|Peter T. Cork||(1926-2012)||teacher, composer, author, walker, friend ...|
A contribution to Peter Cork's website by John Clarke
My first school report from Mr Cork said, "Shows some interest 50/100." This was in 1967. At that time I had been playing classical guitar for 3 years, and was entering Music festivals with some success. This had the effect of inspiring me, when I too became a music teacher, to always ask my year 7’s what they had done in music before entering secondary school. During the interregnum between his leaving and the arrival of Dorothy Sanderson, we started all kinds of music groups, instrumental ensembles and such, with no input from qualified staff. Perhaps he had opened our eyes to the possibilities. I remember singing in the choir, and loving The Shepherds Farewell, and In Dulce Jubilo, and dreading the bit where it expands from 4 soloist to what looked like 16 parts to an 11 year old. Fortunately, my classical guitar studies had given me some skill at music reading. Keyboard skills were imparted by finding notes on a cardboard representation of an octave or so (so different from the suite of 16 Casios I was blessed with at Eastbrook many years later!)
I suppose I owe the Christmas Musicals I used to write every year to his adaptation of The Mikado (Not only the Mikado, which had somebody walking on with a pot plant intoning "Miss Jones" for some reason.) My Mother used to get very cross with the staging, which had the choir on the stage, and dancers on the floor. Anyone not in the front row could only glimpse the occasional arm waving as these talented performers did their thing. We, in the choir had a much better view. (This was addressed by Dorothy Sanderson, who staged Operas, with costumes, lighting and orchestra.)
Despite all my moans, he didn’t put me off music, and I have now just retired, having taught for 50 years!
John Clarke was taught by Peter Cork in Dagenham County High School. When Peter Cork left that school he travelled in the Far East before settling in Australia and teaching at North Sydney Girls High School.
Eastbrook School is also in Dagenham and where John Clarke was a teacher. (Editor)
may be contacted by e-mail at:
I wracked my memory for this song. Mr Cork asked us to chose whether the Swagman’s name should be Bob or Bill. We chose Bob, which was just as well, as I believe the author of the words had called him that! Enjoy
Bob the Swagman
John Clarke Cert Ed
Kent Music Tutor
A contribution to Peter Cork's website by John Church
I had been working in Norfolk since 1954 and had transferred back to London and my family home in Sidcup. I was spending a few days with Folkestone friends met during holidays there in the post war years and Peter was one of their friends.
Time distorts one’s memory but I believe it would have been in the summer of 1957 and Peter and I established an immediate rapport in the subject of classical music and many aspects of life in general.
I had realised for some time, and still do, that to express your interest in serious music was often the ultimate conversation stopper, but here was someone who not only knew such music but was deeply involved in playing it, teaching and creating it. In an easy going chat it became clear that there were several areas of mutual interest although I gradually realised that Peter was highly intellectually accomplished but also modest about his very significant talents. A month or so later Peter made contact and suggested we meet in London for a concert at the Festival Hall. This was the first of numerous London concerts, visits we made to the National Film Theatre and or live theatre.
I well remember "Les Quatre Cents Coups" at the NFT and seeing Olivier on stage as "The Entertainer", both outstanding examples of Peter’s thoughtful choice. We also enjoyed the very cleverly humorous "At The Drop Of A Hat" with Flanders and Swann.
On the music front we attended concerts which included pieces of significance to our personal love such as works by Debussy, Ravel, Delius, Sibelius, Vaughan Williams and composers whose musical textures you could almost "touch".
That description brings back a great memory of Peter inviting me to the first performance of his "Suite of Carols" at Goldsmiths College. It was the first experience I had of Peter’s musical style and I was bowled over as it contained so many visceral thrills of sound that I well remember saying to Peter that it could have been written for me! Peter was understandably a little nervous at this "birth" and asked the conductor after "Was it a bit VW?" All I will say is that it is a uniquely beautiful composition that should be a standard at Christmastime for good choral/orchestral societies and I remain honoured to have been present at that first performance.
Peter got me walking on a couple of occasions, the first starting out from Lewes then over the South Downs. My memory of that occasion was that although several years younger, a former rugby player and an active fast bowler, my comfortable pace and determination was some way behind that of Peter’s but of course he compromised and passed the finishing post together.
