Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

In The Spotlight > In The Spotlight > In The Spotlight: Richard Claridge

In The Spotlight: Richard Claridge

Richard Claridge (1953 - 61; Staff 1967 - 2000)
Richard Claridge (1953 - 61; Staff 1967 - 2000)

What did you do before you worked at BMS? 

After graduating from Oxford in 1964 and completing a teaching qualification at the London Institute of Education, I taught English for two years in Hertfordshire. I then came back to BMS where Peter Hetherington, my inspirational sixth-form teacher, had become Head of Department.  

Tell us about what you do now? Has your time at school influenced your life today? 

I have been retired since 2000.  I live in a seaside village in West Sussex and enjoy kayaking off the local beach (in benign conditions). I explore the South Downs on my mountain bike (electrically assisted) and I still enjoy reading, although remembering the plot of a novel from day to day is problematic. I have recently joined an athletic club, the sprint section! The influence of my schooldays at BMS is still strong: I loved sport and am particularly indebted to a marvellous athletics coach, the legendary PJ King. My love of literature was nurtured at school, led directly to my career as a teacher, and has been a life-long pleasure. 

Tell us about your time at BMS. Do you have any special memories you would like to share? 

I entered BMS on a free place via the 11+ in 1953, and left in 1961.  I was therefore in the JET era (Rev JE Taylor’s autocratic headmastership) and survived it by conforming to its rigorous expectations, becoming (to my retrospective embarrassment) a pillar of the establishment as Head of School. Sport was an essential part of the BMS ethos, and having inherited sporting genes from my mother I was fully involved in team games, which carried status as the award of ‘colours’ entitled one to parade in a braided blazer and a distinctive tie. 

When I returned to teach at BMS, the JET age was over and the humane, liberal administration of Brian Kemball-Cook had succeeded it. However, the transition was difficult as older staff felt insecure now that the rigid discipline of the previous regime had relaxed: general caning by staff was stopped. The late 60’s was a turbulent time in BMS, and in society generally – the throes of ‘the permissive age’! 

Brian Kemball-Cook’s great achievement was to lead the school to new buildings on Manton Heights in 1974, but the school’s future was in doubt as the Local Authority was establishing comprehensive schools which were not compatible with 11+ selection. Eventually, the decision was made that BMS would become an independent fee-paying school. I regretted this, fearing that the character of BMS would change to a moneyed enclave of the middle class. The danger of this was recognised by Brian Kemball-Cook’s successor, Peter Squire, whose understated style of efficient administration discouraged any sniff of elitism or pretentiousness. Ironic understatement, the pin-pricking of pomposity, are characteristics of BMS humour that I like to think persist down the generations of students to this day. 

I did consider moving on from BMS, but opportunities as Housemaster of School House and Head of English (when Peter Hetherington left) kept me on board. Looking back, twenty years after retirement, I have no regrets about spending such a large part of my life at BMS because they were happy years. My closest friendships were formed there, notably Peter and Monica Hetherington, Gordon Roberts, Chris Nicholson, Andrew Wilson, David and Margaret Berry, Michael and Hannah Potter, Carol McNaught (Rogers) and I am in frequent contact with contemporaries from my own student days, and a number of my former students. 

Was there someone from your time at BMS who had an impact on you? 

I have already mentioned PJ King, and Peter Hetherington, my finest teacher and, to this day, my best guide and dearest friend. Norman Frost, who retired from the Staff in 1967, has also left a lasting impression on me. He was radical, provocative, confrontational, atheistic, widely feared and hated, but to me he was the most stimulating teacher I met in the classroom. He waged war on complacent assumptions.  

Christopher Nicholson, Head of Middle School, 1981 - 1997, is unforgettable, as countless OBMs (and their mothers) will testify: inspirational, compassionate, hilarious, totally devoted to BMS and all its “Great Lads!” 

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

Apart from the rejuvenating retirement activities mentioned above, since my wife Mo (former BMS Receptionist) died last August, I have enjoyed writing a book of memories, ‘Flotsam’, which, in part, covers my years at BMS as student and teacher. It includes chapters on JE Taylor, PJ King, Norman Frost, my most memorable Form (5F early 70s), Digger Roberts, Christopher Nicholson, Carol McNaught (Rogers), Monica Hetherington, and a memoir of my years as Housemaster of School House, 1972 – 82 with my first wife, Freda. If anybody would like a copy, please contact me via the OBM and BMS Community Network. 

What would be your advice to your younger self? 

Lighten up.  

Are there any other thoughts you would like to share? 

A happy, fulfilling life does not depend on your schooling, but a good school experience (socially, culturally, academically) is a huge benefit.  BMS can’t guarantee that benefit for all its students, but I like to think that many of them continue to find their time at the school as rewarding as I did – and if so, that they are as grateful as I am for what it gave me.

Similar stories

This website is powered by