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IT IS WITH THE DEEPEST REGRET that we record the death, on 24th March 1980, at Verrington Hospital, Somerset, of Mr. Ronald Postill, M.A., T.D., who for twenty-one years from 1946 to 1967 was Headmaster of Victoria College.
R.P., who was 73, had been in failing health for some time and had been in hospital since shortly after Christmas. Two Memorial Services were held in Jersey, both, appropriately, in the Great Hall of Victoria College. The first was the school's own service when over 600 present-day pupils and staff heard a special tribute paid to their former Headmaster and an account of his great contribution to the development of the College.
The public memorial service, arranged by the Association of Old Victorians, was held on the morning of 26th April and was attended by the Bailiff, Sir Frank Ereaut, the Deputy Bailiff, Mr. Peter Crill, O.V., members of the Governing Body, former members of staff. Old Victorians and friends. The service was conducted by the Rev. Peter Manton, himself an Old Victorian, and Mr. Stanley Sackett was at the organ.
The College choir sang "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and the first Bible reading from Ecclesiasticus 44 (1-15) was given by Advocate F. C. Hamon, Vice-President of the 0.V.A. Mr. Martyn Devenport, Headmaster of Victoria College, gave the second reading from Romans 8 (33-39). As at the school's own service, the address was given by College Master Mr. L. A. Landick, O.V.
On this occasion, Mr. Landick, who had served for sixteen years as a member of Mr. Postill's teaching staff, said:
"Ronnie Postill was a man whom many will remember with affection and gratitude and it is indeed appropriate that we should honour his memory in this Hall, where he spoke on countless occasions. Some of those occasions were truly memorable, even historic, when he spoke with great dignity and solemnity, welcoming our Royal visitors and other very distinguished guests. Other occasions were of a more routine nature when the Headmaster addressed his pupils and staff. And there were the social occasions organised by the Old Victorians or the College when he spoke with brilliant wit and humour. But, no matter what the occasion, Ronnie Postill will be remembered speaking from this platform with authority and displaying a commanding presence and personality. He was also known and admired by a wide circle of ladies and gentlemen not necessarily associated with Victoria College nor only limited to this Island. It is, however, natural that we should first recall the progress of the school under his Headship.
No man entrusted with the burdensome task of Headmastership can achieve things entirely on his own. Every Headmaster must work with and gain the support of the Education Committee of the day, the Board of Governors, his staff, parents, pupils and, by no means least, the Old Victorians. Nevertheless, it is to the Headmaster that everyone looks for leadership and guidance. When R.P. was appointed in 1946, after years of war and German occupation, V.C.J. did not possess the buildings and facilities we know today. Classroom space was inadequate and teaching had sometimes to be carried out in corridors and changing rooms. College sports fields were in a sorry state, having been used as food-growing allotments for the hard-pressed Islanders. College House, where he, his wife Nina and the College boarders were to be accommodated, had to be completely refurbished, having seen service as the headquarters of the German Field Command Administration.
R.P. led the massive task of post-war reconstruction, appointing staff, revitalising the academic life and instituting many activities and traditions upheld to this day. Being himself a Colonel in the Royal Corps of Signals, he soon gained approval for the re-formation of the pre-war O.T.C. to be called the "Junior Training Corps" and subsequently the "Combined Cadet Force" we know today.
One should recall here briefly some of the "landmarks" of R.P.'s twenty-one years at V.C.J. In 1950 the College acquired its new sports pavilion, generously donated by Mr. G. 0. Laurens in memory of his son, one of many O.V.'s who had fallen in World War II. In 1951, the College Soccer XI "swept the board" on its English tour and was reckoned by many to be one of the finest public school teams of that season. 1952 was the centenary year of the school and the occasion was marked by the visit of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, to open the 0.V.A.'s official war memorial, the new art school. Among the many celebrations was a Royal Banquet held here in the Great Hall. 1953 saw the opening of the much-needed New de Carteret classrooms and changing rooms. Our visitor. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Prince Philip, honoured the College by coming to this Hall on the unforgettable 25th July 1957. In 1961 the College shooting team won the prestigious Ashburton Shield at Bisley and in 1963 the school acquired its own swimming pool, dedicated to the memory of another much respected Headmaster, Arthur Hardy Worrall.
