Soham Grammarians : Mr RA 'Peter' Taylor (Cantab)
Schoolmaster and Sportsman 1946, 1948-72
Head of the Lower School 1967-72, SVC 72-76

Cambridge Evening News 16 Sep 1996
source: Chris Jakes, Cambridgshire Collection, Cambridgeshire County Council

Death of 'News' founder's grandson
Tributes flow for victim of A604 tragedy

LINTON: Tribute was paid today to former schoolmaster Peter Taylor, who died in a road accident on the A604 at the weekend.

Mr Taylor, grandson of the founder of the Cambridge Evening News, was pronounced dead at the scene after the Ford Sierra car which he was driving was involved in a collision with a 7.5 tonne lorry at the Hildersham crossroads.

Linton vicar, the Rev Julian Thompson, said Mr Taylor was still very involved in local community life in his 80s and would be sadly missed by everyone who knew him. "I knew the family well and he was an amazing man without question. His death is a tragedy and a great loss to the community of the village and the church. We are all shocked and deeply saddened by his death," said Mr Thompson.

Two years ago, at the age of 82, Mr Taylor relived a moment from his childhood when he started the press at the new Milton headquarters of the News. When he was eight he was taken by his grandfather, William Farrow Taylor, to the print hall of the News in St Andrew's Street and was overawed when he was allowed to turn on the presses to start printing that day's edition. He once again set the presses in action during his visit to Milton and said he felt "family pride" in seeing how the newspaper had grown into the region's leading local daily read for many thousands of people.

Mr Taylor read Geography and History as a student at Downing College, and spent a long career as a teacher and sports master. His own sporting prowess was notable. He was chosen for the college soccer team, was a noted local footballer and cricketer and took on the role of secretary of Cambridgeshire County Cricket Club, serving the county as player and administrator for 47 years. He also played football for Cambridge City during the 1930s.

[picture donated by Cambridge Newspapers, not part of the published article; taken in 1979]

Mr Taylor was succeeded as cricket club secretary by Peter Gooden, who said today: "We are extremely saddened by the news of his death. He was an extremely active member of the club and was a life-time member. He was still a committee member right up to the day of his death and over the years gave me invaluable help and advice."

Mr Taylor, who died late on Friday afternoon, leaves a widow, Tref, two daughters and a son, and five grand­children.

Mr Taylor's son, Peter, said the family had gathered at the former family home to support their mother and to make funeral arrangements.

Linton Parish News, October 1996 - source: Chris Jakes, Cambridgshire Collection, Cambridgeshire County Council
[some corrections made]


Peter Taylor died in a road accident on the A1307 at the Hildersham crossroads on Friday 13th September. He was on his way back from picking blackberries on the Old A11, a favourite spot for this pastime which he always enjoyed at this time of year. (He often picked far too many for their own use, remembers his wife).

PETER TAYLOR who has died tragically, aged 84, was an outstanding sportsman, an inspired teacher and the friend of all who knew him. He was born and brought up in Linton. On his mother's side, the family Day had lived in Linton for over 300 years. Linton used to be a smaller community, where everyone knew everyone and in later years his prodigious memory could recall every incident of drama or humour, chiefly humour.

Peter went to Downing College, gained degrees in History and Geography in 1933, his Blue for soccer, and played cricket for his college. When war came, he joined the RAF and was posted to Canada where he met and married Tref. After the war, for 25 years he taught History and Geography at Soham Grammar School, in charge of the Lower School and of sport, which he raised to an impressive level.

Peter faithfully served St Mary's church all his life, as choirboy and churchwarden, but mainly, year in year out looking after the Sunday early service at 8am. He was a central figure at the Remembrance Day Service, a member of the Royal British Legion. Peter was a member of the Parish Council for 36 years, and chairman for two. This was an ideal forum for him, where he could defend his beloved village and most importantly the Recreation Ground and Cricket pitch, which his home overlooked.

Peter played football locally, and nationally, for the Corinthian Casuals, and cricket for Linton and for the County. He kept remarkably fit by walking to Hildersham and back every day. Peter will be remembered with affection by all who knew him especially in the worlds of football, cricket, freemasonry, Royal British Legion and in Linton.

