We no longer update this page but as it was part of the old web-site we felt it was worth preserving.
ANDREW ARNOLD (at the school from 1967-73), just 52, died on 30 September 2008, nine days after he had suffered a major brain haemorrhage. His funeral service, in a packed parish church at Ballaugh on the Isle of Man, was held on 9 October, and a thanksgiving service was held in St Mary’s, Thame, the following week, when Andy’s ashes were interred in his father’s grave. His old Housemaster, Norman Lilley, took the service in Thame. Andy was born in 1956 and attended Lord Williams’s from 1967 until 1973. After a brief period in a local solicitor’s office, Andy joined the RAF, and spent the next 22 years “driving everything, everywhere”, and organising Motor Transport. He saw service all over the world, including Berlin in the time of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall, Ascension Island during the Falklands Conflict, Hong Kong, and a number of bases in Britain. The most important part of his job was acting as driver to a succession of the most senior figures in the RAF: because he had intelligence and humour, and could be trusted implicitly, he became their friend and a greatly valued member of the service team. Whilst in Hong Kong, Andy’s talent at speaking – virtually non-stop and ad-lib if necessary – was recognised by a radio producer, who invited Andy to broadcast part-time for the British Forces Broadcasting Service. The ‘Andy Arnold Breakfast Show’ became something of a cult favourite amongst both the local Chinese and expatriate British listeners, not least because of Andy’s ability to imitate voices. His ‘Prince Charles’ was more lifelike than the real thing! Andy and his wife moved to the Isle of Man three and a half years ago. Once again, Andy started broadcasting, initially part-time, this time on Manx Radio. He was about to become their full time employee. His long experience and expertise meant that he could compere programmes, as well as acting as producer and schedule organiser. His fostering of raw talent included persuading his brother to write many “Thought for the Day” scripts! Andy was a ‘doer’, frequently for the great benefit of other people, employing his drive, tenacity and humour to make things happen. He was President of the Old Tamensians in 1984-85. Andy leaves a wife, Carole, who has decided to remain on the Isle of Man, and a daughter, Natasha. As a marvellous postscript to a life of dedicated service: Andy’s liver and kidneys have already benefited three transplant patients, and three of his heart valves have been placed in a heart bank ready for use in neonatal re-constructive surgery.
Professor Desmond Slay, who died on May 20, 2004 aged 76, was a leading authority on Icelandic literature, and his scholarship and work in tracking down the great manuscript Codex Scardensis ensured that this significant treasure was saved for the Icelandic nation. Slay’s research was devoted to the meticulous study of the Icelandic manuscripts in which the Norse texts are preserved. His earliest major project was on one of the better-known sagas, Hrólfs saga kraka, which produced a monograph on the manuscripts of the saga in 1960. His approach of studying the entire history of the text’s transmission, taking into account manuscript copies that had been considered secondary, anticipated by decades ideas which were later promoted as the “New Philology” of the 1990s. Slay’s study of the saga was accompanied by an edition of the text that set the standard for subsequent scholarly editions of Norse texts. Shortly after his retirement, his edition of Mírmanns saga appeared in the same Arnamagnæan series. Equally important was Slay’s work on making facsimiles of manuscripts available. He collaborated with the leading Icelandic scholar Jón Helgason on a published facsimile of Alexanders saga that appeared in 1966, and, in 1972, published a facsimile of a volume of Romances in the Royal Library of Stockholm. However, his most dramatic achievement as a textual authority came while he was still working on Hrólfs saga kraka, when he succeeded in tracking down the manuscript Codex Scardensis, containing the medieval Lives of the Apostles. This was known to have left Iceland in the nineteenth century and to have been in the library of Sir Thomas Phillips at Thirlestaine House, Cheltenham, in the early 1890s. At the urging of Jón Helgason he investigated what had happened to the volume, and managed to trace it via the sale in 1945 to its then owners, whose permission and cooperation he obtained in having the manuscript photographed for the publication of a facsimile. When it came up for auction again in 1965 the Icelanders were therefore fully alerted to the details of its existence, and a consortium of Icelandic banks was able to purchase the Codex and, subsequently, to present it to the Icelandic nation. In the small but intense circle of Icelandic literary scholarship, Slay was regarded as having played a key role in retrieving a treasure for the nation. His services to Iceland’s medieval heritage were recognised with the award of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon on the occasion of the centenary of the Viking Society in 1992. Desmond Slay was born on December 30 1927 at Thame, Oxfordshire, and educated at Lord William’s Grammar School, Thame, and St Catherine’s College, Oxford, from which he graduated with a First in English in 1948. Research into medieval Norse literature in Britain moved into an exceptionally strong phase in the 1950s, as a new generation of specialists found jobs in the post-War university system. After graduation, Slay took up a lectureship at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, where the subject was already being promoted by the colourful figure of Gwyn Jones. After taking his doctorate, Slay remained at Aberystwyth for the rest of his career, becoming Rendel Professor of English Language and Literature in 1978. Slay served on numerous committees of the university, including the Court of Governors, and also held the position of Dean of the Faculty of Arts. While serving on the committee which oversaw an expansion of the university buildings, he ensured that the office of the Head of the English Department, of which he would be the first occupant, had a commanding view around Cardigan Bay. Away from Aberystwyth, Slay became involved with the Viking Society for Northern Research, based in London, during its long association with the Arnamagnæan Institute in Copenhagen, and, more recently, with Stofnun Árna Magnússonar in Reykjavik. He served the Viking Society in many capacities, as president from 1970 to 1972, and especially as co-editor of its journal, Saga-Book, from 1978 to his death. In his editorial work he insisted upon the same high standards for published academic work as he imposed upon his own research, though his criticism was always kindly and accompanied by constructive suggestions for how work could be improved. He was impatient only with incurable pretentiousness. Slay had many interests outside his academic career. In his youth he was a keen rugby player and he played basketball into his late sixties. He much regretted (due to the dwindling number of his peers) that he was not still playing basketball in his seventieth year. A dedicated supporter of the Scout Association from his own days as a boy scout, he served, for over 30 years, as Chairman of 4th Aberystwyth Scout Group, as Secretary of North Ceredigion District and finally as Secretary of Ceredigion Area Scout Council, a post at which he continued to work from his sick bed. His valuable contributions to the movement were acknowledged with the Medal of Merit, the Long Service Award and, earlier this year, the Association’s second highest award, the Silver Acorn, which Slay was due to have received in a surprise presentation on the day that he died. Desmond Slay married, in 1958, Leontia McCartan, who survives him with their daughter and four sons. (From the Daily Telegraph)
John Fulkes 1949 – 2004 Michael Spencer, Head Teacher of Lord Williams’s, where John had taught since 1975, contributed the following tribute: John Fulkes was someone who always put everyone else before himself. He was a deeply loved man who inspired young people to do great things. Generations of students passing through the school owe a great deal to John Fulkes. He developed their love of literature, motivated them to great deeds on the sports field, helped to sort out their tangled lives and, most of all, supported them in the belief that they could go on to achieve their potential in the world. In this foreword to the Sixth Form Year Book, he says: “…the school is summed up in so many of you – young people with energy and enthusiasm yet caring and sensitive all-rounders, able to cope, stand on your own feet and get things done for yourselves and your community.” John Fulkes believed that every young person had the potential to be successful. He never gave up on any individual. In that sense he was the embodiment of the school motto: Sic Itur Ad Astra…A Tous Venaunts – translated as ‘Thus the way to the stars..for all-comers.’ He dedicated his life to young people. John Fulkes was born and bred in Thame (13.06.49), the only child of Mr and Mrs G Fulkes, who ran the bakery and post office in Park Street. He attended the John Hampden Primary School before moving to Lord Williams’s Grammar School as a pupil in 1959. He then went on to study English and English Literature at Trinity College, Oxford before training as a teacher at Nottingham University. After teaching for four years at Sutton Manor High School in Surrey, John Fulkes joined the staff at Lord Williams’s School as an Assistant English Master, in 1975. Norman Lilley, a former Science Master and Head of House at the school, remembers John Fulkes as a pupil and said that his desire to come and teach at his former school was partly in gratitude for all that it had done for him as a pupil and that this was a way of giving something back. John Fulkes became Head of Sixth Form (where he was know affectionately by the students as ‘JF’) in 1985. He was a single man whose life revolved around his passions of education, cricket, drama and literature, Lord Williams’s School and the community of Thame. Following a period of a few years as a Town Councillor in the 1980s, he became Mayor of Thame in 1985. He was a great advocate of the community and was a driving force in developing Lord Williams’s School as a community school. He ran the school 1st XI cricket team for many years and nurtured successive generations of young talent. He was ahead of his time in forming links between school and the local club and County Cricket Associations. John was Chairman of Thame Cricket Club at the time of his death, having been a key figure in the club ever since he returned to Thame to teach. He was extremely influential in Oxfordshire cricket and was a member of the Oxfordshire Cricket Board. He was a team manager of the Oxfordshire U14 County Cricket XI, and both Secretary and Treasurer of the Oxfordshire Youth Cricket Committee. He was a qualified umpire and would also frequently be seen mowing the field or preparing the pitch. John Fulkes also organised all Oxfordshire Schools County Cricket competitions. His love of drama and English Literature was manifested in his teaching and his active participation in drama activities. He regularly participated in the Crendon Mystery Plays and in the past had produced many plays at Lord Williams’s Lower school. As a pupil in the school he played the lead role in the World Premier of a Noel Coward play, directed in the school by Gerard Gould. Among many, many tributes paid to ‘JF’ by sixth formers in the school, is the following: “You gave us all exactly what we needed – support, kindness, advice, discipline, a second, third or fourth chance if we needed it. But to me and countless others you were first and foremost a friend.” Peter O’Neill, the President of Thame Town Cricket Club, said: “I would like to place on record the tremendous contribution that John made to the club over the many years that he was associated with it. His enthusiasm and commitment was second to none and much of the club’s current success is due to him. His death is a tremendous shock for the club in particular and cricket in the wider community. Our thoughts are with his mother and family at this very sad time. Simon Porter, Chairman of the Oxfordshire Cricket Board, added: “John was a totally committed supporter of Oxfordshire Youth Cricket for very many years (over 25). He was both Secretary and Treasurer of the Oxfordshire Youth Committee and very many young Oxfordshire cricketers had much for which to thank him. He is a great loss and will be much missed by all in Oxfordshire cricket.” Gerad Gould: It was not very often that one could detect a potential English Literature specialist as well as a young actor among pupils in their first year of secondary schooling. In the case of John Fulkes this hunch was fully justified later on. In his first year he played a walk-on part in “Cyrano de Bergerac.” Shakespeare came later. Meanwhile, John enjoyed his school life and made valuable contributions in all subjects of the curriculum, but his overriding passion was the game of cricket. Once he had begun his Sixth Form studies, John responded very positively to our suggestion that he might try for a place at Oxford University. He was not quite sure whether to read History or English. English won. There were two other English scholars in his year, and the three of them shared an enthusiasm for Literature. John tried for a place at Trinity College, Oxford, where the English Don was known to have a particular understanding of students who applied from small state schools. The most important part of the entry exam was an extended interview. John was very amused by one of the questions he was asked: “What would you say to Willie Wordsworth if you bumped into him in a wood?” That was just the sort of question that John’s sense of humour enjoyed. He was one of four students who were awarded places to read English at Trinity. Other opportunities had arisen in our Drama programme. We mounted a production of Tolstoy’s epic “War and Peace” in which John gave a delightful performance as Pierre Bezukhov, the shy, intellectual Russian aristocrat who hero worshipped Napoleon. A year later, in the middle of his A level studies, he took on the all-demanding role of Hamlet, and in 1967 came another challenge – the world premiere of Noel Coward’s unknown play “Post Mortem” about the first world war, with special permission of the author. In this play John played the leading part of a young officer who, between being wounded and dying in the trenches, has a dream of returning in 1930, the year in which the play was written, to visit his mother, his fiancee, his friends and father. The play attracted a lot of publicity, including a bevy of London critics descending on Lord Williams’s for the press night as well as a special T programme. John coped with all that and gave a memorably moving performance. After Oxford and a Diploma of Education year at Nottingham John became a teacher of English at Sutton School, Surrey. I was very pleased when a few years later he applied for a vacancy in my English Department at Lord Williams’s. His work there will be reported in another obituary. Dear John – my farewell to you must be Horatio’s to Hamlet: “Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” Barry Yates has written: I had known John all his life. Although he is 3 years younger than me, we grew up together as we both lived as small boys and teenagers in Park St. His parents owned Jackmans Stores which is now the post office, and his aunt lived next door to us. When my father died in January John kindly made the funeral address / tribute which he did in his usual brilliant way, and in preparing for that we spent a couple of evenings here reminiscing about those times and others involving Thame Cricket Club. When we moved back to Thame in 1984, John persuaded me to get involved with the OTA and become a John Hampden trustee. Without John I am sure the OTA would not be so strong, and indirectly the OT Golf Society would not have been formed. Our friendship was cemented when our youngest Gavin was simultaneously Head Boy & captain of cricket at Lord Bills, and captain of Thame CC youth cricket teams. So you will understand that Andrea and I are feeling a sense of great loss which we know is being shared with so many, many others. Marie-Claude and I were very saddened and upset by the news of John’s sudden death. Although we cannot attend the funeral, we shall be there in thought and would be grateful if you would pass on our deepest sympathy to his mother. I am pretty sure I joined LWS / LSW at the same time as he did in 1974 and was his colleague for 18 years. Michael Beech I’m so sorry to hear of the death of John Fulkes. I was two forms above him at school, but did not know him well. However, his reputation goes before him and he will be sadly missed by LWS, OTA, and the charities and sports clubs he supported so energetically. Regards, Mike Barrett. Thank you for the information about John Fulkes. We had already heard through another OT member, Derrick Hester. Desmond will be unable to take part or to be at the funeral, he is ill at the moment and cannot travel. I know that he will wish to send a donation and I will sort that out with him as soon as possible Please pass our condolences on. Sincerely, Leontia Slay I had already heard of JF’s death as my youngest cousin is currently the lower sixth, but was very touched that you thought to enclose the obits. JF never taught me, but he was a very perceptive man who, when I was a prefect, told me, much to my disbelief, that I was a “doer”. I feel sad to think that I never took the opportunity to return and tell him that eventually he was right. Nicola Rudd (nee Haynes) ’81-’88 It is very sad and shocking news. I remember teaching John French as a pupil, seeing him in the three great Gould productions, and cheering him on to Trinity College and Dennis Burden (his tutor). But best of all was having the chance to appoint him to the staff of LWS. He was a real trooper and the best kind of schoolmaster. Every school of stature needs a long serving and dedicated teacher. LWGS had two, the first in the form of Howard Brown, the second John Fulkes; and of course, Peter More, Norman Lilley, Gerard Gould and Norman Good all did wonderfully long and successful stints at the school also. Even I did 15 years there but that was as nothing compared with those other pedagogical giants! Yours ever Geoff Goodall Extremely saddened to hear this news. John put me and fellow students through our English A Level paces in 1978/79. He was an exceptional teacher – he could breath life into the most dry and sterile of texts. His talents, I’m sure, will be greatly missed by the school. Alison Brennan (Newbitt)
A. W. (Bill) Higgs died in 2003. His daughter Rosalind Ebdon (nee Higgs) wrote: “I write to inform you of the death of my father in October last year. He attended Lord Williams’s, as a scholarship boy, in the early 1930s – I think he started in September 1929. He was always proud to be associated with the school and in his adult life served as clerk to the governors for many years, but it was only recently that I became aware that he had kept up his contacts through the OTA. My parents were active members of the community in Thame from the mid 40s until 1979 when they retired to SuffoIk. Dad was in the ‘Special’ police and busy at Thame Cricket Club and at St Mary’s Church. Mum taught first at the Thame Secondary School in Southern Road and then at John Hampden Junior and Infant schools. I grew up in Thame during the 1950s and 60s and went to Holton Park (1962-9); I was interested to see some familiar names in the OT Newsletter that was recently forwarded to me from my father’s last address. I went with him on a number of occasions to the Founder’s Day Service during the 1960s which always concluded with a rousing rendition of For All the Saints – a favourite hymn of dad’s which was sung at his funeral. I have visited Thame again recently after many years and there are a lot of changes but I know there are still a good number of people who remember my parents. It would be interesting to hear from contemporaries. I was interested to see the name of John Fulkes in the Newsletter. My mother a teacher at John Hampden School for many years between 1955 and 1979, has fond memories of him as a pupil of hers in the first year junior class. She outlives my father and is now living in a Care Home. I believe Jennifer Morel (Youens) whose name also appears in that newsletter was another of her ex-pupils.”
