Ivor Murrell writes:
“I am very sad to report the death of my long-term friend, Tony Benge, who was at KEGS from 1954 to 1961, and would have been known by everyone at school at that time for his humour, sporting activities and his interest in guitar playing. After following a course at art college he taught at Cambridge for a while, then moved to Bury, Lancashire for several years where he produced an investigative newspaper, with much of the investigation being done by himself. He also took up his main interest as a playwright during this time, with successful plays performed in Manchester Library Theatre. When his mother died he moved to her house at Bourton, in Wiltshire, with his wife, Sue, who is another successful playwright. They worked together on theatre involved in local social and environmental issues, writing and directing, again with considerable acclaim.
Tony was diagnosed with Lymphoma twelve years ago, and it was successfully treated into remission, but it recently came back with complications and he died on March 16th. Sue, his partner of fifty years, was by his bedside.
Just a tale about Tony I wrote and reminded him about just before he died. In the summer of 1961 we decided to hitchhike to Paris. Tony proposed that we should combine our savings and then split it, so that we carried half each. I was very keen to go, and quickly agreed. We ended up with £9 each, Tony contributing £5 and me £13. A good lesson in Social economics, and some wonderful memories.
I will miss his humour and his slightly differently focused view on life.”
We are grateful to John’s brother Philip for his thoughts and memories kindly sent to us:
“John attended the King Edward Grammar School in Bury during the early 1960s. He then completed a degree in geography at London University after which he took up a teaching post at his old school where he taught geography in a department headed by Peter Smeltzer. After the demise of the grammar school John took a post at the County Upper where he remained until the health of his father deteriorated whereupon he became a full-time carer. On the death of his father he resumed his career at Debenham High before retiring to concentrate on building his Christian website [www.JRtalks.com], playing and watching cricket at his beloved Brockley Cricket club cricket, bird watching and assisting in a leadership capacity at his local Baptist church.
On the 25th August my brother John, “J.R.” to me, died gently at the Finborough Court Care home where he had been a resident since April. He had been struggling with mobility for some time which the NHS experts had diagnosed as spinal problems and as a result he underwent major surgery in November last year. There was no improvement in his condition and in February he received the diagnosis that he had predicted for some time that he had Motor Neurone Disease. During the last months of his life at Finborough court John was overwhelmed with a daily stream of loving visitors: family, old colleagues, sporting colleagues, many former pupils (mainly female) and of course his large group of Christian friends. He gained enormous comfort from his visitors. Every morning, up until three days before his death, he completed the Daily Telegraph crossword, made a full diary entry and enjoyed a cooked lunch. He also enjoyed watching a wonderful summer of cricket.
Towards the end of his life he was tormented that in his opinion his life had not been worthy or useful. An old colleague and birding companion, Tommy, who had been ever-present by his bed side, picked up on this anxiety and embarked on a campaign of reassurance, wheeling old pupils into his room in an effort to boost my brother’s failing self-esteem.
I shared John’s anxiety regarding the manner that his Motor Neurone Disease would finish him but his last day was peaceful and his death gentle. After a wonderful relaxing injection by a loving district nurse he slipped away while my other brother Paul, held his hand, prayed and sung alongside his bed. John’s funeral proved to be an uplifting occasion: family, old colleagues, pupils, sporting team mates and his many Christian friends turned up in droves and overflowed into the grave yard. The chapel roof was nearly lifted with the singing of the hymns and my brother Paul conducted the service with great sensitivity, skill and style. The wake was wonderfully irreverent with speeches celebrating the more worldly and earthy part of J.R.’s life being made by friends and old pupils.
Many affectionate letters have been written by old pupils. It seems my brother did a lot of black board rubber throwing but not always to maintain discipline! To demonstrate coastal erosion, he’d repeatedly throw the rubber at the class room door. During his cheroot smoking days another old pupil recalls her parents’ amusement when attending a parents evening watching the smoke of his recently puffed cigar billowing out of his jacket pocket!
