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100 1973-2017

Novo Nostalgia Key articles and features from the ‘newstyle’ newsletter first published in 1973 Also in this issue: In a League of Their Own | Headmaster Retires | RGS Bursaries

Issue 100 | Summer 2017

ONA Magazine Issue 100 Summer 2017


ONA Magazine is the magazine for the Old Novocastrians’ Association Editor: Jane Medcalf All correspondence should be addressed to: The Development Office, Royal Grammar School, Eskdale Terrace, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4DX Telephone Development Office: 0191 212 8909 email: The Editor reserves the right to edit, alter or omit all submissions to the magazine. Copy may be carried over to the next edition. The Editor’s decision is final.



We are always looking for articles and news from Old Novos to include in the magazine, so send your contributions, via email (if possible) to: or to the Development Office at the school. Please include relevant pictures if possible. They will be returned as soon as the magazine has been printed.



The deadline for acceptance of copy for the Autumn 2017 issue is 7 August 2017. Copy may be carried over to a future issue. Special thanks to David Goldwater (5162) for his research and contributions to the ONA Magazine, particularly on his search for A History of the RGS in Its People.

1 The ONA Magazine is available online Please note that the magazine is circulated in hard copy and on the ONA website shortly after circulation. By submitting an article or news for inclusion the contributor is accepting that it will be available through both formats and will also be accessible beyond the Association membership through internet search engines or any member of the public viewing the ONA website.

2 4 6 8 10 13

Please note that the ONA Magazine content does not necessarily reflect the views of the school or the ONA and is based on personal experiences, recollections and memories of its contributors.





President’s Welcome News and Congratulations ONA Now and Then Tim Clark Retires Headmaster Retires Novo Nostalgia In A League of Their Own A History of the RGS in Its People RGS Bursaries Obituaries


Welcome to the 100th issue of the ONA Magazine – with contents befitting of such a milestone edition! We take a look at key articles and features from ONA Magazine since the new-style issue was produced in 1973. We also mark other significant milestones – notably the retirements of Headmaster Dr Bernard Trafford and Classics teacher Tim Clark, with fascinating and insightful interviews with both. It has been another busy few months since our last update. The London ONA Dinner took place in March. Once again a capacity crowd – including record numbers of both younger and female ONs – gathered at The East India Club in Piccadilly to be regaled with the fascinating career of Jim Pollock (67-77). Jim’s generous donation of a signed Scotland rugby shirt also raised over £400 for the Bursary Campaign. As another academic year comes to an end, RGS Day – a celebration of the remarkable achievements of the school and students over the last year – approaches, this year on Saturday 1 July. Looking ahead, the date for the Newcastle annual ONA Dinner has been confirmed for Friday 13 October. Our guest speaker is confirmed as Rex Winter (68 -78) – further details to follow shortly, but I do hope to see many of you there. Finally, we are always keen to hear from ONs, both near and far. We have an incredible network of extremely talented and able individuals (pages 2 and 3 provide a snapshot) and it is great seeing this come together. I am particularly pleased to see the note from Carl Watson (89-94) in this issue establishing the ONA’s Hong Kong outpost!

Chris JJ Wilson (97-02) ONA President


ONA – Old Novocastrians Association Magazine Summer 2017

News and Congratulations

John Josephs (L) at the Las Vegas 10K Race

Having delighted and entertained the Lower Sixth recently in the series of Lower Sixth Enrichment Lectures, Colonel Bibek Banerjee QCRM (78-85), Tom Rowley (01-08) and Nick Bell (95-01) have been followed by Keir Shiels (93-00) paediatrician, and John Harle (65-74) composer and saxophonist, in presenting and delivering a series of thought-provoking and stimulating presentations. We look forward to hearing what Paul Bajoria (73-83), author and BBC Radio 4 producer, has to say next!

© Margaret Eagle-Clark

We are delighted to have heard recently from…

John Papadopoulos displays his World Masters Games medals on his visit to RGS

Howard Gold (56-62) who writes: ‘My fellow ON and long-term running partner, JIJ (John Josephs (52-62)) at the presentation following the Las Vegas 10K Race, where he won the over-70s age group.’

Calling all Hong Kong/ China-based ONs We know there is a small outcrop of ONs in and around Hong Kong; and thought that it would be great to try to set up an informal ONA group to cater for them. I am based in Hong Kong (but travel with business around Asia) and would love to hear from any interested ONs – I will then coordinate a gathering if there is interest. My email address is: – please just drop me a line. I look forward to some photos from the first event! By Carl Watson (89-94)


Annsley Merelle Ward (01-02) who adds to her update in the previous issue. She continues: ‘I also write for the leading, award-winning IP blog in Europe, IPKat, which is subscribed to by over 20,000 readers including members of the judiciary, government and in-house counsel. In 2017, I was selected as a Global Patent Leader and have been asked to open the first overseas chapter of ChIPs (Chief IP Counsel), an organisation founded by female general counsels of Silicon Valley tech companies (including Apple and eBay) to promote women in the areas of STEM, law and policy.’ John Harle (65-74), world renowned composer and saxophonist who delighted a packed Miller Theatre on 22 March with his 60th birthday concert tour – Celebration of the Saxophone – along with his accompanist Steve Lodder. £919 was raised for the RGS Bursaries Campaign. This concert programme also premiered a new work written by Headmaster, Bernard Trafford, Ioannes Triumphans, a work based on the chorus of The School Song. It was good to see some Old Novos in the audience, including John’s Headmaster, Alister Cox (72-94).

John Papadopoulos (98-08), physiotherapist and swimmer popped into school to relay this story: ‘After an eight year break from swimming, I decided to get some fitness by joining Masters swimming. Masters sports is when you cannot commit to the fullon schedule of the sport (over 20 hours training a week), due to work commitments. You compete in your age category (mine was 25-29). After 10 months of training, I flew (mid-April) to Auckland, New Zealand to compete at the World Masters Games (WMG). The games are the largest staged multi-sport competition in the world, with an astonishing 27,000 athletes over 28 different sports. The WMG is held every four years, like the Olympics. I competed in the 800m (32 lengths of your standard 25m pool) Frontcrawl, 400m Individual Medley, 200m Individual Medley and Breaststroke, beating all of my entry times. I finished 4th in both the 800m Frontcrawl and the 200m Individual Medley. I was delighted to finish 2nd in the 400m Individual Medley and the 200m Breaststroke. I’m aiming to continue with my training towards the Master’s European and World Championships over the coming years, and the WMG in Japan 2021.’

Join us on Facebook and LinkedIn There are plenty of Old Novos social media groups around, but we have our own groups. Join us by becoming a fan of the Old Novocastrians Association pages on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Appeal for ON email addresses Where appropriate, we would like to stay in contact with you by email. Please email with a current email address where we can contact you.

Our congratulations go to…

Henry Robert Canfield Hammill and bunny

Kate Appleby (R) attends RGS to present Jill

James Carter atop Magdalen Tower, Oxford

Dickinson with the ONA Prize

Kate Hammill (neé Jarvis) (02-04) and John Hammill (83-93) on the birth of Henry. We are delighted to announce the birth of Henry Robert Canfield Hammill, born on 22 December, 2016 at 5.57am weighing 7lbs 10oz. Ed: We are absolutely delighted for you.

Jill Dickinson, Lower Sixth, who was awarded the ONA Prize for her outstanding EPQ project. We were delighted that Kate Appleby (06-08), ONA Committee member was available to come to the End of Term school assembly and present this prize to Jill.

Lt Col John Camm, Physics teacher, on being awarded the Lord Lieutenant’s Certificate for Meritorious Service for his exemplary service to adults and cadets of the RGS Cadet Force.