Ivor Shrimpton 1925-2003. Jane, Paul, Nicola, Steve, Freddy, Cecily and Ellie lost a most loving and loved husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather. It is difficult to accept that he has gone from our lives, but he leaves behind the memory of an incredibly generous, outgoing and caring man with a tremendous zest for life. His main concern was always for the family first and foremost, he was immensely proud of his children and supported them through a few difficult times in their lives. Ivor was born in 1925 to May and Harvey Shrimpton and was their only child as they were both elderly parents. Consequently, he was the apple of their eye but always maintained he was never spoilt just over indulged! He grew up in a very different Thame to the one we know now, and was even able to roller skate in the middle of Upper High Street! He attended firstly an infant school run by a Miss Plater, then (to his slight embarrassment in later years) the Girls’ Grammar School, before eventually arriving at lord Williams’s. We think his main enjoyment there was cross country running but he did, of course, meet other pupils who were to become lifelong friends. He was a great supporter of the Old Tamensians Association and, for many years, had been on the Committee. He thoroughly enjoyed helping to organise the successful reunions for his year that have been held recently. Mark Ansell wrote to Jane “Mr. Shrimpton was a lovely man, always happy to help me find the ball in his garden when I kicked it over. He has inspired me to get involved in the Old Tamensians’ Association and I was elected on to the Committee.” After school, Ivor spent a short while as a police cadet in Thame. He told many stories of his time there. On one occasion he had to follow a minor criminal and promptly lost him! He was then called-up and joined the R.A.O.C.. He always maintained that that was a lucky period in his life as he spent the war years at Bicester Garrison and, after the war, was sent to North Africa! He was delighted to discover a few years ago that there was a cruise ship visiting that area so he and Jane took their one and only cruise and were able to visit Benghazi and Tripoli where he found that little had changed in over 50 years! After the army he spent a brief period working for the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket but prospects didn’t look good so he returned home and became a buyer at Pressed Steel in Cowley. Shortly after this he met Jane whilst they were on a train travelling through Paris en route to Menton in the south of France. They were married in 1952. In 2002, Ivor being a true romantic arranged a secret trip back to Menton for their Golden Wedding, which was organised with military position but with the sole intention, as with everything else he undertook, of doing it right. This time, much to Jane’s delight and surprise, the family was also on the Eurostar! Ivor retired in 1988 and the years have been filled with many activities. Visits were made to Canada, Denmark and America several times. One of his ambitions was to take his then 2 grandchildren to Disney world in Florida, and this was achieved much to his and their delight. He also loved France and spent many happy holidays there with good friends. His main interests were; talking to people, vegetable gardening, the financial world, pub lunches with friends (especially the special offers) and cricket. For many years he never missed a test match at Lord’s and in 1981, when on a 41-club tour of South Africa, he was introduced to their last test captain before the political ban. Peter subsequently became a friend and has visited us in Thame several times. For several years, he did film ‘ extra’ work and if we didn’t blink we could spot him in several Morse films, a James Bond and in “Goodnight Mr Tom”. He and John Thaw were in a short scene alone together! He also helped at the finish of the London Marathon for 17 years. If he had been younger and fitter he would have loved to have taken part. However, in 1992 he completed 25 1/2 miles in the Chiltern Marathon Challenge with no preparation beforehand and without proper walking shoes. Admittedly he could hardly get out of bed the next day! Ivor was involved in many organisations. He was a Freemason, a 41-Club member, the British Legion, and a committee member of Thame Show. The Show meant a lot to him and he was over the moon when made an honorary life member in 2001. Over recent years, he and Jane had become members of Thame Historical Society and had enjoyed many outings and visits with them. We are grateful that he did enjoy life to the full and that, in his last month, he saw little Ellie – a much longed for baby for Nicola and Steve. We have received so many cards and letters, which have touched us deeply and, time and time again, these words have been mentioned – an enquiring mind and a genuine interest in everybody and everything. Just a lovely man and a perfect gentleman and things will never be the same without Ivor. As a family we know he had faults but many virtues. He rarely spoke ill of anyone, if he made a promise he would go through hell and high water to keep it, and he treated everyone the same whatever their walk of life. After the initial sadness of his passing has gone, we hope you will remember him with a smile, as we know many of you will think of the times he made you laugh. Mike Bull: Oh dear. I didn’t know Ivor had been ill, let alone died. Another old friend passed over. Not too many of us left now. His dad and mine were in the QOOH (queer objects on horseback aka the Oxfordshire Hussars in WW!). We were in the kindergarten at Thame GGS in the early thirties and he impressed me very much about 1933 by saying how worried he was about Hitler. I’ve never forgotten that. I’ll try to get to his funeral on the 18th. Mark Ansell: (left 2003) Mr Shrimpton was a lovely man, always willing to help me find the football when I accidentally kicked it into his garden. Once, not so long ago, we spent twenty minutes looking for the football in his hedge! He was very friendly to both young and old and was highly respected by myself and all the Ansell family.
WING COMMANDER PETER PARROTT, who died aged 83, won a DFC and Bar as a fighter pilot during the Second World War, when he was officially credited with six “kills”; he was later awarded an AFC as a test pilot on early jet fighters. Parrott had joined 607 Squadron in France in January 1940, aged 20, to fly Gloster Gladiators. The squadron was soon re-equipped with Hurricanes, with Parrott ferrying the first one from Rouen to Vitry-en-Artois on April 8. “I was the only pilot in the squadron who had flown a Hurricane and the most junior,” he recalled. “So the squadron had only a bare four weeks with the Hurricane before we were embroiled in the most disorganised, chaotic week or 10 days of action. Few, if any, of our pilots had sufficient experience on the type to be classed as operational.” On a sortie on May 10, the day on which the blitzkkrieg came to the Low Countries, Parrott claimed two Heinkel 111s destroyed and another 2 damaged. In May 26 over Dunkirk – 4 days before the start of evacuation – he was hit by return fire after damaging a Heinkel 111. His engine seized up as he crossed the coast, and He landed in a field at Great Monge-DF ham, near Deal. Following the German victory in France, Parrott was soon in the thick of the action during the Battle of Britain. On July 18 he shared an He 111 ‘kill’; on August 8 he claimed an Me 109 and a Ju 87 destroyed; and on August 12 a Ju 88 destroyed. In September he was posted to 605 Squadron at Croydon and awarded the DFC. Peter Lawrence Parrott was born at Aylesbury, Bucks, on June 28 1920 into a family of local solicitors. After Lord Williams’s Grammar School, where he was a boarder, he joined the RAF on a short service commission in June 1938. He began his ab initio course at Hatfield, flying for the first time on his eighteenth birthday. Posted to Shawbury on September 3, he trained as a fighter pilot on Hawker Hart and Audax biplanes. His first tour was at Catfoss, towing targets with the Hawker Henley. He then converted to Hurricanes at St Athan before joining 607 Squadron at the beginning of 1940. After the Battle of Britain, Parrott continued flying with 605 Squadron, and on December 1, while acting as a weaver, he was jumped by an Me 109 and his Hurricane was damaged; he dived to 3,000ft and, fearing a fire, baled out at low level over East Hoathly. He stayed with 605 Squadron until the summer of 194 1, when he began a 12-month stint as a flying instructor, followed by a year-long tour at Hullavington with the RAF Handling Squadron, preparing pilots’ notes for new aircraft types. He was awarded a bar to his DFC and served in Italy until his return to Britain in 1946. He began training as a test pilot in that year. He test-flew early versions of the Vampire and Meteor. The casualty rate among test pilots in the early jet fighters was high, but Parrott survived to earn his AFC in 1952. During the Arab-Israeli War in 1967, he led an overland convoy of British civilians fleeing to Turkey. During the 1972 Arab-Israeli War, Parrott flew to Uganda to collect Idi Amin. He was interrogated as a spy, before being recognised. In 1973, he worked as a training advisor in Britain until his retirement in 1983. He married, in 1948, Mary Dunning. They had a daughter and a son, who served in the Fleet Air Arm. Peter Parrott died on August 27 2003.