As his coffin was about to be lowered into the ground J.R. would have been amused by the exchange that took place between two of his brothers. Responding to the birdsong emanating from the grave yard hedge Paul remarked, “That’s nice, a hedge sparrow!” To which his brother Peter muttered, “No a robin!” J.R. would have probably have argued that it was a wren.
John’s cricket club, his beloved Brockley CC, has suggested that a celebratory match be played in honour of John’s seventy-year involvement, it has provisionally been arranged for the late August Bank Holiday Monday.”
These are some of the memories that some of J.R.’s many friends shared with Philip:
• Andrew, “I remember whilst fielding in the slips catching a deflection off J.R.’s trilby.”
• Anne, “An explosive teacher, full of passion and vigour.”
• John, “Getting lost at Pioneer Camp – wide games – late suppers in the kitchen tent with tales from Bonzo .”
• Hazel, “Loved bird watching and hunting for wild flowers with John.”
• Vic, “Greatest cricket man of Brockley C.C.”
• Graham, “I’ll always remember the snail crawling up his trilby.”
• Mark, “Fierce and fair.”
• Elizabeth, “He had a great aim with the chalk and the blackboard rubber.”
• Julia, “He pretended to die during a school assembly, year 7 believed he had.”
• Anon, “Showed great compassion when one of his form, my daughter, returned to year 11, pregnant.”
• Anne, “As a boy he had a great aversion to soap and water.”
• Jean, “On a school trip to Pleasurewood Hills pupils came from all over the park to see him come down the big slide.”
• Kate, “He made cricket less boring.”
• Gemma, “My beloved geography teacher at Debenham High.”
• Mark, “Off stump Leb.”
Robert joined the staff in January 1965, on the same day as Charles Taylor, and they became close friends. Each year their two families would visit Cromer for a holiday. On Thursday 6th December 2018 Charles spoke movingly at Robert’s funeral, in St Edmundsbury Cathedral, recalling Robert’s great love of music, and their friendship. Robert’s son Richard then delivered his eulogy. It was one of the most eloquent that I can remember. Here is Richard’s final anecdote, which perfectly illustrates the kind of person Robert was.
“My last recollection of my father explains why we are here in this building today. One day when I was quite old and should have left the nest, I was moaning to my father about house prices. How was I ever going to afford a house when they cost (even around here) 5-10 thousand pounds? My dad, ever the optimist, said “come on, hop into the car and we will go and look”. Once we had set off he explained “because you have building skills, we will go and find a wreck of a house- cheap! And you can do it up!” Well, we arrived at Poslingford (a village near Clare). We stopped outside a pair of old cottages. Roof falling in, windows falling out, and garden completely overgrown. Perfect.
Walking around to the back of the house, we noticed the door was slightly open. The room was full of smoke not going up the chimney. An old stump or root was pushed into the fire, but not really burning. Through the smoke came the foulest language I have ever heard. The swearing was every other word. A very angry man was saying, “I fought in the war for this country, l worked all my life – look at me now – reduced to this, I have a bad leg and you come here in your fancy car!!” Knowing how my father hated swearing, l thought we should make a run for it – the man looked angry, and I left dad there.
I sat in Dad ‘s car (an old Morris Traveller) for what seemed like an age. Then through the drizzle came dad, with the man in a completely changed mood. He was holding my father’s hand, patting him on the back, smiling and even waving to me!
Dad got back into the car and we slowly drove off. It took until we were nearly home, before I found out how dad had transformed that man. “Oh, I just opened my pockets and wallet and gave him what I had.” My father would give anybody anything he had if he felt they needed it more than he did. He had a perfect sense of empathy to his fellow man. He would be embarrassed at me recounting this incident. But I learnt by example, what a true Christian is.”
There is nothing anyone could add to that.
