Soham Grammarians : Mr EH Tabraham MCollH, FRSA
Woodwork, Metalwork, Technical Drawing 1948-72: Deputy Head 1967-72

Tabby died on 8th October 2008


In retirement




Tabs 1948-72

by Edward Armitage in the Summer 1972 (last) issue of the school magazine

Mr. E. H. Tabraham was appointed wood­work master at the school in January 1948 and it was immediately obvious that Soham Grammar School had gained a man of outstanding quality. His subject gained a new status and the boys doing it a new and increased stature.

Technical Drawing was then introduced to be studied alongside and even sometimes independently of woodwork, and a new Technical Side of the school came into being and immediately flourished. Always impeccably dressed and precise in speech himself, Mr. Tabraham would tolerate nothing less than the same high standards in deportment and work from the boys who studied his subjects.

The appeal of the subjects widened until boys destined for University or the science and mathematics side were asking to take them at Advanced level and many of these boys subsequently went on to become engineers with famous firms. To mention a particular example, from early days at the school a close association was built up with Rolls-Royce and at one time no fewer than five boys were apprentices together at various levels with this particular firm.

Mr. Tabraham early understood the need for sound careers advice in schools and Soham Grammar School had its Careers Master and a fully equipped Careers Room ten or more years before most other schools and his personal connection with both local and national firms has been of inestimable value to countless boys who have sought his help and guidance on all sorts of careers and courses, many quite unrelated to his own subjects.

Mr. Tabraham's outstanding administrative ability made him an obvious choice for the post of Deputy Headmaster when Tom Riley retired and it is in this position, which he has occupied since 1967, that he has made his final and best contribution to Soham Grammar School. His efficiency, his intolerance of slackness in any field of school life, his insistence of high standards in dress and behaviour and his personal example made him an obvious target for sallies from the Sixth Form whenever they put on a Review at the end of the term but, made as they often were by defaulters who had been found out, they were treated, as all lampoons almost invariably are treated by their victims, with amused tolerance and the perpetrators even congratulated into the bargain.

Present boys will not remember Mr. Tabraham's prowess in the cricket and tennis fields but for one year, while Mr. Taylor was in Canada, he took over the responsibility for the first XI cricket and for a great many years he was a regular member of the Staff Tennis side in its annual (and victorious) match against the school.

A fine teacher, a born disciplinarian who never needed anything more than a quiet voice and a gleam in his eye that boys instinctively knew meant business, Mr. Tabraham's contribution to Soham Grammar School throughout twenty-four eventful years will be remembered with respect and gratitude by the masters and boys who have been privileged to be there with him and all wish him well in his retirement.

Soham Grammarian Spring 1948

It gives us great pleasure to welcome the two new masters who joined us in January. Mr AW Lowe has taken over Latin, which is now a four years' course, and Mr EH Tabraham is in charge of Handicraft. We hope their stay with us will be long and happy.

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


The Lectern, still in use

Lectern badge, detail

Who made the Lectern?

Peter Grange 53: It was made by woodwork students of the 1953 to 59 era in the year 58/59. Edmund Tabraham (the then Woodwork Master and a real inspiration to his students) carved the lectern school plaque in Lime. The lectern itself was made using select Mahogany by five students as far as I recall - myself, Graham Bye, I can't remember the others.

At the time a nameplate of those involved was fixed inside it above the internal shelf. I forgot to check this at the Dinner, will have to check next year unless someone local can do this in the meantime. I can say that the guys involved were dead proud of this item of work at its first appearance at morning assembly!

Tabby's Cat

7 Jan 2011: Colin Fuller 51 recalled noticing that when Tabby made a larger item, such as furniture for his daughter, he used to carve a cat on it.

The editor contacted Jenifer Jeffery on this story about her father, which she has verified: I have always enjoyed sketching and painting and, when I was about 9 or 10 years old I drew lots of cats in different positions. I was convinced that he’d used the picture of a cat curled up and asleep, but not so. You will see that it is a cat sitting up. My father carved that image on some of the things he made.

The original template my father made and used from my drawing, in a piece of hardboard.