James Horace A’Bear, known as ‘Horace’, who was born in 1879. After completing his education at Thame Grammar School in 1894, Horace began a four-year apprenticeship with Messrs Joseph & Alfred Eagleston, Ironmongers of St Clements in the City of Oxford. A copy of the indenture shows that his apprenticeship was completed and deemed “very satisfactory”. During his younger years Rene recalls he was keen on sport, especially rowing. He was appointed to an ironmongery business in Oxford and then in 1903 went to the West Country as a Traveller for the Iron and Hardware business. Later in 1906 he joined A. C. Guilding in his business in Southgate Street, Gloucester – Messrs Jennings & Guilding. Horace married Nellie Winstone at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in 1911, where Nellie’s father was an established farmer. They settled in Gloucester, at 13 Sandhurst Road, and in due course raised four children, Lottie (1912), John (1913), Charles(1916) and Nellie (known as ‘Rene’) (1921). During the First World War, Horace managed a factory for armaments in Gloucestershire, where most of the employees were necessarily women, but his main occupation was working in the ironmongery business. In 1922 when the firm extended their business to Northgate Street, Horace took over this branch and continued working there to within three weeks of his death. In 1926 the family moved to the Cotswold village of Painswick about seven miles south of Gloucester (famous for its ninety-nine yew trees) and lived in a property called “The Rigg”. In fact, Nellie inherited the money which paid for their new house to be built, resulting in her becoming very house-proud. Nellie was always interested in Drama. She used to take elocution lessons from a Professor Roberts in Gloucester, and enjoyed playing subsidiary parts in local amateur dramatic performances, particularly in later years. Horace enjoyed sport generally, and was keenly interested in rugby football, bowls and golf. For many years he was a member of the committee for Gloucester Rugby Football Club. He was fully involved in the social life of Painswick, being Chairman of the Painswick Institute Committee and a member of the Painswick Bowling Club. He also served as the Honorary Secretary of the Painswick Golf Club. Horace died in 1945, just two weeks after his eldest sister Janet May. Nellie died in 1958. Photographs
Robin ( Mouse ) Dawson 1950 -1957 died aged 63 in September 2003. After taking Maths and Physics “A” levels he joined the Atomic Research Station at Harwell. He spent his entire working career of 35 years at various laboratories on the site finishing up a a Senior Scientific Officer. He then retired to Wareham in Dorset with his wife Sarah (ex Holton Park G.S ) to indulge in his passion of sailing, owning a sea going boat. His children and grandchildren were frequent visitors. Unfortunately he suffered badly from osteo-arthritis and had to have various joints replaced which contributed to the septicemia that was his cause of death.
Geoffrey Arthur Chaplin was born in Headcorn, Kent, on 10th April 1917, the son of Arthur William Chaplin, a local grocer, and his teacher wife May. Arthur was something of a Winston Churchill look-a-like who “may not run to large cigars but has the same flare for getting things done”. Geoff attended Judd School in Tonbridge from 1927 – 1935, being Head Boy in his final year. In 1937 he graduated BSc in Chemistry and Pure and Applied Maths from Goldsmith’s College, London, and the following year gained a University Teaching Diploma. He held several supply teaching posts in the south-east of England until he commenced military service in January 1940. He was perhaps fortunate that he was not required to go much further than Brighton in the course of his contribution to the war effort. Most of his service was with REME, working on the development of coastal radar equipment. Other talents came to the fore and it may come as a surprise to some to learn that on one posting he “effectively represented his Corps at sprinting and other sports”. He made time in 1942 to marry Amy Ruth Kingsford, a young Kentish woman who had also studied at Goldsmith’s College. They settled in Folkestone and were actively involved in the nearby Cheriton Baptist Church, particularly with the Youth Fellowship, some of whom may be present today! After the War Geoff took up a permanent post as science master at Dover Road.School in Folkestone, teaching science and mathematics there from 1946 until 1952. He then moved, with Ruth and their two children Elizabeth and Tony, to a post as Senior Master at Arthur Mellows Village College in Glinton near Peterborough. Three years later he moved once more to take up the headship of the Secondary Modern School at Thame (known locally as the “bottom school” to distinguish it from John Hampden School, the “top school”). Some readers who knew Geoff at this time will recall what occupied most of his summer school holiday: the timetable. Armed with a mass of coloured drawing pins, each colour representing a different member of staff, he would stand for hours in front of a large chart, rearranging the pins until satisfied that everyone was teaching who, where and when they should. In 1960 he presided over the transfer of activity to the new Wenman School, later to become Lord Williams’s Lower School, where he remained until his retirement in 1977. An article in the Daily Mirror in 1965 by no less than John Pilger described Geoff as “genial and fairly bursting with ideas”, whilst a Ministry of Education HMI Report said that he “gives serious thought to every aspect of (school) life and spares no pains to solve problems which may arise”. From their earliest days in Thame, Geoff and Ruth were deeply involved in the life and work of the local Baptist Church, Geoff being a member, deacon and organist for much of this time. As organist he displayed a great ability for improvisation, together with a remarkable gift for selecting a final voluntary to match a key theme from the preceding sermon. Many recall very happy memories of choir practices in the Park Street vestry. His musical talents were not restricted to the Church, and he was variously involved over the years as accompanist, conductor, choir member, and bass-baritone soloist in a wide range of choirs and musical events. When the school put on a production of Britten’s Noyes Fludde, in which he sang the eponymous title role, he actually grew a rather splendid beard. The nation was even once treated to a fleeting glimpse of his hands at the piano, filmed in the course of a BBC documentary about a local District Nurse. He loved the piano, and as time permitted, would sit at home and play and sing his favourite pieces, sometimes to practice, sometimes purely for pleasure. There used to be a plate on the wall of his old ‘den’ at Croft Close that read: “When all else fails, ask Grampa”. An admirable sentiment for sure, humanly speaking, but with Geoff there was often no need even to ask. He firmly believed that practical concern and care for others was the real expression of his Christian faith, with the teaching of Matthew 25 vv 31- 46 his pattern, and he was always ready to help family, friend, colleague or stranger alike. This attitude and approach to life was evident from his youth and continued into his senior years. In his late teens he was one of the principal organisers of a series of summer camps held for deprived boys from the East. End of London. Once described as “fund-raiser extraordinaire”, he was for many years one of the main leaders of the local Christian Aid activities in Thame. After his retirement he played a leading role in establishing and developing Thame’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau, later meeting the Princess Royal at the opening ceremony of new premises. When eventually he withdrew from public activity, he continued to be a tremendous support to family and friends. Nothing was too much trouble, nowhere too far to go. He remained proud of his roots, and until the last few years enjoyed regular visits to his home county. He was a keen follower of Kent cricket and relished particularly several trips to Lords in the ‘early seventies to witness Kent’s triumphs in one-day competition finals. Other interests and pleasures, as time permitted, included crossword puzzles and stamp collecting, the Goon Show, and Friday night fish and chips, a regular ritual for many years. With hindsight, the first signs of Geoff’s Alzheimer’s Disease became evident some eleven or twelve years ago, but with loving support from Ruth he managed at home for quite a while. Until he was unable to venture out alone, he continued to make a regular Saturday trek to the butchers to purchase a weekly supply of his beloved sausages. However, as the disease took its toll, it became necessary for him to move to the Ker Maria Nursing Home at Princes Risborough where he lived and was tenderly nursed for nearly four years before his peaceful death early on the morning of 10th December 2002. There were occasions when he was not at all helpful. Invariably, if asked what he would like for Christmas or a birthday he would reply without hesitation: “A sausage roll”! Nonetheless he will be long remembered with great love and affection by family, friends, colleagues and, 1 hope at least most pupils, for his remarkable kindness, good humour and ready wit.
