Thursday, 9 April 2009

Obituary of Paul Woodhouse

Paul Woodhouse died in Swanage on 14th February 1994. His funeral took place in the Choir of Winchester Cathedral on 21st February 1994 and his following tribute was paid by Michael Witcher [1948-1952] and it appeared in the Spring 1997 edition of ‘The Symondian’.
“I first met Paul Woodhouse when he returned to teach at Peter Symonds’ School after World War II in which he had served with distinction, mostly in the Middle East.
His return to School, in late 1945 coincided with the first of the 11+ intakes. There we were – boys from many walks of life. In several cases our fathers had been away for years on active service -–some not to return. Many of us were confused, certainly we did not know how to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities the School had to offer – and straightaway he made his mark.
My first memories are the sight of him walking in that even, measured stride he had adopted, from the back garden of his beloved Dirleton, the length of the school playing field on his way to school. He was as regular as clockwork. The sight of him in the brown sports jacket he favoured, walking down the playing field in the morning told you it was time to start packing up your game of cricket or soccer and wash off the mud, ready for the school bell and morning prayers because to arrive late was to risk the wrath of the Head, and that was to be avoided at all costs.
But the way he really made his mark was through his total commitment to the school and all of us there. He took a special interest in those of us who were disadvantaged in some way. In my own case my father had returned from the war severely wounded and incapacitated. So he took me under his wing, became as it were my mentor and in many ways took over where my father left off. Metaphorically he picked me up by the scruff of the neck pointed me in the right direction saying –
“Young man, this is how you behave”. He gave me ambition and an understanding and love of history which has given me so much pleasure over the years and he encouraged me to take an active part in games – especially soccer and cricket – even to the extent of paying for the coaching courses which my parents could not afford. Perhaps, most important of all though, he gave me standards – standards which have stood me in good stead throughout my life.
But I was only one of many boys to whom he gave advice, practical help and encouragement all the time we were at School. We owe him a considerable debt.
At the same time Paul Woodhouse was a man of many parts. A graduate of Kings College, London, he first arrived at the School in 1931 from Portsmouth Grammar School. In the years before the war he commanded the school OTC and played a very active part in the 4th TA Battalion, the Royal Hampshire Regiment, where he commanded the Winchester company. Throughout his time at the school, having been an enthusiastic games player himself, he gave total support to the school teams. He was always on the touchline at football matches, or during the cricket season, on the boundary of Outer Field, and on occasions he would even pack several of us in his car and drive us away to matches. In many ways he was the best sort of schoolmaster. Just to teach us was not enough. He gave the school, his colleagues and boys total support and commitment in everything.
Another important thread which ran through his life was his work in the community. He was before the war, Chairman of the Round Table and for many years a member of several Masonic Lodges and a keen and practical supporter of their charitable works. His enthusiasm for sport – especially rugby –found expression in his support of the Winchester Rugby Club, of which he was president for a number of years.
Understandably though, his most important contribution to the city and civic life could be seen in his service as a city Councillor. From 1947 he served as an independent councillor for St Michael’s Ward and in 1956/7 was elected to be Mayor of the City of Winchester, an honour and privilege of which he was immensely proud.
Finally in 1939 he had become joint proprietor of the Hampshire Chronicle after his marriage to Monica and served for many years as a director of Jacob and Johnson, the company name of the Hampshire Chronicle and its associated newspapers. But again it was not enough just to be a newspaper proprietor. For him the Hampshire Chronicle was part of the fabric of the City and the wider county of Hampshire. It recorded the big events, live VE day, or a change of government but much more important it provided a living history – if that’s not a contradiction in terms – of the people of Winchester and nearby. It recorded their births and their marriages told of their examination achievements and highlighted the deliberation so the city Council, reported on the latest performance of the Operatic Society and the success of the village fete. If you had scored a goal or a try or taken some wickets, in the match report your name was there for all to see and recorded for posterity. In this way, the Hampshire Chronicle, for him, helped to develop the sense of community and the sense of belonging which he believed to be so important.
May I close by saying that Paul Woodhouse was an honourable, decent and caring man. Many of us owe him a debt which perhaps we can only repay through service to others and in so doing follow the very fine example he set for us all.

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