Soham Grammarians - Mr RJ Humphry, Geography 1965-72

John Humphry's funeral was on Wednesday 27th October 2021 at St Andrew's Church, Soham.

 Service of Thanksgiving and Celebration
for the Life of

John Humphry

26th July 1933 - 12th October 2021

St Andrew's Church, Soham
Wednesday 27th October 2021 at 2.30pm

The music links include advertising which you can skip past.

Order of Service

OPENING MUSIC: Waltz in A flat Major, Op. 69, No. 1 - Chopin

‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ says the Lord.
‘Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’
John, Chapter 11: verses 25-26

HYMN: Abide with me; fast falls the eventide

from the family, read by Marcus, Nicholas and Christopher

Marcus: On several occasions in recent years Dad has mentioned to us that he would like his sons to speak at his funeral. He wanted us to tell his story and say what kind of a man, husband, father, and friend he was, and how dear he was to us all.

So here we are, here to tell Dad’s story...

Dad was born on July 26th 1933 in Pill, just outside Bristol. He was the only child of Grandma, Harriet Gertrude Humphry, known as Hartie, and Grandad, Harold William Humphry. Grandma was a Primary school teacher and Grandad a mechanic and chauffeur.

When he was still a toddler in the mid-1930s, the family moved from the Bristol area to Berwick in East Sussex where Grandma obtained the position of Head Teacher of the Primary School in Ripe.

Dad always spoke of a happy childhood, despite the war years. He used to tell us the story that when he cycled to Primary School each day with Grandma to Ripe (a return journey of 7 miles), he was too small for his bike, so Grandma would hold the bike when he mounted it and would then cycle along ahead of him so she could catch him at the other end.

Grandad volunteered early in the war for the Royal Air Force where he became an aero engineer and spent most of the war years in India and Sri Lanka – thus starting a small tradition that Dad would follow a few years later. While on leave in 1942 Grandad was selected to pose for the artist Duncan Grant who was painting the famous murals in Berwick Church and where he can still be seen today. This Church has a special significance for the family – Marcus was baptised there and Ellie too - and Dad has expressed his wishes for his ashes to be buried there alongside those of Grandma and Grandad.

Post-war, Dad went to Lewes County Grammar school where he was Deputy Head Boy. He excelled academically – he enjoyed Geography, History and French - and started to indulge his passion for rugby and cricket. He loved school – especially the ethos of the Grammar school – and made many close friends. Maybe the idea of being a teacher was already in his mind at this stage in his life.

Whilst recording an oral history for Berwick recently, Dad proudly recalls that he was a Senior Sixer in the Cubs, (1st Alfriston), and leader of the Lions pack in the Scouts. He also loved camping and spent several annual school camps watching RSC Shakespeare plays in Stratford in the late 1940s.

Sussex and the Berwick area remained Dad’s spiritual home throughout his life – as testified by the fact that when it came to cricket, he always supported Sussex.

In Autumn 1952 took his place at Merton College, Oxford University to read Geography. It was a subject for which he had a passion. Dad loved his time at Merton; he had a ball. Literally. He played for the College first teams in Rugby, Cricket and Athletics – and he even tried out for the University Rugby team. Dad wrote a CV in 1969 on which we discovered that he even played Soccer for Merton College first XI. Dad’s photos of the various Merton sports teams are at home on the wall above his desk – providing a daily reminder of these happy times. Dad also made lots of great friends at college, falling in with what he called the 'grammar school crowd'. During one of his long summer vacations, four of them took a trip to Europe visiting France, Germany, Italy, and Austria – all in a converted hearse!

College days over, National Service beckoned, and Dad decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and opted for a short-term commission in the RAF. After a few months square-bashing and learning the ropes, Dad was posted to the Far East as an RAF Education Officer, spending a short stint in Hong Kong, before being posted to RAF Katunayake, in the then Ceylon. In the RAF, he also continued his sporting prowess, winning RAF caps in Rugby and Cricket.

Nicholas: Not too long into his Ceylon stay, maybe just a few months, a new Princess Mary Royal Nursing Sister arrived with beautiful auburn hair and a winning smile. She was called Frederica Woods. Mum told us that she first saw Dad from behind, playing cards with his follow officers. Anyway, after a few months they became an item. At the time, Mum was a higher-ranking officer than Dad and dating a junior office was not the thing to do. Mercifully, Dad was soon promoted to Flying Officer and everything was as it should be. Mum and Dad had a wonderful courtship in Ceylon – it was and still is in fact the perfect place for romance. They travelled around the island together and took lots of photos which we have seen constantly over the years. Even though we were not there, Ceylon seems very much a part of our lives too. The house has always been full of reminders and mementos.