The actual size of the image he carved each time is best given by the diameter of the circle surrounding the cat, which is 5.3cm. He didn’t put it on everything, only on items of furniture and certainly not on very small items. I have lots of things - a platter, bread board, cheeseboard, sugar spoon, for example, none of which have his signature carving on and most of which were made much later than when he first started using “my” cat.

cat images: via Jenifer Jeffery

In retirement

26 Sep 06 Jenifer Jeffery (née Tabraham)

Here photos of my father at various stages in his retirement, together with a few pictures of notes he’d made on work he did while at SGS which are pretty much self-explanatory. Three more relate to the sign he made for the village of Exning; two are working drawings for items made during woodwork lessons; and the school badge design for the lectern will, I’m sure, be instantly recognisable to everyone present at the dinner!

He hopes you all have a very enjoyable evening for the 2006 Dinner, and he would be very happy to hear from any "old boys" or ex-colleagues who might wish to get in touch with him. He finds great pleasure in receiving letters and specified that, initially at least, he would much prefer to receive a letter from anyone before being contacted by telephone. He does manage pretty well on the phone, but definitely likes the first contact to be made by letter - I think it probably gives him time to place people, as well as enjoying re-reading any personal correspondence. He copes perfectly well once he has "placed" someone in his mind - he really is quite remarkable for someone who will be 95 years old this November!

Please contact the editor if you wish to be in touch with Jenny.


about 1970

about 1980


4th April 1999

25th September 2006


Thornycroft's statue Queen Boadicea and her Daughters
on the Embankment, opposite Parliament

EHT: sketch for village sign


Exning Village sign (since replaced)

Tab's Exning sign outside the entrance to Exning Cricket Club in Cotton End Road, Exning, 2006: Haslam

taken on 8 Oct 2006: Haslam



EHT sketch for a table

School Badge design for the Assembly Hall lectern


Edmund Hugh Tabraham
11th November 1911 - 8th October 2008

"Once a gentleman and always a gentleman."
(Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens, 1812-1870)

11.20 a.m.
Wednesday, 22nd October 2008


"What we must look for here is
1st, religious and moral principles;
2ndly, gentlemanly conduct;
3rdly, intellectual ability."
(Arnold of Rugby, Dr. Thomas Arnold, 1795-1842)

Welcome and Introduction

At the beginning of the service the Minister, the Revd Joan Evans, read the following background piece to Mr Tabraham’s life, written by his daughter Jenny:-


Edmund was a great contributor to life. Born and raised in Brighton, Sussex, as a boy he sang in the choir of St. Bartholomew’s Church and continued to do so throughout his young adulthood. He took part in the annual pantomimes, too - we have one glorious photo of him as the Cat in Dick Whittington! Later he chose to become a teacher, thus contributing to the lives of innumerable other people, a few of whom are with us today.

Edmund and Lorna and their two small girls moved to East Anglia in 1947, where he took up a teaching post at Soham Grammar School and remained there until his retirement, serving in the later years as Deputy Headmaster as well as teaching his subjects of woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing. Careers Guidance was also an important part of his brief at the school. In Soham he took up amateur dramatics once more and thoroughly enjoyed producing a number of plays for the SADS and giving pleasure to a great many people for a great many years.

As well as giving Patricia and Jenifer a loving, secure and happy childhood, Edmund and Lorna contributed to the life of the village of Exning in many ways. She became President of the local W.I. and he became Churchwarden of St. Martin’s Church - and carved the noticeboard outside the church, depicting St. Martin giving his cloak to the beggar. His craftsmanship could also be seen in the two beautiful village signs which stood for several decades at either end of the village.

Edmund enjoyed sport, particularly cricket and tennis. He played regularly for the Exning 1st XI in the glorious setting of Exning Park (Lorna, of course, helped with the teas!) and was soon elected Chairman of Exning Cricket Club, which later honoured him with life membership. In the 1950s he co-founded Exning’s first ever Tennis Club, which quickly gained popularity and was well-supported. The Club continues to thrive.

During the 1960s and 70s he continued with amateur dramatics, producing plays for the Newmarket group, the NOMADS as well as the Soham society. In 1961 a country cottage with a glorious garden in the small village of Stetchworth became home for Edmund and Lorna, and they only left their much-loved rural surroundings in the late 1970s, when it became more practical to live in a bungalow in the town of Newmarket. They were both great walkers, and, in 1982, Edmund was instrumental in starting a Newmarket branch of the Ramblers' Association, often leading the walks. At an age when many people are being looked after in Day Centres, he and Lorna busied themselves helping to run the Newmarket Day Centre and looking after others!

