The OB office regrets to announce the death of John Page, MA (Oxon.), former House Master of Chichester and Hampden houses at Brighton College. He died peacefully in his sleep at home, after an evening of laughter and conversation with his beloved wife Jackie and relatives. John taught Classics at Brighton College from 1952 until his retirement in the late 1980s.
John Page, who has died aged 88, was one of a distinguished group of masters joining the school in the grim post-war period who helped to redefine the quality of education pupils received and the way in which they were treated. As a housemaster of Chichester in the troublesome 60s, when hair, CCF, Chapel and dress codes were issues to be perpetually questioned, he won over his charges with his humanity and innate sense of fairness. Boys understood that they might express their individuality and yet remain determinedly loyal to the institution they belonged to. The culture of Chichester in those days is tellingly expressed in a photograph appearing in Martin Jones’s history: the boys and staff are ranged (with scant regard for health and safety regulations) over the building site of the new study block (40 years later to become the Simon Smith Building). Their dress is casual, modish, John himself in long sideburns and a collarless cheesecloth shirt; and their mood is one of cheerful contentment at being where they are. A happy community.
John was appointed by Bill Stewart to teach in a notably strong classics department, together with the likes of Norman Frith, Nigel Jaques and later Peter Perfect. He was also a House Tutor in Aldrich under Geoff Lees. Talented schoolmasters took major responsibilities in a variety of roles in those days, and he also became Contingent Commander of the CCF.
He took a year out in Oman in 1973-4, teaching English and perfecting his diving skills, to return to the college to resume as Head of Classics and begin a new life post-housemastering. This involved taking responsibility for the 1st XV on Saturdays, in the days when John Pope was playing for Rosslyn Park, helping to run the 3rd XI cricket, running the 6th form lecture programme on Friday afternoons and doing a further brief stint as acting housemaster of Leconfield. He was also an immensely good-natured secretary to the common room, welcoming new members and being companionable and unfailingly entertaining with more seasoned ones.
Hospitality was central to John and Jackie’s life in a succession of charmingly appointed houses, from Vine Place, to Poynings, to Waldegrave Road, and latterly to a gem of a house near the close in Winchester. In each of these the garden was a source of much industry and some pride. In later years when a lack of mobility restricted his movement he made a point of coming to the Remembrance Service each November, in the company of Marcus or Sabina, his broad smile registering his delight at seeing again former pupils and colleagues. He was knowledgeable about the literature of the First World War, which he heard on these occasions, and much else besides - the life and work of Housman, for example - which he would regularly communicate to his friends online. In common with his whole approach to life, at the same time as honouring tradition and keeping alive a distinctly latinate vocabulary, he readily and happily embraced the innovations and neologisms of the 21st century, not least those associated with IT! The college has lost an admired teacher and a loyal friend.
If anyone would like to write to the family they can do so via the OB office, or feel free to comment below...
Nick Bremer (Director of Art, Brighton College 1969–00) has written:
When I first entered the Common Room at Brighton College way, way back in 1969, to take over the Art Department from Gordon Taylor, I was struck at just how relaxed, friendly and laid back everyone was. Jock Henderson, Charlie Noon, Doddy Dykes, Norman Frith, the characters stood out, but the coolest dude was, without doubt, John Page. He and Jancis threw the wildest of wild flower-power parties, at some time, I recall, in the old Maltings building before it was demolished. John, resplendent in an herbaceous bandana and floral blouse cut such a dash that one could scarcely reconcile his appearance with his academic position as the revered Head of Classics and Housemaster of Chichester. What a school I had come to!
John was a truly cultured gentleman of fine standing, and it was as thus that my wife, Jill, and I owe his memory the greatest thanks. It was John who encouraged me to make romantic overtures to Jill when she was engaged by the College to cater for the “Commem Ball”. The Pages had a long acquaintance with my eventual in-laws , who held his opinion in high esteem when grilling him as to my suitability as a suitor for their daughter. Our 40 year of happy marriage is testament to his abilities as a match maker!
We eventually moved to Fulking, in 1987, to find that John and Jackie were resident in Poynings, only two fields away as the sheep flies, and so they were able to keep a close eye on our activities in Clappers Lane. Our garden was, it seemed, created for parties al fresco, and John never turned down the opportunity to wander over and live it up. Then the country gent, as opposed to the hippy groove of yore – which was the real John? – he was nonetheless always ready to be a listening friend and wise counsel over a pint of real ale! Brighton College, Brighton, Poynings, and then Winchester, will all be the poorer with his passing. For us two, his memory will surely live on in our lives together, and to him we say therefore, “Thanks, John. Because of you, we are as one!”