1 year ago

Versa: Issue One

Versa is a biannual publication and will be published every autumn and spring term. Versa will replace the former magazine, OA Bulletin and will offer a comprehensive insight into the many facets of alumni life.

12 ASK the Archivist St

12 ASK the Archivist St Albans School dates back to 948AD and as such, there is a wealth of historical records to look after in our Museum. Our archives are extremely important in providing evidence of activities and telling a story of the institution and the individuals who are connected with it. The archives also increase our understanding of culture and beliefs of the time, both in education and in the city of St Albans. This ‘Ask the Archivist’ section will be a regular feature in Versa and we encourage you to do just that, ask the Archivist! If you have any questions about the history of the School or would like to know about the records in the Museum, please write to us and let us know. It can be anything from; ‘who are the famous alumni of the School?’ to ‘what was the most successful 1st XV rugby team at the School?’. In this edition, we ask Archivist, Nigel WoodSmith, how have we commemorated fallen OAs and do we have a complete record of all OAs who went to war? Alderman Major Nigel WoodSmith writes… In 2012, HMC (the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference) asked schools what they intended to do to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. We had already been thinking about this since commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the OTC (Officers’ Training Corps), whose training programme had been put forward in 1906 by St Albans, Uppingham and the Imperial War College. Paul Downey (OA 1977), a brilliant 15-year-old in 1974, had started a project to obtain more detailed information about the names on the two War Memorials in the Upper Yard. We decided to find and publish a record of all those who served. The first task was to make a list. Michael Hollins (OA 2012) and Gareth Hughes (former parent) each produced a list of over 400 boys who they thought had fought and the combined list was the starting point. The initial request to OAs for help in finding names produced the remarkable and sad story of Arthur Skett which we immortalised in two books: The Death of Arthur Skett and The Life and Death of Arthur Skett (available on Amazon). Also discovered were the names of three OAs who were missing from the First World War Memorial; George Alfred Scott, Leslie Harry Shrewsbury and Frank Walter Wilks. They joined the 87 other Old Albanians on the Memorial, at the time, to be remembered. Soon we had collected over 1200 pages of information which remains an archive. Current students, Ben Plumer and Ben Craig, have been editing the pages down into seven volumes, which are soon to be published as A Headmaster at War. Extracts from the diary of Major E Montague Jones can be read on our archives website Montague Jones was the Headmaster of St Albans School from 1902 to 1931. In 1914 he had gone to war, writing simply to the Governors: “I have been called upon to serve with the 1st Herts Regiment…in consequence I have been obliged to make temporary arrangements for the carrying on of my work during this period”. Each year the School holds a Remembrance Service in the Abbey at which OAs, especially servicemen and women, are welcome to attend. The Service is followed by the Act of Remembrance at the War Memorial, commemorating all Old Albanians who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of freedom as a result of war, peace-keeping operations or terrorist actions. So what research is left to do? Well, Volume 7 is partially a workbook – as Gareth Hughes and Michael Hollins will tell you, the work never ends – we hope that some of you will find the time to investigate some of the names we still have little information about. If any OAs are inclined to research the School’s history and War records, please contact Archivist Nigel Woodsmith at for names of OAs and tips on how to research.