Account by Charles Hamel-Cooke of a Thanksgiving Service which took place in the Lady Chapel at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Thursday 6th December at 2.00 pm.
John, our Secretary and friend, died on 18th December 2016 aged 69. John had been fighting cancer for some time but in typical ‘John’ style he kept fighting onward. At times he appeared to be pulling through, however he took a rapid downwards turn just before his death which came as a shock to us all. John served as Secretary to The Old Burians for 38 years in two parts, first from 1968-74 and then from 1984 until his death. His service will not easily be forgotten and his shoes will certainly be hard to fill. The Association will not be the same without him.
A warm tribute to John was given at his funeral by Geoff Barton, the then current Head of King Edward VI School.
You can read a copy here.
The following report appeared in the The Old Burian Magazine of 2018:
JOHN OTTLEY’S GRAVE AT ROUGHAM
John’s headstone has now been placed in St Mary’s Churchyard, Rougham. His grave lies to the south west of the church next to that of his parents. His Old Burians’ scarf is looking rather bedraggled now so it will be replaced by some other more durable item to honour his contribution to the Old Burians’ Association. If you are in the area and have the time, do drop by to see the magnificent church, where John played the organ for many years from a very early age, and spend a few quiet moments at the grave – you are welcome to leave some flowers if you wish.
In his teenage years, when he was at Calday Grange School, Cheshire, Doug was taught Mathematics by Old Burian, Wilfrid Thompson (1904-96), who had achieved great things as a sportsman – in rugby (with Harlequins & Midlands) later becoming an international referee. As a cricketer he played for Cambridge University and Surrey. Was it Wilfrid who influenced Doug to take up hockey and encouraged his later career?
Doug arrived at KEGS in 1962, teaching Chemistry, taking on responsibilities as Housemaster of School House (Boarders) and coaching School hockey teams and umpiring games over a good number of years. It was one of life’s coincidences that on Easter Tuesday in 2015, just a few weeks before Doug’s death, we revived the hockey match between the School and the Old Burians.
Doug transferred to the Upper School in 1972 and was given oversight of Sixth Form Studies, encouraging students to achieve their best. He moved to Chelmsford in 1977 and eventually settled in Norfolk, becoming Head of Smithdon High School, where he stayed until he retired in 1996. In later years his health was never robust, but he doggedly survived crisis upon crisis, and kept a lively interest in the organisations of which he was a part. His last visit to Bury St Edmunds was in August 2013, when he attended the annual ex-KEGS Staff Lunch, hosted by Robert Hey in the Headmaster’s Garden at the Vinefields site.
He was survived by his widow Pat and two sons, and is still remembered with much affection by his former students.
We were all saddened to hear that Peter died on 28 January aged 94. He became Head of Geography in 1949, in the Grammar School days and retired thirty years later from the Upper School. The Old Burians will always be grateful for the many years’ support that both he and his wife Eve gave to the Association – most especially at the annual cricket match when Peter played (and later when he umpired) and with Eve filling out the scorebook.
Many geography students benefited from his style of teaching, as his examination results testified (his sketch maps on the blackboard which he often described as being “in glorious technicolour” were legendary), and his lesson notes were always clear and concise. In recent years, when his eyesight began to fail, he moved from Culford into Bury. He much enjoyed the annual lunch for ex-KEGS staff, which Robert Hey hosted each August. He also found fulfilment in painting water colours.
A private family funeral took place. An account of the memorial meeting held on 20 September 2014 appeared in the 2015 “Old Burian” magazine.
Don passed away on 3 April 2012 at his home in Yarcombe aged 84. He taught as Head of Art on the KEGS staff from 1955 to 1958 then again from 1963 to 1969. He was a loyal supporter of the Old Burians’ Association over many years and a regular attender of the Annual Reunion events until he became less mobile in recent years.
