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Farnborough Grammar School

Prospect Avenue, Farnborough, Hampshire

Telephone : Farnborough 539

Colin Richard Wilson - Obituary

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Mr. C. R. Wilson, physics teacher, died on 7th September, 2015 in Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice.  He had been suffering from cancer.

Mr. Wilson arrived at Farnborough in 1957, having gained an Oxford degree and served in the Royal Navy as in instructor. He taught physics and led the signals section in the cadet force. He was a sportsman, having captained his college in tennis, and was put in charge of the under 14s football team at the school.

His musical interests, though, were called upon more suddenly than he would have anticipated, as on the last day of his first term Beeb Barrett failed to turn up, and the junior choir, poised to sing several items, was leaderless. Colin Wilson knew a couple of the pieces they’d rehearsed (one of which was “The Shepherds’ Farewell” from Berlioz’s “ L’enfance du Christ”) so he appeared on the stage and the choir performed. Beeb was never seen again at the school and so Colin became ipso facto the music department for a couple of terms until the arrival of Mr. Lickfold. I remember Prod touring the classrooms to persuade boys to join the choirs, saying “Mr Wilson wants to go for more tuneful music”, which I think included sea shanties.

From autumn 1958 onwards the school had “proper” music teachers, as Jerry Lee Lickfold was followed by Dennis Owen and then Peter Mound, but Colin was never far from the action, playing for the weekly hymn practices as well as accompanying the choirs at concerts and festivals, or singing leading roles in his powerful bass voice. He also arranged and took part in singing quartets at Christmas time with other masters, including Reg Smith whom Colin introduced as a “promising newcomer”. I remember a spoof Twelve Days of Christmas, complete with “trois poulets francais”, which ended with the shooting of a bird.

Musical collaboration with the High School in Aldershot bore particular fruit for Colin, who married the music teacher there, Julia Beeken. They celebrated their Golden Wedding a few years ago.

Colin took over the head of department post when Reg retired, and stayed on when the Grammar School became the Sixth Form College. By the time he left in 1976 he’d become a Senior Tutor. He then went on to be Vice Principal in the Sixth Form College in Reigate.

As if physics, signals, sport and music at school weren’t enough to keep him busy, Colin took a very active part in musical activities in Aldershot, being part of the Odd Fellows male voice quartet and choir, with the founder Geoffrey Waller. He remained as conductor and musical director of the choir, now known as the Rushmoor Odd Fellows Male Voice Choir, for 20 years, handing over in 2001 to Steve Petch, a former Grammar School pupil. He continued to sing with the London Welsh Male Voice Choir, attending weekly rehearsals in London up until quite recently, despite increasing problems with mobility and partial deafness.

I got to know Colin again in the past five years or so through activities at St Michael’s Church in Aldershot, where he and Julia have been committed members for a long time. It was strange at first to talk with him as a friend rather than as “that boy in the form who doesn’t really enjoy science”, but I have been touched by his kindness and concern, especially at times when I’ve had health problems of my own. It was also fascinating to hear his beautiful resonant voice with its distinctive Welsh accent from Merthyr Tydfil reading lessons in church or taking part in group discussions.

As Julia herself said the other day, he was a man of many parts, and lived life to the full for as long as possible.

John Eyers, (F.G.S. 1957-1964)
September 2015

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