Valedictories and obituaries

These are valedictories and obituaries written in honour of my colleagues during my time either as Secretary of the Common Room at Bryanston, a position I happily occupied for twelve years, or as editor of Saga Magazine, a publication that had run continuously since the foundation of the school in 1928, before being allowed to fall into abeyance, either through velleity or as a kind of iconoclastic gesture of indifference with a strong alloy of vacuity. LJ

A valedictory to the Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, on the occasion of his retirement as Chairman of Governors, Bryanston School.

Nicholas Phillips

This is Lord Phillips, from the judiciary,
Bringing to Bryanston, his beneficiary,
Lessons for the rich, lessons for the poor,
Bursaries; scholarships open the door,
Opening fields for the child’s aspiration,
Knowing the hope and the scope of the nation,
Judging with kindness and patience and vision
Founding our future on grounded decision.

And as the Lord Phillips approaches the gates
His thoughts set on building, constructive debates,
He leaves for a moment the last legislation
And sentencing’s complex politicisation;
At Bryanston sentences are what they ought:
Not claustration, but clauses, inventively taught.

The Stour’s Sirens beckon
To the swimming boy within,
But the drive winds on its leafy course,
Through gentle summer morning,
To Speech Day milling crowds, where Peej
Proclaims his ritual warning,
To harmless cirro-stratus clouds
Unmenacing and thin.

In this Greek Theatre, theatre of love,
Stones crumble like memories beneath Panama hats,
Amidst expectant recollections of Scottish Widows,
(Volvos for Sale),
Grateful teachers giggle behind the Chairman,
In champagne merriment,
Guessing in quaking rows
The Tom Wheare speechstake.
“How long? Who knows?
God knows. Pyrgie knows.
Do the governors know?
Maybe Nick Phillips knows…
He knows a lot. There’s a bottle of wine on it…”

Frivolity and poignancy define the year’s transition,
Then hopes and ears are turned to hear Lord Phillips’s position:

“I’m Nicholas Phillips, I don’t give a fig
For a Tory who says he must work with a W(h)ig,
So it’s out with the old and it’s in with the new,
We’ll modernise Bryanston, that’s what we’ll do,
And we’ll tear down old labs and add youth to our features
And spend lots of cash on exciting new teachers
With test-tubes, and half-rats and clauses, equations,
Serums and theorems and plane tesselations,
Icosahedra, trapezia, parameters,
Quantum mechanics, iambic pentameters,
Bright technological screens for our classes
To contemplate, mesmerised, sat on their asses,
We’ll put up new buildings to challenge the sky
And get Sarah Thomas to tell us all why.

Et nova, et vetera, but nova looks forwards
So do what I say, for I’m top of the Law Lords
I’m leaving you now, but you know I’ll still care
In Middlesex Guildhall, Parliament Square.”

Three limericks for Tom Wheare, on the occasion of his retirement as Headmaster of Bryanston School

Tom Wheare

A limerick, crafted by Tom
With sharp pyrotechnic aplomb
May explode and alarm,
But will never cause harm
It’s a cracker or squib, not a bomb.

It’s a cracker and often a hit
There are fierier forms, he’ll admit,
As his glib scribbling nib
Creates yet one more squib
For his lexical arsenal, with wit.

Tom Wheare, whom I’ll never affront,
Has a lexicon broad, sharp and blunt
And it is not absurd
That his much preferred word
For the judgement of others is “Love”.

A valedictory to Paul Speakman on the occasion of his retirement as Bursar, Bryanston School

Si monumentum requiris, then Paul Speakman is your man,
He’ll put the “pro-” in “project” and he’ll have things spick and span,
Circumspice! With symmetry unmatched beneath the sun,
He’ll modernise not once but twice (yet leave us only one
[Where once stood two loos {hence the name “Toulouse” Lautrec}] urinal),
In this and all nomenclature Paul Speakman’s word is final,
What’s in a name? He’ll dress our loos in modern drape so dapper
That Lautrec will be the envy of the shade of Thomas Crapper.

Circumspice! As Bryanston assumes imposing shape,
Paul Speakman takes delight in making light work of red tape,
Transmogrifies the Jeffreys Room, erects a school of art,
Revamps, renews, regenerates, sustains us from the heart,
He builds with bricks and Mortimer, with millions wrought with faith
In architects, from banks, to please the judgement of the wraith
Of Shaw, who stalks et nova with et vetera in mind,
Circumspice! Such visions would bring comfort to the blind.

Our buildings pound their chests with the belief that Paul infuses,
They multiply in size and shape, in functions, forms and uses,
An eloquent dumb waiter, hoisting venison and quail,
“Well illustrates” that if we raise our game we must prevail;
Our Café’s trendy locus draws such cool confederations,
Who slaver through the morning to ingurgitate collations,
Then tumble out through Traitors’ Gate towards the Dining Hall
To marvel at the Sanger Building, courtesy of Paul,

Where roving OB ghosts see science concretised in art,
And pray that future laureates will study with such heart,
Yet know that “youngsters” now and then, with undiminished glee,
Will make the most of buildings built with faith for you and me!
Circumspice! A Music School is itching to emerge,
Where CDT and science and Mnemosyne converge,
At Bryanston, we’ve built with balls of steel what’s set in stone,
We know that we’ve been “speakmanned” and are thrilled by what he’s done,

The green men in the garden and the gateman in his hut,
Impeding undesirables, except when it is shut,
The sleeping speakmen on the drive, if only they could move,
Who guarantee the safety of this legacy of love,
The men who keep us sure and sound, Security, and all
Who constitute our Personnel will spare a thought for Paul
And dance around his bollards on the Bryanston estate,
And sing a song of Speakman who has brought us up to date!

A valedictory to Gerry Holdstock, on the occasion of his retirement as Finance Bursar, Bryanston School

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A valedictory to Mark Williams, on the occasion of his retirement as Head of Modern Languages, Bryanston School. Mark died a few weeks later. He remains in our thoughts.

