A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
A Service of Thanksgiving in the College Chapel – Saturday 24th March 2001
Address by Brian Torode
‘The gifts he gave were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and some teachers.’
What a short yet closely related list of vocations – callings to specialist types of work – works which God, through Christ, is involved, and works which he invites men and women to be involved in too. Each of us is responsible for a small corner of the world, where it is up to us, through our positive response to that call, to make felt the influence of all those many blessings which God has entrusted to us, and to help others to explore, identify and use the gifts which he has given to them.
When I was a young teenager, one of my most common whinges, in company of many of my contemporaries, was that old people were always going on and on about the past, those good old days, and I know that many of us here today, though by no means old, have fallen into this category. And why not? Forty years ago, we first came together, most of us in our late teens or early twenties; most of us strangers both to one another and to the town where we were to spend most of the next three years of our lives. And if we had known then what we know now, would we still have followed the same path? I think I probably would. And what of Cheltenham all those years ago? Cheltenham in the sixties – pints in the Fleece – coffees in the Plough – Saturday mornings at Brunners, or for the more wealthy, Maison Kuntz – weekday afternoons at the Cadena. Yes, there was no licensed bar in college in those days!
We were the first of the three-year course. Was it because we needed an extra year to fit it all in or was it because we were the crème de la crème and the extra year was needed to enable us to share our talents with all around us? But we were lucky with that extra year, for never before had travel abroad formed part of the expected syllabus followed at this college – field trips to France, the Rhine and the Moselle, as well as many places in this country too. There was also more freedom of movement within the town, encouraging us to be seen and for us to see the environment in which we lived – and being treated less like sixth formers and more like undergraduates. Freedom to explore freedom – freedom to explore learning and freedom to explore relationships and oneself – opportunities to develop and mature as adults with responsibilities away from our domestic surroundings and away from supervision. They were exciting and challenging days in more ways than one.
The term when we arrived was the wettest that Cheltenham had known since 1886. It was also the term in which Cheltenham’s Public Library hit the headlines for openly displaying on its shelves copies of Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ – and unexpurgated copies at that! 1961 was a period of growth in the number of new modern school buildings in the town and county and some of us were fortunate to benefit from doing a teaching practice there, provided that Marchant’s coaches arrived on time and we were able to complete the journey. 1961 was also the year at St. Mary’s moved out of their hall and St. Paul’s took it over, renaming it Shaftesbury Hall. 1962 was the coldest winter since 1890 and, in 1963, the Daffodil Cinema, where many a love match was ignited, closed its doors for good. And, as we look around the college site today, my how much it has changed – new buildings, conversions, extensions. Much that was so familiar has now adopted a new image … or is no more. What ever happened to Rosehill where so many of us spent our first year with John Priestly as warden and the Priory and Marble Halls and the Dining Room with its highly polished oak tables, its high table tradition and, oh yes, all those gallons on bromide adulterated tea?
I know that many of you were fearful of coming today, facing not only the material changes to this environment but also worrying about whether we, as people, would have changed. Some of us, whose pathways may not have crossed since college, carry memories of fellow students when they did not have one grey hair on their heads let alone false teeth, bald patches, or a pot bellies. Most of us dislike change and, as we get older, revisiting places like dear old St. Paul’s brings back so many memories, memories of what we were like those forty years ago, how we behaved, whom we befriended. A wealth of past experiences come crowding into the mind, which some people will find disturbing and unsettling. I do hope that today those anxieties will have been dispelled and those experiences will just be remembered as being part of what has brought us together, which gives us something in common even after all those years.
St. Paul’s is our alma mater and it gave birth to us as teachers and then nourished and formed us to go out into the world to exercise those many gifts and talents entrusted to us by God, our creator. These talents equipped us, whether we remained as teachers or not, to encourage and draw out those who have been committed to our charge, as pupils or in some other way, to bring out the best that they could do, to help them to value and celebrate themselves and to strive for and grasp the opportunities with which they have been blessed – and more. We may have taught future scientists, teachers, financiers, priests, architects, doctors, sportspersons, postmen, shop assistants and even politicians. It is a sobering thought that wherever those pupils of ours are today, whether it is somewhere in the European Community, far-flung continents or middle eastern states – wherever they are – we are there too, in the education, encouragement and guidance we have given to them. Through our pupils we have made our contribution to society – perhaps some more successfully than others. If each of us has taught for thirty-five years then we will have influenced about 1250 children – that is quite some contribution to the world. As we thank God today for the opportunities that we have been given to make this contribution let us also thank him for all that has rubbed off on us. Let us be thankful for all those who have helped us to achieve our goals as teachers, those who have introduced to us so many skills, talents and opportunities, those who sought to help us realise our potential – Prinny Bradby, John Priestly, Morris Pick, Gordon Osborne, Paul Dyke, Buster Riley, Ron West, Mr. Winkless, Ian Thompson of 52 Prestbury Road or Bill Dreghorne the ‘Galloping Geographer’.
Our teaching lives may be over or nearing their final term but it is reassuring to know, to hope and to pray that our influence for good will bear abundant fruit in the years to come. As we look around this chapel today it is appropriate to think that although the singing is not as good as it was in George Budge’s day, it was here that we, the Year of 1960 – 1963, all began our studies together. It was here that we began to “Disce ut doceas” (learn in order to teach).