Donald Roberts (OS - former Head of Classics and Second Master)

Died: 14th September 2016
Notes: A selection of thoughts from former pupils, colleagues and friends of Mr Roberts has been collated.

Stockport Grammar School is sorry to report that Mr Donald Roberts sadly passed away on 14th September 2016. His funeral was held at Hazel Grove Methodist Church on the 22nd September 2016.

Donald retired in 1991 after 40 years’ service to SGS, as Head of Classics and latterly as Second Master. He will be remembered by many Old Stopfordians for his thoughtful and humorous assemblies, his running of the sailing club and, early on, his contribution to school music with the organisation of recorder club concerts. He was a friend, a mentor and a colleague to so many.

It would be difficult to attempt to improve on the tributes paid to Donald Roberts on his retirement from Stockport Grammar School. Here are just edited thoughts from the three Headmasters for whom he was Second Master. The completed articles may be found in the ‘Stopfordian’ magazine summer 1991 which may be accessed through the new Digital Archive via the main Stockport Grammar School website.

Stuart Helm

‘Mr. D J Roberts has provided a link across the years from a month in 1939 when he was a boy here, to his appointment as junior Classics master in 1951, to his fifteen years as Second Master, culminating in his retirement in July 1991. He has effortlessly adjusted to the changing requirements over these years. Many have relied on his steady hand to shape their work and to see a way through to the best solution for the School.

More than anyone else, he brought his Christian faith and understanding to everything he undertook, setting a splendid example. His assembly talks were masterpieces; the inspiration they have brought will have helped generations of Stopfordians more than they know. Most of all, he supported, advised, and guided three Headmasters who each owe him a tremendous debt.’

David Bird

‘I always accepted Donald’s advice on all appointments, and it is a remarkable fact that we never disagreed on that, or as I recall it, on any other issue, although we found each other’s views on elision in Tibullus intriguing. My overwhelming recollection of working with Donald was of endless enjoyment. When possible I escaped from my study to his, and always emerged refreshed.’

Hugh Wright

‘Donald, whom I count as a dear friend, has all the virtues denied to me. As Second Master he stood on delicate ground, sandwiched between ‘’primus’’ and ‘’pares’’. Before he was appointed there was some idle talk of ‘’job specification’’, but we all knew he was our man. Indeed his quiet leadership adapted itself to the unexpected opportunities and needs of an extending and changing Grammar School. His humility endows him with an inner strength and dry wit. One moment he is invisible and the next he is teaching the whole school the ‘’De Profundis’’ in a joyful half-hour.’

Francis Scott

We have received many recollections of Donald Roberts and condolence messages from Old Stops, including:

‘I first met Mr Roberts (or Bingo as he was affectionately known) as a Latin student. I always found his classes enjoyable and fun. Later, after school life, I met Don through Scottish Country Dancing. He had a great memory for all the different dances and was for many years a hard working committee member and Chairman of the Poynton Scottish Country Dance Society, and greatly supported my late mother during her 27 years of teaching the class and later to my wife Liz when she took over.’

Stuart Norris (OS 1964)

‘He taught me many, many years ago (1960s) and won't remember me. But we have just held a 50th anniversary class reunion a couple of weeks ago, and several of us were remembering him fondly. To this day I don't know why we nicknamed him "Bingo" but he was tremendously popular and respected.

Donald may not remember us, but there are hundreds of us who remember him with a huge amount of affection and will carry memories of him forever.

What a fantastic legacy.’

David Lloyd (OS 1971)

‘I was saddened to hear this news. I was very fond of Mr Roberts. He taught me Latin and I will always remember his energetic reinforcement of the words and verbs! He was a lovely man.’

Jennifer Scarff (OS 1991)

‘Donald was a wonderful mentor to both staff and students.’

Gillian Gibbons (Former Member of Staff)

‘I owe Donald a lot, as my recorder playing was instigated and inspired by him. Happy memories of Davy Crockett and the Chattanooga Choo-Choo! He and Douglas Steele (totally different characters!) were both greatly influential in my subsequent life. The connection goes back even farther, as Donald's father was a Methodist minister who married my parents!’

John Turner (OS 1961)

‘He was my form tutor (2A) in the mid-70s. It was the year the forms were streamed and from his first greeting he removed any uncertainties or anxieties we may have had. He was genial and affable and always seemed to have time for you.’

Neville Wharton (OS 1981)

‘Donald was one of the most special teachers I've ever met, and was much-loved at SGS by pupils and staff alike.’

Helen Kennedy (Former Member of Staff)

‘Mr Roberts' teaching influenced my life and career through simple things. As a 1st year I failed to prepare properly for one of my first Classics lessons when he suggested we read the first chapter of the textbook before the next day's lesson. I did not, which was painfully obvious when he questioned me on it the following day, and it is not a mistake I have made again. The Latin and Greek which I struggled through still helps me to this day. Lastly the phrase "highly irregular" which he liked to use often comes in handy.’

John Condliffe (OS 1990)

‘I feel that I couldn’t let this sad occasion pass without paying tribute to perhaps the best teacher I ever had.

It is 60 years ago that I was taught by ‘Bingo’. He was able to make a subject that was often regarded as dull and boring into an exciting and vibrant lesson. I remember him getting the whole class to chant out loud the declension of nouns to the accompaniment of him beating time with a big stick. The stick went up and down for each case until we got to the genitive plural (puellorum) at which time he gave a huge circular flourish and the stick would whistle through the air to the delight of the whole class.

I always remember Bingo even after 60 years. What a legacy! It was a privilege to have been taught by him.’

Paddy Blacker (OS 1961)

‘I will always be especially grateful for Donald Roberts enabling me to go to Cambridge. He was such a special teacher that he got me to a 70% pass in O' Level Latin from virtually scratch in two months!

Despite all the years that have passed I still remember that brilliant, young, friendly man with whom my path crossed.’

Charles Markus (OS 1960)

‘I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Donald. I was at school from 1982 - 1989, whilst he was Second master. As a relatively small child from a small village, entering SGS was quite daunting - he was one of a handful of people that made the process somewhat smoother!

He was always someone who appeared to have sufficient time for students whatever else was on his plate and made you feel that you came first in his world.’

Sam Lewis (OS 1989)

‘I remember Mr Roberts with great affection and respect. I remember once managing to inundate my satchel and Latin textbook with the darkest of blue ink; the book was ruined. I was a nervous and shy kid - a scholarship boy from a council estate trying to come to terms with the (to me) very middle class feel of the place - and I was very worried as respect for property was a big thing in my parents’ home where money was scarce. Mr Roberts read this situation at a glance and gently and humanely reassured me.

On another occasion I was the proud winner of his ‘Bonus Baton’ - a piece of whimsy whereby the child who could recite most quickly the 36 most common suffixes of a Latin adjective was awarded a damaged old section of copper piping which Mr R. swore was a surviving artefact from the time of the Caesars.’

Frank Morgan (OS 1971)