Mark Williams

“God, from afar, looks graciously upon a gentle master.” Aeschylus/ Browning

It is with a sense of honour pervaded by real sadness that I find myself on this July morning writing a valedictory to Mark Williams, who has been forced to retire from Bryanston by a sudden, unexpected illness after so short a period of time. I am sure that everyone within the Bryanston community will wish me to echo here the words of Mike Brown at the party at the end of the summer term, the substance of some of which I now loosely quote on behalf of us all: “There is no-one who has not been humbled by Mark’s courage and grace, by Carolyn’s unfailing support for him and by the faith that has sustained their family through this difficult time.To Mark, Carolyn , Elly and Sam I send all the love I have.” Mark would love to have attended this party and to have been, as has been his custom, its life and soul.

So discreet has Mark been in his dealings with everyone, that I am sure that many of us will not be aware of of just how extraordinarily busily he had served before he, his charming wife Carolyn and children Elly and Sam chose to forego the challenging vibrancy and colour of London life in favour of the tranquillity of rural Dorset. I therefore feel justified in mentioning certain of the milestones in Mark’s progress towards Bryanston, prior to our knowing him, which he would have perhaps been inclined modestly to veil, yet which demonstrate the measure of our privilege in having him as a colleague.

Mark arrived at Bryanston in September 1997 with a very impressive set of personal and professional credentials. Having studied as a boy at Portsmouth Grammar School, he spent the next five years at Keele University, completing a Joint Honours B.A. in French and English and a Certificate in Education with one year off for good behaviour working as the “assistant anglais” at the Lycée Albert Sorel in Honfleur, where he perfected his competence in the café game of babyfoot and acquired a real creative fluency in his command of spoken French. His first post as a schoolmaster was at Bedales, during which time he qualified with distinction as a Member of the Institute of Linguists before moving on to work for two years as Studienrat at the St. Christopherus Gymnasium in Werne a.d. Lippe, where he developed a rich, idiomatic command of German. On returning to England he taught at Sevenoaks School for three years before becoming a French teacher and eventually Head of French at Westminster School. Not content with the onerous duties this office entailed, he managed to complete an M.A. degree in Modern French Literature and Literary Theory at Birkbeck College during this time, as well as embarking on a Ph.D. course on the work of Joris-Karl Huysmans, which he abandoned only when he discovered to his frustration that broadly the same field had been covered by someone at Yale. Mark also acquired a working conversancy with Italian and when visiting South Africa managed to pick up enough Afrikaans to enable him to decipher the cricket commentary!

During his time in London he also served as a magistrate in the Adult Courts in Battersea and the Youth Courts in Camberwell, where he acquired a sensitive understanding of the effects of deprivation and neglect on the development of young people. In so doing he learnt the virtue and importance of judging a case on its merits, a transferable skill which he claims he then went on to apply “in assessing the validity of the excuses for a late prep!” Mark seems, indeed, to have found the time, energy and resources to acquire competence and official qualifications in all of his undertakings. In addition to the lengthy, but far from complete list of his achievements above, he also qualified in 1984 as a Football Association referee and, as if to demonstrate his enjoyment of gardening above all other pastimes, he became a member of the Royal Horticultural Society.

His impact on the Modern Languages Department, in which I have had the privilege of working alongside him, might be likened to the act of one who opens a window in a room full of tobacco smoke to admit a light, refreshing spring breeze. In his first year as Head of Modern Languages the countenance of the department was to be transformed: friendly blues and appetizing creams replaced incongruously martial camouflage greens and greys, colourful depictions of European scenes in elegant frames adorned the walls with the promise of culture and a divisive partition was torn down and replaced with a sensation of space and lightness in which we linguists might breathe and communicate with greater freedom. Mark swiftly established a link with the Music Department to organise Liederabende, in which students and staff participated with impressive talent and infectious delight, and I know he has had plans to promote further friendly collaboration with other departments in the school. He has imported and imparted a wealth of knowledge of French cinema. He has developed our links with our feeder schools, giving the Prep. Schools’ French Day a more playful character than had previously been the case, for Mark has known the importance for a teacher of seeing the world through the eyes of the young and has therefore been able to predict the requirements of these charming little visitors with some measure of accuracy, so that they have tended to leave us more exuberant than when they arrived, which is something of an achievement given their sparkling expectancy upon appearing for his expansive and generous welcoming addresses in the Coade Hall! For our own A3s he has carried on the tradition of the French Day, bringing cheer to the proceedings by floating around with an inspiring smile for every participant and entertaining us all over lunch in his inimitable fashion and with an unbearably enviable lightness of being. Mark has held his office without officiousness, chairing meetings with engaging charm, ready wit and warmth [“Ohne Witz kann man auf die Menschheit nicht einwirken” Without wit we can bring no influence to bear upon humanity. (Rilke)] and I have been grateful for his enabling presence since the day he arrived amongst us. He has always been combative when faced with difficulty, has scoffed at setbacks and has identified those tasks worthy of our time and attention with a clear, discriminating eye. Irrelevant or trivial material likely to be an impediment to progress rather than of use to us he has swiftly identified and confidently consigned without prevarication to classeur numéro un , the bin. Positive and potentially fruitful ideas he has followed through to their fulfilment, even when this has represented a radical break with convention and has met with opposition. At his departmental meetings there has been a clear agenda managed with a gravitas which has manifested itself in a lightness of touch; his rigours have appeared as the very expression of effortlessness; his busy organisational vigils on our behalf have been invisible behind his freshness at the start of each working day; he has ruled, so to speak, with a rod of irony. Always willing to tease the best out of his colleagues with witticisms which sting the sensibilities into a keener life rather than indulge the prevalence of folly, Mark has sought to maximise the fulfilment of his fellow linguists in the best interests of the students of the school. In doing so he has consistently understood and applied the force of laughter for the betterment of people: “Mieux est de ris que de larmes escripre,/ pour ce que rire est le propre de l’homme” [It is better to write of laughter than of tears, for it most truly befits man’s nature to laugh](Rabelais). Mark has had the confidence to treat his colleagues as his peers and sparring partners. There has been no trace of fear or arrogance in this fine, gentle man and wise manager, and for this I salute and thank him. He has valued us. He has left us invigorated. The irony of this requires no elaboration here.

