Robert Glen, who arrived in Sherborne in 1960 – and many of whose early pupils will already have retired – died in May of this year. He was 81. He will be vividly remembered, for so wide was his range of talents and accomplishments that he singularly enriched the life of the whole community for a quarter of a century and more.
He was primarily appointed to teach classics and it was clear from the outset that he was a master of his brief. More than that, however, he was an enthusiast of rare warmth, a vigorous champion of the language and literature of the Ancient World. This intellectual delight was spontaneously caught by his pupils who, like their master, never doubted the relevance of their studies to their own 20th century lives.
Devan Haye, a bizarre, colonial-style house built partly of corrugated iron, he acquired when he arrived, bringing with him his aunt and his mother. Charming, competent and capable, they and Robert set a pattern of generous hospitality which was already starting elsewhere to fade. Afternoon tea meant bread and butter, scones, at least two home-made cakes and biscuits, and woe betide you if you appeared fainthearted. Devan Haye was their home until they, one by one, came to the end of their lives. Even without Mrs Glen and Miss Sawers, Robert was not alone. He was unusually tender-hearted and kept birds in aviaries. These he had bought from petshops if he felt their cages were too confining. Dogs, too, he was particularly fond of. But latterly he chose rescue dogs from animal sanctuaries, dogs of uncertain temperaments, given to nervous barking, given too, to biting his car upholstery to shreds. They were never chastised and rarely rebuked.
Robert’s arrival at Sherborne filled an awkward gap. The two members of staff who had most usually directed the plays, John Buchanan and John Melvin, had both left to become headmasters. Robert, already an accomplished and experienced director, offered his services and a succession of memorable plays and spectacles followed. Latterly in the 70s and 80s, with Patrick Shelley and Augusta Miller, he directed fifteen productions for Dorset Opera, which again enriched the experience of present and old pupils of Sherborne School and of Sherborne Girls singing in the chorus. Since he had worked as a répétiteur at Glyndebourne he knew what he was about, and the professional singers and orchestra naturally recognised his authority. In the rehearsal period he would delicately pick his way between the squalls and tantrums, both real and artificial, reducing the tensions and spreading harmony and light. Sharp confrontations were alien and distasteful to him, and he instinctively chose the path of moderation.
When his housemastership came to a close, he resolved to take holy orders and after the requisite period of study and preparation he emerged as a priest. He was assistant chaplain at Sherborne School, he worked particularly in Yetminster and served four years as Rural Dean of Sherborne. This new career, new vocation, was, as might be expected, the old career, the old vocation with an additional and significant spiritual quality. Robert was the same person, but his talents were used anew. He preached perceptively, often humorously. He brought comfort to the distressed, saw families through christenings, marriages and bereavement. Robert’s life of service up until this point, had always been expressive of and informed by his faith. Now, beyond his life as a schoolmaster he continued to live a life of service.
This wise and compassionate man, with his admirable intellect and perception, his kindness and generosity, his charm and good humour, has left us, but our grateful memory of him endures.