St Peter’s School staff 1968 – 2002
Died 6 March 2015
Trying to write a suitable obituary for Dick is not the simplest of tasks as he had fingers in so many pies. The following are edited excerpts from the wonderful eulogy given by friends and colleagues at the service of thanksgiving held in the chapel at St Peters on Monday 30th March. I very much hope that the following conveys the wonderful spirit that was present in Chapel on that day.
Though Dick would occasionally claim he was brought up with the Beatles and could put on a Scouse accent with the best, he was born on the Wirral. For the first 4 years of Dick’s life his father was away on bomb disposal duty; despite this his father Eric (always known as Will) became Dick’s closest friend and mentor.
Dick’s mother taught him at Prep School where – so he said – he only once failed to refer to her as Mrs Hubbard – when he cycled at speed into a lamppost and the lamppost won. He was told off by Mrs H, first, for carelessness, damaging his uniform and his face and, second, for calling her ‘Mum’ in School.
Dick’s paternal grandfather owned a flourishing catering business on Merseyside. When he died, Dick’s parents asked him whether he would like eventually to take over the business. Dick – then aged just 14 - said ‘No’: he wanted to be a teacher – and the rest is history. Though he did occasionally look up Greggs share prices and compare the pay and bonuses of the Directors with a Schoolmaster’s salary!
After School, Dick took a year out before University to teach at a boarding school in deepest Wales. It was there – to put distance between himself and the older pupils who were of his age – he acquired his 60 a day Senior Service habit – a habit that persisted into his early 30s when he gave up smoking and “invested” the money he thought he would save in a TV, Landrover and minivan!!
I first met Dick at Manchester University in 1961 where a group of six spent three years together in Halls. Dick was the catalyst because he was the eldest by a whole year, had a year’s teaching experience and was therefore – supposedly – much the most mature in our group, and he had a car – a green mini.
Dick and I argued constantly about the relative merits of rugby (him) and hockey (me) and I was later cheered and vindicated to learn of his conversion to hockey and of his infinite joy at having some plastic grass named after him!
We left University in 1964 and went our separate ways but always kept in touch. Dick never changed physically and always had the same calmness, sense of humour and reliability. It was as if there were never any gaps in our friendship. I bet he was a great House Master. Dick was never a “passing friend”. He and Jen have always been there. He will never “Go” in my mind.
Chris Davis, a close friend from university
Dick was one of the first people I met when I arrived at St. Peter’s in 1970. I was immediately struck by his kindness, helpfulness and enthusiasm. I have many fond memories of the times spent with him. Here are but a few.
In the late 1970s I moved close to where Dick and Jen lived. At that time I had a yellow MG Midget. It was a bit like a motorised roller skate: totally unreliable and impractical, but seemed like a good idea at the time. One particularly wet winter the River Derwent burst its banks and I was stranded on the far side on the bridge. I dutifully phoned School to tell them of my plight; then settled down to a leisurely breakfast and the prospect of a lazy day off. About ten minutes later there was a knock at the door and there stood Dick with a smile on his face: “Good morning dear chap. I’ve come to take you to School!” He had driven through the flood in his beloved Landrover.
Later on we decided to car share and I picked Dick up one frosty morning to do the commute. Dick was quite a big man and to see him getting in and out of the MG was something to behold. As we approached the junction in Skipwith, I lost control of the car on the ice and pirouetted some way down the road. I was badly shaken. A calm voice came from the passenger seat: ‘Do you think you might try that again, but this time without showing off’. The rest of the journey was made as if nothing had happened.
Dick and I shared many experiences together both in and out of School. On one occasion we were on the North Yorkshire Moors with a group of boys doing their Duke of Edinburgh award. On the first night, at about 1am, there was a mighty row going on outside the tents and I got up to find a Girl Guide Leader fetchingly dressed in a cagoule, dressing gown and wellies haranguing Dick. Apparently, some of our boys had discovered a Girl Guide camp down the valley and had decided to make a nocturnal foray!
Dick didn’t often lose his cool, but that night he had a distinct sense of humour failure and proceeded to get all the boys up and out of their tents. One guilty party was easy to spot as he was bleeding profusely from a number of wounds. Whilst making his escape from the Guide camp, he had run into a barbed wire fence. Dick, with a barely suppressed smile, applied neat iodine to the youth’s wounds with spectacular, extremely vocal results. We then took him to Scarborough hospital; by this time it was about 3am and whilst the youth was being repaired by the medics, I went in search of tea, which I duly found and returned to the waiting room. Dick was dozing in a chair when I handed him his tea: “I don’t wish to seem ungrateful, but I suppose a large Scotch and a bacon sandwich is out of the question?”