It is not merely as a linguist that Mark has been admired and loved by us, for in his short time at Bryanston he has appeared everywhere and has been engaged in almost every dimension of school life. He has spread himself around like gentleman’s relish and with a generous helping of the same. I recall with delight how eagerly and freely he came to win the affection of younger and older colleagues alike, sitting with different people at every mealtime and engaging them in sparkling conversation to keep them buoyant and “chipper”, a term which has now acquired a rare, unexpected and grave poignancy. His contribution to the welfare of the students of the school, as a kind and wise tutor, in the classroom, in Greenleaves House, at pioneering, on the stage at our frivolous staff revues, on the football pitch in his flashy black F.A. referee’s kit and in church life has been universally charitable and inestimably great. He is loved by the girls in the house, and his absence from the house team is already greatly felt; as a tutor he has dealt with one or two at least of our more inscrutable students with perspicacity, thoughtfulness and faith; in the classroom he has been held to be a worthy intellectual adversary and guide by the most gifted and sharpest of our students, and by those less able to shine in his field he has been known to be a compassionate and patient master, willing to devote time to helping all those around him develop to the best of their ability. Elsewhere he has been warm and wonderful, a true colleague and gentleman of breadth, depth, diligence and integrity, esteemed and certain to be missed by us all.

Mark has left a legacy in the body of the school which would not be inappropriately labelled an enduring lesson in love.

We are learning, and we send him and his family all the love we have.
“God, from afar, looks graciously upon a gentle master.”

A valedictory to John “Lofty” Roe, on the occasion of his retirement as Physics Teacher, Bryanston School

Lofty

Sadly, we now have to say farewell to a physicist, a mechanical engineer, a sometime naval officer, heart of oak and a gentleman of real grace, grit and dignity after a period of 20 years of dedicated service to this school. I am referring to just one person, albeit a man of multifoliate nature: John “Lofty” Roe.

When thinking of what I might say, I felt it might be appropriate to start by reminding myself where John had undertaken his naval training and, as you can perhaps imagine, John greeted my enquiry with a characteristically mellifluous stream of genteelisms. “Was it HMS Ralegh?” was my enquiry. “Britannia Fucking Royal Naval College, thank you very much”, was the fencer’s riposte, yet I feel disingenuous in quoting this, really, for John’s attention to the courtesy due to other human beings has always been faultless and his respect for all that is best of formality in speech and behaviour is exemplary. He seems to us to be the very embodiment of all that is ship shape. His pertly erect chin reminds us of the prow of a motor torpedo boat cleaving its passage resiliently through the angry boil of a heaving sea; his wiry hair might make a good crow’s nest. You can take a man out of a ship, but you cannot take the ship out of the man.

Having completed his course in engineering, John had gone on to serve for thirteen years as an officer, travelling the world on HMS London, HMS Norfolk and the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, before the Royal Navy somewhat belatedly discovered that he had lied about his height.

John obviously enjoyed wonderful times in the Royal Navy and relates with commingled embarrassment and retrospective glee how, as a sybaritic young bon vivant, endowed with more generosity of heart and appetite than financial acuity, he received his first mess bill, in a sum significantly greater than his salary for that month. I have never witnessed a repetition of this in Room 17, though I suppose he may have bought someone a pint when I’ve not been there.
When in the Royal Navy, and this is still true of him now, John was never one to slacken in the attention due to the important things in life, or, indeed, to the beauties of the world. We can picture him now, can we not, immaculately turned out in his white, gold-braided officer’s suit, silhouetted in negative against the flashing darkness of Miss Trinidad, 1965, his date for the evening, against the backdrop of a banyan moon, the equatorial constellations twinkling in his irrepressibly impish eyes. (Still no sign of land. How long is it? That’s a rather personal question, Miss Trinidad. Keep your hands on the oar.)
Lofty eventually escaped from the rum-bum-and-baccy claustrophobia of the Chinese laundry eight decks down on HMS Hermes, where he used to go to be weighed for his suits, to make his way in the world in the only way a post-services gentleman, scholar and fine judge of character should: in the classroom. As he faced his new career, Anne Bronte’s poem “The Bluebell” might have flashed into his mind, had he known it:

Before me rose a lofty hill,
Behind me lay the sea,
My heart was not so heavy then
As it was wont to be.

Less harassed than at other times
I saw the scene was fair,
And spoke and laughed to those around,
As if I knew no care.

And so, having first passed through and rejected Wellington College, where a young pupil named Rory Bremner was threatening to deprive of him of his sole rights to Ronnie Corbett impersonations, Lofty arrived at Bryanston in 1986, where he was to teach twenty years of our students to grow in stature, deriving the purely vicarious pleasure of a kind master from the heights they would attain, without ever managing to attain a great height himself. His subject was to be physics, a discipline with which Lofty had first fallen in love, when, as a child, he had discovered himself under the microscope. Since then, for sufficient reasons, perhaps of affinity on a particular level, he has felt most closely in tune with sub-atomic physics, the micro rather than the macro, though the twinkle in his eyes has at times betrayed his enjoyment of celestial bodies.
His contribution to the life of the physics department since he arrived amongst us has been rich. His love of some of the more difficult areas of his subject is authentic, and he enjoys a particular fascination for quantum mechanics, on which he is genuinely articulate, for an engineer, particularly after a couple of shots of Bells. It has been a great pleasure to put him right on the nature of matter over a few pints in Room 17 throughout the years, and I hope he remembers everything I have taught him. Frivolity aside, John has been a solid presence at the core of the physics department these many years, and although he has enjoyed a reputation as a stickler for a disciplined classroom and some of our more constitutionally feckless students have quaked in dread, his management of the boys and girls in his charge has been profoundly human, motivated by love and tempered by goodness. “God, from afar, looks graciously upon a gentle master”

I urge you to read Mike Adams’s characteristically excellent valedictory to John in Saga. There you will find a record of the range of John’s other commitments, of his service in Shaftesbury and Portman, and of his contribution to the Gardens Committee, for creative gardening is one of John’s real loves. Unable to keep his warrior nature at bay, John has also been encouraging deft use of the sword these many years, running the Bryanston Fencing Club with the coruscating charisma of a diminutive D’Artagnan.

In Mike’s report we also find witty and astute observations, at times exquisitely acute. To have recorded how John often falters “with a blush and a laugh before the punchline” in his attempts to relate a joke is a fine observation, encapsulating, as it does, the modesty and humility of this otherwise feisty and tenacious Jack Russell of a man.