Sarah McDonald (06-11), medical student and athlete, who won the 1,500m final at the British Athletics Indoor Team Trials in Sheffield on 12 February, giving her the title of British Champion. Later Sarah went on to compete at the European Championships, coming 2nd in her heat and competing in the finals.

Suba Das (95-02) on directing the Olivier Award-winning comedy East is East at Northern Stage.

Spotted recently… Mr Simon Barker, head of English, recently spotted Will Featherstone (94-04) on the front cover and throughout the abridged play text of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet from Globe Education (published by Hodder Education). Mark Wallace (92-02) representing the team, Beekeepers, on BBC 2’s quiz programme, Only Connect. Max Hill QC (72-82), head of Red Lion Chambers, is congratulated on his appointment as the government’s new independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. He has also been featured recently on Channel 4’s The Trial.


ONA – Old Novocastrians Association Magazine Summer 2017

James Carter (00-08) who last year graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He was also an academical clerk: the choir traditionally sings from the top of Magdalen Tower at 6am on each May morning! Jonathan Bloxham (99-04), conductor and award-winning cellist, on his appointment as assistant conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Also, congratulations on the success of the recent Northern Chords Festival.

Valete Gary Scrafton We say a very fond farewell to Junior School teacher, Gary Scrafton. He will be well remembered by staff and students alike for his patient, understanding and supportive teaching style and also for his knowledgeable input into soccer coaching and unfailing enthusiasm. Gary has loved his time at RGS since 2006 and thanks all of the students, parents and staff who have made it so special. He thinks it might be the end of a 40-year teaching road…but there may be another path or two!

ONA Now and Then

It is a bittersweet moment for me to welcome you to the 100th issue of the ONA Magazine. As always, it’s a delight to do so: and it’s a matter of pride that we’ve been keeping in touch with our ONs in this fashion since 1973. But I write too with a slight pang, because it is the last such foreword that I shall pen.

predictable meals provided by ‘Ma’ Steven and her staff, they were delighted to find that, on that very Monday, one of the choices on offer in the very 21st Century Dining Hall and servery was mince – it was always mince on Mondays back in 1944!

enormous success and good fortune (brought about, as he never tired of saying, through, “industry, thrift and ambition”) brought with it a duty of generosity and benefaction, one that he fulfilled in ample measure.

A memory shared with me that day is one I have frequently quoted since: the Headmaster, ER Thomas (22-48), greeted those impressionable young boys, newly arrived in the school, and informed them that the most important thing they would learn at the RGS was, “thoughtfulness for others”.

I was forced to suppress a slight feeling of guilt when I read about the handsome swimming bath with which he endowed the school in 1930. As I leave this summer, the Sutherland Pool will finally be demolished and the site prepared for another build, the last phase in the Governors’ far-sighted project to equip the school for the next 20 or 30 years.

It’s a marvellous thing about schools (and not unique to the field of education) that present-day visionaries always assume they are doing things better and more effectively than previous generations: yet what timeless and necessary advice was given on that day in 1944! In 2017 we certainly still try to impress on our students the need for kindness and altruism: indeed a body of research is growing that the happiest people are those who are most generous and thoughtful of others. Perhaps one reason why those seeds appear generally to fall on fertile ground is that it’s by no means a new message at the RGS.

Yet what an appropriate moment, perhaps. I’ve experienced and done my best to lead just nine years of the school’s long history: and this magazine reminds us how far back it goes as well as prompting us always to look to the future.

Thus we read obituaries, always sad to lose members of the larger ON family (particularly if they are taken before their time), and invariably find that the powerful and positive personal qualities shine through.

The extract from Bryan Stevens’ (44-49) monograph Newcastle Royal Grammar School in the 40’s recalls for me the pleasure I have had in meeting ONs from that era. Mention of school lunches under the direction of the formidable ‘Ma’ Steven took me back to the visit we enjoyed from members of the ‘Class of 44’. They were with us in September 2014, on the 70th anniversary (to the day) of their starting at the RGS – the first group to join the school in Jesmond since the outbreak of war and the forced evacuation to Penrith. Having regaled us with stories of the fortifying if

Does that fact have something to do with the role models that ONs have had in their teachers? I think so. Tim Clark contributes a characteristically modest valedictory piece: unsurprisingly he plays down the undeniably enormous effect that his twin teaching and pastoral roles have had on RGS students since 1984.


Altruism was also a driving force within the gigantic figure in RGS history vividly brought to life by David Goldwater (51-62). Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland (1878-1883) certainly believed that his

I’d like to think (hopefully?) that Sutherland would not be offended. A fine building in its time, it had become very much less comfortable and convenient than the pools with which modern children are familiar: and a 25-yard length had become anachronistic! A man always with an eye to the future, I hope he would approve of the fact we move on, not without gratitude, and use that site to build for further success in the school’s future. For the future is what education must be about. So, finally, I’m delighted to mention the piece by Steph Burn (04-06): as a female qualified pilot she’s still in a minority, and a fine example of the RGS students and ONs of the 21st Century, happy to break glass ceilings or overcome other prejudices and vested interests to achieve their ambitions and to make a difference. I leave the school in good heart and as ambitious as ever for the future. And I am more certain than ever that an ambitious future is inevitably founded in a solid past, an appreciation of history and tradition, and a mind-set and sense of ambition that never forget their roots. I shall miss the RGS and all its people: and I wish it and them every success in the future. Bernard Trafford Headmaster

ONA Now and Then

RGS in the 40s

Left: The Dining Hall today Below: ‘Ma’ Steven’s Dining Hall

The tutorial system, which pre-dated 1914 was in full force, as I understand it still is. The tutors had the task, among others, of collating his boys’ terminal reports, with some input of his own.

We publish an extract from Bryan Stevens’(44-49) monograph, Newcastle Royal Grammar School in the 40’s (printed March 2017). A worthy addition to the school archives, he gives a fairly detailed account of his time at the school as it was in the 40s. Bryan has a number of printed copies available of his monograph and would be happy to send one to interested ONs. Please send a self-addressed envelope, size C5 and stamped 65p to Jane Medcalf at the school.


ONA – Old Novocastrians Association Magazine Summer 2017

The old Dining Hall (the present Library), though a fine and stately room, was by our time far too small for its purpose, and lunch had to be taken in relays, the Upper School being last. The lunch interval was long enough to accommodate all kinds of activities such as sports training – boxing, swimming, rugby. In summer the 1st and 2nd Xl’s practised at the nets, by the Pavilion, now the site of the present Dining Hall. There were also house nets near the caretaker’s house (long demolished) and anyone could draw bats and a ball and a set of stumps from Bill Darling’s store behind the Pavilion, so that the whole field, apart from the Square, was occupied by little games, which, perforce, dovetailed to some extent. This would be unthinkable in today’s paranoid safetyfirst climate, but I never heard of anyone’s being injured. The quality of our food was excellent, thanks to the ingenuity, in those days of rationing, of “Ma” Steven who is remembered with grateful affection by many O.N’s. The menu was take it or leave it. The Headmaster and any guests ate at a sort of high table, and the boys at long tables presided over by a master or a prefect. Grace was said before and after the meal.

