Craig Hill

6th January 2012 at 00:00
The comedian found his voice thanks to a kind, bohemian music teacher who refrained from wearing the in vogue see-through blouse

My favourite teacher was Mrs Kelly. Just saying her name again warms my cockles. And in this weather they needed warming. She was adorable and just saying her name really makes me think of her.

She taught me music at Ballerup High in East Kilbride. She taught me right from the beginning of secondary school, and I bonded with her immediately, because I couldn't believe something as fun as listening to music and learning about music and singing and playing an instrument was academic. I thought it was pure fun. And she picked up on that.

She was . my first word is big, because she wasn't fat, she was a big, broad-shouldered, blonde Highland-looking woman. I never found out where she was from, but she had an air of the Highlands about her.

There was a real presence and stature about her. She dressed and behaved in a very bohemian, relaxed, at-peace-with-herself kind of way. Her hair was white blond, but it wasn't soft or fussy, it was un-fussy and just natural. She had something very natural and very Scottish-looking about her.

She was very warm, very encouraging, and you got the impression that she genuinely liked teaching and she liked you getting enthusiastic, which I think is quite infectious from a good teacher. She looked like a kind, good granny. I think she was probably already in her 50s, because she was an older-looking teacher compared to the dolly birds that do French. There were a few fond of a see-through blouse and a lace bra, as far as I could make out.

They lean over a lot in French, I don't know what that's about. None of that nonsense from Mrs Kelly, she was a good sort. You could just tell she was a good person. You got the impression she had lovely, smart, intellectual friends who were all knowledgeable and enjoyed life.

She was quite strict if you were out of line. I think she just realised she had to be. She really helped you listen to music. We had to listen to classical music and identify the instruments and she would talk you through it in a way that helped you appreciate Peter and the Wolf, for example.

That is a wonderful gift to give to children - to get them to listen to music properly in the very unfocused, chaotic world that kids live in.

I remember making her cry, but for all the right reasons - I sang. She told me very early on I had a lovely singing voice, and I had this interesting incident where I was in a band, and I didn't realise this at the time, but the guy I was in a band with started to tell me my voice wasn't good, and I started to believe it. Then I went back to do the singing she wanted me to do, I sat my exams, and I was asked to sing "The Bonny Earl O' Moray". She told me to sing it and mean it, like I had some connection to old Scotland. I did, and the tears ran down her face and I passed the exam.

She found my voice. For someone to tell me I could sing and help me believe I could - she made it worthwhile going to school for me.

I liked school, but she made me look forward to her class more than any other. I would like to tell her: "You were a great teacher and a great person, and a warm person who filled me with confidence, enthusiasm and a love of music." I still sing, and I love singing, maybe even more now than I did then.

Craig Hill is performing tonight and tomorrow at the Highlight Comedy Club, Edinburgh, then touring to Stirling, Aberdeen and Kirkcaldy. He was talking to Julia Belgutay


Born: Glasgow, 1969

Education: Greenhills Primary and Ballerup High, East Kilbride; Langside College

Career: Hairdresser, actor, comedian.

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