I have compiled a CD for John entitled “To Lofty with love”, on which he will find one or two stirring pieces that will evoke a sense of his own quintessential Englishness, notwithstanding contributions from Beethoven and Tchaikowsky, which are at least variations on the theme of Rule Britannia. It really is not my intention to caricature him in this. It is meant as a tribute to the completeness of Lofty’s vocational commitment, in both the naval and educational fields. I have been listening to Rule Britannia, fantastically substituting “Lofty” for Britain and some vague idea of the welfare of the young for the challenges posed by inimical “haughty tyrants” upon the sea. Well, it works for me.

John has a proud sense of the freedoms and rights of individuals and respects these in others. The imposition of a smoking ban, which will take effect from September in Room 17, will impact on John and I am sorry to be the person to have to break this news to him. I am doing it in public, so that there will be witnesses to any reprisals, moreover I know that John’s respect for the formalities on such an occasion will constrain him not to offer too sharp a riposte, at least I hope not. When John rises, Phoenix like, from the ash-tray, to return as a part-time teacher in September, the world about him may appear, therefore, slightly unfamiliar, and we may need at times to run for cover as he responds to it.

Lofty is one of those people whom others simply love. His engaging smile and boundless charm welcome us in an instant. His students hold him in high esteem, not least for the unequivocal clarity of his direction. His colleagues and friends here know him to be a true person, sensitive, thoughtful and always willing to be bought a scotch. John may not realise how many poets have sung of him, nor to what lofty, platonic realms his reputation has risen:

Saints have adored the lofty soul of you.
Poets have whitened at your high renown.
We stand among the many millions who
Do hourly wait to pass your pathway down.

John is happiest of all and belongs, above all, in a garden, and Tereska will doubtless be delighted to have her gnome back for at least part of the week from September onwards. It has been lovely to see Lofty in the company of Tereska these past several years; from all evidence, we can infer her to have become the perfect partner for John and we wish them many years of future happiness together, as John comes to retire. To quote from Rule Britannia, John: “To thee belongs the rural reign”, though you will also never be far from the sea.
John “Lofty” Roe’s contribution to the life of our community, defies evaluation. I salute him on behalf of us all and should like to pipe him on board now, so that the Rear-Admiral may speak.

A tribute to Peter Fale, on the occasion of his funeral.

Peter Fale

Peter Fale was a man of intellect, humility and considerable courage. Unprotected by the armour of dogma, he lived his life in a spirit of openness. If he had weaponry at all, it was that of mathematics and philosophy, fastidiously deployed to benign ends. In him resided a rare selfnessness,  a confident and resilient goodness, a commitment to a better world he understood to be a realisable hope.

One of nature’s teachers, he communicated an attitude to life that was unfailingly positive. He believed that things were achievable, and in a quiet voice he made this clear. In this way, he instilled in all people that most important of qualities: confidence. Had he not done so, standards would have been lower, for the individuals in his care would not have become aware of the talents they uniquely possessed. Such was his gift to a a generation of Bryanstonians. One called in to see me yesterday, who, but for Peter, would never have broken the 11 second barrier for the 100 metres. Others of you will remember in your own way his contribution to your lives. Perhaps you were one of the Junior Colts; perhaps Peter introduced you as a boy to A.J.Ayer at his Anonymous Society; perhaps you were among those who benefitted from a period of rational tolerance in Shaftesbury House; perhaps it was you who once asked a motorcyclist for a light outside the Half Moon, only to discover to your mortification that the man behind the vizor was Mr. Fale, the duty master; perhaps you were a young teacher made to feel at home at once by a considerate Common Room Secretary; perhaps, perhaps…

Conscious as he was of the limitations of our compass, Peter broached profound questions with a lightness of touch. If nature was obscure, that was not a reason for our being so. The solution to the predicament confronting the reasoning mind was to be found by simply turning our attention outward, towards nature’s abundance, with a flask of coffee and a pair of stout boots.

For a pair of stout boots could take you far. Take a bicycle and you could go further. Take a car and a folding bicycle and you could go anywhere, though it was always best to leave the road behind and to take the narrower, winding tracks, past glades carpeted with bluebells, or into the deciduous woodland home of grayling, speckled wood and gatekeeper, but climbing, always climbing, up on to the open chalk hills, to the habitat of the adonis blue, green hairstreak and fritillary, to Hambledon or Hod Hill, or to still higher points with broad sweeping vistas where you could sit and sip sweet coffee from his flask whilst watching a kestrel hovering in the wind, and watching it from above. Wherever you walked, the conversation would be rich, rambling from subject to subject, even as you rambled from place to place, at times assuming for a moment the form and feel of an erudite colloquy, before resolving itself into lightness and laughter. With Peter, you would be sure eventually to reach the remotest and least frequented spots. Some of those we visited together were, in his words, as devoid of people as “Aberdeen on a flag day.”

Peter’s philosophy was of the practical kind. Of what use was thought, after all, if not directed towards the betterment of the world? For though he might have enjoyed lofty vantage points in nature, Peter’s view of his fellow human beings bore no trace of loftiness of ideas. He was suspicious of high-mindedness, of dogma and of ideologies. He was emphatically and unremittingly down to earth in his dealings with human beings and aspired to be on gentle terms with all people at all times. Peter’s was a classless world. This was obvious in his actions; he was always willing to help, and to help anyone. His long-term commitment to the Friends of Blandford Community Hospital was a reality, not a hope. Peter set out to be a useful member of the community and saw it through. The testimony of those who remember his unfailing devotion to their welfare is his most eloquent testament.

I think it might be illuminating to consider for a moment what Peter might have seen on contemplating a map, perhaps an Ordnance Survey map, perhaps one of Dorset. The contours might have represented for him easier or more demanding climbs, of course, and all the features set out by the cartographer to guide us around would doubtless have had their usual significance, but knowing how tirelessly Peter explored the world around him, it seems reasonable to believe that every grid reference might have had its own unique narrative to share, a narrative of which Peter would have been peculiarly aware. Peter was a lover of the wayside and woodland, of coastal paths, chalk uplands and vertiginous mountain crests. He loved all the living things that frequented them. In all weathers he was out there, a discreet and benevolent presence in harmony with the world.

Peter is survived by his wife, Grace, and by his two sons Alistair and Andrew. That Alistair and Andrew should have become the human beings they are, each vocationally devoted to the practical realisation of a generous and meliorist hope, seems to follow with an irresistible consistency from the nature of Peter and Grace.