John Nelson a former headmaster has recently died. Jon Nelson became Headmaster of Lord William’s Grammar School in 1957. He was a Cambridge Graduate in History and the Housemaster of the boarding house at Exeter School (where his successor at Thame Geoff Goodall later became Headmaster!) Jon Nelson arrived at Thame at a significant time in the schools development. The Quarter centenary was two years off and a general inspection was impending. He brought the “Wind of Change” from the North – he was a Cumbrian! He will be remembered most for his administrative flair and ability, for his powers of organisation, and for carefully weighed thought and meticulous attention to detail. He had a logical and analytical mind and was only happy when everything was “teed-up” – a favourite term he frequently used. He was a great believer in work. This he stressed at every opportunity. He was responsible for countless changes and innovations, which he introduced subtly and gradually. Form orders were replaced by grades and setting was done by ability. The Fifth Form was divided into “Arts and Science”, “General Studies” and “Use of English” were new subjects for the sixth form. Anomalies were tackled, the first year at school being called the Second Form, the Remove Form was removed and period times were standardised at forty minutes. Records were kept, sifted, sorted and consigned to the archives. I personally benefitted from his support of my subject, Geography, with a positive response to my request to take groups on field trips in this country and abroad. He did not, however, confine his attention solely to the academic side of the school. If the facilities had existed he would have developed the practical subjects. No mean carpenter and mechanic himself, he left a permanent memorial in the robust arches he constructed for the stage scenery and in the concrete paths leading to the upper field. Two characteristic images of him were in his shirt-sleeves coaxing some ancient domestic appliance into action and him striding round the buildings with his long measuring stick. He introduced regular half-term holidays. To keep pace with the growth in numbers, an extra House-New was added and the House competition was greatly broadened in scope and systematised. The cane and caps for sixth formers were abolished! Having served as a major in the Royal Armoured Corps in World War 2, he gave the CCF his blessing. The “Tamensian was given a new look. It was his suggestion that the hard tennis courts should be built to commemorate the Quatercentenary. He campaigned for an OT life membership subscription. The culmination of six years of effort was the opening of the new buildings – the Gym, Library and Assembly Hall. Previously Speech day was held variously at the Thame Cinema (now the Pied Pedaller), on the Headmaster’s lawn, if fine, and once at the Wenman School (now the Lower School). As a man, Jon Nelson was shy and may have given the impression of aloofness; his North Country manner sometimes misunderstood by us rural Oxonians. He had a dry wit and was convivial on social occasions. He was fair, just and widely respected for his integrity. He worked for the community, was a member of the Parochial Church Council and a Churchwarden. He began parents meetings and liaised with the staff of the Primary Schools. He became a Town Councillor and was judged an excellent committee man. In fact he laid the foundations of the modern school, with the welding of parents, pupils and former members into a team. After the bachelor establishment of the previous nine years the Boarding House echoed to the sound of what the then Chairman of Governors called “the boisterous Nelson Children”. Family solidarity was a key feature of the Nelsons. The Boarding House regime became less spartan with bedside lockers and colourful décor in the dormitories. Breakfast was made a quarter of an hour later and compulsory seven o’clock swims were discontinued! Phyl Nelson, his Wife, was a great support and ran the domestic side with equal efficiency and care. In 1964 Jon Nelson was appointed to Headship of Hutton Grammer School near Preston where he remained until his retirement when he returned to his native Lake District and then, in order to be nearer his family, he and Phyl moved South, first to Brockenhurst, then Ringwood and finally to Bristol where I had the pleasure of staying with them some three years ago. R.F.M (with assistance from G.G. N.S.G and N.S.L).
B H J Bevan was educated at Monmouth School and took his B.A. in Classics at the University of Wales. He began his quarter of a century at LWS in May 1935 from All Hallows School. The Forces claimed him between 1941 and 1946, when he served initially with the Royal Signals in the North African campaign and then with the RAEC in Germany. He was Senior Classics Master but was not merely a teacher; Mr. Bevan had all the attributes of a scholar and a passionate belief in the value of his subject. Everybody realised the work he did for the dayboy Houses, first Harris and then Hampden. Succeeding Mr. Guest as Housemaster in 1957. He worked quietly and energetically in this role and brought his House within an ace of winning the House Shield one year. As business manager of the play, he lightened the load of the producer. As a member of tile Committee he played a vital part in the Quatercentenary celebrations, taking on the onerous burden of Fete organiser with outstanding success in two consecutive years. Through his efforts, a very comprehensive exhibition of the history of the School was staged, adding dignity and interest to the proceedings. In the special production for 1959, “The Lion and the Unicorn,” he took the part of Lord Burleigh, the Queen’s faithful counsellor. As editor of the “Tamensian” Mr. Bevan performed a great service to the School in bringing out year after year a magazine, which upheld the standards of the School. Mr. Bevan came into constant contact with the Old Boys. He was the School’s liaison officer with them. The O.T.A. gave him the signal but well – deserved privilege of honorary membership of the Association.
Hugh Mullens was the fourth child of William Mullens, a banker of the City of London, and his wife Florence; he was educated at Dean Close School, Cheltenham and Keble College, Oxford, where he was a scholar and took a First Class Honours Degree in Classics. Like most of his family, he was devoted to the teaching profession and began his career at Scarborough College before moving to King Williarn’s College, Isle of Man as Classical Master and Housemaster. During the war, he was commissioned in the Hampshire Regiment and spent his time in chemical warfare, stationed on Salisbury Plain, returning to King William’s when hostilities ended. Mr. Mullens came to Thame with clear ideas of what he wanted to achieve in a small country Grammar School. The 1944 Butler Act had changed the status of the School giving more authority to the Local Education Committee with whom the Headmaster had frequent and often frustrating battles to engage. His own views were expressed in his annual Speech Day reports. The building of a strong Sixth Form was the first objective and continued the appeal of his predecessor in several Speech Day reports for more boys to stay for those vital Sixth Form years. Science was not forgotten and Mr. Mullens pressed hard for new laboratories, which were eventually built and opened in 1956 by Colonel Boyle, Chairman of the Governors, and named the “Boyle”.
