William Gillion

Headmaster 1958 – 1973

gillion.jpgWilliam H Gillion, more affectionately known as ‘Bill’, was educated at Paston Grammar School in Norfolk from where he was successful in gaining a place at Trinity College, Cambridge to read Mathematics. In 1934, he was awarded an Honours degree and he went on to gain an M.A.

Deciding to follow a career in teaching mathematics, he was appointed Senior Maths master at Katherine Lady Berkeley Grammar School, Gloucestershire.

For a six year period as a result of the war, William joined the Royal Navy. He started with coastal convoys but his mathematical prowess was soon put to better use training Officer Cadets in Navigation and Action Plotting and was given the rank of Instructor-Lieutenant. By 1947, he had been promoted to Instructor-Lieutenant Commander and in 1951, he became Head of Mathematics at the Turkish Naval College where he taught through am interpreter.

During interim periods and after the war, William spent time at Melton Mowbray, Tavistock Grammar Schools and Chatham House School in Ramsgate as Senior Maths master before finally arriving at Burton Grammar School, very shortly after it had moved from Bond Street to Winshill, to replace Horace Pitchford as Headmaster. The appointment partly came about through his association with Arthur Blake who was Director of Education for Burton. Another associate was in the same period appointed Headmaster of the other Grammar School in Burton – Dovecliff making for a very successful period in Burton’s education history.

gillionformMr Gillion was tremendously keen as far as academic standards were concerned, and the achievements of the school were never higher than under his headship. In 1960 William, with the co-opted help of Harry Smith, inaugurated a new form 5X. This was a special class that was for the most gifted pupils of form 3A. It meant that group of them would study the fifth form syllabus, with the best available tutoring, in their fourth year to gain a year so that they would be able to study Open Scholarship, which went well beyond normal ‘A’ Level, in their year in the Upper Sixth rather than having to spend an addition year there. Bill’s dream of academic excellence was realised; in a single year, Burton Grammar School achieved fourteen Scholarships and Exhibitions. To put this in context, Repton School achieved eight in the same year!

Sadly there was strong pressure, both internal and external, to look after the lesser able pupils rather than the brightest so the exercise was never repeated.

A stout supporter of the Grammar School System and unable to accept the abolition in favour of a comprehensive school, William retired in 1973. After living in Rolleston during his time in Burton, post-retirement, he moved back to Stroud in Gloucestershire where he retained an interest in education by becoming Chairman of the Governors of Downfields School which managed to survive as a grammar schools.

gillions.jpgIn 1975, two years after he left, the school closed, and was turned into the Abbot Beyne Comprehensive School’s Evershed building. You could almost say therefore, that his career at Burton Grammar School spanned the time of the beginning and the end of the Winshill school.

His first wife, Frances, died of cancer, and Mr Gillion met his second wife, Edith, during his time in Gloucestershire. He finally died of a heart attack in his garden aged 92 and had a very large attendance at his funeral. William was survived by his wife and daughter, Daphne, who was a pupil at Burton Girls’ High School before leaving for university in Birmingham.


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