Dr C M Attwood: Published by Linton Parish News

Cambridge Evening News 19 May 1994
source: Chris Jakes, Cambridgshire Collection, Cambridgeshire County Council


A link with the past was recalled when Peter Taylor, grandson of News founder William Farrow Taylor, set the presses going to re-create a magic moment from his childhood. "When I was just eight years old", said Mr Taylor now 82, "my grandfather took me into the back of the News offices which were then in St Andrew's Street in Cambridge. We went into the printing room at the back and mounted a small platform that had three steps. My grandfather pointed to a big red button and said 'Press that button and see what happens'. I couldn't believe it - the whole thing started rolling out newspapers before my eyes. When I see what the News has grown into, I must admit I still feel a bit of family pride."

He read geography and history at Downing College, and spent a long career as a teacher and sports master. His own sporting prowess is legendary. Chosen for the college soccer team, he kept his place, outside left, for the three years he was there. His grandfather founded the News 106 years ago. It was bought from the Taylor family by the present owners, the Iliffe family.

Picture kindly provided by the Cambridge News
Mr Taylor started the press again, nearly three-quarters of a century later, by pushing another button at the £15 million News printing plant in Milton [picture donated by Cambridge Newspapers]

Extracts from Cambridge Evening News 1 Feb 1979: picture donated by Cambridge Newspapers
source: Chris Jakes, Cambridgshire Collection, Cambridgeshire County Council

TAYLOR'S 47 YEARS AT THE CREASE - by David Hallett
End of a Cambridgeshire cricket era

Tonight Cambridgeshire County Cricket Club truly reach the end of an era when, at their annual meeting, they elect a new secretary to replace Peter Taylor, who has served the county as player and administrator for 47 years.

It was in 1932 when Taylor, as a Downing undergraduate, made his Minor Counties debut and now, a retired schoolmaster, he feels the time has come for a change. "There is a wind of change blowing through cricket, a new era is upon us of Packer, bouncers, armour, back-slappers and white balls - to all of which I do not subscribe and of which I wish to have no part."

"For me, much of the fun has gone out of cricket. My era is over and at the beginning of another one it's time to hand the job on. Eighteen years as secretary is a long time and although I feel I could continue all these things need a new look and the bit of punch that a new man would give them. I certainly hope to continue my association with the county. I think I still have a lot to offer and I shall deem it an honour to be able to assist the new man."

The young Taylor was reading Part I Geography and Part I History in his three years at Cambridge University, playing all three years against Oxford to win a Blue. But that was at soccer - he was never considered as a cricketer.

"At 19 you had to be a ready-made first class cricketer in those days and at that stage I still had a lot to learn" he explained. But he played for Cambridgeshire as a batsman for a number of years before earning a reputation as a swing bowler.

"My one regret is that I never scored a century for the county although I made 98 on one occasion at Fenners." As a bowler he had more success, taking seven wickets on one occasion and several times removing six victims in an innings.

He was first appointed to the committee in 1946 but continued playing until 1958. When he began his playing career the county club was very much a team of teachers and the majority of games were played during the August holidays. Towards the end, the accent had switched to the farming community and fixtures were played earlier to avoid harvesting. But the biggest change has been in the competition for the Minor Counties Championship.

"When I started playing we had eight matches and we all enjoyed them. We never did all that well although we never did too badly and £250 was enough to run the club for a year. Now there is more competition - although that is not a bad thing. The biggest difference is the way the matches are scored. Then there were three points for a win and one for a draw and this put a great accent on a draw. Now a draw is of little consequence and the win is all important.

As far as the administration goes, today there is far more attention to the rules and regulations and where, at one time, you could just be a club secretary, now you are totally in the hands of the law makers who run cricket. You have to conform."

Taylor leaves at a time when the county's playing status is at a low ebb but, like many others, he is able to put his finger on the cause: "We are down because we have not cashed in our potential. We have lost and drawn so many matches we should have won."

Extract from the Downing College Association Newsletter, 1997 - with thanks to John Hicks

Ronald Arthur (Peter) Taylor (1931)

Peter Taylor, first called Peter as a baby by an Aunt because of a supposed facial resemblance to Peter Scott - and it stuck [but see also below] - died 13 September 1996, when his car was in collision with a lorry at a cross-roads near his Cambridgeshire home.

