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R.I.P George Matthews – 2013

The funeral will take place on Tuesday January 29th 2013 at 14.40 at Barham Crematorium (roughly half way between Dover and Canterbury), Canterbury Road (A260), Barham Nr Canterbury, CT4 6QU ( http://www.barham-crematorium.co.uk/ tel 01227 831351).

Refreshments will be available at the College afterwards.

Penny Matthews (wife of George Matthews) wishes to express her appreciation:

“The response to Georges death has been both inspiring and overwhelming. I am deeply touched by the numerous mesages, letters and cards I have received. I have had almost two hundred cards,letters messages etc since George died. Messages such as the ones I have had from ex-colleagues and Old Dovorians do help and I woud like to say a huge thank you to you all

He was such a modest man and he would be astounded by all the letters and the lasting effect he seems to have had on many generations of Dover College boys and colleagues.

Dover College provided the refreshments in the refectory after the service, and I know he would have been pleased about that.

Old Dovorians, masters and friends gathered to share many happy and amusing situations, and it was just what he would have wished.

Don’t forget to keep in touch. All ODs are always welcome at 54 The Gateway.”

“Celebration of George’s life at Barham Crematorium”

An account of George Matthew’s funeral by William Barron, St Martins 1960-65

Tuesday January 29th 2013 was wet, grey and drizzly. George’s funeral was held at Barham Cemetery, roughly halfway between Dover and Canterbury on the A2. Like all crematoriums it was surrounded by some lovely grounds but which in the murky January afternoon didn’t do justice to what it must look like with leaves on all the trees and roses in bloom. Fortunately there was a warm waiting room to shelter one from the elements, empty when I got there but gradually people began to arrive in ones and two. Soon it was absolutely chock-a-block with many names from the past, namely the Tuckwells from Leamington House, past teachers including Marsden from the 60’s, Cruckshank and many OD’s.

As you can well imagine there was a lot of introducing and exchanges of what part George played in the lives and even before the services began it was obvious that George had touched many thousands of lives with exciting daring-dos and exploits that involved the RAF Cadet Corps, walks around Wales, flights in Chipmunks and exeat trips across the Channel lot and up the coast. With so many people there was not going to be enough room in the chapel and so it was that about twenty of us trooped upstairs to the balcony at the back of the chapel. We looked down on the full to capacity pews, as the vicar started the service for George at the front, in a simple wooden coffin with a beautiful bunch of lowers on top.

There were about a hundred people at the service and after the welcome from the vicar, Robert, their second son gave an absolutely excellent life story about him. He mentioned things like George serving in the war, getting his wings (in Canada I think) and whilst in the RAF met Penny. After the war he read French and Italian at Oxford before accepting a job at Dover, where of course they never left. With spells living in Effingham Crescent, then in St. Anne’s followed by being Housemaster of Leamington after Tuckwell and after that Deputy Headmaster.

Through all this George was able to mix all these responsibilities with exciting trips, which today in the 21st century would not be allowed due to Health & Safety. In those days they were the norm, with a sort of George simplicity of just getting on and doing it. Robert mentioned that George’s risk assessment involved going with Penny to try out the walks in Snowdonia, so if anybody said it was too hard or complained he could say “if Penny did it and so can you”!

When Robert talked about the many exeats George organised going across the channel and up the coast, some of upstairs in the balcony looked at each other with a knowing smile. we had been there and just as Robert said we missed Calais as well! He described one trip that he had been on, when they had to leave the boat in France and come back on the ferry, due to bad weather. The problem was they had left Dover without any passports… I mean who needs passports and the UK Immigration officer could not understand how this group had left the UK, wandered up and down the French coast, left the boat over there and now wanted to pop back home without any paperwork. A tremendous story amongst many and at the end of it there was an instant huge round of applause not just for the amazing life that George had lived but for the way that Robert had been able to tell it.

George’s family was there and his two grandsons William Dunbar and James Matthews took part in the service and read a delightful poem anreading respectively.

Afterwards we were all invited back to the College for tea and cakes in the Refectory, served by school prefects, who happened to be mainly young ladies in black gowns. I was last there for the Centenary in 1971 and for some reason looked narrower but taller. The paintings of the headmasters around the walls are just the same and now of course there are kitchens adjoining, as everybody eats there rather than in the houses.

All too soon I had to rush for the train but not before I had a chat to Penny, who was absolutely amazing, upbeat and full of spirit. In conclusion there was a real family feel to the proceedings and above all showed the power of what one individual can do. All in all a sad but uplifting day. Many thanks George for all you did for me and for all the thousands of lives you touched. It now feels fitting that there should be some form of memorial in honour of what you did.

In the meantime the funeral service sheet mentions on the back that if anybody wishes to make a donation in George’s memory, please send a cheque to a charity organisation of your choice via W J Farrier & Son Ltd., 161 London Road, Dover, Kent CT17 0TG.

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