Yvonne Thirst: Music teacher who taught thousands in Norfolk schools
07:53 06 February 2014
A peripatetic music teacher, who introduced the joy of music to thousands of school children, has died at the age of 87.
Yvonne Thirst, of East Ruston, near Stalham was born in the nearby village of Sutton where she lived until 1976.
Her father, James Peake, managed the fruit and flower nurseries next to Catfield Railway Station, and her love of flowers stayed with her always.
She started playing the piano at the age of seven after the tragic death of her mother Kathleen the year before.
Mrs Thirst had grown up surrounded by music. Her grandfather, Walter Gales, was a renowned folk singer, later recorded for the BBC by the composer E J Moeran in 1946. Mrs Thirst said her mother also had a wonderful singing voice.
Mrs Thirst continued to train not only on the piano but also with her singing, eventually gaining her associate qualifications with the London and Royal Colleges of Music. She was encouraged to take up the church organ and in 1937, at the age of 11, she became the organist at Ingham Church.
She continued as organist and choirmaster at many churches in North Norfolk, clocking up nearly 70 years service when she had to give up due to failing eyesight.
Mrs Thirst became a music teacher and taught at St. Nicholas House School, North Walsham, before becoming a peripatetic teacher on the county music staff. This involved teaching at primary, middle and high schools, covering up to ten each week. Her busiest time was at Christmas when each school wanted her to put on a Christmas music Nativity. Many thousands of children were taught to play recorder and other instruments and to sing from music.
She met her husband Gerald Thirst, shortly after the end of the Second World War. Gerald served in the Royal Navy as a Petty Officer telegrapher mainly on the North Atlantic convoys.
After the war he returned to work for British Railways. Together they played in Gerald’s dance band, the Skyliners. Yvonne played saxophone and piano, with Gerald on trumpet and trombone.
They celebrated their golden wedding in 1999. Gerald was well known as director of music for Stalham Brass Band and was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours for 2000. He died before his investiture and Mrs Thirst travelled with her family to Buckingham Palace to receive it from the Queen.
Mrs Thirst is survived by her son and two grandchildren. Her son Tim is the present director of music for Stalham Brass Band and was awarded an MBE in 2012 for his work with the band and training children.
Tim’s wife Tricia plays in the band along with Yvonne’s grandchildren, Robert and Jasmine.
The funeral will be held at St Faith’s crematorium on Monday, February 17, at 11am.