My best teacher packed a punch

Barry Hyman

I was intrigued by the praise of Tony Robinson (pictured) for Myfanwy Phillips (My best teacher, 2 August). From 1948 to 1952, I was fortunate, at Tyssen Primary School in North London, to be taught by Mary Neligan, a tiny, inspiring, devout Irish Catholic in her fifties. She had a class of 45 - half of us sat the 11-plus exam one year, the other half the next. Rarely did more than two or three fail to get into a selective grammar school. Her students were the children of working-class parents, and I owe more to her aspirational aims for us than to any subsequent teacher.

Nelly packed a punch and when she smacked you on the leg - a rare occurrence - you knew about it. She was strictly egalitarian and girls as well as boys could qualify for a smack or three. I adored her. After I moved on to grammar school, I used to go and see her after school and help with marking books. She stays in my memory 60 years on.

Barry Hyman, Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire.

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Barry Hyman

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