13 ANNOUNCEMENTS OBITUARIES It is with regret that the following deaths are announced: Ronald Francis Tarling (OA 1955) Informed by Ronald’s sister, Mrs Wheeler, that Francis died on 14th February 2017, at home. John Hulett (OA 1946) Died 4th March 2017. Richard James French (OA 1947) 1931 – 2017 Obituary by daughter, Gillian French Richard (Dick) French attended St Albans School on a scholarship between 1942 and 1947. After an enthusiastic start: ‘always cheerful and willing, but not very good’ (Algebra, 1942), he settled into a respectable School career earning commendations for his sporting prowess in rugby, shooting and swimming and he left with a credit in his general matriculation. Selected for officer training during his National Service, he afterwards embarked on a period of travel and adventure in a series of postings which took him to Hong Kong, the Cocos Islands and eventually to Indonesia, where he met his wife Franceline. They lived first in Suffolk before settling in the West Midlands with their three children. Dick’s affable character afforded him a steady career in sales management and he devoted his time to his family and his hobbies, including sailing and camping. His great love was for music: he played cornet, guitar and ukulele, sang in a barbershop quartet, sang in and conducted Male Voice Choirs and was a member of the local operatic society. He died on 8th August 2017 after a short illness. Philip Maxwell Eden (OA 1952) 1934 – 2017 Obituary by son, Roland Eden (OA 1981) Dad attended St Albans School from 1947 to 1952. He was grateful to “Jumbo” Jenkins his Maths Master, and his English teacher who taught him the essence of writing clearly. I remember one story of dad placing a rotten fish behind a radiator. In 1952 he joined the Navy where he reached the rank of Sub Lieutenant. He had an interest in languages which may have contributed meeting his first wife Barbara, a German Au Pair working in Harpenden. He travelled to 52 countries during his career at Shell and Barclays where he became Assistant Director of Technical Service advising on the viability of energy related projects. Philip was a Buddhist and wrote articles for The Middle Way as well as teaching and recording a number of lectures. He became Vice President of the Buddhist Society. I recently found this caption on his bookshelf: “Death is not a cessation of life but the laying aside of one form of existence and transition to another”. William F. Harwood (OA 1947) 1929 – 2017 Obituary by the family Born in 1929, William (Bill) Harwood had an enjoyable childhood with amateur dramatics and visits to the sea. He attended the School from 1939 to 1947. He was a keen rugby player and, influenced by his father’s love of music, an accomplished pianist. His School friends remember his playing of the Chopin Polonaises. Aged 19, he joined the Army and developed practical skills, including car mechanics, which became useful when he toured Europe by motorbike. He was always in love with water, grabbing every opportunity to sail. He bought a 25ft yacht “Nim” and frequently set sail on the Crouch in Essex and the Thames estuary. He met Anne at a wedding in St Albans; they were married in 1961 and had four children: Melanie, Vanessa, Justin and Melissa. After the divorce, he moved to Ruislip and took lessons in ballroom and square dancing to keep up with his partner, Rita’s bronze and silver medals. He was a good listener, and showed an interest in people, with an open-minded and non-judgemental disposition and, above all, was a loving and caring dad and grandfather; always wanting the best for them. He was devoted to his partner, Rita. He showed strength, love and humour right up to his last days with us all. WEDDINGS Congratulations to the following OAs who have recently tied the knot! Isabel Gilbert (née Currie), OA 2006 My husband, James, and I got married on the 17th December 2016 at the Tower of London. We were honoured to be able to use such a special location which has been James’s regimental home since 1685. It was also the first place James took me for dinner, when we both returned from serving in Afghanistan in 2013. After the service at the beautiful little chapel, we had our reception at Trinity House, just across Tower Hill. Amongst our guests we had 10 OAs, including Ed Roberts who kindly did a reading during the service, and Maddy Buckley and Katie Wade-Wright (née Lilly) who were bridesmaids. We had an incredible day, made even more magical by the twinkling Christmas trees everywhere! Since our wedding and honeymoon, we have moved to South West London and are currently planning how to celebrate almost one year as Mr and Mrs. William Bestelink, OA 1967 After leaving St Albans School in 1967, I had four years at Hull (where I studied History and Theology) and two years at Cuddesdon College, Oxford. In 1973, I was Ordained in the Church of England in Cromer Church, Norfolk and spent the whole of my Ministry in the Diocese of Norwich. I did two assistant curacies and for 30 years held three positions, most in rural parishes. I also became Rural Dean, Rural Officer and a Canon of Norwich Cathedral. In 2009, I retired early and moved to Cromer. I continue to take Services and play the organ at several Churches. My rural work continues serving on a helpline. I also participate in The Cromer Society and volunteer at Felbrigg Hall, a local National Trust property, where I met my wife, Genny. We had a small family Wedding, as it was the first for both of us, at Metton Church near Cromer, and today we continue to live in Cromer.