Like many, my brother James wasn’t really cut out for private boarding school.
We overlapped for just one term at Sherborne and I remember only his uneasy appearance at the door of my study when I had rung the fag-bell.
(In fairness I should say that I too was uneasy). He started off as a keen rugby player – a hooker – but his enthusiasm and his ambitions were stifled by a rival. He didn’t excel at studies either and went to Education College at Portsmouth as much because he couldn’t think of anything else as from any dedication to teaching.
It was the making of him though. After a brief and disastrous flirtation with secondary education he went into the primary sector rising to be the much-loved headmaster of two schools in his adopted county of Somerset and then county adviser on primary education. I think it’s fair to say that the further he moved away from actually teaching children the less fulfilled he felt. But as the turnout at his funeral in Wells Cathedral testified he was much loved and appreciated especially at the grass-roots, cutting edge. He was very much a front-line soldier and was splendidly contemptuous of bureaucracy, suits and ‘jobsworths’ of every description. Friendship was important to him and family too. He was a fond and conscientious husband and father. I thought it significant that his two nieces struggled to Somerset from their new homes in Florida and New Zealand in order to be able to say good-bye to him in person.
He was also an avid reader especially of modern poetry. Among his personal effects at the time of his death was a copy of the collected poems of R.S. Thomas. He was unconventional in religious matters, a keen follower of the American monk and mystic, Thomas Merton, a regular attender at morning service in Wells Cathedral near his Glastonbury home but one who, as Canon Patrick Woodhouse, a close friend who officiated at his funeral and introduced him to Merton’s writing, told me, never ever stayed for coffee. He enjoyed walking with others, even me, but was just as comfortable in his own company.
He would have hated my saying that he was a credit to the school and yet I believe it to be true. The fact that men such as him are Old Shirburnians reflects well on the place. He was passionate about fairness and justice, kindness and humility and I think Sherborne should be proud of him.
I certainly am.
Tim Heald (g 62)