Our second outing started at Leith Hill then over the Surrey Hills and St. Martha’s church which can only be reached on foot. This outing gave Peter inspiration to write his "Surrey Concerto" for piano the first performance of which I attended at, my memory tells me, at St. Botolph’s, but definitely under the direction of Harold Darke (he of the "nation’s favourite carol.")
Peter was not playing at that concert but he did give me a private piano performance of his consummate musicality by playing the slow movement of the Rachmaninoff second concerto, gently whistling or humming the orchestral parts. This may seem strange but it was nothing less than movingly amazing.
Peter tried to get me walking in Scotland but the timing or my fear that my last memory might be of him about two miles ahead up the far side of the next glen whilst I waited on the mountain rescue team didn’t allow.
He did go there and sent me a letter simply addressed from INCHNADAMPH!! …. Lovely sense of humour.
Another example of his humour was that following a concert including Bach’s "The Art of Fugue" which I had found extremely tedious, he would describe something boring as "art of fuguey".
Our active friendship covered something less than three years and with a sense of guilt I regret letting an enhancing friendship drift away but "life" does have a habit of getting in the way. My job moved me away again and in 1961 I met the beautiful lady who eventually became my wife resulting in, so far, 53 years of happy marriage and a wonderful son.
I am proud to have known Peter and I am so happy to have learned recently of everything Peter Cosker and others are doing to preserve his work and legacy.
12c. Wealden Way
Bexhill-on-Sea, TN39 4NY
may be contacted by e-mail at:
We are grateful to John Church for this insight into the early days of Peter's adult life, since most of our other accounts concern his life as a school teacher and this gives us a quite different perspective on his lifestyle and activities.
I was alerted to the existence of the website about Peter Cork by Jenny Endersby. She actually tried to contact me over 18 months ago but due to an over-vigilant security system on Facebook her message got filed in a location I was not even aware of until yesterday.
Since then, I have been on an enormously powerful journey down memory lane. I was at Clapham County from 1970 – 77 (Janet Goodair in those days, but I dropped the ‘et’ fairly soon after leaving school) and had the privilege of being the last person to whom Beryl Viner gave the Head Girl’s badge. Clapham County School, of course, became Walsingham School in my final year and Beryl Viner told me to take care of the badge since she was sure it would not be used in the future. I still have it in a safe place.
Music was what sustained me throughout my time at C.C.S. I sang and played with increasing confidence in choirs, orchestras and ensembles. I took Music for both GCSE and A Level. The Music Room and the practice rooms were a second home to me. I sang in the Chorus of ‘The Bells of Craxminster’, the semi-chorus of ‘White Bird’ and by the time we got to ‘Half-way up the Mountain’ Peter entrusted me with the part of the drunken Matron. It was such a privilege to be part of it all. Those operettas are probably my most enduring memories of C.C.S. I have to admit that my memory of the final concert in 1977 is vague and it was really interesting to listen to some of the recordings, hearing my own voice and the voices of some of my friends. I am puzzled that Katharine Gould doesn’t seem to appear since she was always very much at the heart of music making, but then my memory is not quite what it was! I am meeting up over the summer with Kath (Gould), Naomi (Dixon) and Diane (Brown) and I will definitely be sharing the website and the recording with them.
I kept in touch with Peter after I left C.C.S. I actually attended the first performance of The Will and the Way although I don’t have a clear recollection of the detail. We exchanged Christmas letters regularly and occasionally more personal ones. He was very kind and supportive when my marriage ended in 2008. I did hear of Peter’s death in 2012 although I cannot quite remember how the news came to me. Unfortunately, work prevented me from coming to the memorial which I was enormously sad about. Peter had kindly sent me a CD of ‘Through the Looking glass’ and ‘Man of Kent’ which I still have. A number of year before that he also sent me a tape which I believe was ‘The Road to Marriage Farm’ but that seems to have been misplaced.