He was born in Wakefield, spent his early school life at Scarborough and later attended the local College of Art for his Art and Design training. This was interrupted by two years of National Service in the RAF at Gloucester, after which he completed his Art Teachers’ Diploma course at Leicester. His other teaching posts were at Ashmead School for Boys, Reading, the Gateway Grammar School, Leicester, and Holyrood School at Chard.
Don was a dedicated and inspiring teacher, whose boundless energy and enthusiasm captured the interest and imagination of his pupils and resulted in a high quality of work. He encouraged working in a wide range of drawing and painting materials, and in print making and pottery. The development of practical work was enriched by his profound knowledge of the history of art and architecture, and this was reinforced by the many trips he organised both locally and abroad.
Don had a great love of the theatre from his boyhood days, which is illustrated by the photograph of him at about the age of 8 or 9 standing beside his Punch and Judy Show, which he made himself, and, perhaps above all, he will be remembered at KEGS for a remarkable series of Dramatic Society productions which he directed during both periods of his tenure. The earlier presentations included “Family Album”, “Macbeth”, “Reluctant Heroes”, “Gaslight”, “The Man in the Bowler Hat”, “She Stoops to Conquer” and “The Man Who Wouldn’t Go To Heaven” – staged mainly in the Old Gym on trestles and table tops borrowed from Stanley Palmer’s Tea Rooms – access to the stage being up a ladder and through a window! The early 60s productions were “Charley’s Aunt”, “The Happiest Days of Your Life”, “Twelfth Night”, and “Rope” staged in the New Hall which provided more ambitious opportunities, with one act of “The Love of Four Colonels” presented at the newly restored Theatre Royal, for the Suffolk Drama Festival. The later 60s productions, which took place mostly at the Theatre Royal, were “St Joan”, “The Merchant of Venice”, “And So Ad Infinitum”, “Henry IV, Part 1”, “When We Are Married”, extracts from “Murder in the Cathedral” and “Amahl and the Night Visitors”. These productions reached a high peak of achievement in their standard of acting and visual dramatic effect created by scenery and lighting. They provided a valuable life-changing educational experience for the many pupils involved
The care and concern Don had for the pupils under his guidance, his modesty and dignity, made him a highly respected member of staff and his work is greatly appreciated. His Christian faith was the basis of his life, finding expression and commitment as a Lay Reader in his local parish for many years. He is buried in Yarcombe churchyard amongst the parishioners he loved.
(Clifford King – with much appreciation to Don’s cousin Margaret Scarlett)
Miss Kilpatrick died on 12 May 2006 after a short illness, in her 97th year. She had been active until the previous weekend when she was taken ill quite suddenly, and a deterioration in her health followed.
A great character has gone from us! She had been a teacher at KEGS from 1941 to 1970, when she retired, still with the poodle Edward by her side. She was a loyal supporter of the Old Burians for 65 years; she much enjoyed attending the Reunion Weekend each year, meeting up with old friends and putting in what was to be her final appearance in October 2005.
Her funeral took place at Hawstead Church on Wednesday 17 May at 2.30pm attended by former pupils and ex-staff colleagues. The following tribute was read at her wake by John Ottley:
“All of us here this afternoon were part of Elsa’s extended family. A significant section of that ‘brotherhood’ came from King Edward VI Grammar School, where she taught for nearly thirty years, and which she supported as a member of the Old Burians for 65 years. As in all her relationships, you were either loved or loathed (and the feeling was reciprocal too !). She once met a former pupil for the first time after forty years and said “I didn’t much like you when you were at the School, and I haven’t changed my mind now!” The individual was completely taken aback.
Her scurrilous, irascible nature was one of her attractions – she was never wanting for an apposite, witty ‘bon mot’, nor averse to some impish act! In one of my last meetings with her, I told her of the passing at 100-plus of our oldest ever pupil. Back she came with the retort: “I shan’t make 100 – I’m not contented enough!”
