Teaching on the Hill 1949 - 1959
- We will remember those lost on the Rohilla -
It is over 50 years on now from that tragedy that devastated the lives of those of us who lived and worked at school during that fateful time in September 1959. For it was then that we learned of the tragic loss of the ocean going yacht the Rohilla on a cross channel school journey. Crewed by Colin, his friend John Clewett and five boys from school - the loss stunned us all.
Colin and the boys were sadly missed for many years, and this tragedy had a profound effect on some of our lives, certainly those close to them. None more so than Teddie Cooper, the warden (Head teacher). Teddie's successor David Shepherd (1975 to 1990) recently mentioned to me that even years afterwards how much Teddie was affected by this tragic loss.
His Mother, Eleanor Annie Noble, was a Domestic Servant and his father, Lawrence Edwin Noble, was recorded as a Gardener.
At the time of this tragedy Colin was just thirty-six. Thanks to a member of Colin's family, Mike Allen who was also a pupil at school also in Clyde House 1961 to 1965, we have been able to prepare this biography. Colin's mother was in fact Michael Allen's grandfather's sister; Mike and Colin were cousins.
Colin Noble'sbirth certificate (Click image to enlarge)
Mike informs us: They lived in Maids Morton just outside Buckingham. Colin was educated at the Royal Latin School in Buckingham and later at Culham Teacher Training College in Oxford in the 1940s. This information has also been confirmed to us by a colleague teacher, Mr. Stewart Brindley, who was teaching on the hill from 1948 - 1958. Colin and Stewart also ran the schools 1st Scout Troop.
Mr. Brindley goes on to inform us that "Apart from being a very good teacher, he organised many out of school activities. Whilst running the Scouts he took boys camping in Cornwall and France. He was a man who gave 100% to the school and school life".
What follows are memories shared with us by Basil Benson and Stuart Bridley of Colin in the mid-50s, when Colin was in his early 30s. Mr Benson was a former colleague and physical education teacher who joined the school staff in 1954 and Mr Brindley was deputy head of Clyde, and taught at KHS between 1948 and 1958.
The Saga of Three Men, a Canoe and not to mention the Swan.
"Colin was a teetotaler and a non smoker who loved life. He had a good sense of humour, and he laughed a lot.
On one famous occasion he took me [Basil Benson] canoeing. Stewart Brindley drove us in Colin's people carrier to the Banbury and Oxford canal. On arrival we unloaded the two-man canoe with its paddles and launched the canoe. Stewart left and drove off ready to meet up with us later that day near Oxford for our return journey back to Kingham hill.
The most memorable part of the journey was when us two strong, stern schoolmasters were faced-down by a very large angry and aggressive signet-guarding mother swan.
We both, shame faced, had to lift the canoe out of the water and hike around the field some several hundred yards away where it was safe to launch again. Colin, being rather correct, didn't even swear, but on that day I most certainly did!!"
The other memories we share now are from Colin's cousin Mike Allen.
"My last memory of Colin is when he came to visit in about 1957. At lunch he got a fish bone stuck in this throat, and that memory of him has stuck in my mind all this time (please excuse the pun).
Colin was also so excited to have the opportunity to sail the Rohilla, which he said was a converted life boat and therefore very safe. (They said that about the Titanic)
On the few occasions I met him he always seemed full of fun to a small boy and not at all "stuffy" or reserved. I am very sorry that I cannot give you a better testimonial, John, for as you know he died when I was nine in 1959."
What is known about the Rohilla is, yes, it was a converted 16 ton ex-R.N.L.I Gaff Ketch life-boat fitted with a Gardner Deisel marine engine, that gave a speed of 7 knots.
As modifications were made, and new safety features developed in the evolution of life boats, the earlier versions where sold off to the general public for leisure and recreation.
Thanks again to Basil Benson, we know that the Rohilla was hired for two trips that year by Kingham Hill School.
Colin and John had already made one trip that summer of 1959 across to France and the Channel Islands.
It was on the second journey one week later to the Channel Islands when the tragedy occurred.
No one knows for certain what happened to cause this tragic loss. Over the years speculation has suggested that the Rohilla was run down by a much larger vessel.
The Rohilla as she was in the summer of 1959. Photo courtesy of Mike Allen, 2008
The fact that no wreckage was ever washed up, and only one lifebuoy ever found with the name of the Rohilla on it, gives rise to this theory.
Much later the sea gave back the bodies that where taken. Both the Clyde boys are buried side by side in Kingham church yard.
This simple brass plaque (shown below) was unveiled and dedicated to all those who were lost. It can now be found in the school chapel, not in its original location over the main exit doors, but discreetly tucked away on the back wall of the chapel under the gallery.
Photo (left): Colin Noble with friend John Clewett also lost on the Rohilla.
Below is a photograph of the graves of the two boys from Clyde House, Robin Green and Peter Knight, both lost on the Rohilla.
Photo: Iain Helstrip
Article and photos published by kind permission of Mike Allen.