Lyndon Jones

A valedictory to Peter Fale, on the occasion of his retirement, first published in Saga Magazine, Bryanston School

VALE, FALE!!

Valedictory for Peter J.H. Fale,  schoolmaster.

As a relative newcomer to the school , having arrived here a mere nine years ago, I feel greatly privileged to have been invited to say farewell to my friend and colleague Peter Fale . I shall begin by reintroducing him to you.

Peter spent his childhood in the West Country but on leaving the City of Bath Boys’ School was drawn northward by romantic ideas of Scotland  to continue his education in the university of Edinburgh , where , with characteristic independence of spirit , he concocted a course tailored to his particular needs involving two parallel degree disciplines , in mathematics and philosophy . His love of philosophy had been awakened while  studying science at school , where he had become fascinated by the nature of matter but had come to realise that the fundamental problems of physics were essentially philosophical in nature and as such could not be resolved within the confines of the subject. His  genuine curiosity , the truth and humility with which he approaches questions and his ability clearly to give expression to  obscurity  rather than indulge in obscurity of expression [ in contradistinction to so many of the thinkers who have been the object of his studies ] have permeated his entire life and given him a unique personal colour which we shall miss very much.

Having completed his degree courses and seen himself deprived of the right to pursue a doctorate owing to an apparent unavailability of funds in Edinburgh [perhaps there is a grain of truth in the chauvinistic caricature ! ] , Peter entered teaching as a temporary diversion at Gillingham comprehensive in 1959 , where he enjoyed himself considerably and became hooked on sharing knowledge with young people , a contingency for which we can all be grateful , since it was eventually to lead him to us . En route , however , he was to experience years of fulfilment and joy at Monkton Combe , Dulwich College and Farnborough Grammar School , before finally arriving at Bryanston in 1972. At Monkton Combe his pleasure in the stimulating vitality of children developed further , but he chose to leave , lest life should become too full of comfort , that insidious enemy of truth ; Dulwich College was  an exciting experience for him owing to the intellectual quality of both teachers and pupils , but frustrating insofar as the industrial scale of the establishment diminished his sense of the value of his personal contribution ; Farnborough Grammar School , where as head of department he encountered some genuinely brilliant mathematicians , was , fortuitously for us , in the process of being resolved into a sixth form college , thereby precipitating his departure ; Bryanston , however, has proved to be a niche  too seductive  for even this restless gentleman to abandon , perhaps because it has provided him with the perfect environment for the richest development and use of his abundant qualities.

When Peter arrived at Bryanston as head of the mathematics department , there were a mere nine girls in the school , the very first to study here , and  the boys all wore a grey shirt and shorts , but this apparent uniformity seemed to him ironically  to encourage rather than diminish the diversity of the aims of the students , who revelled gloriously in their individuality in a spirit of confident openness evidenced by an unusually friendly disposition toward their teachers and a healthy ignorance of that conflictive mood of ” us and them ” which is such an undesirable blight in a school. In the common room Peter found himself in the company of some very able people and he still remembers with ordinate respect and fond admiration his surprise that many of them were not headmasters themselves , given their talents and the energy and commitment with which they served Bryanston. Here was an opportunity to ” open wide the mind’s cage door ” ; Peter has never been content , however ,  merely to open his own.

Peter’s contribution to this school has been that of an inspiring and multi-dimensional   human being , passionately committed to sport,  devoted to pastoral care and in love with the truths and the difficulties of the academic disciplines. Having played rugby for Bath as a student [ I bet those of you patient enough to read this  didn’t know that , such is the modesty of the man!] he duly took over the Junior Colts , but also ran the canoeing and the cross country and helped with athletics , participating in everything and leading from the front. This involvement has always had great meaning for him , since it has permitted him to share a common , purposeful experience with the students outside the classroom. The nature of this purpose is that it is fundamental to our condition to compete and this is a prime mover in the establishment of our self – esteem ; the beauty of Bryanston in this regard is that the range of opportunities on offer here permits those who compete and fail to seek another area in which they may enjoy relative success , moreover those who persevere  know the reward of having competed with themselves  and of having improved as a consequence , for it is not success which is the prevailing criterion here , but rather self-realisation combined with the service of others. Peter was pleased to discover that Bryanston had something of an established convention concerning the abhorrence of “poseurs” , those who project false images of themselves based on a fragile foundation of self-delusion or achievement in one narrow area ; such vanity was not tolerated here , and Peter clearly found this fact liberating for all. Sport is also believed to be important for our health ;  that Peter is a robust embodiment of this idea will be evident to anyone who has tried to keep up with him  on the steeper of Dorset’s country tracks on a cycle ride.

The single most important protracted episode of Peter’s life here was the twelve year period spent in charge of Shaftesbury House , a rich though not exclusively joyous time !! Here he valued knowing the members of the house and growing to love them as individuals , not , however , entirely without considerable frustration and anxiety. Being constitutionally afflicted with that strength and suppleness of mind which permits one to see problems as multi-faceted thereby inhibiting the facility esteemed by so many to arrive at false conclusions with great decisiveness , he often found himself wondering at length which was the best direction in which to proceed with the various complex individuals in his charge and incurred some criticism for being indecisive or indeed , in less charitable terms , ineffective. Inasmuch as he found himself unable to have recourse to crass formulaic solutions to problems , preferring to operate by gaining  the willing co-operation of students rather than through coercion , he was considered a liberal , and did not mind this , although he never proceeded along this course in observance of any particular principle , but  felt rather that it was the best way of getting things done. His hostility to narrow prescriptions and normalisation led him to hold the view that a school owes it to individuals to allow them to stay despite their incongruity ; this view would class him as a liberal too , but a kind one.  As far as his effectiveness is concerned , the students who have been in his charge are in the best position to judge and often not until long after they have left school ; all  those whom I have encountered have spoken of Peter with admiration and fondness.