Born 22 March 1912 he was educated at the Cambridge and County School for Boys and came to Downing in 1931 to read History and Geography. He was a great sportsman at College, particularly outstanding in cricket and soccer being a 'Blue' in the latter from his first term (the photo shown from Downing College Association's Newsletter The Griffin, Michaelmas Term 1932, was opposite an announcement congratulating him on having been chosen for the second time to represent the Varsity against Oxford.)

For his first teaching job he was persuaded by Stanley Rouse, who taught at Watford Grammar School, to join him on the staff there, and he taught and coached with him until the war came.

A Reservist, he joined the RAF at the outbreak and spent much of his service career in Canada as a training officer for aircrew. It was while serving in Ottawa that he met and married his wife, Tref, an officer in the Canadian WAAF.

After the war he went to teach at Soham Grammar School, Cambs, where he stayed until he retired in 1976. He continued to be a prominent figure in local sport, at one time playing soccer for Cambridge City, and he served the Cambridgeshire County Cricket Club as player and later administrator for 47 years; he was still a committee member when he died at the age of 84. He was a grandson of the founder of the Cambridge Evening News, and two years ago had the pleasure of switching on the press at the new Milton headquarters of that paper, as he had once been allowed to at the age of 8! He is survived by his wife Tref, two daughters and a son and five grandchildren.

John Hicks of the DCA adds: "The College records are rather bald but they show that R A Taylor came up in 1931 and graduated in 1934, in geography and history. He was awarded a Blue in both 1931 and 1932. He was Hon Sec of the College Association Football Club in 1932/33 and Captain in 1933/34."

Postbag - publication and date not known

Boy! Thanks for all the memories ...

From P W Gooden, Hon Secretary, Cambridgeshire CCC

Cricketers in the county, and far beyond, are saddened by the death of R A "Peter" Taylor after a tragic motor accident.

I first met Peter in August 1948 while playing my first game for Camden CC at Halstead, he, having just returned to this country following a decision to emigrate to Canada.

He first played for Cambridgeshire in 1932, then aged 19, and was still representing the county in that capacity, when required, some 26 years later. He had a long and rewarding association with the county club holding office as assistant secretary, match secretary, vice-captain and from 1960-1979 served as its general secretary.

He was a great collector of information and in 1963 introduced the first publication of the Annual Handbook which continues to the present day.

On the occasion of the players centenary dinner in 1991 he held his audience spellbound when, without notes, he reminisced for over two hours of his experiences with the club and game he loved so much.

It was always a pleasure to be in his company as he shared his colourful recollections of past matches and cricketers. No longer shall we hear that opening phrase "Boy, I remember when ..."

All members will join with me in extending our sympathy to his wife and family.

source: Fred Eden 44

The funeral service took place at St Mary's, Linton, on Monday 23 September 1996 and was conducted by the Rev J Thompson.

The Funeral Sentences were followed by Psalm 23
A reading: Ecclesiastes Chapter 12
Address: Dr Charles Attwood
Hymn: The day thou gavest
Addresses: Mr David Fairey, Mr Alan Saggers
The Commendation
Hymn: Onward Christian Soldiers

source: Fred Eden 44


Soham Grammarian Autumn 1946

A cordial welcome is extended to Mr RA Taylor of Watford Grammar School, who joined the Staff this term. He is a Cambridge Soccer Blue and was a Squadron Leader in the RAF.

Soham Grammarian Autumn 1947

With no Sports' Day, Speech Day, "At Home" or any other occasion of outstanding importance to record this term, precedence in the editorial is justifiably claimed by games. To the first football eleven we extend our heartiest and sincerest congratulations on their fine achievement - that of almost finishing the term unvanquished.

Truly this is a magnificent feat in view of the fact that it was only last year that Association football was re-adopted as the School game. We hope that future elevens will attempt to maintain the standard that has been established this term.

One cannot, however, on reflection help feeling that it was rather a pity that Mr. R.Taylor was not with us to witness the harvest of his work so largely responsible for this great improvement on last year's results. We cordially wish him prosperity and good fortune in Canada.

