Alan Stavely December 1916 – March 2016
The son of a senior Customs and Excise official and one-time organist at St. Mary’s in Stamford, Alan was born on the 10th Dec. 1916 in Stamford. Along with his three brothers he grew up in Stamford and attended school there.
The three youngest, including Alan, all went to Trinity, Oxford gaining first class honours, Alan, a double first in Classics and Modern Greats PPE. The eldest of the brothers went on to become a successful solicitor.
In fact Alan won a scholarship to Oxford but when he heard the organist at Trinity there got £50 a year, he applied and got the job – funds were very tight!
In 1939 Alan tried to enter the armed forces, however his poor eyesight prevented this and he went on to teach, initially at Glenalmond School in Scotland.
As the dark days of war loomed over Europe, and at the height of the Blitz, a most significant Christmas Day happened as it was then that Alan met Joan at the Bessemer Grange Hotel in South-East London. I am led to believe that Joan actually fancied Alan’s eldest brother, Geoffrey at first, but when the carpet was rolled back for dancing and Alan took to the piano, it was a done deal! And it is indeed a great joy to know that all four brothers would go on to celebrate their Golden Weddings.
Wanting to do ‘his bit’ Alan became a ‘Whitehall Warrior’ as private secretary to firstly the Minister of Labour and latterly that of Reconstruction.
In 1945 Alan returned to teaching and joined the staff of Rugby School where he taught until 1958 before taking up his first Headship of the Lawrence Sheriff Grammer School in Rugby which would go on to become one of the leading Grammer schools in the UK.
In 1968 Alan gained his dream job when he became the new Headmaster of his old alma mater, Stamford and again, through a difficult period, oversaw the decisions taken to transform the school from a Direct Grant grammer into a thriving Public School producing a whole range of illustrious alumi.
Alan retired in 1979 and enjoyed a fulfilled retirement in Wing for 28 years until moving to Oak House in Greetham when his sight finally failed him. Indeed, as an already accomplished pianist, for some 25 of these years he was the organist in Wing village church.
Without a doubt, and in spite of a wonderful life of work and influence, I think Alan’s greatest love was undoubtedly his family. He and Joan had two sons, David and Peter and at the time of his death had 7 grandchildren and a remarkable 14 great-grandchildren, that will rise to 16 by the end of 2016!
Alan was a committed Christian and many times gave the address in the School chapel and as a guest in other schools. Once even in that of Rugby School when Peter was a boy in the congregation – slightly unnerving for both most likely!
Many will remember Alan as a man of enormous intelligence with a remarkable memory. He was renown at both his Headships for knowing the first names of every boy in the school (and often, their parents as well). His ability to recall people’s names and incidents over his lifetime was extraordinary and he could do this right up to the end.
He was also an avid Telegraph crossworder. Peter recalls on one occasion during a visit home seeing the blank crossword folded on the table. It was suggested they do it together. “I just need six down” Alan said “blank A blank S blank M blank blank.” In fact, he had completed the whole thing without needing to fill it in as he went!
As the patriach of the family he was unbelievable at remembering key dates like birthdays and anniversaries, not just his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren but also daughters-in-law, nieces, nephews, friends etc. He would always send cards, gifts and invariably telephone as well. Having gone blind he could remember all their phone numbers in his head.
Despite the complexity of his mind he was a very simple man in that he had no desire for consumer goods or clothes relying on Joan and his sons at Christmas and birthdays to keep his wardrobe in some sort of shape! His only desire for a car is that is started when you turned the key and got you from A to B, a wish that was not really realised until his retirement when they bought a new one for the first time! His first love was for people, not things. He knew as much and cared as much about the lives of the dinner lady or groundsman as he did about the teaching staff and at the core of it was his love of educating young people for life, a life’s work conducted with humanity and humility. This innate love of his fellow man extended during the last 8 years during his time in Oak House Residential Home (from age 91!) whereby his interest, concern and friendship wilt all the staff and carers, their lives and ups and downs became almost legendary. He was also a loyal Rotarian for many years and a keen supporter of the Old Stamfordian society.
Peter says of his father that he never did ask him if there was a secret to a long life but he had always noted that he never observed Alan ever drink a glass of water, except with scotch included and insist that all salad garnish (or compost as he called it) was removed from his main course plate. His love for Joan and their marriage of over 60 years was a testament to that. He visited her in the nursing home in Peterborough 6 days out of 7 for over two years until her passing
Since Alan’s passing there have been many tributes paid to Alan – as a family member, friend, and teacher.
I know that pupils remember him with great affection and recognition of the wonderful influence he had on their lives.
Alan’s long time friend and neighbour, Carolyn wrote a wonderful tribute, in it she says:
Alan loved life and his positivity and determination to take what enjoyment he could through increasingly difficult times was truly inspiring. Picking up the phone with an upbeat and confident “Alan Staveley here” , he frequently responded to enquiries regarding his wellbeing with “not so dusty!”.
…………….In the days when we were out and about enjoying coffee, it was not uncommon to be accosted by Alan’s ex-pupils or their parents, who clearly held him in very high regard. This was borne out by frequent correspondence from ex-pupils stretching back to Alan’s early teaching days, all keen to acknowledge his positive influence on their lives and careers. Alan always liked to respond either by letter or phone drawing on his encyclopaedic knowledge of his address book and telephone numbers!
What made Alan such a good friend was the genuine interest he showed in the people around him, their lives, joys and challenges.
Another person pointed out in an email this week. “He was an example to us all of how to have one’s cup is not just half-full but overflowing!” and Peter’s son commented…”No grandson could have wished for a kinder, warmer, more loving or compassionate grandfather. He truly was an inspiration to us all, just an amazing man, father and grandfather and we shall all miss him dearly.”
Alan and son Peter
Alan Stavely in 2015