Peter’s academic contribution to the life of the school has been principally through the teaching of mathematics and philosophy. For a time he also ran the ” Anonymous Society ”  in which such questions as the nature of language , the meaning of consciousness and a priori knowledge were discussed. On one occasion the meeting was attended by no less  distinguished a personage than Professor A.J. Ayer. Peter’s natural leaning is towards philosophy , since he finds open-ended, untidy questions to be the most alluring and fecund ; his garden has always seemed to me somehow to represent this metaphorically ; ” I see you ‘ re struggling unsuccessfully with the wilderness ” a governor once remarked after having spent the night surrounded by unbridled nature and a graveyard of Morris Minors. Peter’s hatred of dogma , which he would define as a rigid set of unquestioned assumptions and an armour adopted by the weak , although others clearly consider it to be a kind of grammar of existence , has inspired both his teaching and his gardening , but his dislike of the dogma of  dogmatic individuals would never prevent him from loving them.

Peter’s time here has not been devoid of those delicious moments of comedy which make this vocation the most entertaining calling of them all. On one occasion he was wearing his motorcycle helmet as he entered the Half – Moon in Blandford to be accosted by a member of his house who was emerging in search of a light for a surreptitious cigarette. He still smiles with delight as he remembers how  the boy ‘ s face fell as he took off his crash-helmet !

I should also like to thank Grace Fale on behalf of everyone  for all that she has done for this community as matron here as well as for the buoyancy of her husband , whom she has helped to develop in freedom and to be himself.

Peter ‘ s departing message to the students of Bryanston is that they should ” strive always to discover and to be true to themselves ” . A former headmaster of this school and a wise man , Thorold Coade , once wrote of his prospective employees that apart from any academic or sporting expertise  teachers might have , they should have above all else  an ” an evident and powerful concern with the pursuit of Truth ” . Peter has been the best kind of incarnation of this drive , and we should all be thankful for the contribution he has made to our lives . Some will remember him for  his wise counsel which extended beyond this school , others for the contribution he made to Blandford Rugby Club as its president ; I shall remember him as an exhausting cycling companion willing to ride fifty miles into the most dispiriting of chill Spring winds in order to visit a deserted mediaeval church and as a kind , thoughtful human being , mindful of the privilege of life and of the beauty of a bluebell .  His own overall impression as he leaves us this summer is of having been amongst friends.

Lyndon Jones

A valedictory to John “Lofty” Roe,(RIP) on the occasion of his retirement from Bryanston School.

Lofty.

(i) Sadly, we now have to say farewell to a physicist, a mechanical engineer, a sometime naval officer, heart of oak and a gentleman of real grace, grit and dignity after a period of 20 years of dedicated service to this school. I am referring to just one person, albeit a man of multifoliate nature: John “Lofty” Roe.
(ii) When thinking of what I might say, I felt it might be appropriate to start by reminding myself where John had undertaken his naval training and, as you can perhaps imagine, John greeted my enquiry with a characteristically mellifluous stream of genteelisms. “Was it HMS Ralegh?” was my enquiry. “Britannia Fucking Royal Naval College, thank you very much”, was the fencer’s riposte, yet I feel disingenuous in quoting this, really, for John’s attention to the courtesy due to other human beings has always been faultless and his respect for all that is best of formality in speech and behaviour is exemplary. He seems to us to be the very embodiment of all that is ship shape. His pertly erect chin reminds us of the prow of a motor torpedo boat cleaving its passage resiliently through the angry boil of a heaving sea; his wiry hair might make a good crow’s nest. You can take a man out of a ship, but you cannot take the ship out of the man.
(iii) Having completed his course in engineering, John had gone on to serve for thirteen years as an officer, travelling the world on HMS London, HMS Norfolk and the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, before the Royal Navy somewhat belatedly discovered that he had lied about his height.
(iv) John obviously enjoyed wonderful times in the Royal Navy and relates with commingled embarrassment and retrospective glee how, as a sybaritic young bon vivant, endowed with more generosity of heart and appetite than financial acuity, he received his first mess bill, in a sum significantly greater than his salary for that month. I have never witnessed a repetition of this in Room 17, though I suppose he may have bought someone a pint when I’ve not been there.
(v) When in the Royal Navy, and this is still true of him now, John was never one to slacken in the attention due to the important things in life, or, indeed, to the beauties of the world. We can picture him now, can we not, immaculately turned out in his white, gold-braided officer’s suit, silhouetted in negative against the flashing darkness of Miss Trinidad, 1965, his date for the evening, against the backdrop of a banyan moon, the equatorial constellations twinkling in his irrepressively impish eyes. (Still no sign of land. How long is it? That’s a rather personal question, Miss Trinidad. Keep your hands on the oar.)
(vi) Lofty eventually escaped from the rum-bum-and-baccy claustrophobia of the Chinese laundry eight decks down on HMS Hermes, where he used to go to be weighed for his suits, to make his way in the world in the only way a post-services gentleman, scholar and fine judge of character should: in the classroom. As he faced his new career, Anne Bronte’s poem “The Bluebell” might have flashed into his mind, had he known it:

Before me rose a lofty hill,
Behind me lay the sea,
My heart was not so heavy then
As it was wont to be.

Less harassed than at other times
I saw the scene was fair,
And spoke and laughed to those around,
As if I knew no care.

(vii) And so, having first passed through and rejected Wellington College, where a young pupil named Rory Bremner was threatening to deprive of him of his sole rights to Ronnie Corbett impersonations, Lofty arrived at Bryanston in 1986, where he was to teach twenty years of our students to grow in stature, deriving the purely vicarious pleasure of a kind master from the heights they would attain, without ever managing to attain a great height himself. His subject was to be physics, a discipline with which Lofty had first fallen in love, when, as a child, he had discovered himself under the microscope. Since then, for sufficient reasons, perhaps of affinity on a particular level, he has felt most closely in tune with sub-atomic physics, the micro rather than the macro, though the twinkle in his eyes has at times betrayed his enjoyment of celestial bodies.
(viii) His contribution to the life of the physics department since he arrived amongst us has been rich. His love of some of the more difficult areas of his subject is authentic, and he enjoys a particular fascination for quantum mechanics, on which he is genuinely articulate, for an engineer, particularly after a couple of shots of Bells. It has been a great pleasure to put him right on the nature of matter over a few pints in Room 17 throughout the years, and I hope he remembers everything I have taught him. Frivolity aside, John has been a solid presence at the core of the physics department these many years, and although he has enjoyed a reputation as a stickler for a disciplined classroom and some of our more constitutionally feckless students have quaked in dread, his management of the boys and girls in his charge has been profoundly human, motivated by love and tempered by goodness. “God, from afar, looks graciously upon a gentle master”
(ix) I urge you to read Mike Adams’s characteristically excellent valedictory to John in Saga. There you will find a record of the range of John’s other commitments, of his service in Shaftesbury and Portman, and of his contribution to the Gardens Committee, for creative gardening is one of John’s real loves. Unable to keep his warrior nature at bay, John has also been encouraging deft use of the sword these many years, running the Bryanston Fencing Club with the coruscating charisma of a diminutive D’Artagnan.
(x) In Mike’s report we also find witty and astute observations, at times exquisitely acute. To have recorded how John often falters “with a blush and a laugh before the punchline” in his attempts to relate a joke is a fine observation, encapsulating, as it does, the modesty and humility of this otherwise feisty and tenacious Jack Russell of a man.

