Ralph Mann

Durham House Master
1963 - 1973

Ralph (and Elizabeth) Mann


Iain Helstrip

Ralph Mann was born in North London on 15 May 1927. He recently celebrated his 80th birthday a short while ago and is in excellent health. He lives in his third retirement in the village of Hook Norton just a few miles from the hill.

Elizabeth and Ralph Mann (with daughter Ruth) taken from the 1967 School Photograph

He went to school at St. Johns in Leatherhead, Surrey and the family home was Fletcham just a short distance away. Following his schooling he joined the Navy to assist in the then little local difficulty that the U.K. was having with Germany. His training was in small ships and he became an EVT instructor; however much to his disappointment he did not get to sea, all of his time being spent on land bases to include Chatham

Following his demob at the end of hostilities he went to Oxford to study history, and then took a Diploma in Education, and followed in his Father's footsteps and became a teacher.

The teaching career commenced with a five-year 'stretch' teaching in an Overseas Public School in Barbados. After West Indies, came West Africa and here lies a story.

Prior to KHS Mr and Mrs Mann were living in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Due to the government policy of the Africanisation of local employment, Mr. Mann's contract was not to be renewed, and he was applying for teaching positions back in the UK. Long distance interviews were going to present a challenge, and the boat home was booked. Anyway at the last moment, one reply came back from Teddie offering a ray of hope "if you can be here on 23 July at 2.0PM there could be a position at KHS"

The boat docked on the 22 nd July, The only train timetable available on board ship was a tad out of date, but indicated it was possible to get from Bristol to Sarsden Halt by train - all in good time for the two o'clock interview on 23 July. On buying a rail ticket on the morning of 23rd the efficacy of the timetable quickly became apparent. Sarsden Halt was no more and the train journey terminated at Cheltenham.

A bus journey from Cheltenham to Stow-on-the-Wold was possible, but time was now running out, it was 1.0PM only an hour left to get to KHS. There was no bus service, there were no taxi's, not that there was any money for a taxi.

Scout training came to the fore. Walk briskly for 100 yards, run 100 yards, walk briskly for 100 yards, run 100 yards, repeat until you arrive at your destination.

As Ralph Mann dashed through "Ball's Gap" the school clock struck 2. Teddie gave time for Ralph Mann to clean up and recover his breath, and the rest as they say, like this, is history.


Ball's Gap in KHS grounds. Photos courtesy of Tony Middleton

Ralph & Elizabeth Mann and their son John came to the Hill that summer initially to be House Tutor in Plymouth House in September 1963 and then onto became Housemaster to Durham House Christmas term 1964 taking over from George Kingsnorth. Durham was a happy house in the time that the author was there and KHS was Mann's home through till 1973. Mr and Mrs. Mann's daughter - Ruth was born in Durham House in 1965.

Mr Mann was on train duty for his first term, and of course was an unknown face to all those boys getting on the school train at Paddington who were planning on doing their best to savour there last 90 minutes of indiscipline. There was one boy having particular difficulty mounting the carriage, struggling with suitcase, carrier bags and a guitar on his back that was getting wedged in the door. Ralph Mann proffered to help, and the reply came back "I am fine Granddad." And so we all soon found out who the new master was!!

I don't think that competitive games were really Ralph Mann's thing. He was very supportive of the house inter house competitions, but I never thought he was 'comfortable' with the referee part. He recounted a story, which the author of this had long forgotten. Derek Blackwell (the Gym master) regarded sports day as a mini Olympics. The discus throwing was particularly pitiful and D.B. stopped everybody who was participating in the sports day to give a personal demonstration on how to throw the discus. This was duly done, and what a throw, it flew up and up and up - heading straight to where the masters' cars were parked. Bang, straight through a windscreen. Whose windscreen? Derek Blackwells! Mr Mann recalls how everybody (well nearly everybody) laughed; D.B. never did see the funny side!

Ralph Mann taught History and English. He recalls end of term time, and the dreaded report writing (and receiving). He confessed that he used to write a number of apt serve all descriptions ranging from very bad to the very good and all points between to help and on occasions use when the frenetic report period started. When the 'window' to write the reports opened he could quickly use his pre-developed descriptions to speed the process. He recounts on one occasion, some body unjustly received a harsh bad report due another master illicitly removing one boy's report from the class pile and by mistake the hash report went in the wrong book. It could hardly be crossed out, so it had to stand. The next term the pupil did brilliantly in the subject!

Ralph Mann (3rd from left) on history field trip with school.


Ralph Mann was also the Group Scoutmaster; Group Scout leader after 1967 and took the Scout troop to camps in such great places as White Mere (1964) Barnswood Cheshire (1965) Bude in Cornwall (1966 and where the summer did not arrive and a boy had to be returned home suffering from hypothermia in July. Its reassuring little changes!), Monmouth (1967)

Lulworth Castle, Dorset (1968) Singleton Green, Sussex (1969), Kingston Deveral (1970), Breacon Beacons (1971), Kingston Deveral (1972) and finally Breacon Beacons in 1973.

In 1973 he moved to Chipping Norton to become Head of History and Professional Tutor at Chipping Norton School where he stayed till1982, when he retired.

He was ordained a deacon in 1982 and a priest in 1983. He retired from full-time ministry in 1997, but then at the Bishop's urgent request he took on a "part time" parish in Gloucester until 2000 when he finally retired for the third time!


Elizabeth and Ralph Mann snapped at the reunion on The Hill in October 2007

Iain also recalls: Donald Service, KHS Circa 1963 - 1973

Donald Service was assistant Chaplin and House Tutor for Durham. He was Scout Master and took the camp to Bude in Cornwall 1964, when the weather was like the Mediterranean. On leaving the Hill he became the Vicar of Mayfield, near Ashbourne in Derbyshire, and then he moved to be Rector of the Crook Peak group of parishes in Somerset. Sadly he developed Leukaemia from which he died in circa 1991. He was survived by his wife Gill, their daughter Ann, and his sister Pam. He was buried at Street in Somerset. [Some of this information was provided by Godfrey Nicholson.]

The historian would be pleased to receive an article (brief or long) about Donald Service from anyone who has more information about him and his time on The Hill.

Iain Helstrip November 2007

Iain Helstrip

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