In 1988 they moved to another bungalow, one in Beccles, where, once again, they assisted with the local Day Centre. After Lorna’s death ten years later Edmund continued to live there, until in 2003 he decided to move to Saxon House in Loddon - a care complex where encouragement of independence goes hand-in-hand with care willingly given, and which was only five minutes’ walk away from his younger daughter, Jenifer. Even then, in his early nineties, he contributed there by participating in tenants’ meetings and helping with arrangements for events and outings for as long as he was able.

In all walks of life Edmund was known and loved as a gentleman - and a truly gentle man.



St. John 14: 1-6; 27

"Edmund Remembered"

First Speaker: Matthew Jeffery, grandson

From me, I wish to say a few words. We all have memories of those we love and hold dear – sometimes too late. Here are some of mine which may trigger your own remembrance:

My grandfather saw 96 years on this earth of ours. Such a time span witnessing change and development of the modern age, I find it hard to comprehend sometimes.

In life we all desire to be loved, respected and remembered. He was and is by his late wife and his family and friends, as demonstrated by the attendance here.

During his time in hospital he flicked from being the man we knew to someone fighting infection and the effects of medication. On one occasion at this time he left his bed and went looking for his late wife. On another, when he was more lucid, he told me that he just wanted to sleep for he was so very tired.

Those of us that witnessed these last few months wished for the same also, for time can be a cruel mistress. I would like to think that he has once more found Lorna and the peaceful rest we all wanted for him.

96 all out then – a very good innings for a very English gent. Rest peacefully now.

Second Speaker: Ian Willats, grandson

Tabby’s eldest grandson, Ian, read the following piece, on behalf of his brother, Robin, and himself. It is an excerpt from a letter written by Robin to his grandfather on the occasion of his 96th birthday, in 2007, and Ian felt that it summed up exactly how he, too, felt about him.

“I don’t think I’ve told you how much I look up to you, and how you have been a very strong influence on me, despite always living some distance away. I have very fond memories of when Ian and I would come and visit you and Lorna when we were young, and I think I have come to value the way you are more and more as I’ve grown up and had children of my own.

What I admire and aspire to most is the way you could be disciplined, organized and have high standards in everything you did, but also managed to be fun, caring and considerate at the same time. I particularly admire the way you used to guide us in what we did, with a smile and humour, which I think must have resulted from you having a lot of patience! I’m sure these characteristics of yours also made you a great Schoolmaster.”

Third Speaker: John Howe, Soham Grammarian

John Howe SG51 spoke on behalf of the Soham Grammarians:-
Mr. Tabraham. I have a very particular reason to consider it a privilege to represent all Soham Grammarians. At their recent re-union more than seventy of those Grammarians wanted to be remembered.

Here, the thoughts of just five of them:-

The first writes: “Your contribution to the school and the help you gave me cannot be overestimated.”
Another recollects: “Many memories of a very smart and fair man.”
And similarly: “I remember you as a man of standards.”
And: “The things you taught me have been invaluable. Thank you.”

And from a former master: “Happy memories of SGS, the best years of my teaching career.”

My particular reason that I referred to was that it was Mr. Tabraham who personally launched me on a career that was to prove to be, and still is, a lifetime of fascination, challenge, success and reward. I thank you for allowing me a tribute that will be echoed by so many of Soham’s “Old Boys”.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn: The Lord's my shepherd

Commendation and Farewell

The Committal

Prayer and Blessing

Those who actually attended the service from SGS were: ex-Staff, Mr. Chris Wain; ex-pupils: John Howe, Roderick Armitage, Richard Doe, Russell Drake, Michael Goodchild, Anthony Pitchford, Brian Thorby. Many more made contact saying that they were sadly unable to attend.

Report in the Newmarket Journal 13 November 2008


If you have any anecdotes or recollections relating to Mr Tabraham please contact the editor

26 Oct 2008: A message from Tabby's daughter, Jenifer: I have been immensely touched by all the kind letters, cards and emails I’ve received from Soham Grammarians. I just can’t thank everyone individually, and I do hope they will understand that. A heartfelt, “thank you” to everyone who was kind enough to contact me, and to all who have sent donations for Marie Curie Cancer Care for the in-home nurses.

17 Dec 03: David Plumb (1966): I will always remember "Tabby" telling me to come to the front of the class. I expected a ticking off but instead he straightened my tie for me. The worst part came next when he asked why my mother hadn't dressed me properly that morning. I told him my mother never dressed me but the class was laughing at that point so my information fell on deaf ears. I have to say that "Tabby" was always immaculately dressed himself. His mother obviously dressed him properly in the mornings.

