No. 190

OSB Logo The Old St Beghian
  January 2017


Peter Broadhurst. (M 57-87). David Marshall (M 66-88) writes:

“The last time I saw Peter was at Helton, where he and Mary had bought a property for their retirement. He was on the back of one of those earth-moving vehicles and clearly he was having the time of his life, demolishing the old house in preparation for building the new. That heavily-lined face was covered in builder’s dust and there was rubble everywhere. How on earth could a dwelling come out of all this?

‘Order out of chaos, lad!’ was the reply. And that’s exactly what happened.

Peter was a born builder, one who could see the possibilities in the oddest thing - and in any one; he had that practical vision about what could be; not much seemed beyond him. As family man, teacher of Art with the workshop at his disposal, one-time Head of PE and Master i/c Cricket, organizer of school ski trips to his beloved Davos and the first Housemaster to the 6th form boarding house, Abbott’s Court, the canvas over which his undoubted talents were deployed was large. The number of pupils who came under his influence, athletically, academically or artistically, was enormous. He was an enthusiast for whatever he undertook, a formidable raconteur, conversationalist, piano player – and mimic! Anecdotes abound about Peter and I know everybody who reads this obituary will have his own to share.

At the time I first met Peter, in January, 1966, he was returning (late!) from a ski trip to Davos; expressing my own enthusiasm for the sport, I was immediately hauled off to his home – which, of course, he built himself – to see so many photos and to meet the family; it wasn’t long before Stuart told me the story of his own introduction to the slopes and the lengths Peter would go to, to ‘keep those skis together, Stuart!’ – by tying his legs together with a belt! If how Stuart was skiing the last time I saw him is anything to go by, the system worked: by 1975, and on jet skis, Stuart had surpassed the master, the best accolade any teacher can have.

Peter’s adapting the inside of his VW Urvan to cater for storage, cooking, sleeping and washing, enabled us to enjoy for some years a second annual visit, this time in the Easter holiday, to undertake a set of rarer runs and to contemplate the Haute Route, Chamonix to Saas Fe, which we never completed. I refer to this to point to his readiness to make things and ideas that he had, work. He was as much at home in the High Alps, away from the crowds as he was under the bonnet of his Porsche. (And on a selfish note, I would never have undertaken so much without his initiatives.)

Who but Peter would buy a beautiful Porsche, only to take it to pieces, bit by bit? But that was his way with just about all things; he needed to know how they worked, how he could improve on an original, which he generally did.  This spread into academic fields as well; once given responsibility for the Art Department, he delved deeply into all aspects of the course in order to master as much as he could. Indicative of his commitment were the notes he made, stuck onto walls, desks, windows – even once, on his forehead! – everywhere. And you were always expected to listen to his latest pet theory about, ‘This chap Rembrandt’s brushwork; that chap Leonardo – he knew a thing or two…’ and so on. I believe that appointment did Peter an enormous good. His body was not lending itself by that time to what it used to undertake – to watch him bowling in staff cricket games made me feel it was a matter of time before all his tendons would just go ‘twang!’. But he skiied – his real love – for so long; though this inevitably took its toll, including one serious break, I think in Switzerland. His description of the op was classic Peter, with the inner details of ‘this bolt going into that bone, with all connected by that piece of wire…’. Hearing Stuart’s description of how he found his Father on that ghastly day, with a foot stuck through the banisters and him a prisoner, but calling for an oxyacetylene lamp to free himself – well, it couldn’t have happened to anyone but Peter. I only hope he did not suffer as I fear he must have done.

In a way, his life was a preparation for such: my memories of him had him often falling in the oddest of places. With the school celebrating its 400 years, Peter offered to put on a 20-minute play. And where, may we ask, was he proposing to put this play on? – in that gap between the Chapel and the Library; where else?! Part of the action was on the roofing up there; Peter checked it out – and fell off, of course. But as always, such accidents were taken in his stride.

Memory is usually selective; there must be error in the above, for which I, naturally, apologise. But I have tried to convey the spirit of the man. He could be difficult, complicated, short-tempered. But the best of Peter was an experience you would never want to miss, or forget. An unapologetic enthusiast, he was endowed with many and varied talents. Through his life, he cast a long shadow. I like to think we were all beneficiaries of that shadow.

To Heather, Stuart and their families, go our sincere condolences for their loss.”




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