All Articles from May 2020
Everyone connected with Allhallows is saddened at the departure of Gethyn and Peggy Hewan from the School and full of a deep sense of gratitude for all they have done during the nine years that they have been here. When Gethyn Hewan was appointed in 1965 the School had been through a long period of sustained development under his predecessor ‘Val’ Hill. But few would deny that times were changing politically and educationally and no one could have been better suited to meet the challenge that lay ahead than Gethyn. He had great experience, he had been headmaster of Cranbrook, the Australian public school for twelve years and he had taught at Wellington, Charterhouse and Winchester. Moreover he had a formidable personality, great organisational ability and a very clear idea of what he wanted to do.
In the mid-1960s there was a widespread feeling among parents, schoolmasters and educationists generally that many of the features of boarding school life, which may have worked well in the past, were outmoded. From the start Gethyn tactfully set about discarding these and ‘educating’ the community so that, as he explained at length in one of his Speech Day addresses, everyone, however different would feel happy and secure and could get on with the business of learning.
One of the first major tasks which Gethyn tackled was the Appeal; this was of course a team-effort involving Governors, professional fund-raisers, parents, Old Boys and Horace Lee in particular, but in any enterprise of this sort the drive must come from the headmaster and this he supplied in full measure – planning, co-ordinating and speaking. The results were most gratifying and can be seen today in the Sixth Form Study Block, the ‘ Lillies Building’ and the Bruce Biology Laboratories. Indeed new buildings and facilities of all kinds have been a hallmark of Gethyn’s headmastership. In recent years one improvement seems to have followed directly upon another – Charton House for the girls, the new Headmaster’s house, the Technical Activities Centre, the levelling of the Hard Hockey Area and the magnificent new Swimming Pool, made possible by Horace Lee’s bequest.
The most important innovation though in Gethyn’s time was undoubtedly the co-educational Sixth Form. Few who were pupils in the old days can imagine the change that this has brought about in the atmosphere of the school. Old Honitonians will be glad to know that the boys are most civilized; it is even said that they that they work harder and of course life has become more exciting. Now that the scheme has had a fair trial, it is obvious that its benefits by far outweigh any disadvantages. We are proud that Allhallows was one of the first boys’ public schools in the country to take the step, which we are sure the majority will soon follow, and we are grateful to Gethyn for thinking of it. It should not be forgotten however that it was Peggy Hewan, who ensured the success of the scheme in its early stages by literally taking those first memorable Allhallows girls into her own home, and looking after them, and their successors until Charton was ready for them.
On the academic side, in the last nine years, the Sixth Form has grown in size and the numbers of those obtaining ‘A’ levels, places at universities and on degree courses have steadily increased. Modern Mathematics has become firmly established throughout the School, new subjects: Geology, General Classics, Technical Drawing and Economic Organisation have been introduced and C.S.E. courses started to meet the requirements of less able students. Headmasters nowadays seldom have as much time to teach as they would like, but members of Gethyn’s General Sixth Maths set, on which he lavished such care and attention – and even some of those in neighbouring classrooms studying other subjects, will long remember his dynamic if not to say ‘fortissimo’ methods of explaining the mysteries S.M.P.
Games have of course flourished too. For a small school the results during Gethyn’s Headmastership have been remarkable, and this has to no small extent been the result of his example. An outstanding games-player and golfer himself with blues in hockey and cricket; he has communicated his love and enthusiasm for the games well played to all levels of the School.
Independent Schools rely far more than State Schools on the support and goodwill of parents, and the schools which ‘prepare’ their pupils. Gethyn realised this and during their time here both he and Peggy have worked ceaselessly to open the School to parents, and to bring parents and staff together at specially arranged meetings and on every possible occasion; they have also, as we all know, been the most generous hosts to visiting headmasters, conferences and friends of the School to numerous cricketers, boys, girls and staff.
Reviewing some of the achievements of the last nine short years – and one cannot possibly dwell on all of them, since there are so many – one realised how lucky we have been to have had the Hewans at such a crucial period in the School’s history. I know that Gethyn would be the first to insist though that nothing could have been accomplished without the calm, practical and ‘unflappable’ support of Peggy, who has that wonderful gift of making everyone feel at ease.