School ended at 4.10pm but many stayed on for society meetings, rehearsals, or training. The Corps paraded on Saturday mornings, when the orchestra rehearsed. There was a small R.A.F section (no naval section as yet), which paraded separately. A good deal was written about the Corps at the time of its centenary (2011), so I shall not say any more here. The dress code in our time was fairly relaxed. Blue blazers were worn in the Junior School and thereafter up to age 15 or so. Black blazers didn’t come in until many years later. Boys who had their school colours often wore the appropriate blazer – blue with yellow braid for boxing or white braid for swimming, red braid for running. There was a maroon blazer with black braid for rugby. The cricket colours blazer (red, white and black stripes) and that for tennis (cream with blue braid) did not lend themselves to everyday use. Tasselled maroon caps were awarded with 1st XV colours. Caps had to be worn, to and from school, theoretically all the way home. Dr Thomas reluctantly exempted the sixth form, but to him wearing the cap indicated pride in the school, and he did what he could to impress this upon us. But the older boys kept their caps in their pockets, to be put on when one got within sight of the school, or if a master or a prefect hove into view.

Tim Clark (84-17) Head of Lower School and Classics teacher – remembered by countless ONs – retires this summer, after 101 terms at the RGS.

Tim on a RGS Classics trip to Rome


What year did you start at the RGS? January 1984 – my predecessor, Don Shipley (52-83), head of Classics, had retired at Christmas; Tony Griffiths (69-02 and 05-06) became head of department, and I slotted in as the junior member of the department (I’d like to say seamlessly, but I remember being a particularly anxious new teacher!) As well as being head of Lower School and teaching Classics, what else have you been involved with at the RGS? My main involvement has, of course, been as a classicist (I admit not a ‘proper one’, but primarily as an ancient historian), and also dabbling in the performing arts. In the old days, collaborations between staff and students in both RGS and Central Newcastle High School (CNHS) were frequent and I have fond memories of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas (The Mikado and Patience in the early 90s) and choir concerts under directors of music Martyn Lane (7590), Tony Bird (whatever became of him?) and Neal Parker (99-12), when staff and students performed together; great fun. We also used to produce Greek plays with CNHS: I was very much out of my comfort zone between 1987 and 1994 when I directed a series of tragedies in the original ancient language, my own Greek being less than rudimentary. But somehow we got away with it. The advent of school musicals since the building of The Miller Theatre has been a huge plus – from Guys and Dolls (the opening show for the Theatre in 2006) through Jesus Christ Superstar, Oklahoma and the wonderful Les Miserables to West Side Story and Sweet Charity, RGS has produced some fabulous shows over the last few years and I count myself lucky to have been involved in a number of them.

agree that meeting and chatting to so many youngsters was fun – even though it was inevitably an ordeal for some (many?) candidates, I hope that we made it just about bearable. What will you miss about the RGS? No question about it – my colleagues. RGS has been like a home for over 30 years (101 terms, to be precise) and my colleagues are like family (but without the arguments and washing up!) It will be really hard to say goodbye and I have to admit that I am dreading it. Do you have one particular memorable moment from your time at the RGS? Tim in the trenches at Vimy Ridge with Professor Richard Holmes and RGS colleagues Phil Saint (98-01) and Michael Bond (95-02)

In 1988, I organised and led the first of many trips to Greece and Italy, and there have only been a few years in the interim when a party of RGS student has not set off to experience the magic of places such as Delphi, Olympia, Nauplion, Sorrento, Herculaneum and Pompeii; I am particularly proud to have established that tradition and I know that for many students who travelled with us, it was a highlight of their whole school career. Likewise the Year 11 Battlefields Trip has been a fixture in my autumn calendar since 1997, and it has been hugely enjoyable and equally moving to help guide generations of RGS students through the fields of Flanders and the Somme. The bonhomie between staff and students engendered by sharing these experiences on classics and history trips has certainly been a highlight of my teaching career. I coached hockey and cricket in my early years (somewhat embarrassingly, I once appealed for a catch by John Barton (82-89), the U13 wicketkeeper, when I was umpiring). I’ve also been a house master, stage manager in the old (lowtech) RGS theatre, and common room treasurer. My extracurricular involvement was somewhat curtailed in 1992 when I took on the role of Head of Lower School (Years 7 & 8), a post which I held until two years ago when each year group was given its own dedicated head of year and I became just Head of Year 7. Until the last few years, assistant heads of year were unheard of, and so for a long period, through the nineties and noughties, Steve Watkins and I were responsible, by ourselves, for two year groups each; looking back, we sometimes wonder how we coped. A confession: a recent clear-out of my office revealed complete sets of entrance data from the last 25 years. I am a terrible hoarder and probably require professional help! It will certainly feel very strange next January and February not to be embarking on the annual round of testing, datacollating and interviewing of 11 year-old aspirant RGS students, and although it was always one of the busiest times of the year, I always found it very satisfying. The various colleagues with whom I shared the interviews would I’m sure


ONA – Old Novocastrians Association Magazine Summer 2017

Allow me two. I love the work of Arthur Miller, and directed a production of A View from the Bridge in 2013; I had a fantastic student cast – very talented and very charming people. It’s a very dark, intense play and they performed it magnificently, but I just remember a lot of laughter in rehearsals. The other memory is of a trip to Italy in around 2000: we were walking the RGS group to the summit of Mount Vesuvius when a horrid wintry squall came over and a vicious hailstorm engulfed us. We took shelter under the canopy of a small kiosk alongside a group of American high school students and for some reason (I’m assuming our innate British stoicism kicked in), the RGS students started singing Blake’s Jerusalem; our US cousins responded with a rendition of Star-Spangled Banner, attempting to match the bravura of our performance, but in vain. Victory to the Brits. The tempest abated, and we pressed on up the mountain, cold and wet but collectively buzzing! What are you planning to do when you retire? I shall play a lot of golf, learn Italian properly and visit Venice and the Veneto (my sister has an apartment there); I shall endeavour to get to grips with the guitar, work my way through the list of DIY projects my wife has lined up for me, and, I’m sure to the satisfaction of my Year 7 Latin classes over the years, I can assure them that Caecilius non in tablino sed in horto erit. A View from the Bridge, in rehearsal, 2013

Bernard Trafford (08-17) I joined the RGS as its Headmaster in September 2008, fresh from a hectic year as Chairman of HMC, the association that represents the 300 or so leading independent schools in the UK (plus some 50 British-style schools in other countries around the world). By Bernard Trafford All in a day’s work: recording a message; prowling the corridors; presiding over the Carol Service



hen I applied for the job at the RGS, I had a good idea of what I was coming to. I had always taught in old grammar schools,16th Century foundations that had weathered the storms and stood the test of time, always clear in their vision and purpose. Indeed, I started teaching at the RGS in High Wycombe, a school against which we still play cricket once a year at the now legendary RGS Cricket Festival. So I knew the beast, and felt at home in the type of school. Yet every school is also individual, unique: that’s certainly true of the Newcastle RGS. It is, as we so often say when trying to describe it to potential parents and students, “a special place”. More than that, when I arrived I said (perhaps too frequently) that the RGS isn’t just a “great school”: it is truly “one of the country’s great schools”. That remains true. It’s not for me to judge what has been achieved over the last nine years: others must do that. Certainly I found a school that was powerful, at ease with itself, and in the midst of a period of enormous development and transition. Already a passionate co-educationist, I was delighted to be able to see the process, already underway, through to what we might describe as ‘full coeducation’: as I write this, more than 40% of the student roll are girls. Inevitably such a change means that there has been significant work to do on culture and ethos – yet without, I would claim, losing one iota of the traditional strengths and values of the school. I arrived to see some fantastic modern buildings added to the handsome 1906 school: it’s been exciting to continue that development which will, of course, go on beyond my tenure with what the Governors are calling, in convenient shorthand, Project XL3. I’m sometimes asked what headmasters do: it’s a tricky one to answer, so I won’t bother here! But I’m also asked what an individual head brings beyond that overall management and leadership role. I’ve always loved to be immersed in, and to support absolutely as much as I can, the whole of school life. I’m as fanatical in my commitment to the extracurricular life of the school as everyone else in it, and still reckon that our somewhat crazy formula works. Students and staff alike work flat-out for the length of the term, necessarily slightly shorter than terms in the state sector: and then, if not collapsing, they at least use those holidays and half-terms for vital R&R. In how many day schools will you see students still involved in after-school activities at getting on for 7pm on a Friday? It happens here. I’m a musician by training, starting out in education as a Music teacher: so if I’ve been able to contribute in a specific area, of course it’s been in the performing arts, something I have relished.