Mum and Dad got engaged on Valentine’s Day 1958 – intending to marry in the UK when Dad finished his three years towards the end of that year. At this point wanting to follow not just in his father’s footsteps, but also in his mother’s, Dad decided to become a teacher and obtained a place to do a PGCE, back at Merton College, in 1958/59. There was a hitch. To obtain the married student allowance, Dad had to provide a valid marriage certificate before starting. The solution, a wedding in Ceylon. The wedding was a real fairy-tale for both Mum and Dad. It was a ‘first’ on the RAF base, and they rolled out the red carpet. Again, wonderful photos of the occasion – with both Mum and Dad looking beautiful and dashing, Dad in his uniform and Mum in a specially made ¾ length wedding gown. They have been devoted to each other ever since.

After a short honeymoon at the Mount Lavinia Hotel just south of Colombo, Mum and Dad came back to Blighty and spent another wonderful year in Oxford as Dad qualified to become a teacher. Dad immediately signed up to teach at the RAF Grammar School Changi – wanting to get back to the Far East as soon as possible.

He left Mum in the UK to take up his post; the reason why Mum couldn’t travel with him being that she was heavily pregnant. Son number 1 arrived in September 1959, and was christened Marcus William Grant – well over 9lbs! Dad and his first son were re-united a few weeks later when Mum travelled out to Singapore to be with him. Another bouncing 9 pounder arrived 11 and a half months later called Nicholas John Craig; and a third – just a quarter ounce over 9 lbs - arrived thirteen months later called Christopher James Andrew.

The story goes that when it came to naming children, it was agreed that Dad would choose the boys’ names, and Mum would choose the girls’ names. Our first debt of gratitude to Dad goes to his wonderful choice of names for us all.

Mum and Dad spent six years in Singapore – a lifestyle they both enjoyed immensely. Dad loved his teaching role at the school; Mum and Dad developed a strong friendship group with other teachers; and, based on the many photos we have, as a family we spent lots of time on the beach, by the swimming pool and pootling around the island.

Dad also wrote a textbook on the geography of Singapore and Malaya which was used for many years in Singapore schools. An amusing family anecdote from the time relates that one day when Mum and Dad were out, Dad had left his most recent manuscript lying around the house, and one of the three of us - Marcus being the leader is considered the main culprit – decided what a good idea it would be to take the manuscript, separate the pages and take them into the shower with us for a good washing! Apparently, we then hung them up around the walls of the house, proud of our artwork awaiting our parents’ return. To say that Dad was apoplectic is probably an understatement – we were swiftly sent to bed!

In 1965, after 6 years in Singapore, Mum and Dad decided to return to the UK – with Dad being very keen to find a Head of Department role in a good grammar school. He obtained one at Soham Grammar School. Dad liked the ethos and look of the school and had an enormous respect for the headmaster, Mr Armitage. The family moved firstly to a house opposite the Grammar School at 17 Sand Street, and then in 1969 to Brampton House, Fordham Road where Dad lived with Mum for over 50 years. Grandma also came to live in Soham – an opportunity for Dad to spend some quality time with his mother having sent most of the previous 10 years away from home.

It’s clear that Dad loved Soham Grammar School. In addition to being Head of Geography, he was a Sixth Form Tutor, member of the School Careers team – a role he continued right up until his retirement – House Master and in charge of the School 1st XI cricket team. He made many close friends of fellow colleagues – including Peter Scott, our organist here today.

Christopher: Growing up Dad was definitely a hands-on Dad. He would play endless games out on the lawn with us whether it was kicking a ball around, playing tennis, playing cricket or just playing catch. We like to think that he loved this as much as we did – though we lost count of how many times one of us broke the garage or kitchen window or vandalised the shrubs chasing after a ball!

He was also chief family chauffeur and took us to all our Rugby, Football, Cricket and Athletic events. Dad also gave the three of us a passion for skiing. It was a sport he really enjoyed, and we accompanied him more than once on the regular annual school ski trips. The three of us resurrected this ski tradition in our mid-forties and have since done several ski trips together, often with other members of the family.

We also remember the family’s slavish devotion each four years to the Olympics. We watched the Mexico Olympics in 1968 in black and white and Dad promised us that by the time the Munich Olympics came around, we would have a colour tv; after much badgering from the three of us, a brand-new colour tv arrived a couple of weeks before the start of the Munich Olympics. We loved it.

It wasn’t just all about sport, Dad encouraged us in many other areas. We remember being got out of bed early to watch to moon landing in 1969, and the French lessons Dad gave us to give us a head start for when we started “big school”. He also shared with us his love for Morecambe and Wise.