I also still have one personal letter from him, written to me in August 1976 when he had, at my request, scored ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Londonderry Air’ so that they could be played at the annual school service. Some of it is nuts and bolts about parts I needed to write out, but he also mentions having written the first part of what turned into ‘the Will and the Way’ and expresses some of his apprehension about what the year ahead might hold as C.C.S. became Walsingham. He signed it ‘Peter Cork’ and the 17 year old me who received it felt enormously affirmed and valued. Peter told me after he had left that one of the reasons he stayed for a year after the transition to Walsingham was to see that small group of us, who had travelled so far with him, safely through our A Level course. A Grade A ‘A’ Level and two instrumental Grade 8’s are nice things to have and an important part of Peter’s legacy to me, but I value even more what he demonstrated and shared over the years about kindness, generosity, persistence, faithfulness (especially in the care of his mother)and the sheer joy that can come from making music with others, something that I am now resolved to rediscover.
Rev Dr Jan Goodair
47 North Moor
York YO32 9RX
Jan wrote a very long letter to the Website Editor on the 7th April 2016, which was most welcome and greatly apreciated. If you visit the 'Teacher' part of this website, you will find further extracts from Jan's letter including a very detailed account of how budding musicians were helped to realise their full potential in the Music Department of Clapham County School with the help and guidance of Peter Cork.
Jan may be contacted at:
Comments by Colin Patience to the Editor of the 'This England' article
18 Sept 2015
I was interested in your article on Peter Cork in the Autumn edition of This England because I was one of the "circle of close friends" that you refer to. I wonder if I might be allowed to add some comments to flesh out some of the points that you have made?
To be strictly accurate, Peter did not come to a personal faith until very near his death but his life was shot through with examples of his ethic of helping others, especially through his music. During his times teaching in the UK, he spent much of the long summer holidays in writing and composing musical works for the students to perform. He was generous in his time with those who showed a musical inclination, taking groups to concerts and guiding those preparing for music exams.
Peter taught in Australia on several occasions in the 1960s and enjoyed the opportunity to travel which these trips made possible. As the Vietnam War began to rumble, Peter visited Cambodia and fell in love with the country and its people. So began his great efforts in raising money for the Cambodia Trust and his local concerts and his later recordings (achieved at his expense) were all opportunities to provide funds for them.
Space would not allow me to expand on Peter's life as I would wish but I refer your readers to a website set up in his memory - please go to www.peter-t-cork.com.
Colin almost certainly knew Peter Cork, particularly in the latter years, better than anyone else. Colin lived close at hand in Cheriton and spent a great deal of time with Peter towards the end of his life.
The Funeral Service for Peter at Barham Crematorium was led by Colin Patience, Lay Pastor, Capel Baptist Church.
It was Colin who devoted a great deal of time and effort looking after Peter's house and belongings, as the solicitors ensured Peter's wishes were met.
Colin was also there, a year later, to say a few words, when a small group of us gathered in Crundale churchyard to assist and witness the scattering of Peter's ashes in a place he loved and knew well.
Colin, like many of us, is no longer in the best of health but may be contacted by good friends of Peter Cork at:
I was so interested to find this website dedicated to Mr Cork. I was at Dagenham County High School from 1962-1967 and Mr Cork was our music master. The memory of him playing for us Chopin's Heroic Polonaise Op 53 has never left me. I feel so lucky to have been one of his pupils. His programme of music teaching covered a wide range of subjects and pupil ability with assemblies, choirs, musicals, festivals, concerts, instrument lessons and GCE Theory exams. Music in the school was a delight for me and made a great impression.
All best wishes
Dianne may be contacted at:
I came across your website today, delighted to have found lovely and deeply moving recognition of Peter Cork who taught me Elective Music when he was in Sydney, Australia. He was a wonderful teacher, always generous and supportive, not only of my music but also of my design. His enthusiasm and knowledge opened my ears and eyes; of course, being so young I had no idea of his accomplishments. I recall, rather shyly, giving him before he left our school a silver medal I had won at the Sydney Eisteddfod as a token of my thanks for his teaching. You would have thought I had given him a King's ransom, given his kind appreciation! We corresponded for many years after he returned to England. Hardly believable in this day, Peter regularly wrote to this rather awkward but keen musician; I always looked forward to the UK square blue aerogrammes from 39 Alder Road, Folkestone, Kent in that wonderfully neat handwriting – encouraging and kind – and with a glorious Kent calendar sent each Christmas! Very exotic to a young Australian! Such a thoughtful human being. And clearly, his goodness was appreciated by many, given the comments I have read. I had no idea of Peter's rich professional history, though in hindsight and adulthood, it is clear he was deeply talented. I eventually went on to do a music degree, then another in design, and now lecture at university. I suspect Peter might have smiled at that; he contributed to both. And I still have a love of English music!