Dick was a gentle man, a caring man, a very good friend and I will miss him.
“I hope I haven’t done too much harm,” these words were said by the actor Paul Eddington some years ago when asked what he would like his epitaph to be. Dick quoted these words to me a few weeks ago and clearly liked the thought that lay behind them.
Dick’s life can be simply described as ‘serving others’. For 32 years he was a schoolmaster at St Peter’s and, although that word sounds a little old-fashioned today, it conveys the idea of a total commitment to the education of young people in the broadest sense. There was hardly an aspect of school life in which Dick was not involved. As Head of Careers, Dick built up an enthusiastic, modern and dynamic department into one of the most important in the school; while as Housemaster of Queen’s, Dick walked that tight-rope between friendliness and support on the one hand with firmness on the other. For several years Dick was the Senior Common Room Secretary, a difficult role sandwiched between management and his colleagues - a role he carried out with wisdom and sound judgment. He welcomed and nurtured new members of staff, while supporting longer serving colleagues admirably.
I shall especially remember the trips we took to the First World War Battlefields with fourth formers and adults over the years. We must have done over fifteen of these trips. Dick’s understanding and interest in the history of this period was remarkable and he imparted that knowledge with enthusiasm and humanity.
But there was so much more during his time at St Peter’s: hockey must take pride of place but rugby and rowing feature too. Then there was his involvement in school plays as a joint producer and technical director. The production of “Oh What a Lovely War” stands out as one of the most memorable productions in my time at St Peter’s.
A tribute from the cast of “Kiss me Kate” recorded; “The producer, Mr Hubbard, is well-known throughout the theatrical world as a really good egg. He keeps the quality of his own on-stage abilities a closely guarded secret, but as a master ventriloquist he has enticed some amazing performances from a load of dummies.” Dick was a housemaster at the time of the first intake of girls and went out of his way to help the girls integrate and develop the confidence they needed to fulfil their potential.
Always up for a party; Dick was in charge of the May Ball to celebrate the 1350th anniversary of the founding of St Peter’s, issuing instructions to all and sundry, including the Head Master at the time who meekly did as Dick asked.
I should also mention that somewhere in all this in his spare time Dick managed to teach Physics. Dick’s strengths were his open, friendly and smiling nature. He was a diplomatic person whose personal skills were his greatest asset. People instinctively liked and trusted him. He was always supportive and non-judgemental. Even now I find it difficult to remember him without a smile on his face. Dick’s enjoyment of life came across in everything he did. The fortitude, stoicism and humour in bleak moments that he showed throughout his illness were remarkable. For Dick life was always about other people, never himself and this was true even in the darkest moments of his illness. The last time I saw him was on the Sunday before he died. Jen was at his bedside holding his hand, the Six Nations was on the Television and he was drinking a lager. He seemed at peace with the world.
Dick’s spirit will always be with us. His light will always shine for us.
Dick was a founder member, 36 years ago, of York Vikings Rotary Club. Dick was Viking’s Sergeant at Arms for many years – that is to say he had to dress up and speak in a loud voice at formal functions (and frequently compared it to teaching Set 3). He took part with enthusiasm in all Rotary activities, but for years declined invitations to become Club President (“it’s really not me”). A couple of years ago he relented and agreed to become President Elect. Once he had accepted the invitation, he looked forward with pleasure and anticipation to his Presidential year and in particular the planned visit to the German Club with which York Vikings is twinned. His illness put paid both to the Presidency and the visit. However, he thoroughly enjoyed entertaining the German Club at his home when they last visited York – an excuse for another party.
Leukaemia killed Dick’s Father which led to his involvement with York Against Cancer where he became Chair of the Education Committee, a job he relished (ever the teacher!) and included visiting diverse groups from primary school children to Working Men’s Clubs to raise awareness of the need for prevention and early diagnosis of the disease.
