Miss Gebby by Midge Ure

30th October 2015 at 00:00
The Ultravox frontman and co-founder of Band Aid learned about art, and his beating heart, thanks to a teacher at his primary school in Glasgow

Miss Gebby was the only teacher who was nice to me at Cambuslang Primary School in Glasgow. She was young, sweet and pretty, and she dressed in a classic 1960s style with crinoline flared skirts. She was just perfect – like Miss Honey in Matilda – and I had a total crush on her. I remember she came from the Scottish Highlands.

The school was run by Victorianesque spinsters who terrorised and abused me. Even though I was reasonably well behaved, I was a daydreamer. In those days if you didn’t pay attention you got beaten in front of the class with a leather strap, which was hideously embarrassing. The teachers were only meant to hit you in the palm of your hand but they’d whack you all the way up the inside of your arm and leave you with welts.

Miss Gebby never hit me and she was the only teacher to ever praise me because I didn’t excel at anything in academia or sport. The “three Rs” didn’t touch anything inside of me as they were always taught in such a dull way.

The only things I was good at were music and art and these weren’t considered important: not unless you were singing traditional Scottish songs or were Grade 5 at the piano. I remember Miss Gebby bringing me to the front of the class to show off a painting I’d done. It really boosted my confidence as it was the first time I’d felt good about something at school.

She was an artist and she taught me how to draw a face: starting with an oval and then the line down the middle, the line where the eyes should be and the line where the mouth should be. Years later I used that method to design a symmetrical face that became the logo for [Ure’s early 1980s synthpop band] Visage.

She also taught me about perspective and distance, which was quite a big thing to understand at 9 or 10. All of a sudden my drawings had depth and shading. I latched on to what Miss Gebby showed me as I enjoyed it so much.

She was the only one to see I had a talent for art and I wonder if things would have been different if she’d taught me at secondary school. She might have said: “If you work a little harder at maths and history and get some good Highers, you could go to the Glasgow School of Art.” In fact, nobody suggested that to me at all. The idea was as remote to me as becoming an astronaut and flying to the Moon.

It was almost preordained as you walked into school that if you weren’t academic, you were factory fodder. They couldn’t see anything other than that, which is a pity.

I remember Miss Gebby got married and we all brought in little gifts. My mother bought mine and I was dreadfully embarrassed taking it in. It was a little man made up of a pot scourer and a couple of dusters. What kind of present was that? “There you go, Miss, now you can clean and polish for the rest of your life.”

I never saw her again. It’s a shame as she’s the only good thing I can remember from primary school. All the other interactions with teachers seemed to involve physical abuse. It was 50 years ago but I still think of Miss Gebby and she’ll always have a space in my heart.

Midge Ure was talking to Kate Bohdanowicz. He is performing in the 80s Invasion Tour alongside Big Country, Nick Heyward and Curiosity Killed the Cat. It starts in March 2016: for tickets, visit ticketmaster.co.uk

Ure the man

Midge Ure

Born James Ure, 10 October 1953, Cambuslang, Glasgow

Education Cambuslang Primary School; Rutherglen Academy, Glasgow; Motherwell Technical College (completing six months of an apprenticeship in engineering before dropping out to join a band)

Career Singer, songwriter and frontman with Ultravox; co-founder of Band Aid with Sir Bob Geldof

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