But heads can often add lustre and encouragement to events just by being there: I know how important it’s been that I’ve been on touchlines and boundaries as far as possible, never as much as I’d like, always regretting missing yet another amazing win, even better when it’s achieved against the odds. I’m also asked about high spots. It’s a curious thing about headship: we heads are always involved in ‘the long game’, and it’s hard (not to say invidious) to identify individual events as standing out. Certainly I’d have to list being on one of those 12 buses down to Twickenham in 2010 to support our lads in the final of the Daily Mail Cup. A personal highlight for me was in the summer of 2012 when the Performing Arts department staged my musical, Flotsam. The privilege for a writer of seeing his work brought to life is hard to describe adequately: but the event is perhaps more memorable for the fact of the ‘Great Flood of Thunder Thursday’, just two days before Flotsam’s first performance. I shall always remember, with the greatest pride, the way the school community rallied round to cope. To keep out at least some of the floodwater, members of the domestic staff in wellies and rubber gloves defied the encroaching waters with mops and brooms. And all the staff mucked in and cleared up the next day so that school could start and RGS Day could operate almost as normal. Nonetheless, for me it’s not so much particular highlights as the host of achievements. Exam results, of course, but also the successful events, matches, debates, performances that accumulate to demonstrate the sheer quality of the school and the great things that its students achieve. After all, a school is about people. I have worked with wonderful colleagues, supportive, hardworking, professional, inspired and inspiring (as we say in our job adverts!) – and, above all, fun to be with. Exactly the same qualities are displayed by our students, undoubtedly learning from their teachers. Our students are ambitious and aspirational, though rarely unrealistic: high-achieving and confident, yet modest; focussed, yet generous. Yet, notwithstanding all that achievement, one of the charms of the school, of its students and its staff, is the ability to laugh at ourselves. The RGS banter, when kind and properly judged (we don’t always get it right!), is hilarious, mischievous, irreverent – but rarely lacking in respect. And what of the school’s alumni? I’ve loved working with the ONA, its committee bringing together people so proud of and ready to work for their old school. But not only the members of the committee! It’s been fascinating and enormous fun meeting ONs of all ages, regular attenders at dinners; once-in-a-lifetime returners from abroad; those anxious to show their partner, children or grandchildren round their old school. They come in all sorts of guises and for many different reasons –


ONA – Old Novocastrians Association Magazine Summer 2017

At home playing the trumpet: not so sure about dealing with aliens!

but they are always a treat to meet, and invariably appreciative of what the school did for them. Inevitably, and delightfully, there is always overlap between dealing with the school’s alumni and working on the serious business of the Bursary Campaign. It’s been wonderful to see our fundraising total increase from £3.8m in 2008 to £6.5m this year: yet that sum is, as everyone knows, a drop in the ocean that is needed if we are really to meet the need for bursaries that is out there among potential recipients of support with school fees. That’s not to decry the efforts and generosity of so many to date: I am pleased, moreover, that, as I leave, Governors and the campaign committee are working together to plan a new and enhanced focus on bursaries. I wish them every success. It’s the people, really, that I shall miss above all. The camaraderie, the laughter, the easy friendships and the respectful relationships at all levels. I’ve been institutionalised(!) for 39 years as a teacher – and, I guess, through my education before that: so it might feel odd in retirement not to be ruled by bells, appointments and timetables. But Katherine and I look forward to freedom from that particular treadmill. I want to read the newspaper in the morning instead of in bed at night: I hope to stay awake in concerts and plays; and I expect to have more time both for writing and to get back into music-making which has been difficult to squeeze in, in any quantity. We’ll settle in Oxford, where we’ve bought a house, for most of the year, surrounding ourselves with culture and the trappings of academe: but we’ll keep hold of our cottage in Northumberland, which we still regard as our little patch of heaven. I’ve been privileged to work in fantastic schools, to run two of them, and to spend my professional life with wonderful colleagues and students. For all of that I’m profoundly grateful.

Novo Nostalgia To celebrate 100 issues of the ‘new-style newsletter’, we take a brief look back at key articles and features that highlight the contributions and ongoing legacies of Old Novos to the RGS.

Issue 15 1978 RGS Hovercraft-sprayer project This was a great era for our young scientists. Retired teacher Bill Elliott (52-88), known to countless ONs, outlined the wonderful success of the Hovercraft-Sprayer project which won the BBC Young Scientist of the Year award. Consequently, Paul Brown (73-78) and Alastair Wolf (71-78) were invited to enter the 10th European Philips Contest for Young Scientists and Inventors, competing successfully against competitors from 15 countries and winning one of the five prizes.

Issue 16 1979 Big Penrith Reunion of wartime “family” The school’s evacuation to Penrith on Friday 1 September, 1939 was commemorated by a 40th Anniversary ‘Penrith Event’. This article details the notes behind the idea from the Headmaster Alister Cox (72-94). All 870 boys and staff were evacuated to Penrith until July 1944. The reunion centred on the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, the school shared with the boys’ counterparts; Wordsworth Hall, where lessons were also held and St. Andrew’s Church.

Issue 1 1973 Front Cover In 1973, during Alister Cox’s (72-94) first year as Headmaster, the Old Novocastrian Association undertook some developmental changes. One of these changes included The Novocastrian taking on a new-style. It was introduced with slight trepidation by the Headmaster, noting that the, ‘school is ready to be regarded as the fount and focus of ON activities and the Headmaster therefore has his part to play’.


Issue 26 1984 The Novo Shield If you’ve ever had the opportunity to revisit the school, you may remember seeing The Novo Shield hanging up in the Main Hall. However, in 1984, the large shield (three feet high and two foot, six inches wide) was reported to have recently been found in the cellars and a mystery to many, including the general secretary of the ONA and retired Maths master John C Douglas (56-94). In 1909 the editors of The Novocastrian reported the introduction of a new scheme in which the name of the boy who was deemed to be the, ‘most worthy’ and ‘best all all-round athlete of the year’ would have his name engraved on The Novo Shield. The lower scrolls of the shield are engraved, ‘Honour Roll of the First in Games’.

Issue 27 1984 Obituary – Sir John McNee Interesting that the introductory paragraph to this article begins with, ‘Many ONs will remember the annual presentation of the ‘McNee English Prize for a Student of Science’ at the Prize-Giving Ceremony without having any knowledge of McNee himself.’ Sir John Willam McNee (1897-1904), born 1987 was noted in this article to join the school in 1894 and died on 26 January 1984, aged 96. Little is known of his time at the RGS, but a prominent physician and pathologist he became President of the British Medical Authority, physician to King George VI from 1937-52 and also to the Queen of Scotland from 1952-54. He was knighted in 1951. Dr Stanley Ashman (41-52), former President of the ONA, remembers Sir John accepting an invitation to speak at the London ONA Dinner in the mid-50s. To this day, the Sir John McNee Prize is still presented to students who achieve all A* results at GCSE.