(xi) I have compiled a CD for John entitled “To Lofty with love”, on which he will find one or two stirring pieces that will evoke a sense of his own quintessential Englishness, notwithstanding contributions from Beethoven and Tchaikowsky, which are at least variations on the theme of Rule Britannia. It really is not my intention to caricature him in this. It is meant as a tribute to the completeness of Lofty’s vocational commitment, in both the naval and educational fields. I have been listening to Rule Britannia, fantastically substituting “Lofty” for Britain and some vague idea of the welfare of the young for the challenges posed by inimical “haughty tyrants” upon the sea. Well, it works for me.
(xii) John has a proud sense of the freedoms and rights of individuals and respects these in others. The imposition of a smoking ban, which will take effect from September in Room 17, will impact on John and I am sorry to be the person to have to break this news to him. I am doing it in public, so that there will be witnesses to any reprisals, moreover I know that John’s respect for the formalities on such an occasion will constrain him not to offer too sharp a riposte, at least I hope not. When John rises, Phoenix like, from the ash-tray, to return as a part-time teacher in September, the world about him may appear, therefore, slightly unfamiliar, and we may need at times to run for cover as he responds to it.
(xiii) Lofty is one of those people whom others simply love. His engaging smile and boundless charm welcome us at an instant. His students hold him in high esteem, not least for the unequivocal clarity of his direction. His colleagues and friends here know him to be a true person, sensitive, thoughtful and always willing to be bought a scotch. John may not realise how many poets have sung of him, nor to what lofty, platonic realms his reputation has risen:
Saints have adored the lofty soul of you.
Poets have whitened at your high renown.
We stand among the many millions who
Do hourly wait to pass your pathway down.
(xiv) John is happiest of all and belongs, above all, in a garden, and Tereska will doubtless be delighted to have her gnome back for at least part of the week from September onwards. It has been lovely to see Lofty in the company of Tereska these past several years; from all evidence, we can infer her to have become the perfect partner for John and we wish them many years of future happiness together, as John comes to retire. To quote from Rule Britannia, John: “To thee belongs the rural reign”, though you will also never be far from the sea.
(xv) John “Lofty” Roe’s contribution to the life of our community, defies evaluation. I salute him on behalf of us all and should like to pipe him on board now, so that the Rear-Admiral may speak.

A tribute to John Moore, a much loved friend and a true “gentleman, scholar and fine judge of arse”.
John Moore
A personal tribute

“Pastime with good company
I love and shall until I die” Henry VIII

Although I may indeed have “done for kayaking what Dame Margot Fonteyn did for oxyacetylene welding”, the invitation to a reunion at the Royal Canoe Club, Teddington, on September 12th, 2015, was one I accepted with no hypocrisy, for this was a chance to see my friends John and Katrina Moore, restored to their true element, the waterside world of the Thames, where, amidst the grateful admiration of several score of their extended family, the Bryanston Canoe Club, they had come to celebrate once more. On my arrival, I was greeted by John in a radiant spirit of storgic love and welcome, though the exact terms in which he couched this sentiment assumed a rather more esoterically Rabelaisian character that might have eluded the grasp of the uninitiated. Their translation nevertheless slipped elegantly into place in my mind and the sentiment was warmly requited. I would see John only once more after this celebratory afternoon of laughter, song and mirth, so I remain thankful to this day that this moment took place as it did.

This was not the first time I had been welcomed by John Moore. In 1987, he had welcomed me to Bryanston. He welcomed me into his home, too. At 3, North Place, he welcomed me as a recidivist freeloader for ten successive years on Christmas Day. He welcomed many more besides. He welcomed me, incompetent and untrained as I was, into the Bryanston Canoe Club. He welcomed many others, however unpromising they might initially have appeared, transforming lives through steady encouragement. He taught me to paddle and he taught me to shoot with a longbow. At times of difficulty he helped me through and countless others beside in a dependable and practical fashion, offering sound advice and tangible assistance in the form of deeds, for John was an unfailingly helpful man. In observing his dealings with other human beings, it was impossible not to be aware that here was a person who had understood the parable of the good Samaritan and had elected to apply its lessons through actions in the world. He welcomed all manner of human beings into his life and his influence was broad, deep and enduring. Warm and socially engaged, always at the centre of a jolly soirée, John had nothing of that “specious pliancy of mind” of “men of low degree”, so condemned by Wordsworth. He called a spade a spade, spoke directly and frankly to his fellow man and looked you in the eye with a knowing twinkle as he did so. He could and would speak to anyone. A Classics Scholar at Merchant Taylors as a child, classically moderate, balanced and lucid in his judgement as a man, he knew how to distinguish from mere ephemera those objects and objectives worthy of the attention of mind, body and soul and therefore fit to endure. He also knew how to live, for, as he would often assert over an ale, “You’re a long time dead!”

