Soham Grammarians - John R Adkins, Physics, 1965-67

Born 29 April 1939 in Croydon, died July 2000, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, aged 61.

John Adkins, together with his father, was a Crusader Leader at Norbury Crusader Class. From December 1961 he taught Physics at John Ruskin Grammar School, Shirley, near Croydon, Surrey, where he was involved with Christian Union, and Crusader holiday camps. He helped to set up a Croydon Schools Camps organisation, to run Crusader-style camps for boys from various Croydon schools. One year, they organised a reunion and used Ruskin for the venue; he was teaching at Soham by then.

Ian Castro (JRGS 1958-65): "John taught me physics when I was in the JRGS Sixth. It was his first school and I later married John's younger sister, Lucy. He bought and very successfully ran a private school [Egerton Rothesay School] which is still going strong, in Berkhamsted, after a couple of state teaching posts."

He left JRGS in December 1964 to join Soham Grammar School, teaching Physics. He set up Crusaders here and is remembered for the introduction of sand-yachting. A member of staff recalls accepting a lift to London in JA's car - and being mightly relieved to have arrived safely! He appears to have left SGS prior to the 1967-68 school year.

John Adkins from the 1965 SGS School photo

Ian Castro, who went on to become Professor of Fluid Dynamics and Deputy Head School of Engineering Sciences at the University of Southampton, recalls: "John Adkins was indeed a committed Christian (as am I and my wife, his sister). He ran an interdenominational Bible class in Norbury, one of many Crusader Classes around the country, for many years. While still at school (Trinity Whitgift) he started to run summer camps for (largely) unchurched boys; this eventually became Croydon Camps, to which quite a few Ruskin lads went. That's where I first met his younger sister - she was a cook in the quartermaster' team! At its peak, some 600 boys (and girls by that stage) went to summer camps in North Devon and/or North Wales, from Ruskin, Selhurst, both Whigifts and other schools, including eventually one from Wolverhampton. The organisation continues to this day, although under a different name and at a somewhat lower key.

John was always committed to presenting the Christian faith as not only true, but therefore very relevant to the lives of old and young alike. I remain in touch with a number of old "Croydon Campers", including one or two Ruskin ones, who would say that John's example of the Christian life was inspirational and that their experience of conversion to Christ at camp was and remains life-changing.

John Adkins was involved in building the first yachts, partly at Ruskin. We ran up to four or five sand yachts simultaneously on Saunton Sands throughout the summer, as one of the numerous Croydon Camps activities when at Croyde - each camp lasted eight days and at the peak there were five of them each summer (with, eventually, a girls camp as the central one). Keeping all the yachts serviceable was a nightmare - they were "stored" in the dunes over the summer and many overnight servicing trips were needed, often involving Messrs Adkins or Davey (and/or others) driving down the beach at dead of night to reach the store, and working by tilly lamp for what seemed like hours."

The JRGS website says John Adkins applied for a job as Head of Physics at Selhurst - this was after he had gone to Soham. "There were a lot of us at Selhurst who knew him through Crusaders and the Christian camps that he used to run. (As he was being shown round the school, we had to pretend we didn't know him - very difficult.)"

John Adkins spent several years as Deputy Head at Rokeby, a comprehensive school in the East End of London.

His wife, Heather, was a tremendous support to him in his school and camp and Crusader work.

Much of the above information comes from the JRGS Alumni website.

Rothesay School was founded as a preparatory school in 1922. In the early 1970s, it was bought by Mr John Adkins, a Christian philanthropist and educationalist. In 1981, he bought another preparatory school, Egerton. The combined school continued as a preparatory school until the purchase, in 1988, of a redundant state middle school in Durrants Lane. The school then expanded to include pupils of secondary age. Shortly afterwards, the Rothesay premises were sold. In the early 1990s, Egerton Rothesay began to specialise in provision for pupils who had learning difficulties.

Although Mr Adkins had begun the process of transferring the school to a charitable trust, he was still the proprietor-head when he died in 2000. The school became a charitable trust in 2001. Members of the Adkins family continue to have strong links with the school, as trustees and staff.
source: Independent Schools Inspectorate Inspection Report on Egerton-Rothesay School, March 2006

Soham Grammarian Summer 1965

We offer a belated but sincere welcome to the three masters who joined the Staff last September, when Mr IW Jones took charge of the Mathematics Department, and Mr JR Adkins and Mr RG Wood joined the Science Staff to teach Physics and Chemistry respectively. We are grateful for our good fortune in filling these key posts at a time when Mathematics and Science teachers are in short supply.

Soham Grammarian Summer 1966

We are aware of some notable gaps [in this issue]; the Croyde Camp flourished under Mr Adkins and Chess has prospered under Aspin - but for various reasons they remain unsung in the Grammarian.

25 Oct 2007: Frank Haslam '59' writes: John Adkins was our Form Master in LVI Sc 1964-65. He was an enthusiastic teacher of his subject and was obviously keen to repeat and build on his success at his previous school with Crusaders and CU. He was one of those teachers you sometimes wondered was just a bit mad - perfectly to be expected among some of the elder staff but a tad disconcerting in one so young!

Teaching Physics at Soham cannot have been the most comfortable of tasks given that Edward Armitage was the author of one of the standard text-books. In retrospect, perhaps he found the constraints of a country school limiting to his interests after the relative ease of transport links in South London.

23 Aug 2010: Paul Stevens 66 writes: Very sorry to hear of the passing of John Adkins, whom I remember taught me Physics at SGS, as a 2nd year, in 1967, before he left the school. He must have actually been quite young then - not yet 30 - and, although he seemed younger than many of the other masters, of course, he did not seem all that young.

The other two things about Mr Adkins, I seem to recall are: his nickname - Krud - if memory serves, and his extraordinary 'musical jaw'.

I would love to know if any other former pupils remember this? He used to have an amazing physiology (a word I must surely have learned at Soham) whereby he could partly unhinge his jawbone and make notes with it. I think a pentatonic scale (thank you again, Soham) may have been beyond him, but nevertheless it was far more fun listening to these sounds than learning Physics, as I recall ... & yes, I know that explains a lot about the more obvious gaps in my scientific education ....

If you have recollections of John Adkins at SGS please contact the editor
page last updated 23 Aug 10