Professor Peter Parish British historian whose authoritative work on the American Civil War won the respect of his peers in the US Peter J. Parish was the most authoritative British historian of 19th-century America. For almost 30 years he dominated the crowded field of Civil War history, becoming probably the best-known and most respected British historian of the subject in the United States itself. Peter Joseph Parish was born in Barking, Essex. He showed early promise as a scholar, and was educated at Lord Williams’s School at Thame, Oxfordshire, and St Bonaventure’s School, Forest Gate. His early education included a substantial amount of Latin, and his grasp of this language was the source of his remarkable understanding of syntax and sense of written style, not only in his own work but also in that of others. In 1947 he entered University College London. He was the first member of his family to enjoy the advantages of a university education. He felt that he was a mediocre undergraduate, so he was very surprised when the Astor Professor, Sir John Neale, predicted that he would get a first, as, indeed, he did when he graduated in 1950. His next two years were spent in the Royal Air Force as a national serviceman. Offered a commission, he preferred the call of academic life and returned to University College. He undertook postgraduate research under the supervision of Professor H. Hale Bellot, an old-fashioned gentleman and a rather anachronistic figure, even in 1953. Yet, although outwardly very different, Hale Bellot had a great influence on Parish. Like his mentor, Parish came to dominate his subject with his personality: always the gentleman, he demonstrated shrewd insight and considerable diplomatic skill. After spending 1954-55 as a research fellow at Bowdoin College in Maine, Parish worked as a cataloguer at Manchester University Library, where he met his wife, Norma, whom he married in 1957. He was eventually appointed lecturer in American history at Glasgow University in 1958. He taught a course on the Civil War and began writing a short textbook about it. In 1963-64 he was an American Council of Learned Societies Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, where his work was guided by David Donald. In 1972 Parish was promoted to senior lecturer. Two years later his book was finished, but it had grown so large that it had to be transported to London in suitcases. The appearance of The American Civil War (1975) transformed Parish’s status. His achievement in this magnum opus was to set the war into its broad context, considering the forces that shaped it, its ramifications and its wider meaning. But he did this without neglecting the conduct of the war itself: he always wrote very good military history. In 1976 Parish moved to Dundee University as Bonar Professor of Modern History and head of department. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts, 1978-81. Meanwhile, he had been elected chairman of the British Association of American Studies (1977-80). Two years later he moved back to London University as director of the Institute of United States Studies. Although he was a very popular director, the appointment proved a poisoned chalice. The university was under great budgetary pressure and was determined to close the institute. All Parish’s political skills were mustered to stave off disaster, which was only just averted by a merger with the Institute of Historical Research. During this vexing time, Parish also took on a lot of other duties. He served for two terms on the Fulbright Commission, on the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission (1984-92), the English-Speaking Union current affairs committee (1986-92), and the British-American-Canadian Associates Committee (1987-97). After retirement in 1992, Parish remained as busy as ever. He co-founded and served as the first chairman of British American Nineteenth Century Historians (BrANCH). He was visiting professor of American Studies from 1993 to 1996 at Middlesex University, which gave him an honorary doctorate in 1999. He also supervised research students at Cambridge, and in 1996 was appointed Mellon Senior Research Fellow in American History at Cambridge. Peter Parish was a short, slightly plump man with a trilby hat invariably perched on his large round head, and grey, mischievous eyes darting behind his spectacles. The overall impression was rather owlish, although hardly sombre. He had a dry sense of humour, and his conversation was frequently interrupted by his boyish chuckle. His wisdom and good sense were imparted with unfailing generosity and hospitality, especially to the young. He was an inspired teacher and an effective public speaker, with a detached, humorous style. Being without vanity, envy, or spite, he was one of the best-loved historians of his generation. A festschrift, The American Civil War: Explorations and Reconsiderations, edited by Susan-Mary Grant and Brian Holden Reid, was presented to him at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in November 2000. Parish was pre-eminently a scholar of judicious and reliable judgment, and an able synthesiser. He exhibited real flair when dissecting historiographical issues. His short study, Slavery: History and Historians (1989) was a tour de force, widely praised in the United States for its acute and fair-minded judgments. His skill as an editor was shown to best effect in The Reader’s Guide to American History (1997). He was also a good populariser. The Divided Union (with Peter Batty, 1987) was reissued in 1999, and his edition of Abraham Lincoln’s Speeches and Letters in the Everyman Library (1993) was a skilled introduction to the 16th President’s writings. Taken in the round, Parish’s work represents a sophisticated effort to understand why the North won the Civil War’s topic still neglected by American scholars, who tend to ask why the South lost. At the time of his death, from a bacterial infection, he had been suffering from prostate cancer, and had also undergone a heart bypass operation. He is survived by his wife, Norma, and by their daughter. Peter J. Parish, historian, was born on April 24, 1929. He died on May 16, 2002, aged 73.
Herbert L Nicolle (1929 – 36). Herbert died suddenly on 2 June 2001 aged 82 years. After wartime service in the Royal Signals, he trained as an electrical engineer and specialised in flight simulators and radio aerial design. A dedicated OT, he served on the Committee and was President in 1973/74 and 1999/00. A keen sailor and steam train enthusiast, he also took up bookbinding and recently collated the Reminiscences of Lord Williams’s School. Herbert was a deeply religious and kind person whose generosity was shown by his two substantial bequests to the new Cricket Pavilion and the John Hampton Memorial Fund. We all will miss his genial personality and dry humour, and our condolences go to his wife – Olive – and the family. (Derrick Hester).
Walter Lawrence “Laurie” Dodd. He passed away at 60 years of age on November 6th 2000. He had a heart attack. He had retired early due to ill health, but managed to enjoy his retirement. Our daughter Teresa was also a pupil at Lord Williams’s and has two daughters of her own, Zoë and Rachel. We spent 42 happy years together. (Margaret A Dodd. March 2002). Clifford Mines (1942-1946) who used to live at Chilton, died at his home in Amersham in January. He was 72 years old. He worked in the traffic department for Bucks County Council in Walton Street until it was transferred to Swansea. (Robert Cadle of Chilton)
Richard Albury Bennett, was a boarder at Lord Bill’s from 1933 to 1942. He died on 3 July at Balgowan in Kwa Zulu Natal where he had been living since 1989. After leaving school, he served briefly in the Irish Guards then transferred to No 1 Commando and finished the war with a commission in the Oxford and Bucks. He was a student at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, from 1947 until 1952 when he became a member of staff there until he retired in 1989. In 1948, he contracted polio and was virtually paraplegic for the rest of his life. This did not inhibit his activities however and he drove a modified Volvo everywhere. He leaves a flourishing estate agency in Gloucestershire. He was a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party until he emigrated. He leaves a widow, Nora, and a son Charles and daughter Charlotte and six grandchildren.
Rowland W. Hill (at the school 1924-1930). Rowland died at the age of 89 on 6th March 2002, in the John Radcliffe Hospital, after a short illness. Born and bred in Chinnor where his mother was the Postmistress for many years, Rowland attended Lord Williams’s as a dayboy for two years before becoming a boarder in 1926. Rowland always had very fond memories of his schooldays – as he said in a short autobiography which he compiled in later years:“At Grammar School…. my thirst for knowledge covering a very wide field was encouraged, and for this I have been grateful all through my life.” On leaving school, Rowland went into teaching training at the College of St. Mark and St. John in Chelsea and in 1933 took up his first teaching post at the C. of E. Boys’ School in Faringdon, where he was to spend the rest of his long life. Rowland’s teaching career was soon to be interrupted by war service, which took him to India as an RAF photographer, to return to England with his coveted “Burma Star” in 1945. Promotion to Deputy Head at the newly-designated Faringdon Secondary Modern School soon followed, a role which Rowland was due to fulfil for the remainder of his 40-year long teaching career. Throughout this time, Rowland kept a very active interest in the Old Tamensians’ Association and was for many years a committee member and secretary of the John Hampden War Memorial Scholarship Fund. In recognition of these services, Rowland was appointed first Life Vice-President of the Association, an honour of which he was always extremely proud. A man of great energy and courage – (Rowland spent the last 10 years of his life confined to a wheel-chair after a double amputation) – he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
John Elton (Jack) Died on July 27th 2002 in St Giles’ Hospice, Lichfield aged 80. The funeral was held on August 5th at Tamworth Baptist chapel. He was interred at Kings Bromley.