The government brought an end to the grammar school system and Cambridgeshire was one of the first countries to “go comprehensive”. The name of Shirley Williams – the education minister responsible - became a name that none of us would dare to pronounce. We remember the ceremony in this very Church where we were all choir boys in the summer of 1972 to wish goodbye to Soham Grammar School.

Like many of the Soham Grammar School staff, Dad moved to teach at the City of Ely College. Despite his initial reservations, Dad eventually enjoyed his time the City of Ely College and at the VIth Form Centre in particular. He made new friends among the former Ely High School for Girls staff and developed strong relationships with new colleagues – including a certain Mike Banyard.

He was the head of Alan House, one of four newly created Houses [it had been an EHS House], and continued to coach various sports teams.

Just like Dad travelled with his mother to school each day on his bicycle, the three of us travelled together with Dad every day to the City of Ely College. We look back on these daily drives as lively chats and the opportunity to be quizzed about our studies whilst spending quality time with Dad.

The three of us finished our schooling and moved on to the next stages of our lives, but Dad continued teaching until he took early retirement – due to poor health - in 1992. In his final years, Dad was the Director of Ely VIth Form - a role he was hugely proud of and the perfect end to his teaching career. He received lots of super tributes from his colleagues when he retired. We were immensely proud of him.

Around this time, the family started to increase. Dad welcomed his first daughter-in-law, Elaine to the family in 1987, and his second, Megan in 1988. Two new grandchildren, Ellie and Laura arrived in 1989. Another grandchild, Emily arrived in 1993, and, from 1992, Bruno became a member of the family. In four brief years, the three of us found our soul mates and Dad welcomed them warmly into the family.

In retirement, Dad led an active, if quiet, life. He indulged his passion for gardening – an interest he inherited from his father - and would spend hours tending to the lawns fighting a constant battle against moss and garden moles! He also spent lots of time watching cricket and rugby - mainly on tv, but also in person; many trips to Twickenham with us or former colleagues and days spent at the Oval or Lords to watch the cricket. We remember a very special occasion when we took Dad to see the Semi-Final of the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham in 2015 – where South Africa narrowly lost to New Zealand 18-20.  Dad also developed a passion for his cats – particularly Ebony and Raja to whom he was devoted.

Most of all, Dad loved it when members of the family would come to visit or telephone to say hi. He developed a strong affection for his three grand-daughters and was absolutely delighted to meet Ryan and become a great-grandfather to Isabelle in 2016 and Daisy in 2019. In later years as his health was fading, he took immense pleasure from talking and spending time with the family. Whenever, any of his sons would call home he would always ask, “How is Bruno? How is Elaine? How is Megan? Do send them my love”.

Dad was a very special person. He didn’t just transmit to us his love of sport and thirst for knowledge, he was our rock. He was also Mum’s rock and his love and concern for her was paramount. Possessed of great calmness, he always attempted to navigate troubled waters with grace and sympathy. He gave to us a strong sense of honesty, integrity, loyalty, and love for the family. He is a part of us, and his values live in us. We only hope that we can transmit them to the next generation in our family.

Thanks Dad, loving husband, father, and grandfather, we’ll all miss you.


Gospel of John, Chapter 14: verses 1-6 by Emily

Jesus said ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God,
believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places.
If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself,
so that where I am, there you may be also.
And you know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’
For the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

SERMON: The Reverend Mike Banyard



Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come;
thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Give us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.


Let us commend Raymond John Humphry, John, to the mercy of God, our maker and redeemer.
May all the saints of God welcome you.
May your portion this day be in gladness and peace and may your dwelling be in paradise.
Go, Christian soul, from this world in peace.

HYMN: All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small

God the Father, by whose love Christ was raised from the dead,
open to you who believe the gates of everlasting life. Amen.

God the Son, who in bursting the grave has won a glorious victory,
give you joy as you share the Easter faith. Amen.

God the Holy Spirit, whom the risen Lord breathed into his disciples,
empower you and fill you with Christ’s peace. Amen.

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

EXIT MUSIC: Bring Me Sunshine - Morecambe and Wise

Frederica and the family invited all to join them for refreshments at Brampton House

Donations, if desired, to Cancer Research UK
Funeral Directors: RJ Pepper & Son , 27 High Street, Soham, Ely, Cambs CB7 5HA


from the 1970 School Photo

from the 1972 School Photo

June 2014
John's recollections are from conversations with the Editor, Frank Haslam SG'59', in 2014.

John Humphry was born in Bristol in 1933. In 1934 the family moved to East Sussex, His mother was a schoolmistress at Ripe CofE School.

He took the Entrance Exam for Lewes County GS (LCGS) at the age of 9, going there just after his 10th birthday in 1943. He was by far the youngest in his year and was held back for one year, not leaving until 1952 after taking his School Certificate and Higher School Certificate. He captained LCGS Rugby and Cricket teams and played for Sussex Public Schools XV. He played for Lewes Cricket Club (The Priory) and with Blackheath on a rugby tour in the West Country before going up to Merton. He did not play football at school.

