils the same way - with respect, courtesy and genuine affection.

She was always enthusiastic and very capable. She just seemed like Wonder Woman almost. We would do quite different things with her. She was always introducing us to things which made us feel older and more sophisticated. We would have cheese and wine parties, but with apple juice instead of wine. She asked us to bring in cheese, so some of us brought Dairylea, and some brought in really nice, posh, French whatever.

Mrs Quigley was very old-fashioned looking, almost like an Enid Blyton character, quite jolly hockeysticks. She was also one of the first people to spot my desire to perform and in a very subtle way she would say: "Come on, Clare, stand up and do something daft to cheer us up!" My party piece was "There's a hole in my bucket" - I've no idea where it came from.

It was funny when I bumped into her, because in my memory she was a huge, larger-than-life person. But when I saw her again she was a very small old lady.

At Notre Dame High, my favourite teacher was my history teacher, Mrs McFadden. She's now headteacher at the school and I had a very nice chat with her when I went back a few years ago to do a reading of my first book in the school library, which was just bonkers. I'm flattered that she remembered me.

I wasn't academically motivated in the least when I was a pupil. I loved school, though - the friendships and the carry-on in a girls' school. I loved history, too.

Mrs McFadden was young at that time and I remember it was nice to have a teacher who understood where you were coming from. She was always in charge, though, it wasn't like she wanted to be your pal. Again, she was a very fair person and a great teacher. She looked quite typically 70s in her dress style, all flares and flicky hair. She was cool, she still is.

Altered Images wasn't something I really talked about at school. It was just something I did quietly after school and I didn't really have any huge expectation of it. I don't think anyone apart from about three close friends at school knew about it.

It was the summer after I left school when I made Gregory's Girl and got a record deal. It was quite extraordinary, I was only 17. For me, filming was an opportunity to be "at school" with some boys. There was a bit of me that couldn't believe that I was going to make a movie - but I had to be in school uniform, not glamorous dresses.

I wanted to be able to go back to my old school and say I don't think anyone expected me to go on to do what I did. It was important to me to send a message to pupils now that there are different routes to achieving your dreams. I was a very ordinary girl from a very ordinary background who got to do some extraordinary things, and I still do.

I came out after the show (Sleeping Beauty) the other day and my old drama teacher, Mrs Tiffany, was waiting for me. The first role she ever gave me was as Potiphar's wife in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. It was lovely to see her and it's lovely to be home.

Clare Grogan is starring in `Sleeping Beauty' at the Glasgow King's Theatre until 8 January. She was talking to Julia Horton

PERSONAL PROFILE

Born: Glasgow, 1962

Education: Notre Dame Primary and Notre Dame High, Glasgow

Career: Waitress at the Spaghetti Factory restaurant in Glasgow, where film director Bill Forsyth spotted her and offered her her most famous acting role, in Gregory's Girl. Singer with pop band, Altered Images. Playing the wicked fairy Carabosse in Sleeping Beauty.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you