Legendary Macclesfield teacher, writer, raconteur and rugby man Graham Wilson has sadly died at the age of 82. The inspirational former Head of English at The King's School and prolific chronicler of local life was a hugely popular figure in the town.
An original thinker, people's champion and firebrand orator, he was also passionately loyal to his wife of 56 years Tricia, his beloved Macclesfield and to The King's School for whom he worked without break for nearly 40 years. Known to all as G.P., he was universally admired by everyone he taught in class and coached on the rugby field. He is fondly remembered by those fortunate enough to teach alongside him.
Born in Bebbington on the Wirral in 1939, his family moved to Sunderland early in his life and Graham, together with younger brother David, the two sons of a distinguished lawyer and legal editor, went as boarders to Durham School. There he studied Latin, Greek and Classical Civilisation at A Level, going up to Durham to follow in the family tradition to study Law. However, his heart was never in the subject and he retrained to teach English, choosing the subject because he had won the English Prize at school, though then not allowed by his family to take such a frivolous subject at university.
As a brilliant teacher, described by generations of young men and latterly women "as quite simply the best teacher I ever had", Graham Pearce Wilson was equally as stimulating whether discussing Shakespeare, Austen or Eliot and read avidly to make up for his lost years with Law books. His expertise and knowledge enabled some pupils to become Oxford Literature Dons, West End actors, London advertising agency directors and professional rugby players both at home and abroad. Indeed, Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division, said his fondest memories of school were of G.P.'s lessons.
Known and thanked by his colleagues for his loyalty and support, as well as being appointed Head of English, he worked on various academic committees and the staff salaries panel, where as his long-time friend, former Head of Sixth Form, Ian Wilson, remembers "He always had strongly-held, usually radical, views, and was able to argue them cogently and persuasively."
A 'Mackam', a keen supporter of Sunderland F.C., it was, however, rugby where he excelled as a coach, taking the renowned King's First XV and becoming Chair of the National Schoolboys' U16 Selection Committee.
When he retired in 1997 after 33 years’ service, G.P. began a second career chronicling the lives of the characters he met in The British Flag, The Three Pigeons, The Chester Road Tavern, or as his son Paul, reflected with a smile "let's face it any number of local pubs. He didn't discriminate."
His books ‘Macc and the Art of Long Distance Walking and 'Macc and Other Islands' are classics of their genre, are still available today and were local best sellers. They were followed by another 12 books on his hunger for hillwalking, particularly his climbing of the Scottish Munros, his love of Shakespeare and his reluctant acceptance of the aging process. In 2006, Graham was shortlisted for the prestigious Boardman Tasker Prize.
Despite a relatively privileged upbringing and working at what was then the local grammar school, he was a powerful and affectionate advocate for the common man. His books are still available on Amazon with his last book "Growing Down' published by his former pupil Tim Shearer of Confingo Publishing coming out in 2022.
Graham is survived by beloved wife Tricia who was recently awarded the BEM for her lifelong work with the Girl Guiding movement, their daughter Jane, a teacher and educationalist living in Yorkshire and son Paul, an Oxford historian who is now an author living in Sydney, Australia. He was a proud grandfather of three: Archie, Bobby and Alex. Our thoughts are with his family.
Pictured above: Graham Wilson pictured at King's celebration of 90 years of Rugby this September with Jos Baxendell, First Team Captain in 1989 and 1990, who went on to play for rugby England.
If you’d like to read the tributes flooding in from former pupils and staff, the School’s Facebook page is awash with lovely memories: https://www.facebook.com/kingsinmacc/