Paul Temple

(at KEGS 1965-1971) writing in 2020

In September 1972, having recently left KEGS, a fresh-faced young man boarded a train for his first full time job. I had joined Littlewoods as a management trainee, my father, quite rightly, having adjudged that I was far from ready for University.

KEGS held such wonderful memories, full colours at football, cross country captain, even a member of the Tuck Shop management. Trevor Plummer (The Old Burian May 2019) recalls the football match against Caius College, Cambridge and the huge meal. We were a skilled, strong, invincible team, unbeaten throughout the season, but we could be belligerent bunch also. He brought back memories of the match against Soham at the Vinefields. We had a young, small but extremely brave goalkeeper, Kevin Gaught, who dived at the feet of the Soham centre forward to save an almost certain goal. For that he received two extra kicks from the Soham player, who was duly escorted into the net by the captain, Dave Aldous, and me and ‘advised’ of his reckless actions. That was the last game refereed by a school master. From then on only registered referees were used for our home games. However, my sporting achievements were not fully matched by my education results, only my love for Geography was reflected in a good grade at ‘A’ level.

So off to work, for eight years with Littlewoods in the retail trade, becoming store manager at Gateshead and Crawley. Looking for new challenges I worked briefly in Gibraltar and returning home, ended up working for an importer/distributor and retailer in East London, now buried beneath the Olympic Stadium. A huge warehouse fire led the company to seek new opportunities and before long I was managing a timber extraction and processing company in Liberia, West Africa. Life was interrupted in 1990 by civil war and I, along with several others, was taken hostage in the capital Monrovia. On being collected and brought to the ‘hostage camp’, I was met by international reporters. ‘Do you have anything to say?’ one asked, to which I replied, ‘Don’t tell my mother’. Too late, the news was out, I was front cover on the next day UK newspapers and my poor parents spent two horrible days being ‘hounded’ by British press. We were fortunate being released after only three days.

Following a break, I returned to Liberia, but by now the country was in turmoil, both economic and humanitarian. I left for the UK again, only for a set of circumstances to call me back in 1996, eventually working as a contractor to the European Union humanitarian effort, a role that brought recognition for managing the logistics support to the 1997 election and changing the country’s currency in 1999.

In 2000, now finally ready for University, my long-suffering wife and I both attended master’s degree courses at Swansea University, where I gained a distinction. If only I had known earlier what new opportunities the master’s would bring. I re-joined the European Union efforts, this time in Sierra Leone. One year later I transitioned to managing the USAID project on diamond reforms, a move that brought considerable international travel. However, my connection to Liberia was not finished as I was responsible for the establishment of the Kimberley process in that country from 2007 to 2009.

East Africa called and from 2010 I was engaged in the preparations for what remains the world’s newest but most troubled country, South Sudan. In late 2015 I experienced the delights of Kenya, working there until family illness brought me back to the UK. But Africa beckoned once more and I returned to South Sudan to finalise a project for its last nine months. Now it’s time to call a halt to these travels and return, not to the Suffolk I left almost half a century ago, but to the delights of South West Wales and our regular trips to Florida to visit daughters and grandchildren. So, is this the end of my working travels? Perhaps that sound you hear is just the laughter of my friends and family, when I say I am retiring ‘again’.

Paul played the part of Amahl (alternating with Dougal Ferguson) in the Dramatic Society’s production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” by Gian-Carlo Menotti at the Theatre Royal in November 1968, directed by Donald Tapster, so it is a delight to be in touch after so many years!

(Photograph by David Crawford)