Soham Grammarian Autumn 1948

This term we welcome two new members of the staff. Both are old associates of the school - Mr Drake is an old boy, who was outstanding for his dramatic and artistic work as a pupil, and Mr Taylor is a well known former member of the staff. We wish them both a long and happy stay at the school.

from the 1946 School photo

from the 1949 School photo

from the 1952 School photo

from the 1954 School photo

from the 1956 School photo

from the 1960 School photo

from the 1965 School photo

from the 1970 School photo

from the 1972 School photo

Cambridgeshire Times July 4th/5th 1968

Michael Bayes receiving the Victor Ludorum Cup from Mrs RA Taylor,
wife of the Head of the Lower School [SGS Junior Sports Day July 1968]
photo: Ray Jefferson , Ely: cutting via Mrs Armitage

For RAT's 'cricket box' incident see History/Armitage 1945-72

19 Feb 2003 Brian Peters (1961 entry)
Two recollections about RAT  
1. His use of "tracing paper" for the roller maps which was actually Izal standard toilet paper.  RAT would suddenly appear and start distributing sheets to the class.
2. His constantly repeated quote of "Peters, what will the Africans be saying?  Uhuru [Freedom], Uhuru, that's what they will be saying Peters"!  How right and perceptive he was!

19 Feb 2003 Martin Shalders (1954 entry, cricket first XI 1959-1962)
I recall that pulling the heavy roller was a fit punishment!! And I was so crap at sports (except cricket) that he suggested I did the long jump as that "was the shortest distance to run"! Great bloke, however. Fond memories of away cricket matches.  The trip to Kings Lynn with the 'lunch' stop at Downham Market was favourite.  We always wanted to win the toss, bat first and keep 3 people reasonably sober .. Happy days. (Chris "Mad" Bull was opening bowler with Mick Morton).

2 Mar 2003 Frank Haslam (1959 entry year)
Mrs May Armitage in December 2002 and February 2003 related to me that RAT came to Soham from wartime service [in the RAF], married to a Canadian. He and Mr Brown were candidates for a Special Award provided by the Government for teachers, but only one award could be made at Soham. Edward Armitage gave it to Mr Brown. RAT was so upset he sold his house and went off to teach at a swanky school in Canada. However there was a letter from him at Christmas saying that he was unhappy (some recollection of him talking about pupils arriving at school in their Cadillacs) and could he have his job back? EA had to work hard to persuade some of the Governors that RAT, who in his view was an exceptional catch, could come back. RAT did a year at SVC under AE Lawrance. [it may in fact have been until 1976]

4 Mar 2003 Keith Huddlestone, the Secretary of the Old Newportonians (ONs) : [the Editor is grateful to present the following edited account]

I taught at Newport for 38 years, 1964-2002. RAT's elder brother 'Spud' taught at Newport Free Grammar School: I knew both Taylor brothers very well - Spud (HWF) born in 1909, and Peter (RA) born in 1912.

Spud taught at Stamford School in the early 1930s and came to Newport in 1935, where apart from service during the war years in the RAF, mainly based at Stansted with the Americans, he taught until retirement in 1970. He was President of the ONs for 1970-71. In 1987 he developed Alzheimer's Disease which progressed slowly at first but then very rapidly and he died in 1990. He married more than once but had no children.

Peter Taylor was married and had three children, two girls and a boy. Alan Saggers, who followed Spud here as Sports Master knew Peter very well, taking teams to Soham many times. I took football and cricket teams to Soham with Alan many times in the 60s and early 70s and knew Soham well. One very, very good batsman at Soham in those days was left-hander called Bussingham.

As he told it to me, this is why RAT was called Peter: When he was born in 1912 it was the time of Scott of Antarctica. Captain Scott's son (later Sir) Peter - of Slimbridge bird sanctuary, broadcasting and painting fame was born in 1909. The extensive press coverage on the Scott tragedy at the time included photos of the widow and children, including Peter Scott as a baby. The Taylor family, especially RAT's mother, thought that baby Peter Scott looked just like RAT ... so RAT became known as Peter.

10 Mar 2003 Alan Saggers, who was on the staff at Newport with Spud Taylor (see Keith Huddlestone's contribution) writes: I have to say that the atmosphere at Newport the school day after any of our matches against Soham depended very much on the outcomes. As a boy and even as a member of Staff, one did not make light-hearted comments if Newport had lost!

Peter Taylor taught at Newport in 1947, but according to Fred Thompson, the then Head of History, only for about a Term. I imagine that was probably on his return to England after his second trip to Canada, before he gained a permanent place back on the Staff at Soham. [Editor: this meant that he could and did turn out with Spud for Staff and Old Newportonians matches!]

