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I was very fortunate in that just before I came on my trip to China (which is where I am writing this from) I had the chance to see Grandpa for, as it has transpired, the last time. I am even more fortunate that this last meeting was such a positive time and I will always have it as my lasting memory of Grandpa. In a lot of ways it summed up what I always found most interesting and inspiring about Grandpa and what I will always remember about him. There were the always interesting talks of his and Nona's travelling and socialising and especially of his and Nona's most recent trips to Africa and to Poland. Actually thinking back now to when I was a child I suppose it was Grandpa and Nona's stories of travelling the world that first made me aware that there were distant wonderful places to travel to and of course their house in France was actually the first place I ever did travel to as a small boy.
It is very hard to write about a grandparent because I have no real idea about the man George Shiells and who he was, but only about my Grandpa and what he meant to me. Having only just recently become an adult also means that in my life the only time I actually talked with Grandpa as one man to another was the last time I ever saw him. In a way this makes me very happy and also very sad that it was so late before I actually uncovered the man who also, like me, enjoyed the music of Ella Fitzgerald and admired the way she can really get inside a song, a man who still had some very interesting ideas about the world that we live in and was a lively and intelligent conversationalist.
If I have any words of consolation for everyone who is now missing a husband, a father, an amazing grandpa, a friend or any of the other things Grandpa was to so many people it is to remember that he lived a life that we can all be envious of! If I can reach my 70s and have travelled to as many places, seen as many things, experienced so much and also have such a large family to be so proud of I think I will be a very happy man. My mum always says she sees a lot of Grandpa in me, and I find that as flattering a complement as there can be, although I suppose I should watch my stubbornness now and again!
I will end with a few stories about Grandpa that left a very visual impression on me as I would like to share the ways I will remember him.
Just after I had been to Mexico and visited the pyramids I was talking with Grandpa about a time he had travelled to Mexico on business while he was still a financial director. He had been taken to the Pyramids and one of the Mexican men he was with challenged him to run up the Pyramid as a joke (if I recall correctly). A young Grandpa then proceeded to run up the entire pyramid, which by his own admission he mightily regretted about half way up! Especially after having seen the gigantic magnitude of the pyramids myself this leaves such an impression on me of the determined young man that I never new and I always find this image very inspiring. The other story was from France one year when Grandpa offered some of us grandchildren 10 Francs if we filled a bucket with weeds from the drive. I quickly thought 'this will be easy money' and set about speedily loosely filling my bucket with weeds. I went to grandpa after about 3 minutes with my bucket and asked for my 10 Francs. Grandpa looked at my bucket with a smile, put it on the floor and pressed the weeds down to a measly 10cm layer with his foot. Every time I think of this last story it makes me smile.
Rest in peace Grandpa
Your loving grandson, Jake.
Almost a year ago a group of us nominated George for a public award, in recognition of his selfless service to Chancellor's School and the whole community of students, staff and parents, past and present.
I felt privileged to add my support, together with contributios from Frank Maynard, Colin Evans, John callomon, Pauline warren and Malcolm Lumb, between us covering George's forty two plus years connection with the school.
Firstly in 1964 there was George the parent, then the first Chair of the P.T.A. and then the first parent observer on the Governing Body and then Chair of Governors, a position he held for over twenty years.
Those years co-incided with the appointment of Paul Wormleighton as headmaster from 1982 to his sudden death in 2004. Together, with George's astute mind and Paul's inspirational leadership they moulded Chancellor's into a good school at the very heart of the community.
George, the motivator always led by example. His shared vision enabled the school to survive closure, for there can be no doubt that without George and the team he gathered around him Chancellor's would have closed. But that battle made us stronger and the school developed under the banner of Grant Maintained status and finally into a Specialist College for Mathematics and Computing in 2003.
Also as Chairman of the Resources Committee he worked tirelessly to improve the facilities at the school enabling a vast building programme to be undertaken including two new ICT blocks, a Performing Arts Block, a second gymnasium and a new reception.