In her personal interaction with me over the past 47 years, she was always ‘you know who’, whether it was in one of those long phone conversations in earlier years, or in a brief note on a scrap of paper, kept for communicating intimate witticisms to those who were special to her! She was known as ‘Sir’ to all past pupils (the only female member of staff wanting to be one of the chaps, and treated no differently to her male colleagues). She was also KATE. I once asked her why this was so, and she retorted: “Don’t know, It rhymes with HATE!”.
I have been bequeathed various notes which were passed around class members during her lessons, and eventually confiscated by her. Some are priceless quips, others protests – one from a class expecting to be tested in short answer form after a set piece of homework, only for ‘Madam’ to change her mind and test them in another way! One lad was given 100 lines as a result of a misdemeanour. He returned them deliberately addressed to Miss Patrick to see if she would notice! Wrong – “You have missed the Kil off my name”, she barked, “do them again!” (He subsequently redeemed himself in the Sixth Form by coming top in her Biology class).
The boys tormented her poodle Edward the whole day long. They fed all manner of items to whatever creature happened to be in the fish-tank at the time! I found a Valentine’s card that the boys sent to her – supposedly from a male member of staff (who was named and survives her!).
Since Elsa’s passing, I have received numerous emails from Old Burians, setting down their memories of her – usually short pithy remarks that she would have well understood. One such said simply: ‘ Tough old gal – and a great sport’ – and she showed these qualities right to the end. We shall miss her greatly – a real-one off character, whose like we shall not see again.
Early on Saturday morning I woke suddenly to the rumble of distant thunder, and thought – she’s causing trouble to her Lord already. I phoned a friend in New Zealand later in the day, and he said that had experienced bad weather too!
Elsa, ‘Kate’, ‘ Sir’, Miss Kilpatrick – we salute you. God bless, ‘till we meet again. “
John was only on the staff of KEGS as Head of Maths from 1959 to 1964 but he was well respected by all his students. Bob Elliot, the Headmaster, described him as “the driving force of Lancastrian House and the administrative mainspring of all school functions” (how apt for he was a native of the NW).
He was an old County Grammar Schoolboy (his father had moved to Bury to work on the railway) and he joined KEGS having taught in Chelmsford and at Portsmouth Grammar School (to which he returned when he left Bury, staying there until his retirement). He was a housemaster, then Head of the Middle School, commander of the Signals Platoon in the CCF and an inspirational rugby and cricket coach. A talented but modest athlete, during a rugby match between the Staff and the School 1st XV, he out-paced the School’s wing ¾ (who was then the record holder for the 100 yards!). Later he became the School Archivist. As a teacher, he always made himself available to those who found maths difficult, explaining any concept with patience and understanding.
Referring to the text of his son Steve’s eulogy, he mentions his Dad’s keenness on bursts of speed, attributed to his desire to “catch up” on his twin sister, born twenty minutes before him! Thus he was a brilliant sprinter in his youth. He had a love of sailing (building a dinghy from a kit) and canoeing. Later in life he developed an interest in wood carving and turning. He is survived by his two sons Steve and Philip. He lost his first wife Jean in 1994 and his second wife Betty in 2009.
Don joined the staff of KEGS as Head of Physics in 1955, from the County School along with the 1955 intake. He served at Vinefields until 1972, enjoying the luxury of a new Science Block from 1962. He went on to Grove Road in 1972 and retired some years later.
We in the Old Burians will miss his loyal support. He was one of a handful of ex-KEGS staff who continued to attend both the AGM and the Reunion Dinner every year (over a fifty-year period), until his final illness.
In tributes received, he was remembered by many of the O-level and A-level physicists as one enthusiastic about his subject. The consummate teacher, his lessons were delivered with that touch of dry humour that made them enjoyable and memorable. He offered Saturday morning “crammer sessions” for those who requested extra help.
His extra-mural School Camera Club was recalled, many happy hours being spent in the dark room with varying degrees of success in attempting to produce the one-off masterpiece! He sparked a lifelong interest in photography in many a pupil. His other major loves – cycling, bird-watching and astronomy (he was one who could use the observatory on the Athenaeum roof) – were all shared with the same enthusiasm.