When Geoffery Elcoat came to Newport as Headmaster, having been Head of Modern Languages at Brentwood School, the Staff at Brentwood asked if they might come and play a cricket match against Newport Staff. If one counted Governors, members of the Old Boys Society, Staff and School 1st XI members, we scraped together a fairly strong side which included RAT as a past member of the Staff. We finished up with three Essex XI members, four Minor Counties reps and other quite formidable cricketers for that part of rural Essex.

When the Brentwood Staff arrived, with their Blues' sweaters, Free Foresters ties etc.,etc., it became apparent that they thought they might teach "we old country boys" a cricketing lesson. They won the toss, and elected to bat. Although Elcoat was ostensibly the Newport captain, Spud was very much the senior pro. Anyway Clem Driver ON opened the bowling down the hill, and Peter was invited to bowl up the hill. The two of them tied the opposition in knots, and Peter's in-swingers created early havoc, to such an extent that Elcoat asked Spud if he should change the bowling. I suppose the reply could have only come from the Taylors. "We haven't won yet, Headmaster!" was the gist of Spud's reply, although somewhat embellished.

Peter and Clem finished up with 5 wickets apiece for not many runs. I think Brentwood were bowled out for under 40, which we reached without loss. Unfortunately the pubs were not yet open, and a decision to bat on was agreed, and I think we made about 120 for two or three wickets. Brentwood were invited to bat again, they reversed their batting order, and were duly bowled out by Ken Newland and, I think, Hugh Wiseman, for a few more runs than they managed in the first innings. They went away in some disarray, and did not ask for a return! There was no doubting the Taylor brothers commitment to the team cause on that occasion.

I took a soccer side to Soham in the mid 60s, and RAT refereed. If I remember correctly Soham were leading with a few minutes to go, when my centre forward (that dates me doesn't it?) went through with the ball, and was almost certain to score but for the two Soham full-backs, who ran into the penalty area at right angles to Jock Ferguson's forward momentum. They both hit him virtually on the penalty spot. Inadvisedly, my other team members appealed, as did my colleague who was standing next to me. I kept quiet. Peter's comment was "We don't appeal in Grammar School matches. Play on!!" I couldn't argue because I always insisted to my lads that the ref's decision was final. We lost.

However, the following year at Newport, Jock was still playing for us, and I think he had mulled things over for a year, and was up for it. He played as well as any school footballer I had seen on that day, and drove Newport to trounce Soham. I think we scored 6 goals, and Jock got 4 of them. I hasten to say I did not referee on that occasion, feeling the need to take a back seat. Peter was rather quiet after the match whilst Spud went around with a happy look on his face for some time after that.

I had the honour to speak at Peter's funeral, together with Dr. Attwood and David Fairey, and I think between the three of us we covered his very varied and interesting life with due respect and some detail. There were a number of reminiscences on that occasion, solemn though it was, which raised smiles and laughter, and why not?

One final little story concerning Spud. Ken Yates, Spud and I had tickets for an FA Amateur Cup Final in the early 60s, and Spud volunteered to take us up in his little car, I think on this occasion it was the "Mini." We got close to Wembley when suddenly we ran into a traffic jam on the North Circular, and progress was stopped. Spud began to get a little hot under the collar, and complained vehemently about the chap in front not getting a move on. In typical Taylor exasperation Spud finally told us that he was going to "sort the bugger out." He left the car standing in the traffic jam, and approached the chap in front, leaving Ken and I in no doubt that the air was, and would continue to be, blue until this bloke moved his car.

Spud delivered his broadside, before suddenly realising that he was letting fly at a member of the cloth, who was distinctly unamused, and somewhat annoyed, at the intelligence of someone who had failed to see that the jam continued for some distance, and there was no way that either Spud or the reverend gentleman could do anything about it, not even by praying. Spud returned to the car somewhat chastened. We did, however, get to the match on time.

29 Mar 2003 Nicholas Peavot (entry year 1969)
I will always remember RAT's Geography and History lessons in my first year at Soham. He would often show us "how to bat properly", turning the waste paper bin over, and being bowled to (with a rolled-up paper ball) in the class. Or we would all have to go and help George Phelps roll the cricket pitch before a game, pulling the roller up and down.

