TRIBUTE TO ALLAN RIMMER READ BY ADRIAN GRAY
I've been asked to say a few words written by former pupils Peter Still and David Cox.
I was never the most academic of pupils at RHS. I attended most lessons, but contributed as little as I could get away with - and at Red Hill that meant very little! When I left my only qualifications were English Language, and Spoken English. This came about because "Slim" as we called him found a way to motivate me to work hard at a subject I didn't enjoy. He did this by honest appraisal, praise only when deserved, and even occasional bribery - a cigarette as a reward for particularly good work. He always addressed the boys as equals, and was open and honest marking our work.
I remember his willingness, when doing the Staff-On-Duty Rounds at Lights Out, to delay a few minutes while we quoted (badly) poetry at him, or sang folk songs eventually we would run out of steam, and he would say "goodnight lads", turn out the lights, and head off to the next dorm with a chuckle.
A few years after leaving in 1966, I found an excuse to call and Allan welcomed me into his house for a chat. When he found I was in the early stages of a divorce, but had two children, he made an impassioned plea for reconciliation, because virtually every child who had passed through Red Hill had troubles that originated from the loss of one or both parents by divorce or bereavement. This was a powerful and well-expressed argument and resulted in the divorce being put on hold. Consequentially I'm still married, with 5 grandchildren! I also changed career, and work in a job that demands the English language skills Allan gave me.
I didn't see Allan again until 2006. We spent the afternoon discussing past times and memorable RHS characters, and Allan's enthusiasm and dedication seemed undiminished. At one point he asked me "What were you in for?" I answered that I'd been maladjusted! He replied that he'd always felt it a good term, implying that there is nothing fundamentally wrong, but a little readjustment might help, like a radio that needs retuning for a clearer signal. He was concerned that boys who would once have been candidates for Red Hill are now labeled "feral youngsters" and written off.
[end of Peter Still tribute]
David Cox was, briefly, a contemporary of mine in 1986-7.
I have had a fascinating life, and I know where it started. Red Hill was, for me, a life-altering time. I know there were dark moments, being separated from my family at a young age etc, but all I remember are balmy summer days walking for miles in tall fields, 'scrumping' for strawberries at night, hungry dinners perfectly timed, and the recollections waft back to me like the idyllic childhoods portrayed by Enid Blyton, with the tuck shop and childish high jinks - like carol singing for money, climbing on the roof, and "scrapping" in the woods. I always consider myself lucky to have experienced the insightful system at Red Hill, with its courts and fines, which taught me for the first time that you are responsible for your own actions, and your actions dictate whether you have an easy life, or a very hard one. I don't know who designed that system, but it understood young boys better than any other institution I ever attended. I only wish it was in operation in mainstream education.
The self-reliance I learned at Red Hill has never left me, and provided me with the wherewithal to cross the Iraqi border in a taxi, negotiate a bribe at gunpoint with the Nicaraguan police, and now run my own company in New York. My mother always said, regarding education, that I was a round peg in a square hole, and my early experiences left me feeling like an outcast. It was at Red Hill that I realised I was not weird, just different, and not only was that OK, it made me lucky. In short, I just wanted to say that without Red Hill and the lessons I learned there, I would not be the person I am today. Red Hill remains one of the biggest influences in my life.
I wanted to thank you for that. Very deeply.
[end of David Cox tribute]
Many of us, myself included, will agree with David's last few words.
(read by Adrian Gray at Allan's funeral on November 1st 2007)