Geoffrey Wild (1934-39). Lived in Watlington, and died in August 2002, in his 81st year. He played in the First XV in 1938 & 39.
Daniel Good – The family of 24-year-old Daniel Good who was killed in a road crash have spoken of their loss. Daniel, of Stokes End, Haddenham, was returning from his weekly football match with friends when the Volkswagen Golf in which he was a passenger was involved in a collision on the Portway, Dinton, near Aylesbury, on Monday, June 11. No other car was involved in the accident. A family statement said: “We’re totally bereft by our loss. “Daniel came from an extremely close family and was much-loved by his mother, brother, sister and girlfriend. “Daniel was constantly enriched taking up new interests. He took up playing football at university and recently started playing again locally. “When the accident happened, Daniel had been returning with friends from his weekly game of football.” Daniel was born in Aylesbury and grew up in Haddenham. He attended Lord Williams School, in Thame, and then studied for a BTEC in Software Engineering at Aylesbury College. He graduated from Hertfordshire University in June 2000 with a BSc in Computing. Daniel had recently started working for construction company Scanska. Eric Syson died in 1988. He wasChairman of the OTA, a former pupil and a Governor of the School. He generosity, humour and sympathy for others made him a great credit to the School and truely a gentleman. Eric attended the School from 1919 to 1923 and before he died had become the longest serving Old Boy. He had a successful school career both in sport and academically, leading on to Law and his position as a senior partner in the well-known London firm of solicitors, Kennedys. His last visit to the School was to an OTA Committee Meeting which he chaired. He was a certain attender at Founder’s Day and a keen supporter of the OTs RFC, who always kept a No 16 shirt ready for his use. At School he is already commemorated in the Speaking Competition that bears his name, and in the Syson Block, which was named after him for his great contribution to the School.
William Guest (1892-1975) Died in Oxford at the age of 85 having been history master at LWGS for over 30 years until his retirement in 1957. A Yorkshireman by birth, he was educated at Normanton Grammar School in the West Riding and then trained as a teacher. His career was interrupted by the 1st World War, during which he served as a Captain in the K.R.R.C., and was badly wounded. After the War, he read Modern History at Oxford. In 1925 he started at the School, teaching History and English. As a teacher he was most conscientiuos and entirely devoted to the interests of his pupils. In scholarship, he was conservative and critical of popular and superficial opinion. He immersed himself in pastoral activities and he played a full-part in activities otside the classroom, including PT and athlectics. He was a scholar of local history and helped J.Howard Brown with his writing and made an authoritative contribution to the Victoria County History of Oxfordshire. He became the Senior Master in the School and was Housemaster of Hampden for many years.
Hedley Purser died in 1967. He was a devoted OT and for many years was a Governor of the School and, for much of that time, Vice Chairman. He was a man of great generosity both to the School and to the town of Thame. W.E Cubbage wrote the following: ‘Hedley and I were great boyhood friends and spent our Sunday afternoon together along with his loyal dog Gyp and also our friend Ray Hester. Then, of course, we had our week night sessions after homework on the piano, tin-whistle and Jews Harp making not whoopee but squeakee. We went into the Army about the same time and found ourselves in France: he between essars and Hebuterne and I between Bethune and Hinges but it was hit or miss as to whether we saw each other. In June 1918, our Division did a big raid at Hinges which put Jerry on edge and meant that attempting to meet a pal was haphazard – just too many snipers and whizz bangs. This didn’t put him off coming to see me, even though on one particular day when, as he put it, ‘there was a luck of muck around’ he arrived to find I wasn’t there. You people who have made his aquaintance in later years and know more about him in later life than I do but I knew him when we were boys and soldiers together and seeing what he was ready to do and did in those days, I shall always remember him braving death to see a friend.’
Johnnie Claes by Bert Booth with additional information provided by the OTA. A backward glance at the outstanding career of the young London University economics student cum ace trumpet player who became leader of one of Britain’s top swing bands in the early forties and who turned down a promising film opportunity in favour of his love for music. Johnnie Claes was born in London in 1916, his mother was Scottish and his father came from Belgium. From an early age, he and his mother travelled extensively and his schooling ranged from Brussels to the South of France, Italy, London and finally on to Lord Williams’s Grammar School. Whilst not an outstanding scholar, he was a strong rugby player, a keen swimmer, and always popular. It was during his final terms at the School that he bought his first trumpet and with little musical background began the challenging task of mastering the instrument. Master it he did, sufficiently well to be able to play as a semi-pro around London during his time at university. Whilst playing in the band at the Tufnell Park Palais he was spotted by Billy Mason and invited to join his band at the ‘De Cabin’ night-spot in Shaftsbury Avenue. This turned out to be a rather unfortunate move, the club closed within three weeks and Johnnie didn’t get paid. His first professional engagement had turned out to be somewhat of a disaster. Undeterred he joined Victor Collins at the Nest in the West End, long hours midnight to 5-30am, seven days a week, all for the sum of £4.00. However the atmosphere at the ‘Nest’ was terrific, visiting coloured artists and musicians gathered there after hours and young Johnnie Claes was learning fast and associating with many of the greats including The Mills Brothers, Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Carter, Fats Waller and Valaida. Buck Washington of Buck and Bubbles fame – who also played trumpet and piano – was able to guide Johnnie along the righteous jazz path. Swing music was not yet in vogue in England and often attempts to play ‘hot’ were rebuffed. However this was not the case at the ‘Nest’ and with the introduction of trombonist George Chisholm the band improved greatly backing the all-coloured cabaret artists. The Nest became the ‘Hot Centre’ attracting an ever increasing clientele. Having heard Johnnie Claes play at the Nest cabaret star the delightful dusky vocalist / trumpet player Valaida invited him to join her band for an engagement at the Tabaris Dance Hall in the Hague. The band also included Derek Neville, Reg Dare on reeds and Gunn Findley – a phenomenal boogie-woogie pianist and arranger. The band was highly acclaimed by the Dutch audiences as they appreciated jazz to a greater degree than many did in this country. The show moved on to Zurich to perform at the Café Shilporte where once again the audience approval was highly responsive. The band returned to London and recorded for the Columbia label before Valaida returned to the States and the band’s contract terminated. Earlier Johnnie had met Coleman Hawkins who was now fronting an out-and-out swing group in Holland. When invited to do so he had no hesitation in joining the ‘Hawk’ at the Mephisto Negro Palace in Rotterdam. Johnnie Claes was indebted for the experience the Hawkins experience gave him; it was the start of a lengthy spell of playing with top continental bands throughout Europe. But there were bad times ahead and as high standard swinging engagements became scarcer and as Johnnie would not readily accept a reduced standard of remuneration, he found himself at a low ebb, roughing it and almost penniless. He joined a band in Switzerland but they only played sugary commercial dance music which was not really his scene. However, his fortune changed in September of 1938 when he joined the Dutch tenor saxist Johnny Fresco who was leading a band at the Tabaris Dance Hall. Johnnie Claes was once again happy to be part of the swing scene on the continent. Incidentally, featured with the band was Max Geldray, the Dutch jazz harmonica player who later was to play a part in the Goon Show along with the Ray Ellington Quartet. Within a year, Europe was in turmoil, borders closed and the threat of war was on the horizon. The future seemed uncertain and thus reluctantly Johnnie listened to his father’s advice that he should abandon music and join one of his father’s companies in Belgium. Starting at the bottom as a trainee crane driver, he was soon operating the sixteen ton monster without his workmates knowing he was the boss’s son. But the draw of music was too great and soon Johnnie Claes was playing at weekends and occasionally on one night stands with Jack Kluger’s Band. This was one of Belgium’s top broadcasting and recording bands who were chosen to play opposite the Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra at the Zurich Exhibition. Late 1939 Johnnie was set to go on a six