George has always supported the school in many other ways. And ever present at all music concerts and drama performances. On Tuesday nights George could be found attending one of our computing classes for the community. He started with 'Computing for the Terrified!' and was now working towards the ECDL qualification.
I am proud to say that I worked alongside George in a number of ways since joining the school in 1969, when I was warmly welcomed not only into the family that was the school, but also into local families, the Beesons, the Thomsons, the Bakers and of course the Shiells. But nothing was more important to me than the support that George gave me personally when I suddenly became Acting Head in 2004.
That staunch support continued with the appointment of the new head teacher, Stuart Phillips.
I first really got to know George on the Chancellor's stage in the very first P.T.A.Music hall in 1972 and then the first Pantowine 'Cinderalf' in 1973, where I note from the programme that George was in the chorus playing a barrow boy, a bamboo dancer, complete with grass skirt and part of a ballroom formation team, in true pantomime tradition with the ladies dressed as men and the men as ladies!
But he was not to remain in the chorus for long, elevated to starring roles including, King Rat, Sir Jasper Junard, numerous admirals, officers, Colonel Saunders of KFC fame, the lion in 'The Wizard who Woz' and more worryingly the Wicked Queen in 'Snow White and the Magnificent Seven', Fairy Liquid in 'Alassin' and Posh Spice!!! Quite a CV!
My overriding memory was in the early days when George got together with three other gents, who I think were Albert Keenes, Frank McCrudden and Peter Richardson and secretly learned to tap dance. They appeared on stage in black tops, black tights, black bowler hats, dark sun glasses and white jock straps! Thankfully the scene was in ultra violet light!
He loved the smell of grease paint and was part of every single P.T.A. production from 1972 until the present, in total 69 shows. An incredible achievement! And the parties at George and Lyn's on the last nights - legendary!!
But the shows had a purpose and that was to raise money for the school. Everything that George did had a purpose and whatever George did he would do it perfectly. He did not suffer fools gladly and he relished a fight, particularly with County Hall, but not for his own sake, but always to gain fairness for the school, its pupils and its staff.
I finish with the words of John Callomon, Vice Chairman of Governors, which I believe sum up the thoughts and feelings of the Chancellor's community.
'Pupils, teachers, governors, parents - he guided us unstintingly with energy, insight, wisdom, skill and vision, devoted wholly to the interests of the school as an institution of learning for our young people. We retain our memories of him with gratitude.
We celebrate our school - his monument.'
[Delivered at George's funeral]
Thank you George, from the Towndrows: Til, Brian. Bianca and Adam ...
My father’s eyes were like the sky, their colour changed with his moods. Sometimes, they were grey and steely and their greyness filled the house. Then we would take shelter and talk irreverently of the chilly weather beyond the room, leaving him alone with his grey eyes.
But at other times, they were as blue as forget-me-nots. Then we’d know we’d have fun. Their colour warmed every chilly corner. Then we would all laugh together, with no exclusions, as he gathered us all up in the embrace of warm blue. When his eyes were this colour, it didn’t matter what hardships fell, they’d be turned into part of the game of life. And in the blueness of his eyes, we, his family, grew and blossomed.
This is Dad’s story. A story of love and respect.
Those steely eyes knew how to say No. He was prepared to shoulder the responsibility of holding the boundaries, even when they were kicked and tested for their stability he held us safe, solid in his under-taking to allow us as much freedom as we were able to handle. Tantrums or emotional blackmail held no sway when he said No. The one person he did listen to was Mum. If she noticed the boundaries were inappropriate she knew how to let him know and he always adjusted to her recommendations.
I didn’t thank him at the time for this but I did respect him. Outside of family life, he used that same cool steeliness to navigate his business through treacherous waters. To fight against the proposed closure of Chancellor’s School and in a thousand other situations where an intelligent, tactical, focused campaign was needed.