13 Oct 2008, Denis Wilkins 53: Please let me be among the many to offer condolences and some reminiscences from among your father’s former pupils.  What a splendid age he reached and I do hope that life was not too much of a trial for him in his old age.

I started at Soham GS in the mid 1950s and came under Tabby’s influence during the first few years before I moved into the Latin stream in order to do medicine.  I loved his classes and it is fair to say that relatively brief though my period with him was, the techniques he drilled into me with regard to hand tools formed the basis of a lifelong passion for woodworking. 

I became a surgeon (not an orthopaedic one, although I nearly did!) but have been a very keen hobbyist woodworker since.  His classes were a highlight of the week.  The aspect that particularly sticks in my mind was his approach to perfection.  He would not tolerate sloppiness.  He encouraged patience - an icy stare was the standard response to a hurried, poorly executed manoeuvre - but he encouraged effort and praised achievement.   The marking gauge had to be held in the left hand, the wrist curled and grasped between the fingers placed just so.  I still remember the mantra; a sure sign of excellent teaching. 

Again like many others, I still have the oak knife box made during those classes, with dovetails over which we sweated, and sometimes even spilled, blood.  Most importantly, I always tried to mimic Tabby’s approach to practical skills teaching during my subsequent teaching and training work.

I hope that these small memories of his great influence on at least one body are of some small satisfaction during this sad time.

13 Oct 2008, Morley Holliday 58: I would like to express to you my sincere condolences on the passing of Mr Tabraham. He will always be very fondly remembered by his pupils.

I first went to Soham Grammar School in 1958, and Mr Tabraham took my metalwork/woodwork class. I made several things in his class and, just by coincidence, I sit here now at my computer with one of them in my hand. It is a wooden coat peg in the shape of a letter 'T' which I made when I was in class 2F (my name and class are still on the back of the coat peg). I found this when I was packing to move from England to here in Spain about three months ago. What a coincidence.

My memories of Mr Tabraham are very vivid. He was a kind man (always immaculately dressed) and tried to teach us young boys practical and useful skills with tools in metalwork and woodwork. I have used those skills he taught me many times throughout my life. More importantly though, he taught us life skills (things like table manners and how to behave in public) - really key things for young boys like me who came from a working class family in a tiny village in the Fens. He also communicated to us many other things like how to behave at job interviews and how to dress for these occasions. The information and techniques he imparted to me I have used many times throughout my life. That is why I shall always remember him so fondly.

How did his teaching help me you may well ask. Before I retired I went on to be a Director of a major UK plc (a Times top ten company). I never forgot the skills he taught me and continually used them throughout my business life - that's how good a teacher he was.

13 Oct 2008, Eric Simper 51: Please accept my condolences. Unfortunately I was not a recipient of his tuition but I was privileged to be Cromwell House captain when he was House Master. He loved his sport - he was a wonderful man and colleagues of mine who were taught by him thought he was superb as a teacher and a person. He will always be considered a school legend.

14 October 2008, Mike Goodchild 51: As a pupil of your father from 1951 to 1957, I was very sad to learn of your recent loss. I have very fond memories of him during my school years and after I left Soham Grammar and later moved to Birmingham and Aston University, he very kindly kept in touch and I continued to receive encouraging letters from him for some years.

17 Oct 2008 Russell Drake 52: I’m so sorry to hear of your fathers passing. To me he was a gentleman and a great teacher, setting a great example to all who knew him. I’ve just retired having spent 50 years as a draughtsman/design engineer and it’s due to you father's influence that over the years I’ve enjoyed my work so much.

21 Oct 2008 Rod Armitage '55': I was only at Soham Grammar School for three years - my father was the headmaster - and I did of course come much into contact with your father as he was one of the central guiding lights of the school, who so successfully made it so good and quite unique, certainly in its area.

He did have more than a few attempts to teach me technical drawing which, although without much success, was valuable in later life when I worked for many large engineering companies on the commercial side. He had an air of being at ease with both  his teaching and the boys (who respected him greatly), even with those less well endowed at mastering his subject such as myself, that was truly touching and I remember it to this day.

My father was extremely dependent on him for support, particularly when he became deputy head after my time there.