He and his wife Pat worked together locally for the Open University and calmed the nerves of many examination candidates over a number of years.
Ken joined the KEGS staff in the autumn of 1960 as Art Master, a post he held until April 1963. His fine voice was soon put to good use when he sang a solo at his first Christmas Carol Service in the Cathedral. The following spring he took over responsibilities as Housemaster for School House (for the boarders). He took an active interest, particularly in their sporting activities, always offering his vocal support from the touchline! His passion for film making led to his sponsorship of a Film Society in the School, and some Fifth Formers made a film, “Mischief Afoot” under his direction. He moved nearer his native County Durham, taking a number of posts in the education system locally – spending the last thirteen years of his teaching career at Barnard Castle School, where a memorial service was held on 17 January 2015. In later life, he published a number of crime thrillers, fulfilling a lifetime ambition, some with his own illustrations. He remained in touch through the Old Burians’ Association.
Richard Mortlock writes: “Yet another passing of one of the more flamboyant of staff from my era at KEGS. Ken never taught me art – that was the dubious responsibility of Don Tapster, sadly also not with us any more. The fact that Ken never had to teach me was probably why we became more friends than teacher and student. When I was in the Vth Form (taking Maths and Physics and leaving Art behind), I used to be involved with the “tuck shop” – a shed opposite the old assembly hall in the quadrangle area. Ken would always visit the shop on his way to his first lesson and purchase something to eat like a Wagon Wheel or some similar chocolate delight. I would always attempt to overcharge him on the pretext that he earned more than we did, but this was met with that withering look and high-pitched chuckle! I was not particularly interested in making money from the tuck shop but it was here I ran a little “pop pools” enterprise – which involved predicting the movers and shakers from the current week’s Top Ten as noted in the New Music Express, to where they would be next week. It was 3d a go and all the money went to the winner – honestly!
The daily ritual of buying tuck and grizzling about the prices led to a strange kind of friendship which ended when Ken left in 1963. I did keep in touch with him over the years and actually visited him in Houghton-le-Spring with my then girl-friend Maggie. Ken actually took the photograph of us – you can see his shadow in the foreground!
His letters over the next few years were sprinkled with innuendos but were beautifully written in his italic script. His house was decorated by him as you would expect, and every wall and ceiling was a primary colour, very bright indeed. To underline his, and Northern hospitality in general, there is a tale concerning a surprise visit my friend Peter and I made to him one summer’s day. We had met a couple of very nice young ladies (sisters) at Cromer when they were on holiday from South Shields. We spent a few days with them and promised to come up and see them (as you did!) and they gave us their address. Obviously they didn’t expect us to turn up, but turn up unexpectedly we did one evening, but were told in no uncertain terms to “sling our hooks”. We couldn’t stay with them as they had promised – mother wouldn’t be pleased. Mother? There was no mention of them living at home when we bought them numerous drinks at Cromer!
The night was spent asleep in the Ford Anglia in a lay-by as we wondered what to do. The next day we heard on the radio that someone had fired a shotgun at people sleeping in a car in a lay-by a few miles from where we had been. We either had to go home, or visit my old mate Ken and make the most of the rest of our stay up north. Ken was surprised to see us (to say the least), especially as he was about to go on holiday himself. Despite this, he gave us the keys to his brightly-painted house and went on his holiday.
As it happened I contracted tonsillitis and spent most of the next few days in one of his beds, but we had a few days here and there. When it was time to return south, we locked up, dropped the keys through the letter-box and headed home. I cannot think of many people who would have been so kind – especially as he had never met my friend. We shared a few more letters after that, eventually lost touch and I was sad to read of his passing. His smiling face and amusing banter, plus his genuine friendship will remain with me, together with the tales!
Farewell, Ken. “