Funnily enough, I had been thinking of Peter when I visited the UK in 2012. Regretfully, I could not pursue making contact as I had become ill in transit. However, when I got back home I found his, "A Country Calendar" on CD and ordered it from the UK; I see now from my records, this was just ten days before he died.
I was very moved to read about his memorial and see such good friends remembering him so fondly and respectfully. If fortunate enough to visit England again, I hope I might just make a visit to that corner of Crundale Church. A gentle man indeed.
I would love to be kept in the loop about any concerts /information about Peter.
All the very best
Jennifer was taught by Peter Cork in 1968 when he was a teacher at North Sydney Girls High School.
Jennifer may be contacted at:
Jennifer has also been kind enough to tell us a little about North Sydney Girls High School, as it was in 1968, when Peter Cork was teaching there in his final year away before returning to England. You will find her account on the 'Teacher' page of this website.
A web-site for Peter Cork - "I did indeed receive this link from someone else - a former colleague. We both taught at Clapham County School for Girls & knew Peter Cork. I left the school in 1975 (to marry an officer I met on a school cruise when I was one of the group leaders of a party of 6th formers from Clapham). I helped with 'front of house' for one of Peter's operas which was performed at the school; I remember Dudley Moore coming to see it.
I'm not a musician - I'm a retired French teacher - but I too love film music. I wish I'd kept in touch with Peter. As my colleague has said, we probably didn't realise at the time how gifted he was.
I live in the north of England but would be interested to know of any events connected with Peter or his work.
Pat Walker (née Littlewood)"
Pat Walker then followed a link to 'The Bells of Craxminster' in the 'Composer' section (editor.)
"I've just accessed the link & listened to the 2 songs from 'The Bells' and also Peter's voice. Very moving! It's incredible that everything should be so clear after all this time.
Please do keep me 'in the loop', as they say.
Best wishes. Pat"
A contribution to Peter Cork's website by Colin Heaviside
"I bought Peter's book 'Letters from Dudley' because I knew both of them during my time at Dagenham County High School. I was there from 1953 to 1959. My subsequent attempts to contact Peter were, unfortunately, unsuccessful.
Peter Cork was an inspiration to me too. Within a year of having Peter as a teacher, my parents had somehow afforded to buy me a piano, paid for a private music teacher, and set me off on the long road to musicianship.
Peter's commitment to pupils was above and beyond. In addition to 'out of hours' involvement with the school choir and orchestra, both of which I joined, he used to accompany small groups of us to London, in his own time, to attend Robert Mayer youth concerts at the Royal Festival Hall.
Preparation for GCE music involved studying Elgar's Enigma Variations in some depth, and Peter's love of the work was communicated to the extent that I passed the exam and the work still ranks as one of my all-time favourites.
Peter Cork and my piano teacher, Irene Allen, were truly inspirational and thanks to them my life has been incalculably enriched."
may be contacted by e-mail at:
See the 'Teacher' page for a further account of his time at Dagenham County High School by Colin Heaviside.
Memories from Dagenham County High School by Keith Haley
"Like Norma Winstone, Brian Astell and Dudley Moore, I was taught by Peter and can confirm the great love for him by everybody I knew. To my shame, I cannot remember Norma other than as a name; Brian (Baz) Astell was one year above me and Dudley a year above that --- strange then that both myself and one, Brian King, occasionally shared a 'double-desk' with Dudley as he struggled to catch up at junior school after repeated hospital operations. On a tube journey up to the Lyric at Hammersmith, Dudley explained to me that he had been born with one foot joined to the other. That simply increased the awe in which I held the man. However, being somewhat of a genius, he quickly caught up and moved away.