13 Jul 2003 Graham Whiting (1970)
RAT used to wait for the bus with me every morning in Cherry Hinton having parked his Ford Anglia behind Pledges the newsagent. In all the years I used the bus we only once had to resort to using his Anglia and I still remember RAT, me, Martin Pickup and Doug and Dave Rutland bowling along the route having waited 30 minutes and no bus coming. He was a great man, the only one I've ever seen bowl a leg break with an eraser at a boy holding a history exercise book.

14 Nov 2003 Judy d'Albert (an RAT cousin)
Just wanted to say thanks to all of the guys who sent in anecdotes about my first cousin RAT "Peter" as well as those classic Spud stories. (Nobody mentioned Spud's love of horse racing, though, a passion he shared with my Dad.) I was not able to attend the memorial at the church where Peter served as warden so faithfully. These stories are a gift over time from the universe of the www!

I just read them here in Southern California, when I was doing a random search for another family member. It brought back lots of memories, especially tea at The Bungalow, Meadow Lane, looking for tiddlers in the creek in the garden, walking up to Hadstock to get free sweets from cousins who ran the village store there, and, of course, trekking across the meadows and over the wooden stile to Hildersham. Almost a ritual on any visit.

There was a large span of years between us, as RAT was the son of the third child, my Aunt Kate (and godmother) and I was the daughter of the youngest member of the Days from Vine Cottage, Linton. Having been born in 1940, I was only a few years older than his daughter Jane. We lived in north Lincolnshire, so trips to see the family in Linton were infrequent all the time gasoline was rationed. The journey took hours before the advent of motorways. Even so, we and the Horley/Surrey Days had strong ties to the village, in part because Peter was the patriarch for so many years. We had a strong sense of where are roots were, thanks to Peter's knowledge collected over time as oral history from his Day aunts and Taylor relatives.

When I went to Homerton College, Cambridge, in 1958, I had no great sense that teaching was my vocation, but it was what many young women of my generation could do to broaden their horizons when the choice of professional careers was pretty slim. Of course, I soon realized when I was facing classes of 40+ as a rookie probationary teacher, that I had probably inherited the Day teaching genes from Peter's mom and our Uncle Will, and Aunts Louisa Mary and Alice who had made a difference in the lives of country lads and lasses between the wars.

Then, I heard the stories of Peter's and Spud's dedication to education which may have influenced me subconsciously that I had better adhere to the Day/Taylor standards of excellence! Hundreds of Californian students, many of whom still keep in contact, would say "You betcha! Surviving fifth grade with Ms. Day/d'Albert gave you an invisible medal of honor, but also you attained great self esteem, confidence and intellectual curiosity that paved the way for future success."

So the Day/Taylor legacy of enticing kids to strive and to shoot for the moon lives on through me and also Jane, of whom Peter was so proud when she graduated from a Mature Students' degree course and has made a noteworthy contribution, on a national level, to the higher education of journalism students. Jane's great grandpa, William Farrow Taylor, whom RAT admired so much at the News, would have been proud, too.

Our second cousin, David, has been recognized by the New Zealand government for his long teaching career and his expertise in creating some of the first distance learning programs for Kiwi high school kids. He follows in the steps of his dad "Bill" M.E.Day, RAT's and Spud's young cousin who grew up in Linton and taught with a passion, running one of Surrey's best PE programs in a Grammar School and was a busy referee at minor league soccer matches for much of his life. Bill Day no doubt learned many athletic skills from his older cousins, Peter and Spud, that would lead to his own successful career as an educator of the old school, where academic rigor and discipline were paramount.

18 July 2008 Ian Hobbs (1948 entry year): Another RAT anecdote. In 1955 we were playing cricket against Thetford GS and had bowled them out for a very low score. Our batsmen quickly knocked off the runs, I think for no wickets and this all before tea. The Thetford Sports Master inquired if there could be a second innings. RAT put him right - it was agreed a one innings game, full stop. RAT did not want to spoil the victory. Home we came!

For the many references to Mr Taylor, please use the Search page

Do you have any appreciations or anecdotes relating to RAT, or photos of him?
contact the editor (there are of course many team photos which show RAT - see History > History 2 > Sports photos)

This page was last updated on 18 July 2008

Soham Grammarians