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News > OP updates > Obituaries > Gareth Perry RIP

Gareth Perry RIP

19 Jan 2024
Gareth circa 2001
Gareth circa 2001

The school is very sad to receive confirmation that long-serving teacher and OP Committee member Gareth Perry, has died. His immense contribution to the school, the pupils and the wider PGS community is celebrated here in an appreciation written by Raymond Bratt and published in the Portmuthian when Gareth retired in 2001.

How do you sum up, or how can anyone adequately appreciate, more than 37 years of service to a school? With a degree in Modern Langauges from Southampton University, a Dip. Ed., and other diplomas from Lille University and the Sorbonne, after over three years teaching at Chatham House School, Thanet, Gareth Perry came to PGS in January 1964.

Since then, we can pick out some of the "few bald and extremely boring details" (to use his own words) of what Gareth has done and been: a teacher of French and German throughout the school, with French (his speciality) to Oxbridge entrance level; Housemaster of Summers for nine years; Housemaster of Whitcombe, also for nine years; Head of Sixth Form and Head of Careers for five years; Deputy Headmaster for seven years. His involvement outside the classroom has been considerable: apart from contributions to Squash and Cross-Country in the relatively distant past, Gareth took charge of Tennis here for 23 years, sharing his experience after two years' captaincy of his university Tennis team and four years of full University colours.

Bald details? Yes. Boring? Not if you ask the pupils whom he has taught with an energy and commitment right through to his last scheduled lesson or those who managed to achieve, under his encouragement a higher grade than they expected, or even in some cases deserved. Not if you were aware of his involvement in music and drama over these many years: Some highlights deserve mention, if only because they remained fixed in the memory of a few of us: in the 1970s, as producer of Moliere's "L'Avare", he felt obliged to take the lead role when the French assistant pulled out in panic a week or two before performance. On stage for most of the play, only slightly abbreviated, he displayed the natural acting talent of the Modern Language teacher alongside the authentic diction and accent that we all took for granted with him. If he wasn’t acting, whether in classroom or in a Staff Play, you might well have heard him singing: allowing for a token diffidence, Gareth could fairly easily be persuaded to lend his smooth baritone to a Schubert Lieder recital or even tackling a Mozart operatic ensemble. This he and we thoroughly enjoyed; his own appreciation of performers and especially co-performers (whose musical reputation he feared he was putting at serious risk) was always generously expressed, often by a warmly worded card in the pigeon hole the next day.

If he wasn’t singing with the Choral Society, he was certainly among the audience at performance, as supportive here as at drama production and at the sports fixtures, whether home or away. His Lower 6th General Studies course on European Institutions, which he took as seriously as his "mainline" French and German teaching elsewhere, was enlivened by an apparently improvised presentations dwelling less on the EU official pronouncements than on national cultural features, even idiosyncrasies of our European brothers and sisters. His early morning claims that he did not know what he was going to say to his afternoon group fooled nobody. Having run French "A" level holiday revision courses near Geneva for nearly 40 years, he was and is rich in the first hand, up-to-date knowledge that makes the top class teachers. Ask discreetly, and he will show you the Médaille d'Honneur awarded him in 1989 by the town of Thonon-les-Bains. Enthusiasm has not abated and he is planning to continue these Easter courses for a few years yet.

We shall miss his encouraging (that word again!) pat on the back or reassuring squeeze of the elbow, the sight of his slightly stooping trim figure moving around the school, above all, perhaps, his characteristic and unfailing courtesy. In view of all the time Gareth spent at school or on PGS business, especially as Head of Careers or Deputy Headmaster, it was a wonder that Carole has not issued him with an identity card when he eventually returned home. We wish them both many years of continued good health and happiness together.

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