Thursday, 9 April 2009

Obituary of John Cooksey

JOHN COOKSEY died on 17th April 1993. The following obituary was published in the Hampshire Chronicle on Friday 7th May 1993. His widow, Betty, died some two years later :-
“John Cooksey, who died, aged 84 on April 17th, was a brilliant schoolmaster, coming to teach at Peter Symonds’ School, Winchester, in 1929, straight from a double first in Classics at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he had just missed a Fellowship.
He taught at Peter Symonds’ for the next 129 terms, five of them as Head in the period in which the school was transformed to a sixth form college.
Countless Symondians benefited from his exceptional teaching of both Classics and history. He was a first-rate scholar, but he carried his learning lightly and utterly without ostentation.
The range of his knowledge was astonishing and the way in which he imparted it was equally remarkable. He was a demanding teacher, but those whom he taught found that, in an almost miraculous way, they know their subject and could perform wonders in public examinations and for university scholarships.
Here, indeed was an academic preparation which equipped a boy for life and there are many Old Symondians of considerable eminence who still count themselves fortunate to have been taught by him.
Even as Second Master, he continued to teach a heavy timetable and yet could still find time to examine 1000 O level Latin scripts per summer and also to moderate the marking of others and to be the chief examiner for the Oxford Examination Board.
In his younger days he was a vigorous sportsman, playing rugby, cricket and fives. In later years, his dedication to Worcester county Cricket Club and West Bromwich Albion were well known and their bad days rarely went unremarked.
Indeed, there was a time when a small duck would appear on his blackboard if his friend, the then Worcester captain, had failed to trouble the county scorer on the previous day.
John Cooksey was a family man who enjoyed the privilege of having his family around him. He became Housemaster at Varley’s and later of School House and he was joined in the work by his wife, Betty, who survives him and his daughter, Elisabeth, who continues to work at Peter Symonds’ to this day.
Every summer, with the term over and all that O level marking behind him, the family made for Scotland, which he greatly loved and about which his knowledge was almost encyclopaedic.
After his retirement in 1973, the trips became more frequent and it seems sadly appropriate that his life ended as he was returning from his favourite holiday home.
At his funeral at Southampton Crematorium, an address was given by John Ashurst, Head of Peter Symonds’ from 1963 – 1971. It was a fitting tribute to a fine school master, whose like one rarely sees today”

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