At the end of the Summer Term in 1973, a few days after the headmaster had announced that for reasons of ill-health he was going to leave the School, I was sitting on the beach at a house barbecue, talking with a boy who shortly before had been on the receiving-end of a well deserved headmasterly rocket, when he said quite spontaneously that he was “very sorry” Mr. Hewan was leaving because he had “always run the school like a family”. This was a compliment indeed and I think sums up Gethyn’s style more accurately than any amount of verbiage. Those of us, who were privileged to be part of that ‘family’ are sincerely grateful to them for all they have done for us. We wish Gethyn and Peggy strategically placed in their new home alongside the golf course at Werplesdon, a long, happy and active retirement. We know they join us in wishing their successors the Mathewsons, every good fortune and happiness at Allhallows.
When Donald was appointed Headmaster of Allhallows in 1974, in succession to Gethyn Hewan, the School had been through a dynamic period of expansion, and it was widely assumed that the Governors had chosen a headmaster with different talents to cope with new challenges – among them; inflation, a subsiding bulge and the insistent demand for ever higher academic standards.
Donald’s credentials were impressive; he had a first in chemistry from St. Andrew’s; he had undertaken research and was the author of several learned books; he had been a naval officer; he had taught at Gordonstoun and been head of science at Wellington College, where he was also a housemaster.
I am sure Donald will forgive me, if I say that what struck us initially was his fertile mind and bubbling enthusiasm, and it was no surprise, when he instigated a complete review of sixth form curricula and encouraged the development of a new third form course, which placed special emphasis on environmental and physical science and was designed to give newcomers an exciting start to their academic career at Allhallows.
One of the first major changes that Donald brought about in the life of the school was the re-integration of the house system. For various reasons a sixth form study block, the Lillies Building, had been built in 1968, primarily to give the upper sixth formers extra studies to enable them to live a more adult life away from the juniors, but Donald thought strongly that seniors should play a leading part in their houses and one of the results of the Appeal, in which he played such a prominent part, driving far into the night to speak at numerous meetings, was the purchase of furniture for the bed-sits. I vividly remember the day that Donald suggested to a housemaster that he invite his boys “to pick up their beds and walk”, to carry them downstairs and vice-versa, thus giving each pupil more space in which to cocoon himself. Within a fortnight every housemaster in the Main Building had followed suit – such was the clamour from the boys.
The burdens of administration are so great nowadays that headmasters rarely teach as much as they would like, yet Donald, who is a gifted teacher himself, was determined to raise academic standards and he found time to share the teaching of chemistry in the sixth form to the great benefit of the pupils. Two sixth-form scientists appeared in the “Young Scientists of the Year” programme on television, and owed much to his encouragement. Soon after his arrival, Donald founded “The Peek Society” to sharpen the wits of our intellectuals, “to chase hares and split hairs”, according to Jennie Spurgeon, one of his early members, papers were read on such esoteric matters as “Resistentialism (sic) and the Revival of Medieval Morality” and heated discussions took place, in the headmaster’s house with a glass of wine in hand, on the precise meaning of concepts like “chose-en-soi” and “chose-pour-soi”. With increasing numbers going to university and obtaining places on degree courses, Donald could justifiably boast in his last Speech Day Address that “our academic results” were “firmly on the right side of the dividing line laid down by the H.M.C.”
Donald immediately realised that schools had a duty to familiarise pupils with the scope and use of computers, and it was because of his persuasive lobbying of the Governors that we were quickly provided with the necessary equipment. Similarly he saw the exciting prospects of creative film-making offered by video and again thanks to his support and John Cloke’s expertise and enthusiasm, documentaries are regularly produced and Allhallows has a well-equipped film studio in the Rousdon Church.
Recently an expensive automobile workshop has been opened, which has a magnetic attraction for boys of a mechanical bent. Another of Donald’s ideas was that of the artist-in-residence, a young graduate from one of the top art schools, who would live with us for a term and working alongside the director of art, stimulate an already lively department. Measures were also taken to exploit the wonderful resources of the undercliffs. The biology staff was increased and special courses held for preparatory schools on the geology and natural history of the landslip.
One of the most successful of Donald’s innovations was the School Auxiliary Coastguard Unit, the first in England, which received the unanimous approval of pupils and the outside community.