Needless to say, it was Ronnie Postill who was in the forefront of all these arrangements and who acted with great dignity as befitted each occasion, such as also the visits of the late Lord Mountbatten, the late Field Marshal Montgomery and of prominent celebrities from other spheres such as the legendary flying ace Douglas Bader and the renowned Vienna Boys' Choir. R.P.'s personality was also as engaging as ever when his fellow guest at the Old Victorians' Annual Dinner was the 0.V. film, TV and stage star, Kenneth More.
It would, however, be idle to suggest that all College life was an unbroken succession of great occasions, academic successes and sporting triumphs. We all know that life is not like that. In the 'fifties and the so-called 'swinging sixties', there were many upheavals in educational policy both in Britain and in this small Island. The new secondary schools of Hautlieu and St. Helier Boys came into being, controversy was strong and there were conflicts of opinion about the role of Victoria College. "The permissive system", spilling over from Britain, had staffrooms divided throughout the U.K. and R.P. was also called upon to make some hard and unpopular decisions. Once, after a heated staff meeting, he remarked wryly: "I think the initials M.C.R. (Masters' Common Room) sometimes stand for Must Criticise Ronnie!" The strain of responsibility undoubtedly took its toll of his health during this period.
In his leisure time, though he rarely left College House during the holidays, he was a great lover of cricket, having himself been no mean batsman and a very fast bowler. He was also a lover of classical music, especially choral works in which he enjoyed contributing his own fine, resonant voice. It was, however, as a debater and after-dinner speaker that he was in constant demand. At a Forty-Club Dinner in London he proposed the toast of "Cricket" and Sir Alec Douglas- Home, one-time Prime Minister of Britain, who had to respond, expressed his 'trepidation at having to follow so brilliant a speaker'. During those years, many people who attempted the "Observer" crosswords or the "Sunday Times" brain-teasers never knew that the compiler was none other than R.P. Here at College, he instituted a series of staff variety shows for charity, entitling the production "Jersey Wonders . . . as well it may" and remarking: It's a good thing for us schoolmasters sometimes to make fools of ourselves on purpose for a change!' I believe that there are some people who have this light-hearted image of him, not realising that there was a dignified, sincere and earnest man beneath, devoted to the good of this school. Ronnie once said: 'My sense of humour has sometimes got me into trouble but it has got me out of a lot more!'
When the strains of Headship became too great in 1967, he decided to go into semi-retirement and take up a part-time teaching post at Millfield, considered by many to be Britain's foremost school. Mr. C. R. M. Atkinson, Headmaster of Millfield, recently said: 'When R.P. joined us in 1967, it was his intention to teach maths for a few years without either the strain of Headship or that of full-time teaching. In the event, he spent thirteen years here, initially teaching maths, and, for the last ten years, assisting me as Tutor for Admissions. His so-called part-time job became more full-time than that of the average member of the profession and I had sometimes to insist that he took a little time off, since he regularly came in every day, even during the holidays. R.P. was a man of immense integrity, blessed with a first-rate mind and an excellent presence. His profound command of language meant that I often sent him a draft of something I had written on which I wished to seek a second opinion before committing it to print. His bearing did not always faithfully reflect the humility under-pinning his engaging and charming personality.'
Ronald Postill's name is perpetuated on the board of Headmasters of Victoria College at the east end of the Hall and it is recorded at College House. When he last visited us here for the 0.V. Dinner of 1978, he was already in failing health. On that occasion, however, he presented a trophy to the school. Not surprisingly, the Postill Trophy will be awarded for cricket bowling. We mourn his passing and extend our sympathy to his wife, Nina, and family. Victoria College owes much to Ronnie Postill and in proud and grateful memory, we say: R.P. . . . R.I.P."
After the address and concluding hymn, the Reverend Peter Manton conducted the Final Meditation and pronounced the Blessing. The Memorial Service concluded with the singing of the first verse of the College Carmen. A retiring collection was taken in aid of Verrington Hospital, Wincanton, Somerset