ONA – Old Novocastrians Association Magazine Summer 2017

Issue 71 2007 Novo Day The year 2007 was a celebration of 100 years (innaugaration) of the RGS at Eskdale Terrace. On Saturday 3 March 2007, over 230 Old Novos, their family and friends gathered in the Main Hall, catching up with old school friends over coffee, browsing the archive displays, taking tours by the Prefects, culminating after in a buffet lunch with a rendition of The School Song, accompanied by Mike Barlow (53-64) on the school organ (yet to be renovated to its present magnificent state, with the help of the ONA).

Issue 84 2012 A History of the RGS in Ten People In 2011, long-term serving ONA committee member and former ONA President (00-02) David Goldwater (51-62) started off a popular and long-running series, A History of the RGS, inspired by the BBC series, A History of the World in 100 Objects. In Issue 84 (Spring 2011) his search continued, with a change in emphasis from objects to people who have shaped or influenced the history of the school. A ‘difficult task’ it was noted at the time. David continues his series on a regular basis.

Issue 99 2017 A Life Without Limbs Finally, we celebrate the wonderful story of Zaamin Hussain’s (01-11) and Matt Walton’s (04-11) medical elective in 2016 and the superb and amazing work that they have been doing in Bangladesh to help people walk again with the aid of very low-cost prosthetics. The ONA was proud to part-fund some of the expenses towards this project and has been eager to follow Zaamin and Matt’s activities; not only their return to school to relay their experience to current students, but also their feature and coverage by the BBC programme, Inside Out.

Issue 86 2012 RGS Bursaries Celebrates Ten Years The school is immensely proud of its Bursary Campaign. The campaign was launched in 2002 following the demise of the government’s Assisted Places scheme. In 2012, David Goldwater (51-62) as one of the original members of the Appeal Steering Committee took the opportunity to celebrate all that is good about having a bursary scheme at the RGS and highlighted key people who took the campaign through its first 10 years, including Chairs, Ashley Winter (64-74), Crispian Strachan, and Andrew Major (86-90), former Headmaster James Miller (94-08) and current Headmaster Bernard Trafford as well as former Chair of Governors, Louis Taylor (75-85). Morgan Pretswell (05-07), solicitor and former bursary holder said in the article; ‘Obtaining a bursary from the RGS Bursary Campaign made it possible for me to access everything that the school has to offer. Upon attending the school, I felt academically stretched, challenged yet supported in achieving my full academic potential’.


We have enjoyed taking a look through the past 99 issues. The continued success and interest in the ONA Magazine is dependent upon ONs sending in their stories and news articles. Please keep them coming and we will endeavour to print what we can. It is especially pleasing to hear ONs say how much they enjoy reading the magazine. Let’s keep sharing! Discendo Duces!

Malawi is a friendly, beautiful country that I would encourage anyone to visit. In 2015, the World Bank declared Malawi the poorest country per capita in the world. The difference that Chigoli is making to these children’s lives is huge. Providing talented male and female players private education scholarships, nutritional support and a proven character development as well as an opportunity in football they would never have otherwise. The aim is to put players into professional football and some children into US-based private high school scholarships in the next five years. The key point is that the players have to earn their opportunities. Given the level at which they start and the world they’ve grown up in, anyone who makes it, truly deserves it. In turn, they hope to create role models to inspire future generations, as other African countries have done already. Co-founder, George discusses the first half with the team. They sit in their positions to reinforce the importance of the formation.

In a League of Their Own By Jamie Hansell (92-02)


recently visited my friend and fellow ON J ‘Alex’ Scott (91-01) in Malawi. Last time I was there in January 2015, he was at planning stage of creating a football academy with fellow Brit, George Maguire. Alex and George had spoken many times over a beer and Premier League game about what should happen in Malawi. The pro clubs have literally no youth structures below U20s at all, and how much of a waste that is, and how unfair the world is in terms of where you are born. They decided to do something about this. On this visit I got to see all their hard work and planning come to fruition. Chigoli Academy is a not-for-profit football academy, based in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Chigoli aims to create generations of male and female players to represent Malawi on the global stage and to be responsible role models for future generations of some of the poorest children on the planet.


ONA – Old Novocastrians Association Magazine Summer 2017

During my visit, I managed to spend three weekends at Chigoli seeing the different age groups train, play games and take part in educational lessons. The academy makes use of facilities at the international school in the capital. Here you have almost all the facilities we have at the RGS. Fridays after school the kids train, with games taking place on a Saturday or a Sunday. Each session starts with porridge for all to supplement their diet. Alex had a volunteer called Amir staying with him during my visit. Originally from Jerusalem, he has a BA (Hons) in Football Studies. I spent a lot of my time with him as he coached the U12s. Their commitment to football and learning is quite exemplary. Amir will be followed by other volunteers with a high-calibre background in football who are looking to make a difference. Alex faces a real challenge pushing for an honest and fair football league even with the support of FIFA. Some away pitches wouldn’t even have been considered for football in Europe. One has a four feet concrete block on the left wing! For more information on Chigoli visit their website: It can go from glorious sunshine, to a wash out within moments in the rainy season!

A HISTORY OF THE RGS IN ITS PEOPLE by David Goldwater (51-62) Entering School in 1951, young RGS pupils soon became under the influence of strange mantras. On learning The School Song, there were a number of anomalies lacking explanation. For example, whilst ‘Motherland, King and God’ was swiftly replaced after 6 February 1952 with ‘Motherland, Queen and God’, no-one cared to explain why boys enthusiastically sang ‘Sutherland etc.’ The reason for this substitution was quite simple in that, as a prominent school Governor from 1919 until his death in 1953, Chairman from 1935, Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland’s (1878-1883) fame arose from his huge generosity as the greatest benefactor in the school’s history.


Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland (1867-1953) Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland’s grandfather, Benjamin, left Thurso in northernmost Scotland in 1825 and sailed to Newcastle to join the multitude of Scottish immigrants who crowded into the Quayside area of the city and married the same year. He was a bootmaker and by the mid1850s was running a sizeable master shoemaker business in Northumberland Street. Benjamin’s third child (of eight) was Benjamin John Sutherland, who having received a good education at the Percy Street Academy and after a number of successful positions in local businesses, established his own enterprise in Broad Chare, Quayside as a chemical broker. Undoubtedly, a bold entrepreneur, he became a major importer of flour from Canada and the USA and rumour has it that his Gateshead Steam Flour Mills were located where Rank’s Mill, now the Baltic Arts Centre, is situated. By the 1890s BJ Sutherland & Co. were in Sandhill, Newcastle. Having become involved in local Liberal-Unionist politics, Benjamin was appointed Sheriff of Newcastle in 1891. Committed methodists, the Sutherlands were married at Brunswick Place Wesleyan Chapel and later became members of the Clayton Road Methodist Chapel from its opening in 1883. Benjamin John’s son, Arthur (the third of nine children) persuaded him to move into the shipping trade and the Sutherland Steamship Co. Ltd was founded. Success in business resulted in them moving through a number of good addresses ending with Thurso House, which would become the Mansion House in Jesmond’s Fernwood Road.