Both Donald and Janet love music and did their utmost to foster it, and it was no coincidence that during their time here the department expanded and numerous concerts, choral works and musicals performed. Who will forget Donald’s “Holmesian” playing of his violin in his study or Janet’s own musical talent and her flair for languages, whether tutoring German or joining G.D.S.’s Spanish class and gaining the inevitable grade “A”?
During the last eight and a half years, plays of all types have been staged by a bevy of eager producers and expeditions have gone to Arran, the U.S.A., the U.S.S.R., Greece, France and Austria. Pupils have trekked across Dartmoor and gone parachuting and gliding with the services. Indeed Donald gave every encouragement to our flourishing C.C.F. and strengthened our already strong links with the services – and on one notable occasion braved the icy blasts of Norway on an exercise with the Royal Marines.
Although Donald cheerfully confessed he was no games player – boldness itself at Allhallows – as Headmaster he cheered on the touch-line and was as proud as the rest of us, when our 1 st XV beat Blundell’s or felled some other giant.
It would be impertinent of me to recount in such a short space the many activities and departures of his headmastership – the re-organisation and re-styling of Chapel arrangements for example – but as Donald said in June 1982: “….we are living in a time of great change. But I think at Allhallows we have kept pace with those changes.”
As a housemaster, under three headmasters, I can testify to Donald’s consummate skill in dealing with pupils, who for some reason were sitting forlornly by the wayside, having reached an impasse either in their work or some aspect of their social life. Often over a period of weeks, perhaps by means of one of his famous letters addressed to the boy or girl, to which he expected a reply – many boys and girls were persuaded to pick themselves up and proceed profitably in a new direction – to their lasting gratitude and that of their parents.
To be headmaster of a public school subjects one to pressures which would make the managing director of a sizeable public joint stock company or perhaps a football league manager blanch, but I must not pursue the analogy too far. We are grateful to Donald and Janet, with her charm and great knowledge of schools, for all the hard work and concern they put into the running of the School. We wish them both, together with John and Polly, all happiness in the years ahead.
James Donald Turner was born on the 20th May 1912 of farming stock. He grew up in Durston, a small village NE of Taunton. James entered Allhallows in 1923, at the age of 11 and so began his long and distinguished association with Allhallows. He was senior prefect, captain of all major games as well as full and small bore shooting.
James was already an officer in the territorials when war broke. He joined the 7th Bn of the Hampshire Regiment and helped at the evacuation from Dunkirk. The 7th Bn part of the 43rd Wessex Division was made a reinforcement Division. At this point James applied for a course at the Military College of Science on small arms ammunition. After what he described as the hardest 6 months of work that he could remember he was seconded to the Chief Inspectorate of Armaments where he spent the last two years of the war on the inspection and proof of ammunition.
James met Caroline in 1942 where she was serving as a WREN in Harwich, they married in August 1943 in Wilmslow and so began a very happy and successful marriage.
Returning to Allhallows in 1946 as senior chemistry master, James proceeded to teach, inspire, and help generations of students to achieve high grades in their examinations; he had a deep knowledge of his subject and the ability to explain and enthuse young people to science.
He played the trumpet well and was a splendid entertainer with firstly the Honiton Harmaniacs and secondly with the Rousdon Rythmics.
James was an outstandingly successful master-in-charge of rugger. The unbeaten 1948 fifteen captained by Joe Richards with the likes of Bill Luff and Mike Ray-Hills has and will be longed remembered. His catch phrase of ‘run like a stag’ will bring back many happy memories for those who were coached by him. As Housemaster of Venning, Second Master and Acting Headmaster he was an unqualified success and it was the School’s good fortune that he was never to seek fresh woods.
James was always immaculately turned out. He was a traditionalist with old fashioned values, he never failed to wear a rose in his lapel on Minden Day. Many boys who were not in his house saw a man who was reasonable, wise, fair and nice, which made them wish they were in his house.
His enthusiasm for OHs and the OH Club knew no bounds. It was all consuming. He started the OH Cricket Week and I remember as the outgoing captain of cricket the thrill of being asked if I would like to attend cricket week. His encouragement and support during the early years of the cricket weeks was really appreciated by all especially Stuart MacGregor, who captained the side for many years.
