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News > OP updates > Obituaries > Dr Alan Kittermaster RIP

Dr Alan Kittermaster RIP

Our thanks to Alan's long-time friend and colleague, Clive Barnett (Deputy Head 1986-92) , for this personal tribute, with additional contribution from Simon Lemieux, Head of History and Politics
31 Aug 2022

Dr Alan J Kittermaster
25 January 1949 to 23 May 2022

Reflections on a Lifetime’s Friendship

“Honesty”, “Integrity”, “Loyalty” – old fashioned virtues perhaps and certainly not ones embraced any longer by many of our political class – but how wonderful to be someone who is described in those terms. For that is precisely how his friends and family described Alan in the days since he died. Read the various comments on the website which has been created in his memory and these three words are repeated again and again. Above all, Alan was an honest man, an intensely loyal man, and a man of great integrity – and that is how I shall always choose to remember him.

I first met Alan on our first day at our senior school in September 1962 – now 60 years ago. He’s been a constant in my life throughout that time even when work meant that we only communicated by Christmas card.

At school, he was very much his own man, never followed the herd and never lacked for moral courage. In the rumbustious environment of our school in the 1960s, where bullying and physical intimidation were rife, at least in the younger year groups, he had the respect of all because he made it very clear that he would always support the underdog and the put-upon. That he was also an extremely good hockey player and cricketer did him no harm and helped his street cred when dealing with the more brutish members of the year group.

After A levels, rather like the characters in Anthony Powell’s “Dance to the Music of Time” our paths intertwined from time to time although we never completely lost touch. Alan took his first degree at Kent University, after which a career in the civil service beckoned and he joined the Department of Overseas Development as it was in those days. His doctorate at Exeter University followed and then Alan started on his teaching career – at Dover College.

So, it was the happiest of coincidences in 1988 when Alan’s name appeared on the list of short-listed applicants for the new post of Head of Politics at PGS. Working with Alan in the Politics department over the next four years was one of the reasons why I shall always regard my years at PGS as amongst the happiest of my career.

Alan’s tenure of office began in the Thatcher years and concluded under Gordon Brown. Unlike the 'Iron Lady', Alan was never intimidating or inflexible in his views; he was always the most humane and accommodating of people, willing to try out new things. Yet, like Mrs T he was a person of conviction, passion and intelligence. Unlike John Major, nobody could ever accuse Alan of being dull or grey. Simon Lemieux recalls him going to his local DIY store and purchasing a large assortment of plastic dustbin lids to enable his Year 7 classes to experience more realistically the tactics and combat methods of the Battle of Hastings. Dustbin lids make rather good shields. Unlike Blair, Alan was never interested in the darker arts of spin and self-promotion, though he did skilfully direct a memorable staff play.

For Alan, integrity and sound teaching were at the heart of his career. He was popular and well respected by both colleagues and pupils. As both a tutor and teacher, he cared for his students, had their best interests at heart and was unfailingly generous with his time. Parents often remarked on how their child found political history so interesting due to his teaching. He served as President of the Common Room for some years and led a number of overseas school trips. He contributed to a wide range of school sports teams and entertained house assemblies with his proficient piano playing.

When my wife and I decided to return to the south coast in 2014 and were house-hunting, Wendy and Alan could not have been more welcoming. We drank copious cups of coffee at their house in between those interminable house viewings. When, having moved here in June 2015, we ended up near neighbours it was natural to resume the easy friendship that we’d always had. As my wife’s health declined and my world contracted to one of a carer, it was Alan who would knock on the front door whenever he was passing just to see how I was and, if I could get someone to sit with her, to invite me out for a drink. That came from that same well of kindness that had led him to put a figurative arm around my shoulder when my father died just before we took A levels in 1966, when most of my classmates simply didn’t know what to say or do.

Another old friend, on learning of Alan’s untimely death, described him as a very gentle man, and my goodness he was. He wore his intellectual strength very lightly; he had a quiet but extraordinarily funny wit; and he was at heart very kind, generous and sensitive, and I was very proud to have him as my friend.

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