He was integrous and he believed in working in service for his community. He was not afraid to be unpopular, if he believed the bigger picture warranted it. And for him, the bigger picture was one of equality and respect. He believed everyone should be given a chance to develop their gifts and gain support in strengthening their weaknesses.
He didn’t require us, his children, to be like him. He believed in nurturing a diverse garden where we were all allowed to blossom in our uniqueness. His only question was “Have you tried to do your best?”
But it was his blue eyes that I loved, his sparkling fun eyes, his dancing, singing, telling stories eyes, his teasing, daring, mischievous eyes, his generous, playful, vital eyes full of humour and naughtiness. When his eyes twinkled blue I loved him.
Blue and grey, work and play, love and respect. Did he make mistakes? Of course, he was human. But did he always try to do his best? Yes.
We’ve come here to celebrate Dad’s life. Above everything else, he was a family man. A husband, father, grandfather.
In proverb 17 v 6 it says children’s children are a crown to the aged and parents are the pride of their children.
He loved each and every one of his 12 grandchildren, maybe more than they realise. Each one shines in their own truth and beauty, each carrying a facet of Dad, to catch the light. Whether it be his love of sport, his keen intellect, his love of dancing, his ability to tell stories, his love of family, his head for business, his appreciation of beauty, his gregariousness, his quiet contemplation or his intrigue into the mysteries. His grandchildren, by being true to themselves are indeed Dad’s crown.
I, for my part, am humbled and blessed to be his child.
I always looked up to Dad and now when I look up I’ll see the sky and will remember him in the vast horizon of a father’s love
We knew George in many of his myriad persona. Firstly, through Chancellors, as an actor on stage with the PTA, then as Chairman of the Board of Governors, then as an amiable but meticulous host of the after show parties. Gradually, as our friendship with Lyn and George developed we saw him as a proud father and grandfather and came to appreciate just how wide his interests and involvement with the community were.
We saw him as editor of the Chancellors Newsletter, one of the most successful community newsletters in the country. Other facets which we experienced, both here and in his home in France, were golfer, sportsman, Chevalier of Wine, gardener and many others too numerous to mention.
In all the things he did he strove to excel, second place was not for George, and always he was his own man doing things his way. Life was richer because of George, through the interest and sparkle that he brought to us in so many ways. We will always remember and miss him
Thank you, George, for your advice, guidance and leadership throughout the years at Chancellor's. You will be greatly missed. We couldn't have achieved so much without you.
From Mary Hepburn
Admin Manager/Admissions Secretary
Some of us drink vouvray
Some of us have blue eyes
Some of us plan to travel the world
Some of us don't do second place
Some of us read science fiction books
Some of us like ginger biscuits dunked in our tea
Some of us have a stubborn streak
Some of us spin a good yarn
Some of us like to dance & sing
Some of us don't suffer fools
Some of us like to throw a good party
Some of us eat a chocolate orange when we watch the rugger
All of us carry a piece of you in our hearts and minds
I worked for George many years ago at The Enfield Advertiser and just wanted to say how sad I was to hear of his passing on, he was a genuine, honest man and much respected.
I was part of a later generation than George's at Christ's Hospital, but he made my wife Emilia, baby Tommy and myself very welcome at the regular lunches for Old Blues at his Golf Club and at the annual gatherings which he hosted with Lyn at their home.
George was always entertaining and would talk on any subject with knowledge and wit. Last June he produced a marvellous collection of hats in order to protect his guests from the burning sun whilst they lunched in his garden.
My family and I will always remember him.
I only met George in about 1995, although we must have overlapped at Haisey - four years was a big age difference there. He and Lyn immediately became a key focus for Herts and Beds Old Blues' activities and much of the "glue", notably at their June lunches. Over the years I came to know and appreciate how much George, with Lyn, had given to the Chancellors community school, Brunel University and his family. A true role model ! (CH 1944-51)
I met George only twice but I know Lynn well and send my sincere condolences to her and all her family. Kate.
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