It was perhaps as a shooting coach that James is best remembered. His record for any school whatever its size is second to none. Seven Ashburton Shield victories between 1946 and 1980 a top eight finish on 23 occasions says it all. He made Allhallows the premier shooting school in the UK. Roger Wheeler told me that in 1960 he was taken to Bisley by the headmaster, VAL Hill. The range at Bisley is quite large and Wheeler asked Val Hill how he intended to find the School eight, Hill’s reply was ‘ just look for the largest crowd round the shooters’.
Good coaches and leaders are born not made. James was a natural, he brought a wealth of experience, patience and understanding to those whom he coached. The essence of James can best be shown by what David Shaw, now a retired Brigadier, wrote to me:
"I joined the full bore shooting team in 1960 when Alec Crawford was Captain. I already knew how to shoot but James told me when I was 14 that he thought that I would captain the side one day and he was, amazingly, right. I was Captain of the winning team in 63 and 64 and he went on to do the treble in 65 after I had gone. James was a highly experienced and a talented and calm coach-and I think it was this calmness that affected us all so positively. He never flapped and appeared always to have himself and everyone else under control. Mind you ,when he did get cross, you knew it! Mostly, his displeasure was manifested in brooding disappointment rather than fireworks. People wanted to learn from him and wanted to please him: moreover, the shooting team wanted to do well for him".
As a housemaster I thought he had a brilliant balance of discipline and encouragement all wrapped up in a huge amount of wisdom. Once he found some cigarettes in my desk: he called me into his study but never mentioned them. He didn’t have to-they were sitting right in the middle of an empty desk and he toyed with them as he spoke about leadership and discipline and example. I was a prefect in his house! It didn’t stop me smoking but it made me more careful and he didn’t have to sack me. Amazing psychology!’
In latter years Giles Blomfield, Roger Wheeler and I used to meet James for lunch on an annual basis. They were wonderful occasions and we all felt privileged.
When Allhallows closed, it was JDT who drove over to see the vicar of St. Michaels, Honiton to arrange for the reredos, the wonderful oak panels listing the fallen OHs of both World Wars to be placed in St Michael’s.
James Donald Turner was a very, very special man and I and all OHs have been privileged to have known him.
Over seventy of Peter and Jenny Larkman’s friends and colleagues, among them John and Angela Dancy, gathered in the Great Hall at half-term, at a splendid dinner-party, to express their thanks to them for all they have done so well over the past eleven years for Allhallows.
It is difficult to realise that four years ago we were expecting a four form entry and that in 1987 there were over 300 pupils in the school, but as we all know, such has been the severity of the recession, the effects on boarding in many preparatory schools, big and small public schools, have been devastating.
I said last summer at a staff party, held on the lawns of Venning, to celebrate the launching of Allhallows College Ltd., that in the words of the old Chinese curse it was our fate to be living in interesting times. For some they have been sad times, for others unnecessarily hurtful, but with the arrival of our new Chief Executive John Müller, and the determination of our new Board of Directors they are exciting times and it must be recorded that no one could have worked harder than Peter Larkman to ensure the smooth transition from school to college.
For the benefit of those who have only known Allhallows recently I am sure it would be interesting, if I recall some of the outstanding, happy and memorable achievements of Peter Larkman’s headmastership.
When Peter was appointed in 1983, he had taught at Gordonstoun for seventeen years and been a housemaster to the Royal Family and the Mountbattens. It was no surprise that, coming from such an influential school, he brought with him some of Kurt Hahn’s ideas. Peter was interested in the unfashionable business of character building and education in its fullest sense, but Peter was far too tactful to try to impose the ethos of one school on another; he used to say that Allhallows was a school of character, full of characters and he realised that it had its own culture and was proud of its past.
