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News > OS News > Stortfordian Stories - Warwick Morris (SHb 62-67)

Stortfordian Stories - Warwick Morris (SHb 62-67)

Stortfordian Stories - Former British Diplomat, OS Warwick Morris shares his reflection on his time at Bishop's Stortford College
1 Dec 2020
OS News
OS Warwick Morris (SHb, 62-67)
OS Warwick Morris (SHb, 62-67)

Some reflections on my time at BSC and on those who influenced me.

I have many good memories of my time at BSC, from January 1962 to July1967. In particular these are of friendships made, sports enjoyed and the influence of certain individuals.

On the friendship front, no less than fifteen of us BSC contemporaries enjoyed a ‘50 Years On’ reunion in 2017, while four close BSC friends attended my 70th birthday bash the following year.

Among the teaching staff, those who made a particular impact on me, as indeed on many others, were Teddy Wall (history), Arnold Darlington (biology), and Walter Strachan (French); all three were already legends. Mr Hunt (Art) was another from whom I learned a lot, as was Captain Mack (Athletics).

Sport played a big part in my life at BSC - probably too big a part, to the detriment of my studies! I enjoyed being in hockey, rugby, squash and fives teams, all sports that were new to me, with athletics  -  880 yards, Mile and cross-country -  probably my strongest suit. I was fortunate too to keep wicket for Episcopi, the 3rd XI run by Freddie Bryan-Brown (Latin), another legend; he arranged most of our matches against local village teams, which gave us sixth-formers a welcome taste of life outside and beyond school.

But the strongest influence in my case, and someone whom I respected and remained in touch with until his death this past September, aged 92, was Peter Rowe. Not only was he Headmaster, in his thirties, throughout my time at BSC, but also my Housemaster when I arrived at School House, an anxious first-time boarder, aged 13, in the bleak month of January 1962. How Peter, ably supported as ever by Bridget, managed to combine both roles so effectively I cannot imagine. Despite having a young family of their own, they would invite School House ‘newbies’ into their home every Sunday evening for chess, cocoa, home-made cookies and friendly chat, a real comfort as we settled into our new lives.

Sorting out old photos and papers during the recent COVID lockdown, I came across three letters from Peter.  The first, handwritten on14 January 1962 and addressed to Master Warwick Morris at my home address, was ‘ just a note to say how welcome you will be on Wednesday in joining School House for the first time.’ He encouraged me to arrive early, to look around, bring my parents to meet him, and to bring my bike ‘ to enjoy the countryside round here, and a hockey stick if possible.’  It certainly made me feel welcome.

The second letter, dated 9 January 1967, expressed his regret that I had not got into Oxford. [Comment: Considering my poor A level performance it was hardly surprising!] But, in his ever-encouraging way, Peter went on to say that he was glad I’d be returning for two more terms ‘...and I look forward very much to working with you as Head Boy. I am sure you will do the job splendidly.’ Re-reading this today I can remember how this cheered me up after a disappointing few months.

The third letter, again handwritten, was in early 1969, some 18 months after I’d left school, with improved but not brilliant A level grades to my name. After a year teaching English in the French part of Cameroon under the auspices of Voluntary Service Overseas, I had returned to the UK,  still unsure about my future. Initially I took up accountancy, as my father and his father before him had done, but I knew my heart was not in it. Living and working overseas, with its challenges and new experiences, and putting my French to good use, had got under my skin. With that in mind I applied somewhat ambitiously to join Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service -  quite coincidentally headed at the time by Sir Dennis Greenhill, OS.

To my surprise, and after the various tests, I was accepted. In this third letter Peter wrote saying he was ‘...delighted at the news. I see you as a distinguished Ambassador already! It will be great for you to have something now ahead in which you have your heart and soul. I could never quite see you as a nose to the grindstone accountant.’  Once again, Peter had taken the trouble to offer encouragement to one of his ‘boys’,  even asking in a postscript whether by any chance I’d be free to help with athletics training at the College that spring. I’d have loved to, but in April 1969 I would report for duty at the FCO, to start an all-consuming career that would last for almost 40 years. I know Peter was chuffed that my final two postings were, as he had forecast, as Ambassador.

We exchanged news regularly over the decades, but in recent years I’ve met up with Peter and Bridget several times a year, most often over tea and home-made cookies at their charming cottage in Cranbrook. It was there that I last saw Peter on 17 July this year (2020). Although his memory had been fading for some time, he was always cheerful, welcoming and curious. On that occasion, just 6 weeks before he died, he suddenly asked me who had been Deputy Head of School in my time, and later stated, correctly, that he thought I’d played on the wing in the rugby team. We talked about sport, which he still enjoyed watching, and he was clearly pleased to be reminded that he personally had taught me squash and fives, and that I’d played the former into my fifties. The welcoming atmosphere and his interest in, and encouragement for, the individual were still evident - and in Bridget’s case still are - just as they were when I set foot timidly in School House for the first time in January1962.  I am not alone, I’m sure, in considering myself hugely fortunate to have known them both.

Looking back, I think I was lucky to be at BSC when I was, with some highly experienced teaching staff under a young, dynamic and open-minded Head. What do I think I learned there in the wider sense? In addition to a lifelong love of sport, I believe it would include:  broad-mindedness, curiosity, enthusiasm, the ability to get on with different people, and the merits of careful preparation, all things that would go on to serve me well in my chosen career. For that, I am truly grateful. 

Warwick Morris

School House B, Bishop’s Stortford College, 

Jan 1962 to July 1967.   

November 2020                              

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