Greg Hemphill

17th February 2012 at 00:00
The actor and comedian had a crush on his P2 teacher, but found the ideal support for his career in the 8th grade

My favourite teacher would be Miss Wade, my Primary 2 teacher. Primary school is a time before the tension and the hard work begins. Miss Wade . she must have been about 22 and she was a beauty.

Young boys love their teachers at that age, don't they? She was very tall, slender and with blonde hair, and that is pretty much all I can tell you about her. I think because my memories are so vague of Miss Wade, you end up imagining this idyllic childhood where you would go into your classroom and are in love with your teacher and sit next to her and just really idolise her.

She seemed glamorous to a seven-year-old, but she didn't dress overtly in a glamorous fashion. I definitely had a crush on her. It would be nice to meet her again. I guess that's the rule, though, isn't it - never meet your heroes.

The other teacher who was an inspiration to me was Mrs Roberts, who taught me English when I was in the 8th grade of high school. She set me on the path I am on today in terms of theatre and public speaking. She was a very outgoing person and always encouraged people to be confident and pushed us in the direction she thought we were good at.

For me, that was drama and comedy and into the theatre. I really owe that to her. I have always been a bit of a reluctant participant. Even now, at 42, I am always one to hang back and never want to thrust myself into the limelight. So I think at that age, you need a teacher to coax this out of you, and I am always grateful to her for that.

She was a little older, and she was a very smart woman. She was very quick-witted and could control her class with her wit. Nobody wanted to get on the wrong side of her, because she had an acid tongue and she would lash you with it. She never really had to shout or bang or snap. She was one of those teachers you wanted to like you.

We read Twelfth Night, and she said she wanted to put on Twelfth Night but she wanted to make it modern because the kids in our school were too stupid to understand the Shakespeare play. We all thought that was funny. We rewrote the play and made it modern and put in loads of references to MTV and computers and video games and all that kind of nonsense.

We put on a version for the school called Last Night. I played Sir Andrew Aguecheek. I remember everyone laughing and thinking, "Oh, this is for me. This is great and good fun." I felt this was definitely what I wanted to do. I wanted to go to university and learn about acting and the theatre.

Then a strange thing happened. When we were coming back to London, I had one year of high school to complete and Mrs Roberts offered to billet me for a year. She offered to take me in. My parents would have paid room and board and I would have lived with her and completed my studies at high school.

I really loved the idea. If it had been up to me, I would have said: "Can I do that, please?" My parents weren't convinced. They thought I was too young to be living away from them for a whole year - I was only 16. They wanted me to come back to London with them, so I did.

I often think about her and what if my parents and I had accepted her offer, how different life would be. If I ran into her, I would say thank you so much for offering me the billet position, but you needn't have worried because I continued on that path regardless of where I was. To Miss Wade, I'd say: "What are you doing Saturday night?" With my wife's permission, of course.

Greg Hemphill is appearing in `An Appointment with the Wicker Man', a National Theatre of Scotland production touring in February and March. He was talking to Julia Belgutay


Born: Glasgow, 1969

Education: Wilder Penfield Elementary School, Canada; St Nicholas Primary, Birmingham, England; Pierrefonds Comprehensive High, Canada; Coopers School, Kent; University of Glasgow

Career: Actor, comedian, producer, best known for Still Game and Chewin' the Fat.

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