06 February 2008

Doc Freeman's obituary

Obituary of Dr P T Freeman

I'm indebted to Ms Carol Liston of the Winchester Local Studies Library for providing me with copies of the Hampshire Chronicle's obituary of Doc, a brief report of tributes paid at the City Magistrates Court, and a report of his memorial service, from the library's microfilm archive of back issues of the newspaper. I've transcribed the articles by hand. _ Chris Cooper.




Peter Symonds' School Headmaster

The death took place early on Wednesday morning of Dr. Percy Tom Freeman, M.B.E., B. Sc., Ph.D., F.R.I.C., F.Z.S., J.P. He had not been in good health for some time past and a little over three weeks before he had undergone a major operation to the lung in the Southampton Chest Hospital. He had made good progress, however, in his recovery and had been able to return home, but early this week he had a relapse. He was taken to the Royal Hampshire County Hospital at Winchester where his death took place. 

Dr. Freeman was by birth a Dorset man and he retained his love of Dorset and its writers (particularly Thomas Hardy and William Barnes) throughout his life. Born at Wimborne Minster, he received his early education at the Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School there, and he received his first college training at Southampton, at the University College, later to become Southampton University. With the outbreak of the first World War, he served with the Royal Engineers as a Captain, and in that capacity he was engaged on research work for the sound location of aircraft. The results of his work were, in fact, still in use for that purpose right up to the beginning of the second World War, when the development of radar made them obsolete; he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services in this field.

Back from the war, he resumed his studies at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he graduated and subsequently was awarded his doctorate, again for research work in physics. He became a science master first at Portsmouth Secondary School and then at King Edward VI. School, Southampton, where he was senior science master. His first headship was at Purbrook Park County High School in 1925, but it only lasted about a year, for in 1926 he was appointed Head Master of Peter Symonds' School, Winchester, where he had been for the past 30 years.

School Development

Dr. Freeman succeeded the Rev. Telford Varley in this position. Mr. Varley had built the school from its beginning, when it was housed in other buildings in the city in the last decade of the 19th century; he had taken it from its early days in the new building -- built for some 150 scholars -- up to something over twice that number and, when Dr. Freeman came there, it was expanding far beyond what the physical provisions of the school would hold, and it had established already a name which caused it to draw scholars from an area far beyond that for which it was originally intended to provide. Dr. Freeman took it on from where Mr. Varley left off, and under him the school continued to rise in size and in general stature.

Under Dr. Freeman's regime, the school became one of those on the Headmasters' Conference, and the number of scholars today is put at over 600. Dr. Freeman himself was recognised as an educationist to such an extent that he was elected Chairman of the Headmasters' Association in 1948, that honour, strangely enough, coinciding with the honouring of his second master of that time, Mr. C. J. Cozens, by his election as President of the Assistant Masters' Association.

Succeeding a classical scholar and a historian, Dr. Freeman brought to Peter Symonds' School a wider conception of modern education in certain respects. As a scientist with biology and natural history as very much his hobbies, he extended the curriculum and gave added emphasis to some of the existing activities, both in and out of school. Like his predecessor, he was a staunch supporter of the educational benefits of Cadet Force training, and for a time he held the rank of Cadet Lieut.-Colonel, commanding the 1st Cadet Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment.

As a schoolmaster he was a firm believer in the need for a Christian background to all phases of teaching and his forthright views upon the matter were expressed in his book "Christianity and Boys," published during the war. His opinions on the matter were often unorthodox and drew, in fact, vigorous opposition from some Church quarters, but he defended them, as he had expressed them, in trenchant and refreshing style.

Of his work and personality as a Head Master, there are many in the district who can speak. He saw not only the school grow but also the Old Symondians' Association, of which he became President upon his arrival at the school and which he enthusiastically supported until now it has over 1000 members. He knew each boy and his peculiarities, and did much to remove difficulties, economic and otherwise, which stood in their way. Particularly interesting in the educational sphere was the link which he helped to establish between the school and Winchester College which enabled outstanding boys who were likely to benefit from education at the latter to be given that opportunity -- a link which has now been taken over by the County Education Authority and expanded to cover the county.

School Status

Dr. Freeman's greatest disappointment, probably, was in his failure to get Peter Symonds' School established as a "Direct Ministry Grant" school, when the educational system of this area was re-organised with the implementation of the 1944 Act. He fought the issue "to the last ditch" with a great deal of support from the Local Education Authority, and only when he received the Minister of Education's refusal did he give up the battle. 

Outside of the school and its kindred organisations, Dr. Freeman's interests were manifold, and his influence in the city and the county was considerable. To educational administration he gave a great deal of time. In the pre-war days he sat for some while on the old Winchester Education Committee, when the city was a "Part III. Authority," governing its own elementary education. In May, 1945, he was appointed a member of the Hampshire County Education Authority, as one of the selected members of the Committee, representative of teaching interests in the county. On that Committee he did a great deal of work, especially on some of the special advisory Committees, and in the main Committee itself he regularly expressed his own downright and commonsense views in unmistakable fashion. From 1945 up to the time of his death he served in this capacity, often when other work and ill-health made it far from easy.

He was appointed a magistrate for the City of Winchester in 1940 and regularly sat upon the Bench, both in the ordinary and the Juvenile Court. His special knowledge of young people made him an obvious choice in time as Chairman of the Juvenile Panel, a position which he gave up a few years ago when he was appointed Chairman of the whole Bench, in succession to Mr. Frank Warren. He was still holding that position at the time of his death though his health in recent months had interfered considerably with his work there. As a magistrate he combined the same frank commonsense which he showed in other spheres of life with a kindly consideration for offenders, especially young ones, whom he was always anxious to help back to a firmer footing in life.


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