Andrew Foot 1927 - 2021
Inspirational teacher to so many Russellians in the classroom, Deputy Head and Senior Master for a decade or more, such was the stature of Andrew Foot that those successive generations of pupils could be forgiven for imagining that he had been there from the foundation of the school in 1853!
Yet, although this inspirational man embodied the heritage of Royal Russell, he was never one to devote himself to any restrictive nostalgia for what are often termed “the good old days”; rather, being blessed with a deep and genuine enthusiasm to harness and train the curiosity of youth, he moved effortlessly with the times and, even on his retirement in 1984, was happy to embrace change. Culture shifts, even revolutions, were all the same to him. Indeed, he would have sat equally as comfortably amid the contemporary tenets of education that prevail today.
The truth is that he began his time at Royal Russell in 1951 and served the school for 34 years and it might not be too arrogant a claim that the school would not be here today if it were not for Mr Foot’s fervour. In November 1972, the school faced closure the following July but, at what proved to be the decisive meeting the November before at ‘The Court’ on Harley Street, Andrew gave an impassioned speech to the governors of the time, seeking support for a rescue package. In addressing the board, Andrew chose a mix of the prosaic to convey the complexities, nub and urgency of the situation, and the poetic to inspire all to see the vision he had of a school flourishing long beyond the millennium ahead. The resonance of his words, along with the contribution of those of other figures similarly inspired, averted the prospect of the school’s history ending after a mere 120 years. Furthermore by the end of that decade, Her Majesty The Queen, the school’s long-standing patron, had visited to mark the quasquicentennial of Royal Russell School.
Andrew had an expert way with words. He could equally have delivered his heartfelt sentiments in Chaucer’s Middle English, his mastery of which was rooted in an education at Taunton’s School, Southampton and subsequently at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. His time at university was interrupted by National Service, which he spent in the Royal Navy. The dignified composure he always showed (and perhaps also an officer’s wardrobe with trouser hems rarely more than a millimetre above the ground!) might well have been attributable to a rounded awareness that “worse things happen at sea”, a philosophy that served him well both in the classroom and within the Common Room.
At the ‘chalk-face’, teaching History and English, he enthused many with his love of language. To say he taught English is to convey inadequately the vibrancy of lessons that inspired some to follow in his footsteps both in terms of profession and specialist discipline. His promotions, first to Housemaster of Oxford House in 1959, and then to Deputy Head and Senior Master in 1974, were testimony of the esteem in which he was held by colleagues. There was no other candidate to consider for the role when the school required an ‘acting head’ pending the arrival of Ron Balaam in 1980.
Andrew gave selflessly of his time to co-curricular activities that mirrored his own deep-set passions. From his love of English flowed naturally an enthusiasm for school theatre. He helped produce and direct many a play for the Great Hall stage, the most acclaimed being A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice and Love’s Labour’s Lost. We can see a pattern here?! To Andrew Foot, Shakespeare was incomparable. His choreography of Martin Clunes as Costard grappling with a descent from the Great Hall balcony, gave the audience, as Clunes himself has referenced on many occasions since, a head start on the nation yet to be initiated in the comic genius of Men Behaving Badly. As for Andrew’s staff pantomimes, these showed how a force of nature can prevail upon others to accept levity amid any necessary gravitas required of boarding school life.
Andrew was equally prolific in his contribution to the outdoor life of his pupils . His good friend and ally, Peter Green, Third Master and loyal supporter of the Deputy Head, calculated (and this will come as no great surprise to anyone who also had the pleasure of knowing Mr Green!) that, in coaching the hockey and cricket First XIs, Andrew Foot had spent at least 3300 hours umpiring and a further 1000+ hours in the nets. We can add in his supervision of football, overseeing the First XIs and Second XIs for many seasons, thereby completing Andrew’s personal ‘triple crown’.
Further afield, the county of Kent was the beneficiary of his skills as an administrator in the years when he served as Honorary Secretary of Kent Schools Hockey Association. Moreover, Andrew’s coaching prowess saw him elevated to the position of head coach to the South-East Schoolboys team and then to the England Schoolboys, taking the national team to the ill-fated 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
Out of all of Andrew’s sporting pursuits, cricket could have been invented for his personal traits to shine through. At whatever level Andrew might have played the game, he would always have been a gentleman. The duration of cricket, even when limited to just an afternoon, meant opportunities for him to observe and deliver quiet, timely words of encouragement and rallying calls as required.
