Keswick Hall College of Education

Former lecturer: David Wright


David Wright, was a geographer, 
Keswick Hall lecturer and author whose work inspired children around the world. He graduated from Cambridge University and then trained as a teacher, undertaking an MA in Geography in Education from London University, Institute of Education.
He taught in Stevenage and Pittsburgh before moving to Norfolk in 1969 as a lecturer in Geography at Keswick Hall College of Education, which was later merged with the University of East Anglia, where he worked for 12 years. He took early retirement in 1994 to further his research and writing, becoming a self-employed author, school inspector, adviser and consultant. Many of his former Keswick students will recall his habit of writing messages and assessments on the back of cut-up Ordnance Survey  maps. He also awarded students with second-hand, out-of-date school geographical text books rescued from jumble sales and the like; one (‘Pleasant Paths to Geography’

originally inscribed Heartsease Junior 1957) being inscribed:‘To Garry. First prize for a very good Special Study (especially the trains chapter). D.R.Wright, Internal Examiner. '

 D.W. had a passion for steam trains and railways.
David started producing children’s text books in the 1970s. In 1982 David and his wife Jill co-authored First Picture Atlas which was published by Kingfisher Books for Marks and Spencers. The Pocket Atlas, aimed at 9 - 14 year olds, followed in 1983 and his suite of books includes children’s atlases and 14 other non-fiction books for children as well as books for teachers.
In his career as an author David drew heavily on his travels with Jill, his wife. Together they visited more than 100 countries collecting information including 10,000 photographic slides through which they aimed to increase the appeal of the atlases beyond descriptive maps. Travelling around the world with his family in 1987, David taught for a term in Brisbane Teachers’ College and visited numerous countries to collect background material for the new Environment Atlas.
First published in 1987, the Philip’s Children’s Atlas for Key Stage 2 sold over a million copies world-wide. Aimed at making the new style of atlas more child friendly than those produced previously by Philip’s, this publication combines clear, accurate maps with fascinating facts about countries and uses their flags and stamps, interesting full colour photographs, (many taken by David himself) and fact boxes to produce an atlas that is fun to use and easy to understand. The Philip’s Children’s Atlas proved especially popular in the United States and was published in Japanese, Norwegian, German and Greek. It was also awarded the Geographical Association’s award for making a significant contribution to geography, being judged:
‘an excellent all round children’s atlas with simple yet well designed maps, well illustrated with colour photographs. It links places to issues, events and real people, giving a clear sense of place.’
Many of David’s atlases were, and still are, well used in schools especially where his former students are now teachers or headteachers.

David was also the author of Maps with Latitude and Mapping our Globe, as well as 40 published articles on world maps and 100 other

articles geographical related topics - and railways.  One of his early publications (1974) was Survival in the Penguin Human Space series which investigates some of the least hospitable places on Earth and how to survive.  In 2009, he co-authored the Philip’s Infant School Atlas and the Philip’s Early Years Atlas with his daughter Rachel Noonan, the latter of which is intended for pre-reading children aged between 3 and 5 years.
David was a an advocate of the use of equal area maps in teaching and in publications of all types and his 
(W) Right World Map was launched in 2007. He also recommended the use of stamps in engaging young people with an interest in places).
Throughout his career David’s concern was to stimulate children’s interest in the world by creating pupil-orientated approaches to teaching geography and innovative ways of linking geography, environmental and sustainable development education, all rooted in his experiences of many different parts of the world.

His Keswick students, particularly the 1969-72 cohort, will long remember his great enthusiasm and good nature even when the butt of student pranks.  He organised some fine educational field trips for Keswick students, memorably one visiting Yorkshire, staying in Sorby Hall, (part of the University of Sheffield).
One evening D.W. arrived back in his room to discover that the light bulbs had been removed from so it was pitch black. Shelves from the book cases were placed all around the room to be fallen over, his pyjama trousers were sewn up at the knees and his valued briefcase (presumably with all of his course notes inside) was suspended out of his window - 5 storeys up!!
He appeared to take the state of affairs in good humour although the following day all students were sent on a gruelling five mile hike across the North York Moors, through the villages of Lockton and Levisham which included steep cliffs and descents through surprisingly deep valleys which made walking more of an effort than one would have thought.
Another memorable occasion was when David Wright led his Geography Group to Weybourne for a field trip. The college coach driver (just a trifle recklessly) drove onto the shingle beach and, predictably, got stuck fast! Despite the efforts of all students pushing the coach, a beach fishing boat-winch pulling the coach (and subsequently braking), it remained embedded on the beach. There was some speculation about what would happen when the tide came in. Fortunately a breakdown truck from North Walsham arrived in the nick of time to rescue the coach and students!
He kept in contact with a number of his Keswick students right to the end – encouraging  and supporting - with a genuine interest.

Sadly David passed away on 20th November 2009.

Judith Mansell, with additional material by GR