RETIREMENT The Holly Leaf (1936)

Mr. John Head

"The older order" is changing ; for many of us Centre will always be "Centre", but it can never be quite the same place when Mr. Head is no longer at School.  It is difficult to imagine Centre without him - or indeed, Mr Head without Centre.  He has been intimately associated with the School for nearly thirty-eight years.

Few students have passed through Centre without receiving instruction from him in Mathematics : either in Matric. Or P.C. Classes at Holly Street, or in Form IV in the horse-boxes of Carver Street, the curtained caverns of Arundel Street, or the form-rooms of our present abiding-place.  Old Students have been writing to Centre this term, recalling pleasant recollections of his patient, thorough methods and untiring service.  One said that Mr. Head was a highly successful teacher of History, and it is well known that long after he ceased to serve the muse, he could never resist the recitation at machine-gun speed of the names and dates of the Sovereigns of England, and the capes and headlands of the English coasts.  His students will picture him most readily in front of a class, with a flower in his buttonhole, throwing a quick maze of intersecting labelled lines across the blackboard, or firing a rapid sequence of formulae round a wide-eyed form.

How many have changed their hurrying progress along a corridor to a decorous walk or pulled a straggling bunch of children into a long straight line, when they saw him standing at the end?  How many absentees from Assembly have skulked in vain in dark corners from whence his minatory forefinger beckoned them?

Some will picture him at "The Field".  We used to think of High Storrs Field as Mr. Head's Field, and in sober truth, its well-remembered features owed much to his untiring labours.  Every Wednesday afternoon, in Spring and Summer he had squads of boys on hands and knees diligently removing the baneful dandelion and plantain from the cricket pitch.  Every field-day he busily potted, dug, or moved, pipe in mouth and sleeves rolled up  The flower-beds in front of the Pavilion were always a fine sight when his yellow irises or roses were in bloom.  How many small boys sampled his luscious raspberries or carried home huge armfuls of rhubarb?  During the War, Mr Head was the inspiration behind the cutting up of sacred turf to grow potatoes, peas and marrows.  He enjoyed every moment of the gardening and measured his crops and experimented with sprays and manures as though he had found his vocation.  (Did he ever miss any of his prize peas when the Centre "volunteers" walked home from gundrill after midnight?  They ought to have been more careful, for they knew that there was still another side to his activities - Mr. Head was a Special Constable, addicted to prowling round the Ecclesall darkened roads.)

These are common experiences, known to all.  But there are many who will not forget his numerous, quiet, unrecorded acts of kindness and generosity.  When his sympathies were touched, no trouble was too great for him to take, and many are the recipients of his unostentatious help.  His was the kindly thought, the charitable suggestion, the unexpected gift of flowers.

For his colleagues, Mr. Head has occupied a special place.  He has represented stability in times of change, fixed standards in the fact of innovation.  He has always been to the fore when collective action was necessary, a counsellor and a careful adviser. He stood for a set of values based on common-sense, truth and rectitude.  What he recognised as right he not only advocated, but practised.  His organising gifts were considerable as he showed at every examination, Christmas Social and Sports Day, but especially when he administered the School during the recent interregnum. Of his sympathy and human understanding, the Staff knows better than the Students, and his co-operation in every good work and service for the community distinguished him.  He was quick to see the good in men and scholars, and tenacious of his opinion and judgement.  The Staff, in Mr Head's retirement, loses not only a fine teacher, but also a valued colleague and friend.

This valedictory tribute to Mr. Head has taken - perhaps necessarily - a sad note.  We do not care to think of the School without him, but yet we do take pleasure in the thought of his reward of leisure after a life of we;; directed work.  We could wish him no better life now than one spent in his green-house and garden, and in slippered fireside ease, sometimes remembering the School which, though all may change, remains ever the same.  We wish him, and Mrs. Head, many years of health and happiness.

Mr. John Head died in 1945 - OBITUARY