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News > OP updates > Obituaries > In memory of John 'Hoppy' Hopkinson

In memory of John 'Hoppy' Hopkinson

2 December 1925 to 12 January 2022

We are very sorry to announce that PGS legend, John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkinson died yesterday at the age of 96.

He passed away peacefully at home with Meg, his beloved wife of 72 years, by his side.

He had taught at PGS for 41 years, from 1949 until his retirement in 1990.

John Derek Hopkinson was born in Chesterfield in 1925 and gained a scholarship to Chesterfield Grammar School. After leaving school he embarked on a PE course at St Paul’s College, Cheltenham, a decision that was to prove fateful for the way his life was to unfold.  Not only did it lead to a lifetime’s teaching career at PGS, but it was also there that he met Meg, who became his wife in 1949.

Hoppy’s teaching career was preceded by a spell in the Royal Navy and from 1945 he served with 804 Squadron in the Fleet Air Arm. This was followed by a further period of study at Loughborough College, where he took a final year Physical Education diploma, before starting teaching in Weston-Super-Mare.

In the summer of 1949 he and Meg married, and a few weeks later he joined The Portsmouth Grammar School as Head of PE, a post he occupied with distinction for many years.  As well as teaching PE in both Lower and Upper schools, he also taught Geography, and in 1961 graduated with an external honours degree in Geography from the University of London.

A rugby man to the core, Hoppy played for Loughborough College (now University), Portsmouth, and was a regular Hampshire county player in the early 1950s.  He was also a fine athlete.  He took over responsibility for PGS rugby in 1955 and ran the 1st XV for the next ten years.  He was also for 17 years coach of the Hampshire Schools 19 group. 

Hoppy’s contributions to school life were varied and far-reaching. 

Working under Ray Clayton (as Head of Geography, 1950-87), Hoppy established the Geology A level course and was responsible for the burgeoning collection of geological specimens. For 30 years he took part in annual field trip to Cumbria, the source of many tales of pupil mischief to this day.

He was Housemaster of both Eastwood and Grant. Meg accompanied him on a series of school ski trips, to Norway, Austria, Switzerland, and France (where she was referred to affectionately by the pupils as Mrs Hoppy). In the pool he coached swimming, water polo and lifesaving.  In the gym he presided over Lower and Middle School boxing, and was also involved in the early days of competitive tennis, played on specially marked-out courts on the garrison commander’s lawn.  Hoppy was an enthusiastic member of the school choral society and in the mid-1950s performed at the Royal Albert Hall under the mercurial direction of John Davison (Director of Music and Cathedral organist, 1945 to 1959). 

His training in the Royal Navy made him a natural choice for the Naval Section of the School CCF and commanded the Naval Section for the last three years of his service. When Hoppy was in command of the Section it numbered 120 and was one of the largest in the UK. His nautical performances up and down the Clyde are remembered by many of his former "matelots".

As might be expected of a man of Hoppy’s energy, enthusiasm, and experience, he barely slowed down after retiring from PGS in 1990. He continued to operate Pembroke Tutors, the small business that he launched in 1979 and which he managed until 2005.  He served for ten years as chairman of 1st Portsmouth Sea Scouts and was the founding treasurer of the local National Decorative and Fine Arts Society.  He was a keen golfer and member of both Southwick Park and Furze Hill courses.  He maintained close contact with Portsmouth Cathedral to the very end of his life.

He and Meg continued to travel widely for many years, to North and East Africa, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, and visiting family in South Africa, France, and Switzerland. We were also delighted to continue to host them at numerous school events until just the last handful of years.

It is clear from the above the enormous contribution that Hoppy made to the life of PGS, with Meg by his side. He had a firm yet friendly approach and his wise direction is remembered with gratitude by his former pupils. Those who were taught by Hoppy often comment on the deep and lasting impression that he left on them, instilling a sense of values that only truly came apparent with the passage of time. Hoppy was a tolerant man, wise, and a sound judge of character and he will be much missed by the whole school community.

Our thoughts are with Meg, their children, and grandchildren.

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