Arthur Munro Sutherland attended the RGS at Rye Hill from 1878 until 1883. Though the school was to welcome his abundant generosity in later life, he was no academic and even stated that he would have preferred to have left at 15 rather than at 16. He worked for some time near his father’s offices at a Quayside shipbroker’s earning a modest wage, but soon ended up as the firm’s chartering clerk by 1890. His father, noting his success, gave him an office within the family business where Arthur persuaded his father to set up a shipping company and build their first ship, the Sutherland. Arthur was 25 and on the road to success. Arthur’s father Benjamin John had worked for six years for the Gateshead timber merchants and ropemakers, Haggie Brothers, and in 1893, Arthur married Fanny Linda Haggie, a daughter of R Hood Haggie of ‘Haggies’ ropeworks of Willington Quay, ‘one of the largest rope manufacturers in the world’. R Hood Haggie made him a director of the business as a wedding gift. As a steamship owner and coal exporter, his business acumen manifested itself in the various fleets within the three companies he owned and controlled, BJ Sutherland, the Irismere Steamship Co. and the Dunrobin Shipping Co. Ltd.; all of which were consolidated into BJ

Above: Thurso House, which would become the Mansion House in Jesmond’s Fernwood Road Below: The Mansion House as it is seen today


ONA – Old Novocastrians Association Magazine Summer 2017

Sutherland & Co. Ltd., which continued until his death in 1953. As already mentioned, pupils at the RGS in Eskdale Terrace were more than aware of the extraordinary role Sutherland had played in the development of the school’s campus. With World War I raging and an Army Training Corps flourishing at the RGS, he gifted an armoury and rifle range, which ONs may remember was situated on the south side of the school field next to the geography and woodwork block. Now Lord Mayor of Newcastle (1918-19), he became a Governor in 1919, and he and Lady Sutherland gifted the iconic JJ Binns organ, so much an integral part of the school’s Main Hall to this day (and recently restored to excellent working order with the help of the ONA). At the time it commemorated 138 Old Novocastrians who fell in World War I. Sir Arthur, knighted in 1920, served as ONA President (24-36), became Deputy Chairman of Governors in 1930, Chairman from 1935 until his death. In 1930, at a cost of £20,000 (2017 equivalent £1.15 million), he gifted the Swimming (Sutherland) Baths, now closed and replaced by the ultra-modern facility on the opposite side of the field, but in its day an amazing pool, used for many years by ‘un-clad’ boys – another age! The following year, he provided the cost of the school crest through the College of Heralds. This is still in evidence around the school, though the modernised badge is now widely in use. He funded a large gymnasium, which will be remembered by those who either excelled in strenuous exercise including boxing or, alternatively, suffered the tensions of the examinations regularly held there. An improved staff Common Room was also the result of Sir Arthur’s generosity in 1936, as well as Sutherland Park in Benton, home of Novos RFC , purchased by the school with the help of a very low interest loan from his company.

Returning to Sir Arthur’s business life, his activities were as widespread as his legendary energy would allow. At the outbreak of World War I, several of his ships amongst many others were marooned in Baltic ports. With the help of Swedish political contacts, these were liberated, and these bold initiatives represent the beginning of a long connection with Scandinavia. Worldwide trade expanded between the wars with coal and timber forming a large proportion. In the 30s, he invested £1 million (over £50 million at today’s value!) in Doxfords, building a new fleet of diesel engine motor vessels. This helped to bring the long depression in North East shipyards to an end and Sutherland’s strong methodism helped his philosophy of benevolent capitalism – he had held fast to his workers during those dark days of economic gloom. It also helped foster his relationship with some of the trade union bosses, many of whom had methodist roots. Some of his honorary posts reflect the respect in which he was held in his industry: President of the Chamber of Shipping of the UK (1930), President of the Shipping Federation (1938-50), Chairman of the Tyne Improvement Commission (1939-45) and many other organisations which he held right up to his death. Apart from his energies in business, Sir Arthur was involved in many iconic properties in the region. He purchased Dunstanburgh Castle in 1919, investing large sums in its restoration before bequesting the 14th Century gem to ‘state guardianship’ (now English Heritage). The golf course there in Embleton Bay was improved by a national specialist, James Braid, at his expense, a contemporary connection existing in the person of the present owner Peter Gilbert (52-62) and member Timothy (now Lord) Kirkhope MP (53-62), who opened the ‘new’ clubhouse in the 80s. In 1920, after lunching at the Union Club in Westgate Road, Sutherland bought the Newcastle Chronicle (offices next door) from the Cowan family, selling it to the Kemsley Organisation five years later. It seems matters maritime appealed more to him than those of the Fourth Estate. In 1935 he was Chairman of Aston Martin; his son Gordon, managing director and engine developer. £10,000 was invested into the development of a new engine and Gordon sanctioned the production of two new works team cars (LM22 & LM23) for entry into the Le Mans 24 Hours Race. The company was sold on to David Brown in 1947. Both public office and honours came regularly to Sutherland. He was Deputy Lord Mayor and Sheriff of Newcastle in 1916-17 and the following armistice year, was made Lord Mayor. He was made an Honorary Freeman of Newcastle and his speech in the City Hall, partly


Left: Tyne-Tees Shipping Co. advert, Quayside, still visible today Right: Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland

directed at the large constituency of RGS staff and boys, urged, “Industry – Thrift – Ambition”, summarising his philosophy for life. He was also made a Freeman of the City of London, acknowledging his role in supplying the capital with coal and other vital commodities. So massive was the use of felt in those days for the insulation of ships’ boilers and pipes in his large fleet that he was made an honorary Liveryman to the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights and Feltmakers. His Scandinavian links brought him an honour in 1936 from King Haakon Vll of Norway – Commander of the Order of St Olav. Indeed, after he was widowed in 1937, he married Ella Christensen, widow of one of his great friends who was a former British Consul in Denmark. As described above, one of the most prominent buildings associated with Sir Arthur is now the Mansion House in Jesmond, which had originally been purchased by his father, Benjamin John. It had been two large semi-detached dwellings, re-named Kelso House and Thurso House, reflecting the family’s origins in northern Scotland. It was bequeathed to the City in 1953. In what is now the official residence of Newcastle’s Lord Mayor, many original paintings and features remain to this day. As well as Sir Arthur Munro Sutherland’s generosity to the RGS, he donated very large sums to what was to become the University of Durham’s Kings College in Newcastle, establishing both the Medical School (1930) and later the Dental School in its original site at the RVI (1931) and later, a larger building at Northumberland Road (1948). He also organised the funding of, and made the major contribution to, the city’s principal war memorial in Old Eldon Square, which was unveiled by Earl Haig in 1923. After a long and fulfilling life, Sir Arthur died peacefully in his sleep in March 1953 and was buried in Jesmond Old Cemetery, not far from his school and family home.

Steph is Flying High Thanks to an RGS Bursary ONA Magazine catches up with former bursary holder Steph Burn (04-06) – first featured in Issue 76 (Summer 2009) – on hard work, dedication and realising her dream of becoming a qualified pilot. Above: Steph takes time out in the cargo hold of her aircraft


ONA – Old Novocastrians Association Magazine Summer 2017


t is lunch time and I’m sat in the lobby of an airport hotel with a paper and a tea. I’ve been sat here since 10am having already done a seven hour shift this morning. I’m from Gateshead; after my parents’ divorce, where my father left and never came back my sister and I were raised in a single parent family. My mum did an excellent job of hiding us from any financial difficulties she might have had. Her parents, my beloved grandparents, until they both died helped us all physically and financially as much as they could despite their terminal illnesses. I even lived with my grandparents for a few years and they were a fantastic inspiration to me. My mum raised me with a, ‘you can do anything you want as long as you pay for it’ attitude. Hence, from leaving school age my younger sister and I grew up working alongside, studying and saving wherever possible. My dream was to be an airline pilot. As a five-yearold, I had a look in the flight deck and realised at that age that was all I wanted to do. Next I find myself, at 16 with a great dream, lots of ambition, a part-time job and no way of knowing how to fund my dream. I learn quickly the cost of an Air Transport Pilot’s Licence is similar to the cost of a mortgage in the UK. Living in a council house with no chance of being able to apply for an unsecured funding makes that dream impossible.

today. These organisations paid my fees and helped me to feel accepted amongst an elite of wealthy young people. They encouraged me to persevere with my aim of being a pilot, regardless of my background or financial situation.

