Lowndes Leads Tributes to Retirees

Actress and former Head Girl at UGS, Emma Lowndes, seen here on her last day of filming for ‘Military Wives’

As seen in other articles on this website, six of our teaching staff are retiring at the end of this term, having, between them, amassed nearly 200 years of teaching at Urmston Grammar. Now three former students have sent tributes to honour our retirees.


“I was at Urmston Grammar – old site – from 1978 – 1985,” says Mark Roberts– now Deputy Chief Constable at South Yorkshire Police. 

“I had Merrick Weems for geography and got to know him well, socialising with him and my mate, Dave, after we left 6th form. Merrick couldn’t have been much older than us and we used to constantly remind him that his team Oldham were (and still are) hopeless, though they had a brief flirtation with mediocrity under Joe Royle. Merrick was the trendy teacher, married to Sarah, friends with a singer from Swing Out Sister and an actress called Pooky, I seem to recall.

“It probably says something that I’ve stayed loosely in touch over the last 35 years, and I was honoured when he invited me back for a prize giving night. A great teacher and thoroughly decent bloke!”


Former Head Boy, Andy Mitten, now working as a journalist, having started the Manchester United fanzine while still at Urmston Grammar, joined the school just as Mark was leaving, and he too remembers the impact of Merrick and other teachers.

“Merrick had not long been at UGS when I started in 1985,” Andy recalls,  “Along with Richard Tighe, they were youthful geography teachers who’d become form teachers to us callow first year students. 

“They taught far more than geography though, so much that I remember their influence thirty-five years later. There were humorous chats about football, for one. Merrick could smile then, since his beloved Oldham Athletic were en-route to the Premier League. I have feared for his wellbeing many times in the 25 years of thin and thinner for the Latics since. And he wasn’t smiling when he walked into his form to see his student Tom Gadsby (later a headteacher) sellotaped to a chair in his blazer and hoisted onto a desk!

“More seriously, I remember, aged 13, the guidance and emotional support I received when my parents separated. And guidance that: perhaps, it wasn’t the best idea to go into business selling hotdogs with a fellow fifth-former who didn’t always uphold the school motto of ‘Manners Makyth Man’. 

“This guidance and support came from several teachers and you never forget that. It’s decency, wisdom and very helpful.

Emma, as she was in her school days, playing Miss Hannigan in ‘Annie’, under Mike Parker’s direction

“I loved geography being taught by Merrick, though I’ve yet to find anyone who shares his unconditional enthusiasm for glaciation. I wish him and the other retiring teachers the best wishes and congratulate them on their very healthy innings educating students and making them better people.”


As Andy was Head Boy, so Emma Lowndes was also Head Girl at Urmston Grammar, and she has since gone on to become a successful actress

“I would like to wish all the teachers retiring from UGS this year all the very best. I have fond memories of school and still have the same best friends,” says the star of Cranford, Jane Eyre, Downton Abbey and, most recently, the film Military Wives.

To Mrs. Clowes, Emma says:“P.E was an absolute favourite subject of mine. I did sport every single day and you really encouraged me to push myself. Thank you.

And she has this to say to Mr. Weems: “I didn’t do GCSE Geography because I didn’t really like geography (sorry), but chose to do it at A-level nevertheless, because I thought the teachers were ace! All the best, Mr Weems; you were great!”

And she has this message for Mr. Parker: “I started out being rubbish at English and ended up getting an English degree. You asked me to read Bottom in first year (Midsummer Night’s Dream). I was reluctant, but your love of English and Drama allowed me to eventually discover what I wanted to do as a career, especially when I was cast in ‘Annie’. I will always be grateful to you sacrificing your break times to run drama club and help me practise my monologues. Thank you so much!”




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