Not for Dick a quiet life following his retirement. He was closely involved with Askham Grange Prison. The Independent Monitoring Board and Prison Staff have sent this tribute:
“Dick served as a member of the IMB at Askham Grange Women’s Prison for nearly 11 years and was Chair of the Board for three of them. Whenever Dick’s name comes up in conversation the same words are used to describe him: Gentleman, considerate, kind, caring, solid, thoughtful and fair. Dick cared passionately about Askham Grange, the women in his care and the staff that made Askham work so well. He was much loved and respected by the prison staff and residents. He had such an engaging personality and had the ability to communicate to all levels of society in a way that made every individual feel comfortable and at ease.
Most Christmas Days during Dick’s time on the IMB he spent at the prison, his last Christmas Rota Duty was in 2011. He was there in the morning with home-made mince pies for all of the staff on duty and insisted on staying to help serve the residents their Christmas meal. He served the vegetables with his usual warm and cheery manner and wished all of the girls as happy a Christmas as they could wish for although separated from their loved ones, despite him being there himself away from his own family. When lunch was served he would have been happy to drift out without a fuss had we not known it was his last Christmas at Askham Grange. However Graham Holgate was not going to let that moment pass and announced to all of the dining room that this was his last ever Christmas visit and told of Dick’s service here, there wasn’t a dry eye in the House when all of the residents whooped, cheered and clapped. A sight rarely seen in prison!
Dick was humble in his short thank you as if to say “Ah, it was nothing”.
We know it was much more than that!!”
The tributes to Dick from colleagues in these organisations have been many and generous. For Dick’s part, he always said he was humbled by the dedication and selflessness of the colleagues he met. He was also acutely aware that a different toss of the dice might have meant that he was the one needing the help and support. ‘There but for the Grace of God....’ he often used to say.
Jen has received many tributes to Dick; the same phrases occurring over and over again: steadfast, smart, funny and engaging; kind and considerate; a gentleman; a gentle man; generous with his time for everyone; inspirational. He touched many lives, an amazing and remarkable man.
But he wasn’t a saint, unless stubbornness is a saintly characteristic. Ask anyone who ever tried to get him to change his mind once he had made it up. And he was not always good at sharing his fears and anxieties, even with those he loved most.
Indeed it was his original intention not to have any funeral service at all! However he relented;
Over the last 18 months I have received such help, support, friendship and indeed love from countless people, I have been overwhelmed and humbled and I have realised how selfish I have been with my funeral arrangements..... I shall leave it in the hands of my wife, Jen, who will know what to do, especially with the Wake!
His only three stipulations being;
There should be some decent Champagne
It should be bought sale or return from Majestic ‘because they provide the glasses and wash them up’, and
The refreshments should be provided at School to avoid having to pay corkage.
Dick made no bones about his love of Fizz. It had nothing to do with show or fashion but stemmed from his Father’s life long conviction that it cuts through the grease of fish and chips better than vinegar, and over the years many have come to agree.
Dick’s resilience shone through many times during the last two years not least in January when he visited his former home at Sutton, which he knew would be for the last time. The visit was ostensibly to collect paperwork, but was really to collect his little black bomber – his new Mini Cooper S – which he was desperate to have at North Duffield. On the way back, thinking it must have been hard for him to leave, Jen asked whether the visit had made him sad. ‘Only a little bit, but not really’ he said ‘because we are going home’.
From time to time, Dick took Chapel here at St Peter’s. Some of you may recall his producing a live kitten to the accompaniment of Louis Armstrong singing ‘What a wonderful world.’ No kitten today, but if Dick were here he would say something like: “If anyone wants to remember me, you can do it best by making the most of this wonderful world.” And he would remind us that British Summertime and light evenings have just arrived to lift the spirits; and he would say – just get on with it.
His was a faith which was expressed most fully through his work for the welfare and the flourishing of others, both in his professional life as a schoolmaster, and in his rich life beyond his professional career
Over the last few months, Dick made clear on a number of occasions that there was one piece of music which he wished to be played at the end of his thanksgiving service. He was referring to a recording of Gracie Fields singing ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.’ For a period I was not quite sure whether Dick was serious about this – or whether it was merely an idea which amused him. The last time I saw him, I asked him – and was left in no doubt that that was indeed what he wanted. He had chosen it for Jen’s mother’s funeral; it went down well then, and he had decided that it would do very nicely for him. Bunyan spoke about trumpets sounding on the other side. I rather think that, today, there will be laughter sounding on the other side.
Dick would, I think, share the sentiments behind the remark about a life lived so fully and so generously: ‘don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened’ – and thank God for it.