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News > Annoucements > ALLIBONE, Reginald Geoffrey (Geoff)

ALLIBONE, Reginald Geoffrey (Geoff)

You are warmly invited to leave a message below, share your memories, and celebrate the life of Geoff Allibone who we sadly lost in 2024.
17 Apr 2024
Written by Tara Biddle

The following obituary was written by David Walsh

Geoff Allibone spent thirty-nine years teaching at Tonbridge between 1961 and 2000. Coming to the School direct from Cambridge, he was one of Lawrence Waddy’s last appointments, together with Hugh Tebay and John Smalman-Smith. Geoff was a fine classicist but also proved himself a rounded schoolmaster, as a caring and popular Housemaster of Parkside, a contributor to so many aspects of Tonbridge life and as a loyal and engaging colleague, one of the foundation stones of the Common Room at Tonbridge in the last four, often challenging, decades of the twentieth century.

Geoff was born an only child in Battersea in October 1938, but the family evacuated to Crowthorne in Berkshire during the war to live with cousins. He went to Bec Grammar School in Tooting, where he had the good fortune to be taught by T.W. Melluish, a leading light in the teaching of Classics at the time. He then went on to Pembroke College, Cambridge to read Classics and then the PGCE course. He was the make-up specialist for the Pembroke Players theatrical group and played cricket regularly, but his crowning achievement at Pembroke was to meet Elizabeth on his PGCE course and they married in August 1962. Two children followed in Christine, who has made her life in Australia, and then Richard (WW 80-85).

Teaching Classics was one of the twin pillars of Geoff’s life at Tonbridge. He gained the most pleasure from teaching the ablest scholars, leading these boys to the fullest extent of his own scholarship and rigour, but he also showed great kindness and perseverance with the weaker brethren. His time was marked by Classics losing the large share of the curriculum it once had, but Geoff adapted to such change with ever youthful enthusiasm and was happy to expand his horizons to embrace Greek Art and Architecture as part of his teaching, and to help pioneer the Classical Civilisation A/Level course. For more than two decades he led biennial trips to Greece, building up a huge knowledge of the sites which he passed on in a scholarly and often amusing way to his charges.

From 1974, when he succeeded Bernard Wheeler, until 1989, he and Elizabeth ran Parkside in an era when most housemasters did their full fifteen years in their houses. Parksiders remember him fondly for his benign and civilised regime and he was a more than enthusiastic supporter of house sport, debating, drama and music. He believed that high standards were there to be achieved and abhorred bad manners and lack of effort, but he understood boys’ limitations and encouraged the less able to do their best, although he was perceptive in passing on his assessment of how good he might expect their best to be. No doubt some Parksiders regarded him as eccentric at times (and his stentorian comments on the touchline of junior house league rugby would come under this heading), but they knew that Geoff really cared about them individually and collectively.

Geoff also loved his sport, especially cricket. He wished he could have played games to a higher standard, but his poor eyesight was against him. In Common Room cricket matches, he usually insisted on fielding at short extra cover where he would be peppered by well struck off drives, but he waved his arms enthusiastically and had his greatest moment bowling in a game at Limpsfield when he persuaded Colin Cowdrey to dolly a catch into the covers. He was always ready to referee rugby and umpire cricket for whatever team he was given, coached them with dedication and passed on knowledge which he had gleaned from a lifetime of involvement in sport.

After they came out of Parkside, he and Elizabeth moved to Southborough, but he had another eleven years of teaching at Tonbridge. He took on all manner of necessary but unglamorous jobs, while still sharing his trenchant views with anyone coming into his orbit. Later in retirement he continued to watch cricket, shared moments as a proud grandfather on both sides of the world and continued his passion for tropical fish (and his hatred of cats). He also developed a passion for translating Latin and Greek funerary inscriptions, found during trips to churches and cathedrals in Britain and Europe, self-publishing two collections of them.

Geoff’s talents and success as a schoolmaster were underpinned by a very happy family life. Elizabeth developed her own teaching career at Tonbridge Girls’ Grammar, but they were welcoming hosts and fully involved in Tonbridge life. Geoff will be remembered as a man of strong opinions on anything and everything, and relished a good argument, but he had irony and self-knowledge and great generosity of spirit. Colleagues of all ages came to regard him as a friend and mentor they could trust. He regarded it as a privilege to teach classics and be a housemaster at Tonbridge in those thirty-nine years, but, like many of his generation, he became less enamoured of the lavish facilities which all schools began to develop in his final years of teaching and during his retirement. Geoff, RGA, ‘Reg’ to some seemed surprised at his good fortune in life, but he should not have been, and he will be fondly remembered by boys, colleagues and all those at Tonbridge he cherished and inspired.

(CR 61-00)









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