“Hard deeds, the body’s pains, hard knowledge too The mind’s endeavours reach…” Donne

Valuing that which is “fit to endure”, John loved those objects of artistic endeavour that persist despite the ravages of junk culture and refuse to fade, evidencing that creative aspiration to permanence to which Eluard referred as “le dur désir de durer”. John preferred books, the concert hall, the stage and the music of the cathedral to the “haunted fish-tank” (as his own children will certainly remember from when they extended their viewing rather later than permitted one evening, only to see the television set disappear through the window), and his habits of reading were generally of the exacting and elevating kind. What he read was committed to memory and retained with precision for good, an intellectual habit issuing from schooldays of rote-learning, so that he took great pleasure in reciting fine poetry, as well as a variety of other material in a somewhat less exalted register. On one journey home from Banbury he sang songs continuously without repeating himself once; I have no intention of repeating these songs here, however, though something of their character may be inferred from their having been garnered from John’s twenty-two years of experience in the Metropolitan Mounted Police, where he had served as Chief Inspector in charge of a division of sixty men. I remember with a different order of pleasure being introduced to Chesterton’s “The Rolling English Road”, in which we would often subsequently take delight, repeating it aloud together and reflecting on its wit and poignancy. The capacity for the retention of such detail in the mind had its corollary, I think, in John’s fastidious habit of record-keeping as School Manager, which he effected in an exquisite writing hand (his left hand, he was always keen to remind people), in brown ink and on paper of the finest quality. This took place in his centrally positioned office in the basement corridor so lavishly perfumed by Muldoon (his Springer Spaniel smelt “like the middle cut of a workhouse mattress”), where his desk stood opposite a portrait of the queen. John’s desire to execute all that he undertook with precision was as great as his capacity for endurance, making him as outstanding a marksman, archer and fencer as he was a runner, paddler and horseman. His experience at national and international level in these disciplines was and continues to be of inestimable benefit to the students whose lives he came to influence at Bryanston.

On a physical level, endowed with the privileged acuity of one who as a child had outwitted and overcome polio, John had developed a strong sense of the “liquid love of motion” while yet young and had concentrated early in life on making himself physically “fit to endure”, through commitment to a programme of sporting activity that would eventually lead him to represent the Metropolitan Police in that most exacting range of disciplines, the Modern Pentathlon. The “dur désir” conveniently appropriated for this context might perhaps imply a willingness to undergo hardship in training, so it was not unusual to hear such commonplaces as “no gain without pain” on the river, though John would often simply assert “It’s only pain.” When, with his protégé Jonathan Redshaw, he won the veteran and junior category of the Devizes to Westminster kayak marathon in 1994 at the age of 54, having incurred a five inch tear in his scalp at the start of the second day, he merely dismissed his wound, claiming that he was “hard”, which is what “dur” means, with all its connotations intact in translation. Instead, he calmly asked the nurse to examine his finger.
John’s real genius, both as a tutor and as a coach of kayaking, rifle-shooting, fencing and archery, resided in the unusual degree to which he was able to encourage self-belief in students whose abilities were in some cases scarcely visible at all and in almost all cases yet to be revealed. He never altogether veiled the difficulty of the tasks set before them, but he made these appear achievable. The projection of his own spirit of endurance on to his charges took the form of his standing beside them with unfailing patience throughout the entirety of their school career, helping them to overcome all inner and outer impediments to progress and sustaining and augmenting their confidence contre vents et marées. The results were extraordinary. He changed his students’ lives and the trophies kept rolling in. On the river, Bryanston won the Schools’ Trophy with relentless consistency for well over a decade, a position of dominance unequalled before or since. Our paddlers and rifle-shooters competed nationally and internationally. Even to-day (“How true those words are, even to-day!”), still very much the result of the establishment of standards of excellence embodied by John, the children of his first generation of paddlers are themselves now competing nationally and internationally. It is a very impressive legacy indeed, but one that John would have accepted as the natural product of time dutifully spent.

John was a patient man, who would often say as he drove into school in one of his painstakingly rebuilt Morris 1300s “I’m not in any great tearing rush.” As we approached the hill leading from the church to the school, he would declare “Attach static lines! Launch Springer Spaniel!” before reaching behind him and firing Muldoon out of back door of the slowly advancing vehicle like a malodorous torpedo. John was a hands-on man who made a lot of good things happen. He built those cars himself. He built more important things, too. Loyal to the school, his principal axis nevertheless lay beyond it, amongst family, friends and the numerous societies associated with his sporting disciplines, whose existence he sustained with his energies. Readers will remember the contributions of this kind that he made to their own lives; some will remember the Dorset Rifle Club; others DW and the energetic support offered by John and his family, lurking beneath bridges like affectionate bandits to dispense refreshment to the racers; some, perhaps, like me, will recall the sorties to Sturminster Newtown on the first icy Sunday morning of December to start the Stour Descent, a downriver race through the heart of Dorset ending at the Bryanston Boathouse. At the Hawker Pavilion, Katrina would be waiting behind a steaming urn of tomato soup, trays of pasties at the ready, a ready smile in place to greet us all.

Most important of all John’s contributions to the world beyond Bryanston was the support he offered to Katrina in her work with the Sheiling School and later at the Camphill School in Hermanus, South Africa, at which they worked together for many years after their formal retirement, John running the office and the community and Katrina serving for a while as Acting Principal. The tireless devotion of this extraordinary couple to the task of improving the welfare of those less fortunate than themselves lives on as a precious legacy that has been eloquently and gratefully acknowledged in the countless letters addressed to Katrina, as well as in the tributes to John at his Memorial Service. That John also managed to find the time to cruise around in his Jag or to buzz off on a quad bike into the mountains and return with a baboon slung over the back comes as no surprise to me, nor will it surprise anyone that he also channelled considerable resources into outsmarting the locals on the rifle-ranges there. He was an independently minded servant of the community, a tireless competitor and also a man possessed of a seemingly boundless capacity for jollity and mirth. Quoting his own father, “the governor”, John, “the boss” would say, “You’ve got to have a bit of fun, boy!”

“Litterarum assertor, veritatis propugnator invictissime”
(Rabelais, to Erasmus)

John’s love of fun is a strong part of his legacy and it survives richly embodied in Guy, Sarah, Pete and Simon, to say nothing of the next generation down and the next generation down after that. If I have mentioned no names in this tribute, I apologise. John touched too many lives; the jostling for space would be a chaotic affair. As for the fun, those who saw in John a figure of Rabelaisian extravagance would do well to bear in mind that it was to Erasmus, at the end of his days, that Rabelais wrote the profoundly consoling words (I paraphrase):

“All that I am, I have from you alone, and were I not to write this here, I should hold myself to be the most ungrateful of men.”

I have read some of the letters written by John’s former students to Katrina; in them may be found a comparable measure of the kind of gratitude that endures.

Lyndon Jones