He was in the Humanities Sixth Form at LCGS. In those days the Headmaster there dealt with university entrance - John was sent for interviews to Bristol (History) and to Merton College Oxford (Geography). He went up to Merton in 1952 and was awarded his BA in 1955. He of course played a lot of sport whilst at Oxford!

National Service loomed but instead he applied for Short Service Commission as an RAF Education Officer. He did his OCTU at Jurby, on the Isle of Man, then went to the RAF School of Education at RAF Spitalgate near Grantham. He was posted to Far East Command, firstly at RAF Changi, Singapore then RAF Negombo/Katunayake (now Bandanaraike International Airport) near Colombo in what was then Ceylon.

He recalls the traditional attap dwellings at Changi - when these were cleared some Ronald Searle drawings were found, from when Searle was a POW of the Japanese. John met a young Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service nurse, Frederica, and they were married on the Station.

At end of his Short Service Commission he returned to Merton to do a PGCE. He applied to the MoD to teach at Changi Grammar School. It was a great lifestyle, with lots of sport and trips. On completion of his contract he applied for two jobs in UK. One was at Poole GS, which he was offered. But instead he came to Soham GS as the job here offered responsibility as Head of Department. His interview here, with Edward Armitage, took place during the school holidays. Sport was mentioned. John was replacing Mr JG Speed who was going to Norfolk Education Authority. The Humphrys bought the Speeds' house in Sand Street opposite the school.

At SGS Peter Taylor (RAT) was responsible for Geography teaching in the 1st-3rd forms. John's first experience here as Form Master was with 4A, John Adkins had 4 Alpha:

Mr RJ Humphry

No of boys: 31
Beale, DM
Collinwood, S
Cooke, TH
Covell, LJB
Dew, GW
Emsden, RE
Ferraby, WD
Garlick, DP
Gathercole, AF
Goodfellow, PN
Harding, JR
Hills, BR
Hiner, RC
Ingrey, AJ
King, KR

Mader, GM
Melton, SJ
Murfitt, S
Oakey, AP
Orbell, MJ
Parr, AB
Peters, DJ
Pettit, RMJ
Searle, CA
Smith, IM
Stimson, GR
Taylor, K
Tyler, RC
Webster, RF
Winters, LJ

A big change was that when teaching in the RAF he had been used to a high turnover in the class roll as a result of postings in and out of the Station.

He became involved in Cricket and Football, first of all umpiring and refereeing and then as coach for the Cricket First XI 1969-72. He was very aware, as other staff have mentioned, of the constraints of the bus timetable on a rural school at that time. He would often end up taking boys to their homes in his car. One of his sons, Marcus, became Captain of U12 Football.

He recalls the particular importance of geography field trips to Swanage and Snowdonia, given how little most boys knew of mountains and coastal areas. Later he inherited Careers Advice which had been set up by Mr Tabraham and ran it when he moved to Ely.

School Productions were major events in which he got involved with - stage management, often working with Ron Russell, David Kilvington and Bob Hanworth. From the start he was involved with the Army Cadet Force with Peter Scott. Towards end of his time at SGS he enjoyed Winter Sports visits with Don Riley and Peter Scott. Ski trips included Braunwald in 1970 and Lenzerheide Valbella in 1971, both in Switzerland.

In 1972 Mr Humphry was among the SGS staff who transferred to the new City of Ely College Sixth Form Centre, in his case as Head of Humanities and had the pleasure of working with the late Helen Stanyer from EHS. Having worked in co-educational RAF schools, for him the move to Ely was straightforward: for some both staff and boys, it was a considerable shock but they eventually adapted. He recalls a very early lesson in which all the girls sat at the front, all keen: the boys sat at the back not really wanting to be there! One problem with the move to Ely was that he felt that sport lost out - competitive games against other schools died away, so what was the point of all that practice & training?

During his time at Ely he moved from being Head of Humanities to Deputy Director of the Ely Sixth Form, being responsible for Careers Guidance and Applications to Higher Education. He also continued with his Geography Field Work and Winter Ski Visits.

He retired in 1992 as Director of the Ely Sixth Form.


16/11/21 Simon Thornhill SG65: Very sad to hear that John Brief Note Humphry has died. Brief Note was his catchphrase and nickname. I admired him and thought that he was a very good Geography teacher. On my very first day at Soham I recall feeling out of my depth and a bit worried. Mr Humphry must have sensed this and placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. I immediately felt better and I have remembered that moment clearly ever since. Amazing what little details we sometimes remember.

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page created 20 Dec 10: last updated 16 Nov 21