David Ogilvie Crane
July 12th, 1939 - Nov. 12th, 2012

See David's own words of his time at Red Hill and following years click here

scroll to the bottom of this page for additional photos

Being just three years older than David at his death brings home to me John Donne's injunction not to send for whom the bell tolls, for with his loss goes a small part of me. After the post-Butler embellishment of grammar school to Otto Shaw's maladjusted Red Hill, with neither written constitution nor age limits, acceptance conditions imposed ages ranged strictly between 11 and 16 - and appropriate examinations for those stuck to the course and our wild home became more subtly a school. Under the reform David joined us 4 months prior to his 12th birthday and left early after three years; but not as a failure or in disgrace. He was a rare bird leaving Shaw's nest before full fledging, to continue his education at a real school without derogatory labels and with the facilities to head him into engineering at which he was to prove successful. In 1971, at Stoke Golding in Leicestershire he founded Crane Electronics, a company specialising in torque analysis and management. The company expanded in 1984 to encompass a sister in Illinois. He eventually sold both to pursue other engineering interests including Compressed Natural Gas (Gasfill Ltd, of Leicester) driving a Smart car textually emblazoned with the product and easily identified by the "writing all over it", as his wife Valerie observed. I thought it a better indication of that car's ability to contain a large and exuberant man. Both extant companies and subsequent subsidiaries have easily found web pages; and I like to think that without appropriate facilities even his brief exposure to Red Hill stood him in good stead.

Leaving East Sutton 60 years ago this year, I thus knew him as a junior for just a year - three years below my learning stream and nearly outside the five-year patina of my own Red Hill shell. But we were an age-blind family, and a day trip in my last summer (1953) is remembered by the accompanying snap on Camber Sands. I hold the company folding Kodak, as if in charge - made tall by standing on a beach stump. David is several faces to my left - a hand on his shoulder constraining an unlikely assault on our paparazzo.

Other reasons for my memories of him at Red Hill include the closeness of his Leicestershire home - Cossington, to Nottinghamshire - whence I came - and with more boys from the Home Counties than beyond such neighbourly geography seemed important to many of us at the time. We had each also suffered evil "schooling" in Norfolk, but at different times, under the "management" of one Humphrey Fenn and wife (pray let their offsprings sue). More recently we exchanged emails on the impact on our subsequent lives by these nasties - who had also scarred the mind of at least one other Red Hill contemporary. Between us, as we blessed Red Hill, we wondered if independent schools could ever again be run by such inhuman people - although it is clear from David being three years my junior that their activities survived the 1944 Education Act - after being part of its cause. Perhaps the East Anglian Fenns had a more profound effect on us than East Sutton's Shaw - or possibly they inured us to Red Hill.

A whole lifetime later we were reunited through Toddington's Red Hill archive and the internet; and we shared much time together in Nottingham and at his rather enigmatic Georgian farmhouse in Lutterworth - where I first met Valerie. After all the years he was still devoted to Leicestershire. There were also the many hours as his passenger between Leicester and Toddington and back, including enjoyable meals when we bunked off to Winchcombe. I declined his offered lift back to Leicester on a massive motor-tricycle for which I was physically, mentally and sartorially unprepared. I've since deeply regretted my geriatric cowardice as shortly after he and Valerie moved to another farmhouse in Sussex and I never saw him again.

His Lutterworth home workshop contained an "antique" long-case clock he had built to test a pendulum movement of his own design, representing an ambition to replicate commercially to attract wealthy collectors. With his typical suasive charm he induced me to think of ideas for a brochure to be aimed at those likely to buy without asking the price, and my incomplete notes include internet references to a 19th century New York clockmaker called Crane. I was withholding that as a surprise - a delight now lost forever. What fun we would have had with it - and I can imagine Otto Shaw's ethereal chortle supplementing our whimsy, although David's clock could have made the American original a forgery before the fact.

During PETT's Red Hill archive and working weekends that drew us together he encouraged me to cultivate my dislocated memories of life at East Sutton. His insistence, applied through an ebullient charm reminiscent of Shaw himself, was successful - and the book when published will be dedicated to both.

Many lives end with an irony, and with David it was that after a lifetime of loyalty to Leicestershire his retirement to Crowborough lasted only enough for him to receive the fateful diagnosis that was to deprive him of enjoying his new county for the time he deserved. I will miss him very much, as I know will all who met him through Toddington and appreciated his contributions to our discussions on residential therapy for disturbed children.


Ralph Gee
January 2013


1. Valerie Crane and sons Matthew, Harry & George for corrections as well as submitting additional information
2. Carol Tamplin of Crane Electronics who kindly sent all the photos on this page