Lulu: 'My teachers were cold – but Miss McKay wasn't'

Her own education ended at 14, but Sixties pop star Lulu says she was determined to do better by her family

My best teacher: Pop star and TV personality Lulu recalls her favourite teacher

I grew up in Dennistoun, Glasgow. In this working-class community, parents didn't worry about getting the best education for their children. You just went to the closest school.

The expectation was that you left school as soon as you could, so you could start bringing some money home.

Back then, teachers were strict, so you didn't dare mess about at school. Many of my teachers were quite cold and harsh.

Miss McKay, who taught me at Thomson Primary School, was an exception. She was one of my first teachers and a warm, kind lady.

She had grey, curly hair that was closely cropped against her head, and wore argyle sweaters and sensible tweed skirts. I can remember sitting there, cross-legged, counting the curls on her head.

Playground concerts

I knew I wanted to be a singer from an early age. I hummed constantly and during break times I would sing in the playground and everyone would come to listen.

But I never felt my talent was really recognised at school. My teachers knew I had a voice, but they wanted me to sing classical rather than pop music.

By the time I got to secondary school, I had lost interest in education. All I had in my head was music.

I started to skive off, and the education welfare people came round. But they couldn't do much about me.

While in school, I was distracted. By the time I reached my early teens, I was performing regularly with local bands, so I would often be tired after a gig the night before or thinking about the next one.

A pot of water and a comb

I was also starting to get into fashion, and I remember getting into trouble with the headmistress, who put a wet comb through my hair because I had backcombed it. She kept a pot of water and a comb in her office for any girls she caught wearing their hair like that.

I left school when I was 14, and from then on worked seven days a week all year.

I only became aware of my lack of education when I moved to London and met my manager, Marion Massey. She had two very well-educated children, which made me aware of how much I didn't know, and gave me a thirst for knowledge.

In many ways, I had to educate myself. I read a lot, went to lectures and have done a few Open University courses. Fortunately, my job has allowed me to travel the world, which opens your mind.

I have tried to give my son Jordan the best opportunities. He went to Eton and then to Cambridge.

With the right encouragement, I could have done well at school. Everyone has talents that deserve nurturing. I am not saying I could have been a great academic, but I could have achieved more than I did.

Lulu was talking to Janet Murray

Lulu, who was born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie in Stirlingshire in 1948, rose to fame as a pop singer in the 1960s, recording the hit Shout in 1964. She won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1969 with Boom Bang-a-Bang, and has regularly appeared on TV since

 

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