News has filtered through to the Old Boys of the death earlier this summer of Allen Chisnall who was Head of Maths between 1963 and 1988. He died in a care home in Blackpool aged 88.
Here’s the article written for the school magazine on Allen’s retirement by John Taylor who worked with Allen and succeeded him as Head of Department.
Allen was educated in Blackpool in his early years before moving on to Stretford GS where he soul searched in the sixth form before changing from arts subjects to specialising in Mathematics. From here he progressed to Manchester University, and after graduating in Maths he continued with an M.Sc. in Astro Physics and would have completed a PhD but for starting in his chosen career as a teacher. It was during this time that Allen became an authority on computing, working on the first computers in this country and then spending four months as a student in Toronto, Canada, with this “new” British invention.
His first teaching post was at Huddersfield College (where he taught the father of two of our present sixth form Further Maths students, who himself is now a Professor of Physics). From here he moved to Stockport School and then in 1963 to Altrincham Boys as the new Head of Mathematics.
Allen’s success as a teacher can only be admired. He is not only a brilliant mathematician but also a very successful teacher (two qualities not often synonymous). As well as the countless boys who have benefited from his teaching throughout the school there is a very long list of boys who have been lucky enough to have entered Cambridge to read Maths, not without a great deal of effort in coaching by Allen.
Outside the classroom the school has benefited from many of Allen’s interests. For many years he organised large parties of boys for fell walking trips, visiting such places as South East Ireland, The Isle of Arran, The Lakes and the Pennines (having walked the Pennine Way at least twice). He is described as “the fastest and fittest walker I know” by Mr Coleman – a view which would be endorsed by Roger Fish, an ex-head of P. E.
His love of music and ability to play the organ and piano led him to help in school plays and his “musical effects” to The Tempest in 1969 are still remembered.
His other interests include bird watching, cookery and gardening. He can understand Russian and has written a number of books (notably Maths and Astronomy) but his modesty prevents from making these and other facts well known.
The school will sadly miss this modest, gentle, scholarly and somewhat private gentleman. His efficiency shows in the way he has run the school stockroom and his willingness to pass on his experience shows in the number of J.M.B. committees he has been involved with in shaping the future of school mathematics. His most recent post at the J.M.B. as chief examiner in Special Further Mathematics reminds me of the lager advert – reaches the parts that other exams cannot reach. Gone will now be the famous “Chis-steps”, a phrase relating to manipulating at least four lines of complicated algebra in your head. But his memory will always be with me in particular, and his invention of the further maths function Chis will always bring fond memories.
We’ve received the sad news that George died on Monday.
I reprint Roy Coleman’s tribute to George from his history of the School
In 1942 little George Thornton (was he ever small?) stood on our school stage singing patriotic songs in a cub-scout show. Little did he realise, then, that this was the start of 50 years’ association with Altrincham Grammar School.
From 1944 to 1951 he was a pupil. After ‘A’ levels in Maths and Science he left AGS for teacher training in London but via many ports in the Mediterranean, for first he had to undertake National Service in the Royal Navy. It was there that he did his first teaching, taking groups of seamen for Basic English – plenty of scope there I should think!
As a teacher, George didn’t seem to have any disciplinary problems! He was firm and thorough and as a number of boys will testify, he had hands like oak boards. George was a listener and a counsellor – long before the term became jargon. He spoke to you, not at you. He was essentially paternal.
Early in his teaching career George set out to become deeply involved in school affairs. The habit never left him. He ran the Under XV team for years. He built scenery. He was in the launch party of the Sailing Club, building the school’s Heron dingy. He spent hours at Tatton until the chilly waters cooled his ardour. He became the linchpin of school camp and in its last few years organised the whole thing.
He played in the staff rugby ( a titanic tight-head prop ) school football (a bustling back) staff tug-of-war (anchorman – and the only times we’ve got on top of his) and staff cricket where he was plucky and lucky – to be likened to a Trabant rather than a Rolls Royce. Whatever he did he was good to have on your side. He gave the opposition that sinking feeling. In one football game an unknown opponent fell heavily and George rushed to his aid, sweeping him up in his brawny arms like a honeymooner. Later we heard that the injured one had broken ribs – we still don’t know if that happened before or after George picked him up.
In the mid-60s George joined the Committee of the Parents Association and contributed more than anyone towards its success. He helped to produce sixty fairs, made equipment, mended equipment and became the man, just as in the tug-of-war, that everyone fell back on.
In the mid-70s George studied at Manchester for a year before taking his Honours Degree in Education.
In the mid-80s he became a Staff Governor.
In 1987, when Keith Nodding was appointed Headmaster, George became Second Deputy Headmaster of the School. This appointment coincided with the imposition of LMS and a computerised office. Without fuss George devoted hours of his own time to mastering the SIMS system and keeping tables on the finances. He was a godsend to the office staff. It was touching and comforting to see this bear-like man stroking the keyboard with such dexterity.
All this involvement with print-outs, passwords, backing up, reconciliation and all that didn’t stop George going head first down a drain if someone dropped their car keys! Neither did it hinder his career as the unofficial builder, converter, painter, joiner, locksmith and demolition expert in the school. The main office, the medical room and the music room are largely of his design and creation – and funded by the Parents’ Association. In every rom there is something that he has garnered from somewhere in Trafford – tables, desks, screens, noticeboards, cupboards and shelves. George has stripped many a building (quite legally of course) with his sledgehammer, jemmy and group of boys. Where we would have been without this unique and extraordinary effort and enterprise I dread to think.
George Thornton is one of the old school with a record of dedication and devotion rare in any context. Whatever he starts he seems through to the end. He is stubborn. He is kindly disposed towards his fellow men. He is a powerful man with a gentle nature.
ROY COLEMAN 2000