Ladies who Lead
Our founder: Doris Parkinson MBE
Wigan-born Doris Parkinson, affectionately remembered as “Parky”, came to Wirral in 1945 and was appointed head of music at Wirral Grammar School for Girls in Bebington. Following requests from former pupils, the then head teacher Winifred Ashton suggested a choir would develop continuity between pupils past and present and in 1952, the Old Girls’ Choir was formed. The Old Girls’ Choir eventually became The Wirral Singers and Parky served more than five decades as its conductor/director. There was a rumour that the change in name came about because Parky got fed up of people putting the apostrophy in the wrong place!
Her talent also saw her work with several distinguished musicians, including the Liverpool-born conductor Sir Simon Rattle and Sir Charles Groves, who was musical director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra between 1963 and 1977.
The choir went on to gain much success in the competitive field at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, an annual music festival in North Wales, and in the BBC’s Let the Peoples Sing, and many more competitions.
Parky, who lived in Bromborough, retired from teaching in 1973 but continued to conduct the Wirral Singers until Christmas 2009. As a teacher of singing she was incomparable. She had the ability to spot potential from a group of 10 and 11 year olds and turn them into singers, sometimes whether they liked it or not. The tone she encouraged in her choirs was always rich and mellow.
She also conducted the Port Sunlight Choral Group and was president of the Great Sutton Male Voice Choir. She supported many music festivals, becoming an adjudicator as well as organiser and accompanist.
Proud of her northern heritage, Parky was highly regarded by those who knew her, but also had the respect and affection of many famous directors and composers, some of whom wrote songs especially for her choirs. Her devotion to music led her to be awarded the MBE for services to music on Merseyside, in 1976. In an interview with the Daily Post, back in 2002, she said her musical side came from her mother, Sarah.
However, she did share her father William’s passion for cricket. She was an avid supporter of the Lancashire cricket team and was thrilled to have met cricketer Brian Statham, legendary fast bowler for England and Lancashire, just before he died in June, 2000.
Parky, who never married, died in October 2010, a week before her 98th birthday. Sometimes uncompromising, she was always inspiring and her singers remember her with tremendous fondness.
Carrying on the Baton – Jackie Robertson
Jackie has been a member of the Wirral Singers for many years. As Doris Parkinson grew older and it became too difficult for her to teach us new music, Jackie stepped in and breathed new life into the choir, becoming Parky’s co-conductor and taking the burden from her. Eventually when Parky stepped down – but not until she was 97! – Jackie seamlessly stepped in to her shoes and became choral director from around 2007 until her retirement at the end of 2016. Jackie is a member of the Association of British Choral Directors and spends much of her time composing and she arranges all the music for the handbell ensemble.
From an early age Jackie has been singing, writing, composing and arranging all sorts of music, from musicals and choral suites to handbell music, hymns and carols. After leaving Wirral Grammar School, Jackie studied at Liverpool University and Liverpool Matthay School of Music following which she returned to Wirral Grammar as a teacher of English, Drama and Music.
Her children’s play with music, “The Willow Pattern” was published and performed at the Albert Hall in the National Youth Festival. She has also won many local prizes, particularly carol and hymn competitions on Radio Merseyside with her compositions “The Dancing Carol” and “The Children are Celebrating.”
Jackie was so much more than our director and conductor, she was also our mentor but mainly our friend. Over the years she has provided us with so much music and taught us all so much about choral singing. Her skills in decorating rooms for parties is unequalled!
We were sorry when she decided to retire, but know she is not very far away and hope to be singing her music for many years to come.
Thank you for the music Jackie!