Mr McConnell-Wood and Mr Leggitt by Will Collier

11th May 2018 at 00:00
The England-capped prop hails the rugby coach who took him under his wing, and the English teacher who let him play hooker in class – with a fishing rod

My housemaster, Mr McConnell-Wood, was an amazing man.

I met him during a tour of Cranleigh School – a very old and grand building – and instantly I thought: wow, he is an unbelievable person. I knew from that day that I wanted him to teach me and guide me into adulthood. As he took me around the boarding house, it was immediately obvious the amount of respect he commanded from all the guys.

Mr McConnell-Wood knew every nook and cranny of the school building, and would pop up unexpectedly anywhere there was mischief. He was very short and very stocky, but thanks to his military background – he was an ex-Gurkha – he was so stealthy. If any other teacher was coming, you’d hear them thumping along the corridors, but not Mr McConnell-Wood. He could give you the fright of your life.

What I remember most was his kindness: he took me under his wing and taught me really important life lessons. I was a bit naughty at school and I got caught up in the wrong circles. I was distracted very easily and I was always getting told off. I was never malicious, just typically cheeky, and I often got sent out of class. But Mr McConnell-Wood knew exactly how to speak to me. He would never shout or get angry. He would always say: it’s all about thinking before you act. I remember him telling me that he knew I could achieve more, and knew that my actions weren’t a reflection of who I was. That stuck with me.

However, he didn’t use the same approach with each individual. He would always tailor it to each boy’s character. Taking the time to do that just really worked. And of course, there was the added bonus that he also coached the rugby team. I had a really great three years under his guidance.

'A colourful, unique character'

Another unforgettable teacher from my time at Cranleigh was Mr Leggitt. He sadly passed away recently, and I can’t imagine a more colourful, unique character.

As well as sport, I loved English, especially creative writing. And in Mr Leggitt’s English classes he really enabled every single student to thrive. There were absolutely no boundaries in his lessons – whatever you wanted to do, whatever you wanted to explore, he encouraged you.

At school, I loved fishing, and one day we had to take part in a show-and-tell activity for English GCSE. You had to bring in an item, do a presentation to the class and write up an essay about it. I asked Mr Leggitt if I could bring my fishing rod and of course he said yes. I then asked if I could cast it in the class, and he had no hesitation in saying yes again. So, I was in this English class, casting this fishing rod up and down – something that I don’t think would have gone down well in other classes – and he was in hysterics, absolutely loving it. I can’t imagine that happening with any other teacher.

I never, ever saw Mr Leggitt lose it. He was a brilliant man who was passionate about what he did, and who always had time for every single student.

Will Collier was speaking to Kate Parker

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