As you know, Peter came to Dagenham in 1950 and, shortly afterwards, arranged for six of us to audition as understudies for Britten's opera, 'Let's Make an Opera'. Dudley, Chris Clements and myself were lucky enough to be selected and so met the incredible Norman Del Mar - met a lot of other nice people too! It is not generally known but Peter Cork was a nephew of Norman Del Mar and I am surprised that the connection is never mentioned in the details of either of these 'Gentlemen'."
is very keen to be kept informed of all matters and is happy for his contact details to be made available.
Contact Keith at:
or by telephone on:
0115 910 7309
07811 292 854
Jenny Endersby was Jenny Fargie, before she married. She was a pupil in her fourth year at Clapham County School, when she took part in 'A Musical Story of a Quest in the Silver Jubilee Year of 1935 called Half-Way up the Mountain', which was written and produced by Peter Cork. Here is what she said,
"I have fond memories of Peter Cork at Clapham County, where I was in the orchestra and choir and played Maud in 'Half-Way up the Mountain'. The other members of the cast in my class were Paula Mills and Denise Warren."
Jenny has no objection to being contacted on her personal e-mail address, which is shown on the following link:
Jenny was also kind enough to say, "Many thanks for the lovely website and all the information about Peter Cork."
Sheila Hooker is Peter Cork's cousin and lives in Church Lane, New Romney. We met for the first time at the concert, which was 'A Celebration of the Life and Music of PETER CORK', where she was kind enough to offer me some of Peter's documents, that she had been given, so they might be kept with his music. Some time later, her son arrived at my home on a motorcycle bearing a large envelope containing many closely typed 'Basildon Bond' notepaper pads.
The illustration on the left shows just the first page of one of several pads about 'The Road from Marriage Farm'. Another pad held Peter's reminiscence of his teaching at Clapham County School, the content of which has been reproduced on the 'Teacher' page of this website. Others concerned 'The Wartime Picnics', 'The Country Calendar' and other of Peter's compositions.
It was extremely generous of Sheila to part with these historic documents, which are now stored alongside the musical scripts to which they refer.
I first became acquainted with Peter when in October 2006 he gave a programme to the Canterbury Recorded Music Society entitled 'From the English Countryside'. This was a delightful programme and so two years later, as secretary of the Society I wrote to Peter asking if he would present a further programme. Unfortunately he had to decline as his health was not good but there was something about Peter and the letter he sent that made me want to keep in touch with him. A little while later a fellow member of the society and I paid a friendly call and after a pleasant afternoon we prepared to leave. Just as we were leaving Peter asked if he could play us a little music, took us into his lounge where his beloved grand piano was and played. To say that we were quite overwhelmed was putting it mildly.
Peter had told us about his love for Cambodia and before we left we had arranged to hold a mini concert at Peter's home with a few friends with a view to contributing to his worthy cause. Several of us gathered there together with some of Peter's friends and we had a delightful afternoon listening to Peter and his music. In order not to impose any strain upon Peter I had reassured him that I would provide some light refreshments but, gentleman that he was he had also prepared some and so we were doubly endowed.
I kept in touch and Peter would let me know when he was to give a recital at the Coffee concerts (which I always enjoyed) and his Christmas card was always accompanied by his newsletter.
It was a privilege to know Peter- a true gentleman who was full of life and vitality and who always spoke in such glowing terms about other people's kindness towards him.
(Hon. Secretary, Canterbury Recorded Music Society)
is the Honorary Secretary of the Canterbury Recorded Music Society.
The Canterbury Recorded Music Society is affliated to the Federation of Recorded Music Societies and access to the Canterbury web-site is via the FRMS web-site. The following link should take you straight to the Canterbury section but do please return here afterwards!
Canterbury Recorded Music Society
Meetings are held on alternate Tuesdays between September and June commencing promptly at 7.30 p.m. in the acoustically fine and comfortable hall of the Friends Meeting House, 6 The Friars, Canterbury with ample parking close by.
Jennifer has no objection to being contacted on her personal e-mail address, which is shown on the following link:
If you would like to make your own contribution on this page, please send your account and any photographs to the e-mail address on the right.
Peter Cosker (Editor)
|editor: Peter J. Cosker||Peter T. Cork||updated: 13/10/2022|