Worthing music teacher inspired thousands to play piano in town

An accomplished pianist from Goring, who taught thousands of people in Worthing over the years, will be remembered for inspiring musicians of all ages.

Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 10:54 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 11:00 am
Gill with her sons Andy Peck and David Butler-Peck

Mary Gillian Cornaby, known as Gill, died last Tuesday aged 75, with her sons Andy Peck and Dave Butler-Peck, her daughter-in-law, Rachel Martin, and her carer and friend, Sophie Wells, all at her bedside.

Her son Andy said: “Over the year Gill taught hundreds, if not thousands, of children and adults to play the piano in Worthing and had up to 70 pupils a week at times.

“Her legacy is to have inspired musicians of all ages and many have woven the joys of playing music into their professional careers.

Gill with her sons Andy Peck and David Butler-Peck

“She will be very sadly missed.”

Born in Leeds, Gill moved to Worthing as a young girl where she first played the piano, aged nine.

During the 1950s, she was often asked to accompany hymns at Sunday School at Offington Park Church, as the regular pianist had been called up to join the army.

She later gained LRAM and ARCM qualifications at the Royal College of Music.

Gill with her grandson Luke, playing at Arundel Cathedral

After qualifying as a teacher, Gill took up teaching posts in Maidenhead, Reading, at an Army Forces school in Hamelin, Germany, and later in Dubai.

During the '60s, she discovered a passion for travel and enjoyed many adventures, including hitchhiking through Luxembourg, Germany and Austria for three weeks on a budget of just £17.

Gill married at Bury Drive Church in Goring and had two sons in the early '70s.

She returned to live in Worthing and taught at a number of local schools, including her old school Vale in Vale Avenue and Ferring Junior School in Sea Lane.

Gill at her piano during the '70s

Gill taught the piano to acclaimed ballerina, Francesca Hayward, and many other accomplished musicians, including Steven Jeffery, now deputy headteacher at Our Lady of Sion School in Westbrooke, Worthing.

Mr Jeffery said: “Meeting Gill was so important to me. She showed me how music could truly communicate.”

She played the piano and organ for hundreds of weddings and concerts in Worthing and Sussex, and played at many local churches, including St Marys, St Botophs, Bury Drive, Steyne Gardens and Offington Park.

Gill was a keen member of many local societies, including the Edwardians, and was an avid supporter of local jazz at various music venues.

She travelled extensively and visited her son Dave and her grandchildren Luke and Ella in New Zealand.

Gill also dedicated many years to caring for her elderly aunts, Marjorie and Betty Scott, who suffered from Parkinson’s, and devoted much time to helping others in the community.

In recent years, Gill suffered from Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia, though she managed to stay living happily at home in Goring with wonderful carers supporting her, Andy said.

A celebration of her life will be held on Tuesday, March 19, at 1.40pm at the Worthing Crematorium.

Anyone that knew Gill is welcome to attend and donations can be made to Parkinson’s UK via Dillistone Funeral Directors.