However, soon after Peter’s arrival an appeal was launched and, under the direction of Bill Preston, the former Second Master, over £200,000 was raised, an enormous sum in those days, and in 1987 the Sports Hall was opened by H.R.H. The Prince Andrew. Those who were there will always remember the royal cavalcade sweeping down the drive and the Sports Week that followed, when stars like Jeremy Bates played exhibition matches at the school. A new wing, in the Gordonstoun style, was added to Charton and girls were admitted throughout the school. The Study Block was turned into Lillies House for day-pupils, Sixth Formers returned to their houses and ‘The Old Engine House’ became the Sixth Form Centre. A magnificent Jubilee Ball was held in 1988 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the move from Honiton to Rousdon and a marquee, the size of the Graf Zeppelin, was erected near the Sports Hall. The Fire Brigade was started, again in typical Gordonstoun fashion, to compliment the Coastguard, and flourished under Keith Moore’s enthusiastic direction.
Academically the school did well, considering the range of abilities of our pupils. Results in the last two years indicates this, with four Oxbridge entrants, six last year to Bristol and seventy-four in the last two years gaining places on degree courses. Peter would never pretend that we were an academic hot-house, but our pupils gained immeasurably from the approach Peter fostered.
Recently 11+ pupils have entered the school and join Otter House, under the care of Anne Giles.
Headmasters seldom have time to teach much nowadays, but Peter, as a Cambridge Physicist, taught enthusiastically in the Science Department and took the lead in Personal Social and Moral Studies. On the games field too we were lucky to have a headmaster, who was a Free Forester and who was much in demand as a rugby referee.
Above all Peter flung himself into marketing – devoting his time, efforts and talents to it – and how expert he was at it! He was a superb speaker at assemblies, on Speech Days, with a wonderful quarterdeck manner. No wonder that in their replies to a questionnaire that was sent to parents about what they expected from Allhallows, they said – apart from academic excellence and a high standard of pastoral care – they most valued the friendly caring atmosphere of the school, which Peter had done so much to cultivate. Of course this was only possible with Jenny’s unswerving support, kindness and charm.
If I am spared in my retirement, I hope to write a brief history of Allhallows, in which Peter will have an honoured chapter, alongside one on the Old Honitonians, who now manage the school, and whom he did so much to support.
Richard and Shirley Ambrose retired in August 1993 after nearly twenty-five years’ devoted service to Allhallows. They made an immense contribution to the life of the school. DJB recalls Gethyn Hewan saying in 1968 that he had appointed a Loughborough rugger-player, as Head of Physical Education, who had already acquired an impressive reputation at Newbury Grammar School. Shirley had taught games at Downe House and it was obvious the moment they arrived that much could be expected of such a talented couple.
Richard directed a small but admirably efficient P.E. Department to which he brought new ideas and for many years coached a series of highly successful Ist XVs, which sometimes slew giants and always played enjoyable and skilful rugby. Together with Keith Moore, he trained strong athletic teams, which enabled us to compete with bigger schools, and which maintained the high standards of his predecessor and Head of Geography, Colin Harrison.
When Richard became Head of Geography, again he introduced the latest methods of the ‘new’ Geography. Practical surveys were undertaken in Exeter, on the Landslip and in the Axe Valley, and Allhallows collaborated with Blundell’s and Exmouth School on G.C.S.E. courses. Indeed regular visits to Coblenz with ‘A’ level Geographers and skiing visits to Switzerland and Austria with boys and girls from different levels of the school and other members of staff, took an increasing toll on Richard’s time, though he became an acknowledged expert on Geography expeditions and indeed planned them for travel companies and pupils in other schools. The Preparatory Schools’ Geography field courses he organised at Allhallows were typical of his recent enterprises.
Meanwhile Shirley taught the girls netball, tennis and hockey with skill and enthusiasm and when Richard stopped coaching rugger he became part of the team and drove minibuses wherever required.
But it will be as House Parents of Venning and then Charton that boys and girls in their charge will chiefly remember them. Positive, decisive and always caring, they complemented each other perfectly and OHs, who regularly keep in touch with them, show the respect in which they were held and lasting friendships made.
After they retired in 1993 they made their home in a small village in Shropshire.
It was through Richard and his enthusiasm for rebuilding, with pupils, of old cars that I joined the Staff at Allhallows. I first met Richard in the 60s when he used to occasionally turn out for the Seaton CC. I started to help with the car club, which led for me to 11 very happy years on the staff. I shall always remember Richard saying to me, when we were batting for the MCR v Ist XI, ‘do you realise that are combined ages are over 120!’ Happy days.