Memories of Allan Rimmer by Peter Still (RHS 1961-1966)

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 indeed. My favourite lesson was Art, and the others were just a way of filling the time. It is significant then that when I left school my only qualification was English Language, and its supplement Spoken English. This came about because "Slim" as we called him had found a way to motivate me to work hard at a subject I didn't much enjoy. He did this by a mixture of honest appraisal, praise only when it was deserved, and even occasional bribery - a cigarette as a reward for particularly good work. Of course this was the mid-sixties, and I smoked like a trooper whenever I could, but I hate to think what would happen to a teacher who gave a schoolboy a cigarette in today's politically correct times. He always addressed the boys as equals, and was open and honest when marking our work.

Other memories of Allan include his willingness, when doing the Staff-On-Duty Rounds at Lights Out time, 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 school in 1966, I was working as a national sales engineer, and found an excuse to call into RHS when in Kent. Allan welcomed me into his house behind Charlton Court's stables for a chat. When he found out that I was in the early stages of a divorce, but had two children, he made an impassioned plea for reconciliation, on the grounds that virtually every child who had passed through Red Hill and similar institutions 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 for the time being. Consequentially I'm still married and have 5 grandchildren! I also changed career, and for some years have worked in standards development, a job that demands English language skills for which I have to thank Allan.

Having missed all the reunions, I didn't see Allan again until 2006, shortly after discovering Terry's RHS website. Allan, Sue and I met for lunch at The Swan in Sutton Valence. We spent most of the afternoon discussing past times, the history of Charlton Court, and some of the more memorable RHS characters, and Allan's enthusiasm and dedication seemed undiminished. At one point he asked me "What were you in for?" Somewhat surprised by the question, I answered that I'd been maladjusted! He replied that he'd always felt that to be a good term, implying as it does that there is nothing fundamentally wrong, but a little readjustment might be helpful, like a radio that needs slight retuning for a clearer signal. He was concerned that boys who would once have been candidates for Red Hill are now labelled "feral youngsters" and written off.

Sadly a few weeks later Allan was taken ill. I didn't know that at the time, but he didn't reply to emails or telephone messages so it became apparent that something was wrong. I had a brief conversation with him in early September 2007, when he told me that he'd had a brain tumour but was now recovered. He was fascinated to hear of the recent research into the history of Charlton Court. Tragically, just a few weeks later we heard that Allan's health had worsened, and four weeks later that he had passed away.

He will be very much missed.