23 Oct 2008 Julian Bishop 47: I was saddened to hear the news of your father from the SGS web site. Your father played a very big part in my preparation for my career. As our fifth form master in 1952 he encouraged us to crystallize our ideas about our careers. In my own case he was instrumental in my making contact with the Institution of Civil Engineers, and having seen their educational requirements, he made sure that I took the appropriate extra science subject in the sixth form, and furthermore he took on the tuition for it himself. I went on to train as a civil and structural engineer and followed a rewarding and enjoyable career in bridges and structural engineering. I was a consulting engineer in the latter part of my career and was granted fellowship of the Institution of Civil Engineers. So you see I am forever grateful to him for his help and guidance in those early years. I only regret I did not keep in contact with him over the years.

I am a practical person and turn my hand to work with wood and metals - for all of which I have to thank Mr Tabraham for the basic skills. I have passed on to my grandson the art of sharpening tools and many of the techniques I was taught. While doing some furniture clearance recently I had to make a decision about an art deco style oak bookcase which I made at school in 1951, but I will just have to keep it. It is a reminder of those very happy school days.

11 Nov 2008 Peter Stonebridge 50: I always remembered the advice given to me by Mr Tabraham after clouting my thumb for the umpteenth time in class one morning. His advice was "To attain hammer skills, you must keep the face of the hammer shiny"!

Although it took some time for the meaning of his comment to sink in, I still use my hammers regularly, and the faces are still shiny!

11 Nov 2008 John Hill 48: Tabby (or RAT) often used to give me a lift to school especially when I hitch hiked having missed the bus but I remember Tabby when we were in 2a (first year ), seeing Ken Beman planing away trying to get his face side and face edge square - saying "Beman, don't waste that wood, it doesn't grow on trees you know" and I swear he didn't realise he had said it !!!!

13 Nov 2008 John Favell 50: I was saddened to hear of your father's death and I am sorry I didn't make contact sooner but I have been away. I attended SGS from 50 to 56 and in my final year he was my form master. Before that he had of course taught me woodwork and technical drawing

Over the years since then I have often reflected on the impact SGS had on my future life and this was in a large part down to your father and one other teacher. When I retired I made contact with Frank Haslam and he was able to tell me where your father was. By pure coincidence I was part of a group of golfers visiting the area about five years ago and having made contact I was able to visit him as an alert 93 year old and give him my personal thanks for the difference he made to me.

He had a good memory for pupils who were there in the 60s but could not remember me or any of the others of around that time and I wasn't brave enough to give him too many clues!!! He was so right when he said the the aim was to teach us to think rather than to remember and this was useful throughout my career at RR. I was delighted to meet him again after so many years and I am sure you must miss him, but as he said even at 93 it was a good innings and when I saw him he was still very alert and we see so many these days who are not.

These have also been received:

Please accept my sincerest condolences. The world has lost one of its good men and goodness only knows the world certainly needs its good men. Mr Tabraham helped me choose my career and certainly helped me get my first job. His influence made a difference to my life. Rob Dove SG61

So many of us have gone on to achieve in our lives as a direct result of your father Edmund’s example and encouragement. I have fond memories of both him and of Soham Grammar School. Robert Medlock SG68

Your father had a significant influence during my years at Soham Grammar School from 1951 to 1957 and on my subsequent career. John Baker SG51

He was an excellent teacher who did inspire us young boys to good work, he had a long and worthwhile life. Roger Palmer SG48

Tabs taught me so much about teaching and the Grammar School remains in my memory as a very happy family. Peter Askem, SG Staff

From 1947 to 1951 ‘Tabby’ was a colleague on Edward Armitage’s staff ... my memories of him are as a friendly and most pleasant companion who never lost patience or balance in the staffroom ... and who responded to all about him and to all that happened with a smile. Perhaps I can best sum him up in Chaucer’s words, “He was a very parfait gentil knight.” John Browning, OBE MA, SG Staff

To me, your Dad was ‘Tabs’, a helpful, cheerful colleague from 1966-1970 and a good friend of that time. Chris Wain, SG Staff

I recall a kindly colleague who gave a very green teacher of Latin free rein in his workshop to produce a cot and baby pen for a very young family. Very few of Edward Armitage’s old hands are now alive, but they were undoubtedly a company of the best and E.H.T. was one of these. Rex Waller, SG Staff

As well as condolences from all the above, condolences also came from Dr. John Grassi, SG Staff and from John Leonard SG57.

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page last updated 19 Nov 11

Soham Grammarians