week vacation to New York and he arrived in London to collect his U.S. visa, only to find that Germany had invaded Poland and consequently all visas were cancelled. He stayed for a month in London but was forced to abandon his trip to America and return to Brussels once again to work in one of his father’s factories. He returned to England on a business trip during March 1940 where he had to remain as the Nazi forces had invaded the Low Countries. Returning to his first love, the music scene, he played with various pick-up groups at the Boogie-Woogie Club in Denman Street before joining Teddy Joyce and His Band. Billed on the variety hall circuit as the Canadian Stick of Dynamite, the Joyce band included future prominent musicians Duncan Whyte, Reg Dare and Bobby Midgely. When Teddy Joyce died suddenly in February 1941 Johnny returned to London. Johnnie was immediately approached by club owner Jack Leon of the Beach Underground in Wardour Street to form a swing band that could also play for dancing. Grabbing the chance to form his own band, an achievement he had eagerly longed for, he gathered around him musicians of high standing. The eventual line-up of the Clae Pigeons included Reg Dare, Spike Hornett on reeds, Rube Stoloff on trombone, Charlie Short on bass, Carlo Krahmer on drums, Art Thompson on piano, plus the addition of West Indian trumpet virtuoso Dave Wilkins. The band was sensational and attracted much attention from other fellow musicians who came to hear the band. So great was their interest that Johnnie was forced to instigate a strict rule that no visiting musician be allowed to ‘sit-in’ with his band. Having heard a young jazz-style vocalist Benny Lee singing at Glasgow’s Piccadilly Club Johnnie had no hesitation in sending for him to join the band. By the end of April 1941 the Melody Maker was acclaiming the band to be the best English swing group ever. Besieged by offers to take his band into other night-spots Johnnie decided to accept an offer from the management of a new restaurant The Montparnasse in Piccadilly Circus. This move necessitated a four sax line-up and saw the introduction of Harry Hayes and Aubrey Franks into the fold. The Montparnasse, like the Beach, soon became the rendezvous for musicians to gather in order to listen to the Claes Band. Earlier in his career Johnnie Claes had taken a lesson or two from fellow bandleader Nat Gonella and when Nat heard him play at The Montparnasse he was so impressed that he arranged for the Clae Pigeons to audition and record for EMI. With the addition of Nat on trumpet the small swing group made their entry into the recording scene. The Columbia management were not slow to recognise that here was a band that warranted further opportunities to display their talents and they were signed up to record a further eight tracks. The issue of these later recordings being strictly controlled by the wartime shortage of shellac supplies to the recording companies. Johnnie Claes always employed top musicians and arrangers to ensure the band’s high standard of playing was maintained at all times. This of course was an expensive policy to adopt and when The Montparnasse management suggested cuts within the line-up Johnnie refused and terminated the engagement. However, it was not long before the band found a residency at the Nut House and in addition was able to make their debut at variety theatres. Surprisingly by this time swing music played in the Claes fashion was deemed to be a winner with music hall audiences and opened new avenues for further engagements for the Clae Pigeons. Once again he was faced with management interference at the Nut House: they wanted to replace Benny Lee with an additional sax player. Again expressing musical solidarity his decision was to refuse this request and leave. One night stands, variety hall appearances featuring guest stars including Harry Parry and Doreen Villiers helped promote the band to wider audiences. Their performance at the 1942 Swing Concert at the London Coliseum was a further indication of their new found success. Whilst playing at the ‘Nut House’ Johnnie Claes and His Clae Pigeons impressed film producer Pattison-Knight of Piccadilly Productions and their entry into the world of film making followed. Their first film was Escape To Justice in which the band performed in the night club scenes and Johnnie, the tall, good looking, well groomed personality was given a leading role as a German agent. The film company were anxious to sign him as an actor and although he enjoyed his short filming career his heart was in music rather than celluloid. The band’s success continued with contracts to play at the Panama and the Cuba Club; in addition they were able to undertake weekend one nighters. Always on the lookout for new talent Johnnie featured Coleridge Goode on bass, Bernie Fenton on piano and Lauderic Caton on guitar. (And he gave the young Ronnie Scott an early engagement, and also Clare Deniz a pioneering black singer from Wales.) Their next achievement was to replace Harry Roy and His Band at the Embassy Club for a six week engagement. The Embassy maintained a strict policy of featuring only top ranking bands and the appointment of the Claes band is further proof of their high standing in the profession and their popularity with the public. Johnnie Claes within fifteen months of forming his band had achieved acceptance and respect amongst the leading bandleaders in wartime England. It was during his spell at The Embassy that a young Scottish vocalist with a vivacious, infectious personality, Billie Campbell joined the band. She gave up a coveted plum job at Hatchetts in order to sing with the band, such was her faith in the future success of the group. During his career Johnnie Claes faced various set backs and at this stage there was more to follow. Fortunately his tenacity and determination ensured that he overcame adversity. Such was the situation when he was scheduled to play the swanky night spot Romano’s. The club were forced to cancel his appointment as they failed to obtain a licence to re-open their premises. A bitter blow to the ambitious bandleader, yet once again his keenness to achieve even greater success was paramount. A new fashionable night club The Astor was about to open in Park Lane and Johnnie and The Clae Pigeons were first choice. The club soon established itself as a magnet for the many stage and screen stars amongst its patrons. The band was in top form and their one month contract was immediately extended to three months. Next came a lucrative move to the Potomac Restaurant in the West End where the progressive management claimed to give its patrons London’s Best Dance Music. Johnnie Claes had blazed the trail from the Beach Club to the Montparnasse on to the Nut House, the Embassy, the Astor and now the Potomac maintaining a standard of matchless achievement. His inspiration, respect for his musicians and his comradeship ensured he fronted a happy, friendly band throughout his career in this country. After the war Johnnie Claes returned to Belgium, opening his own club in Blankenberge, the year 1946. The following year he started an import / export company and surprisingly gave up playing professionally. He soon became increasingly active as a racing car driver and in the 1950s competing in the F1 world championships and also at Le Mans where, in 1955, he claimed third position driving his Ecure Belge Jaguar. Between 1950 and 1955 he had 21 starts in the World Championships albeit never winning any points. However, he did suffer from retirements though some of these, such as hitting a house at Riems, and then the straw bales in the Spanish GP seemed to show some exuberance in driving technique. (In fact not the case with the latter as he was letting Fangio pass him on a bend and then his brakes seized.) But in 1953, he did win the gruelling Liege-Rome-Liege Rally driving a Jaguar. In 1950 he was 11th in his first GP at Silverstone, and then 7th in the grand prix at Monaco driving a Lago TalbotT26C. In 1952, he started the season by driving a yellow 1.5 litre Gordini and at Rheims came 6th beating both Hawthron and Moss, and in the Marseille GP that year he was 3rd. In the Belgian GP he was said to have driven an ‘immaculate race, and in Nurembourg his was the only British-built car to finish – he was driving for HWM. In 1953 he drove a Connaught finishing 6th in the Bordeau GP, and also one race for Maserati (where in the Spa Belgium GP he shared a drive with Fangio also driving a Maserati). In 1954 he didn’t compete but and in 1955 he came back with a race for Maserati and then in a private Ferrari. But with two retirements in two races he decided to retire from racing. It was tragic that soon thereafter he became seriously ill having contacted tuberculosis.The trumpet of Johnnie Claes fell silent, he passed away on 3rd February 1956 of tuberculosis, aged 39
John Henry Twinham 1907 – 1923. He met with his death while cycling, in a collision with a motor car at a dangerous corner near Chinnor. He was rendered unconsciuos, and on the arrival of a doctor was removed to Thame Nursing Home, where he succumbed to his injuries. He was a boy of splendid physique and excelled as a full-back for the 1st XI, and a tower of strength to his House football and tug of war teams. He was also keen on cycle racing and had won some open events.