Steph taking a selfie from the flightdeck at 18,000 feet!

I worked my socks off, working around school doing two (and often three) jobs at a time, 78 hours a week, every week, for years. I researched everything I could about the industry, applied for every relevant job, every scholarship and made friends that might help me. At the age of 21, and with financial help from The General Electric Foundation, I paid for my own Private Pilot’s Licence and paid to keep it up-to-date; as much as it nearly killed me. I also paid to learn how to fly aerobatics with a world champion and to compete nationally. My grandparents and mum had taught me the only way I might make it was to persevere no matter what. So, in addition to ‘the normal’, I volunteered at airfields, flew unusual aircraft, got in contact with aircraft owners and taught myself everything there was to know about general aviation. Three years ago at the age of 26, I was chosen by my current employer, to be sponsored through a full Air Transport Pilot Licence. This morning for work, I reported in at 3.20am to fly a British Aerospace 22-tonne, turbo-propeller ATP to Jersey and Guernsey, to deliver the morning post. The view was fantastic, the captain was most helpful, and I really was sat in a cruise at 18,000 feet over London pinching myself and thinking, ‘This is the best job’. There are very few women flying and I hear fewer ‘northerners’ on the radio, so I know I am in a minority. The other identical company aircraft flying a similar route also had a female colleague who is a captain flying with a male first officer. Without the RGS bursary scheme, The Ogden Trust, The General Electric Foundation, The West Atlantic Cadet Scheme and the love and support from my mum and sister I wouldn’t be where I am


For the first time in my life I had been awarded huge financial gifts, and only realised after receiving them how much more that meant to me. It was a fantastic feeling to know that there were people other than my family who were rooting for me to do well. They believed in me enough to pay, ask for updates on my progress and understood that even on the hardest days (on the brink of giving up during my A Levels), that there had been, and would be, others in my exact situation – from the highest academically achieving pupil in a state school to the lowest in an independent school (because the gap was so extreme), and that, in itself, was no reason to give up at the first hurdle. After winning an iPad, I wrote a blog, which made me think about how I could get the job I really wanted. That in turn gave me the last drop of encouragement I needed to continue to be proactive in getting the job. One day I hope I can give back the money and support to a deserving young person. I continue to volunteer in local schools, helping with careers advice, and to encourage young people, young women and in particular, those from single parent families to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) subjects. I have received excellent feedback from the schools for which I am thrilled to bits. I just want to share my story with you and inform you that, as long as I am able, I will continue to volunteer as a role model for young women who want to get into high achieving and/or male dominated work places. Never give up on your dream: it will be worth it!

Fying to Jersey and Guernsey: the British Aerospace turbo-propeller ATP flown by Steph

Obituaries Robert EO Waddell (37-45) Born 21 November 1927, died 22 September 2016, aged 88

public house in Riding Mill. Whilst leaving, he missed his footing going down a step causing him to fall. He was particularly pleased to have instinctively kept his arms into his sides, picking himself up none the worse, “Just like parachuting onto Salisbury Plain! Most people would have put out their arms to break their fall and broken a wrist or finger,” he told us – the fact that his head had just missed a large stone urn at the bottom of the steps was irrelevant! Robert (centre), aged 11 at Evacuation Day,

He was de-mobilized in 1947 but, having experienced military life, Born in Glasgow on 21 November he then joined the Territorial Army 1927, Robert’s early years were and, on 19 November 1948, was spent in Paisley before his parents commissioned into 43 Royal Tank and older brother, Michael moved Regiment where he also pursued his to Corbridge. passion for boxing and became TA Light Middleweight Champion in Educated at the RGS, he was an 1952. The Regiment converted back active member of both the rugby and to an Infantry Battalion in 1956 as 6th boxing teams achieving Colours in City Battalion Royal Northumberland both sports. With the onset of war, Fusiliers with their HQ at St George’s the school was evacuated to Penrith. Drill Hall (now demolished) next to Due to petrol rationing and a general the City Baths. He was promoted shortage of transport, Robert and to Colonel in 1964 and became Michael used to cycle home to Commanding Officer in 1965. One Corbridge on weekends and at the of his fellow officers described him start of the holidays. as, ‘one of the most magnificent men I was lucky enough to meet in the After leaving school Robert joined the Territorial Army.’ army, completing his officer training in Deolali in India and on 10 November Robert went to Durham University 1946 he was commissioned as a where he studied Dental Surgery 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and met Fiona Margaret McCallum and was deployed to Palestine with (his future wife), who was studying 159 Para Light Regiment (airborne Medicine. He played rugby, squash, Artillery – Pegasus) where he served and a lot of golf and was always in Quetta under command 6th extremely competitive. Airborne Brigade. He graduated from Durham on His parachute training never left 2 July 1954 as a Bachelor of Dental him and it came to the fore only last Surgery and married Fiona on summer when he had lunch with 4 October 1958 and moved to friends at the Duke of Wellington Corbridge where he set up as a

dental surgeon for almost 35 years. He was actively involved in politics throughout his life and held parties at home with politicians as guest speakers. He stood for Tynedale District Council Elections in 1973 and as perspective parliamentary candidate for the Referendum Party in 1997. He was also an incredibly kind man; as a friend wrote after he’d died, ‘He didn’t have an ounce of arrogance or self-importance about him and he must have made so many people’s lives better’.

1 September 1939


ONA – Old Novocastrians Association Magazine Summer 2017

He had an enforced sabbatical from dentistry due to ill-health and taught himself picture framing which he did meticulously; he was good at anything he turned his hand to. After retiring, he learnt to make and repair clocks – he attended courses, set up his own clock workshop in the house and was a member of the Royal Horological Society. Robert remained optimistic and full of life right until the very end and was devoted to his dear Border Terrier, Annie. Happily – and by total coincidence – the three of us all saw him together the night before he died at home, as he would have wanted. We had a family funeral on 4 October 2016. He was laid to rest next to our mother in Corbridge and by total coincidence it happened to be their 58th wedding anniversary. By Robert’s children, Adrian, Charles and Vanessa Correction (Issue 99) Page 17. We incorrectly stated that Robert died on 23 September 2016.

Obituaries Warren Barnett (81-82) Born 17 March 1964, died 2 June 2016, aged 52

I did the honours, being casual and offhand with all, as I knew then that over-enthusiasm would be regarded with great suspicion. Warren, as much to humour me, played along, and within a week he was completely accepted and had his own circle, subtly different to all others but allied to all. The truth was, he would have ended up playing bridge with the Lord Lieutenant, assessing the merits of the head of Classics and criticising his port within a month anyway.

