Bill Newby

A Tribute to Bill Newby, by John Cade (Pupil 195?-1958, teacher 1968-1969)

Former pupils of Huyton Hill Preparatory School who attended the school in the 1950's and 60's will undoubtedly remember Bill Newby. For the most part, I would imagine, with affection and respect.
Bill was an amazing man in so many ways. I can clearly recall his cheerful countenance. This was not always the case, especially when he spotted some of the senior boys failing to pull their weight during estate work sessions. Bill was the hardest worker of us all. My first memory of him was being shown what was required to delineate the touchlines and other markings on the rugby and soccer. This involved the turning over of sods with spades [specially allocated to each pupil, as Peter Royds pointed out in his excellent memoires of HH so that the grass was on the bottom and the mud on the top. No such thing as white lines. Fortunately, Bill did the measurements. My first experience of this exercise was performed during a heavy rainstorm and a biting wind. It was a miserable session, as I well recall, and probably lasted over three hours. Well, perhaps not that long, but us oldies are allowed to exaggerate.
Estate work was an unusual addition to the curriculum. The purpose was for the boys to contribute, by dint of hard physical labour, to the creation of a larger cricket field. This involved the levelling of a hilly, rocky surface with spades, picks and forks and depositing the debris in wheelbarrows to waste ground nearby. Bill always set an exemplary example and the cricket field was eventually utilised in the 60's. I recall that a friend of mine, Michael Fletcher, was a great enthusiast on this project and must hold the record for the number of barrow loads of rocks and soil that he moved. I bet he developed a beautiful garden for himself in later life.
Then there was the Scottish Country Dancing. Bill was an expert and enthusiastic teacher of this wonderful activity which always engendered a lot of laughter and high spirits.
Bill was also a fine rugby coach and for many of us the first rugby coach we experienced. He had played for Ambleside Rugby Club and I recall he had an enormous boot.
There is no doubt in my mind that Bill's piece de resistance was the cycling and walking expeditions that he led throughout the year. I can see him now leading the peloton and wearing his light khaki shorts and shirt, mountain boots and thick short socks. He was a tough and knowledgeable outdoor man.
As you all know, the older boys had bicycles at the school. No drop handlebars were allowed as The Major determined they were unsafe as eyes would be focused on the ground below you, not looking ahead. During the winter months, the outings were weekly and consisted of a pleasant bike ride, about two hours, to nearby beauty spots of which there were many. Two of the favourites were to Beatrix Potter's House near Hawkshead and Tarn Hows where we would stop to take in the famous view which is reminiscent of Canadian terrain.
Expeditions in the summer were more challenging and certainly more arduous. After a cycle ride, often into the Langdale Valley, the bikes would be hidden behind the attractive stone walls which were so common in the area and then the group would set off for often quite severe climbs. Scafell Pike proved to be the toughest ascent. With every succeeding mile, the boys felt anxiety and expectation running neck and neck. It was no mean feat for twelve and thirteen year old boys to complete their journey and to experience the wonderful feeling of achievement when they reached the summits of these wondrous hills and pikes. Huyton Hill could sometimes be seen from the summits and signals were often sent to and from the school with small hand mirrors, using the reflection of the sun.
Of course, it would be impossible today to cycle as a group of approximately twenty five boys on those narrow Lake District roads. Even so, at that time it was a huge responsibility resting on Bill Newby's shoulders, both on the road and on the mountains.
In addition, as I recall he was the only member of staff accompanying the boys, but I could be wrong about this. Such a responsibility today would have to be shared among several teachers, even a cohort. The return to school became almost a race as everyone looked forward to a swim in Lake Windermere.
The cancellation of the Scafell Pike expedition in the summer of 1958 was a great disappointment for Bill as it had always been the highlight of the year for him. This decision was taken by HDB as a number of boys, including myself, had raided the kitchen larder shortly after midnight that morning. The somewhat impoverished larder did not reap any significant of desirable foodstuffs or sweetmeats. Packets of jelly were among the favourite items.
It was obvious to the cook what had happened when she arrived to prepare breakfast early in the morning and she made her report to the Headmaster. As all the senior boys gathered with their bicycles outside the front of the school, HDB appeared from his study and we were all informed that the expedition was cancelled. All boys were to return their machines to the bike shed and go to their classrooms where they had to write down the details of what they had pilfered. This was going to be a short list and even shorter for those who had not been remotely involved in this prep school adventure. I may be mistaken, but I believe the leader of this midnight excursion was Johnny Quiggin. Sincere apologies, Johnny, if I have wrongly accused you. JLQ was my 'Shadow' when I arrived at Huyton Hill and I recall how helpful he was.
I had the privilege of teaching with Bill at Huyton Hill during the final academic year of its existence - September l968 to July 1969. I was able to enjoy again the familiar bike rides and climbs I had experienced ten years earlier. The closing of the school created a difficult situation for Bill. He never fully discussed it with me, but I am sure he expected to be at Huyton Hill until retirement. He contemplated further study at Charlotte Mason Teachers' College in Ambleside and may have attended some lectures. He decided he would find it difficult to be in classes with students in their late teens and early twenties. Bill was now well into his fifties. To his great relief he was offered a teaching post at Holme Park Preparatory School, just outside Kendal. The school closed down several years ago, but at that time the Headmaster and owner of the school was Nick Curry, who had been a contemporary of mine at St Bees and is a close friend.
Nick always spoke highly of the cheerful and hearty individual he had appointed. I have no doubt that Bill contributed just as effectively at Holme Park as he had done for so many years at Huyton Hill. I am uncertain as to when Bill died (1991 – Ed.). I believe it was after a minor operation and his death was premature.
What a wonderful array of attributes he possessed. Bill epitomised the Huyton Hill motto: 'I Wiil With A Good Will.' How powerful that motto still is in the world today.

