“I wanted to be a librarian, and the careers officer Mr Jolly said, ‘No way, no way, could you ever do anything like that,’ and what came back was a voice from the side, and that was the headmaster, who said, ‘Now then, how can you say that, because you don’t know our Alan: he can do whatever he wants.”
Alan Counsell, writer, teacher and trainer, Milton Keynes
Read an extract from Alan's new book, We'll Show Them
Born 11 November 1937
Attended Audley Primary School, Audley Secondary Modern, Harris College, Preston; Homerton teacher training college, Cambridge
Alan Counsell Lang Tape 1 - listen now
Born in Blackburn in Lancashire in 1937 as one of six children. Memories of being fed and carried by his brothers and sister. Sister Olive, 12 years older, was his carer; two younger and two older brothers. Father a fourth-generation crumpet baker in family business. Alan’s mother and grandfather also worked in the bakehouse, and the whole family had individual bakehouse chores.
Alan Counsell Lang Tape 2 - listen now
Alan’s father worked in bakehouse from 1am. Saturday morning cinema. Mickey, Grandfather’s canary. Parents married in 1922 in a church in Blackburn. Alan born in 1937. Father was an air raid warden. Backyard air raid shelter. Grandmother sang in pubs, at weddings and funerals and was also a spiritualist medium. Father was one of 10 children. Two sets of twins died and six children survived. Alan used to be fed daily a bottle of milk through the school railings by his grandmother.
Alan Counsell Lang Tape 3 - listen now
Difficulties at mainstream school. Distrust of doctors, after one wanted to amputate his right arm and another described him as “mentally deficient”. Speech difficulty and making friends. Alan’s school career advisor, Mr Jolly, gave him no hope of full-time work. Depression. Alan’s mum got Alan a job at a local cotton mill as a warehouse boy aged 15, folding materials and passing messages to the inspectors.
Alan Counsell Lang Tape 4 - listen now
Camping at Knebworth House. Jousting on a quad bike. Mary Chipperfield brought tigers and chimpanzees to Meldreth School Fete. Canal trips. Lions Club in Cambridge arranged school trips. Village volunteers arranged home visits. Girl Guides run by Alan’s wife.
Alan Counsell Lang Tape 5 - listen now
Milton Keynes Secondary Modern School. Behaviour problems. Teaching general science. Working at Buckinghamshire County Council, 1982 to 1989, as an Integrating Officer, helping to integrate disabled children into mainstream schools. Resistance from teachers. Backing of Alan’s family. Alan and Katherine had three children.
Alan Counsell Lang Tape 6 - listen now
Alan’s advice to his son Grant about adopting a disabled child. Alan’s daughter Marcia had five children, including Hyram. Alan’s other daughter Emma is a teacher of 9-10-year-olds in Milton Keynes. Margaret Morgan and Spastics Society work assessment course at Boughton-on-the-Water. Travelling in the Guards Van.
Alan Counsell Lang Tape 7 - listen now
Alan is a member of Mormon Church. Married in 1960 in a Mormon church between Lingfield and East Grinstead. Religious beliefs and attitudes. Alan has five grandchildren – their attitudes to disability. Neck pain: various consultations with neurologists. Derbyshire Coalition of Disabled People.
Alan Counsell Lang Tape 8 - listen now
Living in village for 10 years. Alan's father was involved in bringing up children. Being a teenager in the 1950s and 60s. In February 2000, Alan received a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from Leonard Cheshire Foundation, presented by Jane Asher.
Alan Counsell Lang Tape 9 - listen now
Difficult birth. Family support to go to mainstream school. Doctor wanted to amputate Alan’s arm. Learning to walk and talk. Mr Jolly’s career advice. Warehouse lad in the cotton mill. Work for Action for Crippled Children. Work in ‘subnormality hospital’. Relationships. Wedding in 1965. Teaching at Meldreth Manor School.