Tony Cotes (M 59-90) who died on the 3rd December, 2012.

David Lyall (M 52-91) has kindly provided the following eulogy, which was heard during the recent Service of Thanksgiving.

“Although I can scarcely believe it, I knew Tony for more than 70 years. We were boys together at Leeds Grammar School where Tony shone in the classroom and on the sports field, playing rugby for the 1st XV and cricket for the 1st XI for several years. He was a lively scrum half and a very effective bowler of fast away-swingers which scuttled through sharply, rarely rising above stump height and taking the batsman by surprise. Little did we think that we would be playing cricket together forty years later.

We lost touch for a time after our school days, while he took a classics degree at Leeds University and served as an intelligence officer in the R.A.F. during his period of National Service. During this time he was sent to Cambridge University for a six month Russian course as the Cold War was a threat and Russian speakers were in short supply.

Tony’s first classroom experience was at Widnes Grammar School during his teaching practice, but he applied for a post to teach classics at the Perse School in Cambridge and was successful in his application. After some time there he spotted a very attractive young lady who was Matron of the junior house. Tony invited her to his room to play, can you believe it, bridge – quite an intellectual approach to ‘courtship’ as it used to be called. However, he must have played his cards right for before long Tony and Elizabeth were engaged to be married. Elizabeth’s father was the vicar of Appleby and it was there that the ceremony took place.  Two years ago the happy couple with children Sarah, Katy and Marcus celebrated their Golden Wedding.

My connection with Tony was renewed in 1959. One summer afternoon there was a knock at the door of Eaglesfield, where my wife Jean and I were running a boarding house for junior boys. There stood Tony and Elizabeth, who had been for an interview with the Headmaster, James Wykes, for a post to teach classics at St. Bees. I think that parts of industrial West Cumbria at that time were rather a shock to them after the elegance of Cambridge, but Tony was offered the post and accepted. Their first house in St. Bees was 2, Main Street, conveniently situated between Mrs Haile’s Tuckshop and the Albert Hotel.

Tony became house tutor of Grindal and joined the C.C.F. Army Section as a first lieutenant. His sporting talents were employed in skilful coaching of rugby and cricket and in running the squash team for several years. Cricket teams coached by Tony twice went on to reach the final stages of a national competition known as the Lords Taverners Trophy.

In 1966 he was appointed head of classics and continued in this post until his retirement, with results which were a tribute to his scholarship and enthusiasm. Many former pupils bear witness to the help and inspiration which they received from his teaching.

Transferring from the C.C.F. Army Section, Tony commanded the R.A.F. Section for 25 years, being always immaculately turned out in his officer’s uniform. At the time of the school’s quatercentenary he was instrumental in organising a fly-past over St. Bees by the Red Arrows.

Probably the major contribution made to St. Bees School by Tony was as housemaster of Grindal for 17 years. With admirable help from Elizabeth, he ran the house efficiently but with sympathy and understanding. When it became known that Grindal was to be converted to a girl’s boarding house, it made his last year a potentially difficult time. Boys who had developed a loyalty to Grindal were to be moved to a house that was alien territory to them and it was to Tony’s credit that the move was completed in a smooth and painless fashion.

During his last three years before retiring in 1990 Tony was Deputy Head and brought his skill as organiser and administrator to bear on the many and varied demands of that post.

After his retirement he was for several years the Secretary of the St. Beghian Society, organising a very successful reunion dinner and painstakingly compiling a register of the names and addresses of several thousand former pupils. He also contributed to the local community in St. Bees as Chairman of the Parish Council and founder and Chairman of the Heritage Group.

In all these many facets of Tony’s life he was guided and upheld by his Christian belief. He was a very regular worshipper in St. Bees Priory – indeed the last time that Tony and I spoke was in this building two weeks ago. At the exchange of peace we shook hands and wished each other ‘The Peace of the Lord’. Now Tony has that peace and we who were his family and his friends give thanks for his life and the example of devotion and Christian living which he has given to us.

Thank you, Tony.

God bless.”



The St. Beghian Society,    St. Bees School,    St. Bees,    Cumbria,    CA27 0DS.
         Tel: (01946) 828093