David Marshall (M 66-88) has kindly submitted the following notice about Geoffrey W. Lees (HM 63-80):

“It is with sadness that I report the death of Geoffrey Lees, on 18th August, aged 92. I know I speak for everyone when I say that to Joan, his wife, go our heartfelt condolences.

Geoff came to St Bees in 1963 from Brighton College, where he had been an assistant master since 1948. There, he taught English, took both the cricket and squash teams, all with unsurpassed flair, before becoming Housemaster to one of the school’s day houses. At Cambridge University, his career was interrupted by his decision to join up for war service after his first year;  by then, and on his return, he represented the university at both cricket and squash, and later while at Brighton, played the occasional game for Sussex C.C. and captained their second team.

One of his concerns when assuming responsibility for St Bees was that it would entail an inevitable loss of contact with the pupil body. At Brighton as an assistant master, it had been a vital ingredient of his success; he had that magician’s gift of being able to relate to whomsoever he came in contact. A man of formal ways, he, nevertheless, had an imaginative understanding that benefited many over their adolescent years.

How he kept in touch with the pupil body while at St Bees was by continuing to teach as much as an HM’s timetable would allow and by participating in the coaching of cricket and squash; in all three departments, his experience and expertise were invaluable. He also took to Eton Fives with a will. He maintained an exceptional level of fitness while at the school, evidenced by two remarkable achievements in his last year, when he was 60 years old. One cold evening he agreed to travel to Ulverston with the staff squash team. He played at No.1, and he won in 5; then, as a concession – I don’t think he had represented the staff on the cricket field before – he joined us one summer’s evening on The Crease, and scored 50. Then, there was rarely an afternoon when you would not see Geoff on his walk around the school grounds and, if a match was anywhere in progress, he would invariably spend time watching that, with the first teams always enjoying his full attention, with Joan usually by his side. Hers was the concern over Geoff’s later days, as the muscles weakened; but he was a determined man who would do just about anything to get the exercise offered by the court; but our approaches for his services had by then to go through Joan. Once, he claimed that bandaging up before a game was more exhausting than the game itself – there were few area of limb left uncovered - likening himself to a poor relative to Tutankhamen, whose family had run out of funds just before mummification could be completed.

Geoff was endowed with a wonderful gift for words. His expression was clipped, economic and figurative. There cannot be many HMs who have managed as well as he to make the Speech Day addresses quite so vivid. His was an engaged intelligence that told things as they were and in such imaginative terms that his message was usually understood and readily accepted. He worked hard on those speeches; I think they are worthy of collection. His values stand out through them, values so necessary to have stressed in those difficult times when student disaffection swept across Europe, along with doubts about authority, about respect and so much else.

Ours is a remote location, with the sea, the fells and Windscale as our neighbours. Maintaining numbers then, as I’m sure is the case now, requires an enormous commitment. Geoff worked and worried over that for seventeen years. The school has to be thankful to have had one such as he in command through such a time. Difficult decisions had to be made, with all of which he was not always in agreement, but once the decision had been made by the Governing body, then it had his full support.

Writing this, I am increasingly aware that much of value and germane to such an undertaking may have been omitted. I did, after all, leave 24 years ago. I am sure that Beghians could well have further contributions to make, to fill out the picture of those extraordinary years when I for one had the time of my life, very much made possible by the leadership of G W Lees.”



The St. Beghian Society,    St. Bees School,    St. Bees,    Cumbria,    CA27 0DS.
         Tel: (01946) 828093
Email: osb@st-bees-school.co.uk