After a game, the natural raconteur in him had the time and space to ensure his stories were not delivered in haste but to be savoured in full, not least when amid the Caterham Strollers, whom he captained for many years. Each ball of his almost metronomic, swing bowling was executed without any distress if leather reached the boundary or any over-zealous celebrations if he had outfoxed a batsman, not with the bravado of flat-out pace so prominent today but by the sort of guile and invention that can make a long walk back to the pavilion somewhat humbling. Of course, even if he was inwardly delighted by this, it was never publicly evident that this was his intention. As a schoolboy batsman, the signal from Andrew as an umpire that your innings was over never felt quite so terminal and your dismissal never so bleak as when the message was delivered by others.
Andrew’s departure from the wider field of play has produced a steady and ongoing string of tributes. Knowing his sense of humour, he might have enjoyed most the accolade afforded him by one former pupil that he was “the only teacher I actually liked”. “Praising what is lost makes the remembrance dear” (All’s Well That Ends Well); many expressions of sadness for his passing confirm what an especially formative influence Andrew Foot has had upon a multitude of souls. So many have left Royal Russell with Andrew’s counsel resonating in both their hearts and their heads.
From ‘Hillview’ by the Coombe Hill gates, which he and Lorna called home for many years, their beloved West country called them and it was from Cornwall that they have both now eventually passed.
As the school’s first ever Careers’ Master (an appointment he undertook in 1953), Andrew may also have had a particular hand in shaping any number of paths beyond those gates. Instead of any census to quantify his contribution to lives beyond Royal Russell School, we are all for now best served in spending a moment or two reflecting with admiration upon the route which Andrew Foot himself took, a route which has benefited thousands of Russellians, past, present and future.
Colin Cameron, February 2021
If you would like to write your own tribute to Andrew Foot then please do so and send it to the Old Russellian Secretary, Vicky Rees (firstname.lastname@example.org) and it will be published in the next Old Russellian newsletter.
Geoff Hide 1936 - 2020, Pupil at RRS 1946 - 1954
Geoff wrote about his time at Royal Russell School and this can be seen here
Rest In Peace, Arif Ebrahim, whom we lost on January 4th 2021 after three weeks in a Johannesburg ICU. An Old Russellian of rare distinction, father, husband, entrepreneur and the best cricketer - internationally decorated; East, and Central Africa, and Zambia - that almost all of us will have the privilege of playing alongside. Also a mean footballer, when Andrew Foot allowed him to risk what he would affectionately calls his "little bones". Small in stature, but, at the crease and in life, towering. As Michael Clarke said of Phil Hughes, rest in peace our little brother, we'll see you up there out in the middle.
John Brown 1929 to 2020
After John left Royal Russell he was called up for National Service and was attached to RHQ of the Royal Artillery stationed at Bulford Camp, near Salisbury. It was here that he met his wife to be, Audrey, who was also serving at Carter Barracks. They were married in 1949 and went on to have 71 years of happy life together.
He started work with British Railways as a Clerical Assistant and progressed to his final position of Office Manager when he retired.
John was dedicated to the Royal Legion, Borehamwood branch where he had many roles. 40 years as a Welfare Worker, where he visited the sick and needy ex services personnel. He was Poppy Appeal Organiser, Branch Vice Chairman and then Branch Chairman for 17.5 years. He then became Branch President up until October 2019 when his illness first affected him.
He was a very respected member of the local community where he always attended public meetings of the local council and was also a Vice President of a local Scout group.
A gentleman, a great father and a grandfather. He is survived by his wife Audrey, two daughters, Carol and Gillian, together with 6 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
The OR Committee has made the decision to postpone this year's AGM until next year. This year would normally have been an election year but due to the difficulties in arranging an AGM/Vote we have taken the decision to extend the time limit for officers and members for a further year.
MUN Then and Now
The International Model United Nations started at RRS in 1981, and goes from strength to strength. Read More.
Britain from Above
There is a new site just launched showing 1919 – 1953 Aerofilms. Published by the English Heritage and the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments of Scotland and Wales, there are some excellent images. A search for Croydon reveals 44 hits, mostly in the south of the borough though we are sure more will be added. There are some good aerial views of Ballards estate about 1920. Have a look.