John Cade
August 2015


Memories of Bill Newby, by Peter Royds
28th August 2015
John Cade’s tribute to Bill Newby served as a timely reminder to me to add some detail to the profile of Bill which was included in my recollections of H.H. (2003).
This additional information has come from Bill’s widow Joan. I first met Joan in 2005 and we kept in touch, though not in the more recent past.
Bill Newby, 1957
When I think of Bill Newby the images that appear are the black wavy hair, the bike, the pipe, the ring, the watch, shorts, thick socks, cycling expeditions, geography lessons, immaculate handwriting, road safety tests (written), the stationary shop (in the basement after lunch), carving the roast at lunch, rugby games, the slightly P.O.W. like estate work; and his labour of love the cricket pitch. Joan was highly amused by these perceptions of Bill as seen through the eyes of young boys. Her own memories of her husband were not of course set in the school context.
Bill was from the Troutbeck area, born in 1919 (I think). He joined the Border Regiment and later transferred to the Seaforth Highlanders with whom he went over to France on
D-Day+1. They fought through Europe and, at the end of the war, Bill took a commission. He spent three further years in the army in India, Java and Singapore.
It was during army service that W.H.N. learned Scottish Country Dancing, which we all surely remember from his classes in the Crossley room (desks cleared away) and the performances in kilts for the summer fetes. Mrs Nita Butler and Miss Blake (the Scottish sisters) were not, as I had speculated, involved in the introduction of this item of Caledonian entertainment in the syllabus of an English Prep School. In his recommendation for the job at H.H. (which Joan still has) Bill’s Commanding Officer had mentioned his expertise in this field. In fact, he also held dancing classes in Ambleside for many years. Fishing, incidentally, was another hobby.
The ring was a bloodstone, but was not, contrary to idle speculation among the boys, set in the blood of those who had perished at his hands during the war. (Joan thinks that Bill may have mischievously told us that). (and I remember the rumour that Mr Newby could kill a man with his bare hands – Ed.).
Bill and Joan ran the guesthouse called “Kingston” at Waterhead in the row of houses at the traffic lights behind which is the Youth Hostel near to the steamer terminal. They had two children, Susan and Jonathan, who went to H.H. His untimely death was a very sad loss.
Staff at the school would drop in on the Newbys. Joan remembers one who came after being sacked by Nita. She reminded me that the young teacher I would only remember as Hamish was called Robertson. He was one of their visitors.
Bill started at H.H. about the same time G.V.B. arrived in the early 50’s. His low point of every year was the run up to the annual review with H.D.B. brimming with elaborate and unrealistic ideas. It was a recurring ritual for Bill to contemplate resignation at this time through exasperation with Hubert’s expectations. It was apparently the same for Ted Pares. He made the famous wooden elephants for one summer revue.
When G.V.B. died in November 1967, H.D.B. brought in two younger people (David Bailey and his wife) to help run the school. Their posts were senior to Bill’s and he felt passed over. As John Cade recounts, he was still there at the very end in 1969 but Joan felt he did not finish his time at H.H. in the best circumstances. As John says, Bill finished his career with the Currys at Holme Park.
When I met Joan in 2005, she was 83 and a great grandmother, Bill had died of cancer in 1991 aged 72. It had taken him quickly and he had been active and had appeared healthy until then. Joan was still very good for her years. She used to see Bill Black and Ted Pares in Ambleside and had kept in touch with Miss Nash who had married a farmer in Sedbergh. Joan had become very active in fund-raising for cancer charities. When she later wrote to me in 2007 she was about to stop taking in guests, aged 85.
Joan came from Ambleside but her family were from Sawrey and she remembered seeing Beatrix Potter there and meeting her. She recalled a crowd-free Lake District, the evacuation of the Huyton girl’s school to Windermere during the war, and the freezing over of the lake in 1963. It was Joan who put me onto the story of the shooting fatality in the Boathouse, about which I have written seperately (2013). Staff were instructed by H.D.B. not to mention this incident to the boys.
As I came to the end of writing this present piece, I decided to pick up the phone to Joan.
I was delighted to hear her voice at the other end. She is now 93 and a half and clearly as sharp as ever. She is still at the guest house. She has nine great grandchildren. Joan was absolutely thrilled that John Cade had written a tribute to Bill (she remembered John’s name) and that we were still reminiscing about him after all these years. She told me that on 3rd September it would be 24 years since Bill died.

Peter Royds
28th August 2015
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