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From the Vicar Bishop of Portsmouth Curate 100 years of worship News from the Pews John Symonds The New St George's Fr Timon appointed Vicar Book Corner Who am I? St George's Ladies Happy Wanderer to Norway Crossword Puzzle time Len Palmer

St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

The Website for St George’s Church, Waterlooville and its Parish Magazine St George’s News

Autumn 2021 issue

John Symonds, 1930 - 2020

His family had lived in the village for generations and his parents had a fruit farm. The world then was smaller, people travelled much less, villages were quite parochial and tribal. Dad’s village life was marked by the farming seasons, strong family ties, the village feast, winter skating matches on the flooded fens, church life and its seasons, choral music, and sporting activities. This time grew strong friendships. Sport was a passion and followed through his life. He was a lifelong supporter of Arsenal.

An only child he was solitary, he told me he used to have an invisible friend for years. He would play Chinese Chequers, card games and chess against himself. He had a keen mind and was a great strategist. He was competitive and played bridge several times a week. He and his partner won awards for this. He also loved doing the Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph codewords.

Family life was orderly for him, with no brothers or sisters, he was used to being the centre of his mum’s world, and liked being the centre of our mum’s world. We always joked that Dad was a married bachelor.

His mum Ruth adored and doted on him, her approval was gained by studying. She wanted a different future for him. Studying at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge would take my Dad out of the fens, but not the fens out of my Dad. His love of Over and its flat landscape with wide, open skies remained with him always, and constantly drew him back.

It is not surprising that Dad chose history for his degree. Growing up between the wars in a farming family he did not have to be  evacuated but was very conscious of those who went to serve king and country and either never returned or returned injured and altered. The local service men who operated the battery guns came weekly for a bath and meal at his house, and his father had to listen in to enemy signals and record them for the war office at set times in the week. Dad had a profound need to understand the past to make sense of why we had wars and deeply honoured those who served and lost their lives. In later life he would research the names of those recorded on war memorials and immortalised their lives in books typed on a traditional typewriter going to each grave and contacting families. He published a number of books, including Heroes of Over, Forgotten Heroes, which was an account of the men of Waterlooville, Cowplain and Purbrook killed in the two world wars. The Men Who Marched Away, a record of the old Churcherians of Churchers College, Petersfield in the two world wars. A History of Over (1850-1950). In retirement he researched his family tree and wrote his autobiography. (Many of his memories preserved through the diaries he wrote over many years). He travelled all over the UK, North France and Belgium with mum, finding new relatives, visiting graves and records offices, and in later life became adept with the internet.

Dad was an avid reader, books were his friends. In hospital he lamented, “I will never see my books again, what will happen to them?” Dad loved his study, it was his safe space when family life was too much, escaping the noise of the vacuum to re-energise. He visited the library twice a week and kept records of all the books he read.

Escaping the dreary army barracks of 1950’s National Service, Dad began his degree, the “happiest four years of his life”. Playing sport, cycling everywhere, afternoon tea with study partners and evensong at Kings College Chapel. In the summers, he went on manoeuvres with the Territorial Army, fruit and flower picking on the farm and forays abroad to Croatia and Corsica. He achieved a 2-2 in history and had hoped to go into the Colonial Service, but the Empire was breaking up so he opted for teaching.

In January 1955, during his Certificate of Education, he met Mum studying at Hughes Hall, Cambridge. He was “immediately smitten!” Sharing a love of poetry, they began a slow courtship of punting along the River Cam, and cycle rides to Over for tea. He took dancing lessons, and invited Mum to the May Ball, but their first kiss wasn’t until June just before exams. He finally proposed marriage in August amongst the dunes of Sandwich Bay.

During his first job at Haywards Heath Secondary Modern, he wrote to Mum daily, and they visited fortnightly, finally marrying in Margate in April 1957.

That autumn, they travelled out by ship to Malacca for Dad’s first posting abroad. There he passed his driving test, and Helen was born in June 1959.

He briefly returned to the UK to support his Mum after his Father developed Parkinson’s disease.

He then ventured to Prempeh College Boys School in Ghana, September 1961. Andrew was born in 1963. I have memories of playing in the rough amongst fireflies while afternoon Cricket wound up for the day. Lizards running up the house walls, Awooni and Adongo the house-boys, bananas growing in the garden. Times seemed spacious and pace of life relaxed.

In both postings life long friendships were established.

Returning to 1960’s Margate was a culture shock. Catherine was born while the family lived with Grandma and Grandpa Tribe. We then moved to Dartmouth for Dad’s next post.

Dad described his time at Britannia Royal Navy College as the happiest time of his life, both personally and professionally. He loved his work, his own study in the college. There was time to research and attend Divisions on Sunday mornings followed by college Chapel service. It was very social, dinner parties, choral societies, bridge and football, cricket and squash. Lovely family trips to Dartmoor, and Blackpool Sands, and walks around Start Point.

He loved choral music and sang till later life for many years, part of the Portsmouth Chorus and Drayton Choral Society. He also loved the piano and played. My memories of him playing the Moonlight Sonata or listening to his record collection with mum.

After he was made redundant the family moved to Hampshire in 1971, where Dad taught for 20 years at Churcher’s College in Petersfield, retiring in 1991. He umpired sports, and ran chess clubs.

His family lived in Waterlooville and joined the newly rebuilt St George’s Church. Dad was a member of the Portsmouth Historical Association, and became programme secretary for 26 years and also the Western Front Association. He continued to sing and umpired Cricket for the Old Hambledonians.

In retirement Dad enjoyed the local Probus Club and was president for a year. He wrote for his church magazine and drove for the Waterlooville and Purbrook Good Neighbours Scheme.

He published a history of St George’s together with a supplement which is currently being serialised in the church magazine.

Dad was much loved and respected by his old pupils, one of whom visited him from Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia a few months before he died.

Helen Webster

This tribute was read by John’s daughter Helen at the service in celebration of his life, which took place at St George’s Church on Saturday 14th August.

Growing up, I didn’t really know my Father. He seemed to live in his study and it was really only when he wrote his autobiography that he came alive… He eloquently shared his heart, deep sensitivity, passions, and love of Mum.

Dad had a strong sense of land, place, family, church and community. He had a dry sense of humour, was an interesting raconteur, a shy man with an enquiring mind, but not very practical. He was an introvert, formed by his past, an only child born in 1930, shaped profoundly by time and place. He was born and grew up in the village of Over in Cambridgeshire between the wars. As a young man his father had travelled the world becoming a Wireless Telegraphist in the Merchant Navy and remained a keen radio ham all his life. I believe Dad’s gift as a prolific letter writer, speaker and author and love of travel and exploration stem from this.