He had steel though. I’ve seldom met tougher men than Warren. He was defined by two of the best words we can describe a man by – passion and standards. When organising a trip to Amsterdam for the Tynedale U17s rugby team, and being confronted with the kind of sullen opposition only an adolescent can summon, Warren defeated all opposition with the immortal and credible threat, “I’ll leave you here; you’ll be refugees”. Don Corleone could not have delivered it with the same gravitas, and it worked, We saw proof of that the day we played the teenagers behaved. Warren rugby in Gateshead. I had fought a futile showed this toughness throughout his campaign in order to play football at the life, sparring with planners, councils and RGS, despite being in the First XV. suppliers all to ensure that the people I first saw Warren when a teacher, The travelling to isolated mill towns in he served – the real people who lived in (whose name escapes me), introduced Yorkshire, like Leeds and Bradford; and the real homes he designed – got the him to me as a, “New boy” and asked British Public School Work Camps like best possible outcome. me to show him around the school. St. Bees and Ampleforth on a Saturday ‘New boy’ thought I; this feller looks like cramped a man’s style somewhat. That, He liked his life; he loved a bevy, he’s been shaving since he was 11! together with A Level homework made good food, expansive conversation, Indeed Warren carried an air of maturity weekends dutiful and academic – cars, art, and a project that came and experience; his ability to wait a instead of two nights gigging and together in the end. If you talked to him second before talking sense (unlike boozing on Sunday afternoon with the though, you’d never see the tension, me now and then) distinguished him East Side Torpedoes! Rather than the stress, the hours of work and the from the pack of teenagers that being released to football though, I was pain of the ankylosing spondylitis that surrounded us. He was, even then, sent to the 3rd XV where we had a hurt him and may even have contributed a man amongst boys. wonderful time, playing local teams to the accident that killed him. Instead, who all wanted a piece of us ‘posh kids’. you’d see a strong man smile, laugh, At the time, scholarly responsibility and Warren loved rugby, he liked playing the then discuss the state of the world and I were not natural companions. Having game but he loved the atmosphere of how he was going to help it. And he a mental age of nine and a half, the club, the trip away, the banter and its would have. possessing a motorbike – which on happy clash of violence and affability. ceremonial occasions was ridden Mischief too; when ‘Henners’ (a great Warren was always that little bit ahead, through the school – and living at a time man) was parking the mini-bus; the he would have made a magnificent when Johnny Rotten had far more moral opposition teacher naturally assumed politician (Labour) as he was always authority than any politician (I’m still that Warren was the designated a leader with the inspirational ability to correct about that one) did not make teacher and representative of the change the world for good. He and his me an individual whom teachers would mighty Newcastle RGS 3rd XV; wife Claire (whom he met at Central normally consult on matters of strategic Warren, to our delight played along, Newcastle High School) brought up educational development. So, the showing his natural bohemian artistic their boys, Hector (08-15) and Milo novelty (for me) of responsibility in anarchism dressed up in a tweed (06-13), to be people with hearts and introducing Warren to the lads gave me jacket as he discussed the term ahead brains; individuals, active citizens, every reason possible to cooperate – and the problems with teaching in people who questioned things. I as I suspect they knew I would all along. the 80s. remember him laughing over post-work


William ‘Bill’ Anthony Bell (52-55) Born 2 November 1935, died 11 April 2017, aged 81

beers as he described the latest cataclysmic disaster that had unfolded in a subsequently wrecked kitchen, and failed to convince me that he had any commitment to future parental discipline. I remember his irreverence as he described the methodology of successful weaponised vehicular pheasant destruction on country roads (he loved his cars – he used to drive us about in his Triumph Stag at the age of 17 when such wonders seemed normal), or the comparison of the costs of hotel accommodation in town versus the taxi fare to Humshaugh as we pretended we were still capable of such riotous behaviour. I remember his forgiveness when I caused scandal at his local (The Crown, I think) when I drunkenly moved furniture around the bedroom after my wife had offended against Northumbrian lore by using nail varnish at the bar. I remember visiting his magnificent office in Newcastle’s Plummer Tower as he regaled me with tales of watching representatives of the lumpen proletariat pass between the ‘Clap Clinic’ and the ‘Methadone Clinic’ and the types of hen party that could be seen and categorised in the Ware Rooms from his masonic balcony. I remember thinking that I hadn’t seen

him for a while and consoling myself that we’d have a drink soon, and then I remember that day last May, when his sister called me on holiday to tell me he’d been in an accident and wouldn’t, couldn’t, recover…

Malcolm F Cheyne (58-64) born 1945, died 10 February 2017, aged 71.

Matthew Piet Janes (86-91) born 1973, died 19 January 2017, aged 43.

Peter Richard Donkin (60-67) born 1949, died 16 November 2016, aged 67.

I remember feeling sorry for his brother-in-law Mark who gave the best possible eulogy at his funeral trying as well as it could be done to sum up this great, sophisticated intellectual, bohemian maverick. Warren defied all categorisation and it takes far greater talent than mine to sum him up in mere words. I remember holding the rope that lowered him down into his grave and hoping he was alright, then turning round and seeing his devastated wife and sons and his inconsolable father. Many of the lads I introduced him to that first day at RGS were also there, three of them helping me with his coffin. Maybe that shows the worth of this great man, but his legacy is friendship, love and care for his people. Take care mate. By Billy Corcoran (75-82)

Richard Geoffrey Smith (57-63) born 1946, died 17 February 2015, aged 69.

Brian Hepple (48-56) born 1937, died 14 April 2017, aged 79.

Wing Commander George ‘Trevor’ Thain (29-34) born 1918, died 30 December 2016, aged 98.

Keith Eckford Hulse (49-51) born 1934, died 22 August 2016, aged 81.

Robert Thomson (32-39) born 1921, died 6 May 2017, aged 96.


ONA – Old Novocastrians Association Magazine Summer 2017

‘Bill’, as he was known to his contemporaries, was a pupil at the RGS from 1952-55. He was a Prefect who formed the Brewery & Industrial Plant Visitors’ Association (The Novocastrian, July 1954). He also rowed for the school in the Tyne Cup Challenge 1954. This was described on the programme as a, ‘Maiden fouroared race of about half a mile in clinker-built boats.’ His interest in rowing boats and sailing stayed with him for the rest of his life. After qualifying at Herriot Watt, Edinburgh in Industrial Chemistry his career in the brewing industry led to him working in various breweries in Hartlepool, Burton-on-Trent, Barbados, Sri Lanka, Germany, Scandinavia, setting up a micro-brewery in the Eden Valley, Nigeria and the London area. He died in Sri Lanka of cancer after a period of ill-health. He is survived by his second wife Audrey, sister Vivienne, children Sarah and Thomas (of his previous marriage to Geraldine) and grand-daughter Laura. His daughter Alison predeceased him in 1991. By Sarah Daniel

ONA Diary dates 92nd Annual ONA Dinner

RGS Day Saturday 1 July 2017, RGS, Newcastle upon Tyne

As usual, we issue a warm invitation to all ONs and their families to visit us on RGS Day, when we celebrate everything that is good and fine about the RGS and its students. My ‘State of the RGS’ address will take place in the Main Hall at 10.30am, after which refreshments will be available in the marquee. There will be various exhibitions and musical performances, and the Junior School will, as usual, be holding its Summer Fair. If you fancy some larger scale entertainment, at 1.30pm there will be a performance of the ever-popular musical, Oliver!, in The Miller Theatre: it’s directed by Tim Clark, who retires this term and will also take the pivotal role of Fagin. Please contact Jill Graham for tickets (, as it is likely to be a sell-out. Check the school website for the detailed programme nearer the event. Bernard Trafford, Headmaster

Friday 13 October 2017, RGS, Newcastle upon Tyne

RGS Community Choir The RGS Community Choir is looking for new members following on from their third successful year. The choir meets every Thursday (term time only) from 6.30pm until 8pm in the RGS Performing Arts Centre. There is no cost involved to participate and members will receive all vocal scores free. Potential singers can join the choir in September. For more information, please contact Zlatan Fazlic´ (Head of Performing Arts and Director of Music) at or choir secretary

ONA Merchandise To order from our range of merchandise, please send a cheque payable to ONA, confirming your delivery address and contact details. For further details please email:

Limited Edition Prints


480x330mm unframed £60 or 2 for £100

100% double thickness wool £35



T Bar, enamel gilt plated, school crest £29

100% cotton £9

Bow Tie 100% pure silk, self-tie and ready made options available £29

Tie 100% pure silk, slip-stitched, fully lined £29 Polyester ties are also available.

RGS ONA Issue 100  
RGS ONA Issue 100