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 head masterly 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.