Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Kinds of parting

Kinds of parting

For me it’s been a day of farewells, but in very contrasting styles.

Today, of course, the Upper Sixth leave us. So we’ve had many penguins, Spartans, nuns, St Trinian’s schoolgirls and a host of other strange characters roaming the school: I write this all is quiet as they’ve sloped off to get ready for the Leavers’ Dinner tonight. Always a happy occasion, the dinner becomes quite emotional as the reality of leaving school hits home: it’s a school they’ve loved.

It’s a rite of passage, of course. Our sorrow at parting from our students is short-lived, quickly wiped away by the pleasure we see in their moving on successfully to the next stage of their lives and careers.

I had a farewell of another sort this morning. With a number of colleagues I attended the funeral of John Elders. A famous captain of Leicester Tigers many years ago, John taught PE (and, I learned today, maths) at the RGS from 1957 to 1982 and again from 1992-1996 part-time when he returned from Australia. He also coached England’s rugby team (imagine a full time teacher doing that now!), leading successful tours of South Africa and New Zealand. Later he coached England Schoolboys. He produced two Internationals here, Jonathan Webb and our own Mr Jim Pollock (who played for Scotland, of course): in a ten year stint at Downlands College in Australia he produced five Internationals there.

At the funeral it was pointed out that he didn’t just look after the high fliers: he was a truly inspirational and inspiring sports teacher, catering for and enthusing all. The affection in which he was held was demonstrated both by the packed chapel at West Road Crematorium and, afterwards, by many happy reminiscences over the sausage rolls.

A great teacher and coach, as John Elders was, touches lives and changes them for the better. I hope that all our leavers – generous and talented young people that they are – also find the opportunity to make their mark through good work with others, wherever they end up living and in whatever field they find themselves working eventually.

I can’t do better than to end by quoting the poem printed on the Order of Service for John’s funeral.

 

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;

Who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;

Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

Who has left the world better than he found it;

Who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he had;

Whose memory is a benediction.

Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Bernard Trafford

Headmaster