|16 Jun 2020|
|Deaths & Obituaries|
|SOMERSET, George Henry Fitzroy
Died on 20 July 2019, aged 20. It is with deep sadness that we must inform you of the death of George Somerset. George was an academic scholar and a boarder in Manor House. He had just completed his second year at Durham University where he was studying Modern Languages and Cultures as a student at the College of St Hild and St Bede.
The following Eulogy was written by George’s housemaster, Colin Swainson.
Someone reminded me recently that George almost went to Sevenoaks! Thankfully for us he didn’t.
George was special. George had an impact on Tonbridge School and Manor House and all those who had the great fortune to come into contact and spend time with him. The fact that we heard the Robert Frost poem that he read at the Leavers’ Service tells you a great deal. Only a handful of boys take part in the service; the heads of school, music scholars, the chapel prae, and in his year, George. Why? I will try and share a few collective memories of his time at Tonbridge and in Manor to explain.
George was not a sporting or musical superstar, an extrovert or a star of the stage, yet he had a greater impact than many who were. As one of his peers said recently. “Everyone knew George”.
Everyone loved bumping into him. George made people smile. He was genuine. He was interested in you. George cared about others. He was kind. He was the kind of friend you see at any time and pick up right where you left off. George always had a smile. A big infectious cheeky grin. He always brightened up your day and everyone else’s around him. He cared about the lives of others. George was one of life’s good guys.
Some stats for the mathematician in George. Straight A*s at GCSE, Honorary Scholarship, Distinction in his Extended Project. Prizes at Skinners’ Day. An A* and 3 As at A Level. Gold Duke of Edinburgh, one of only a handful in the year and he organised the expedition by himself. Typical George. Creative writing, French Film society, Ruston Society, Ultimate Frisbee, Fives, Badminton, chess. I could go on. He was busy. He made the most of the opportunities at school.
George was the kind of boy that you were delighted to have in your classroom. Delight is a word that comes up time and again. Absolute pleasure. Cheerful. Generous. Enthusiastic. Talented. One in a million. A young man of real character. My brilliantly talented and clever friend. Even gruff old teachers from up north in what George called ‘struggle subjects’ were sad that he didn’t do their subject at A Level. I’ve had great fun reading all George’s reports. I always used to save reading his to last so that when I was tired and grumpy, I had something to look forward to. As Dr Jackson, who knew George so well wrote: ‘There are many students that I will miss but George has been exceptional in so many ways that I will remember him for a long time.’ Or as Doriel Hulse put it. ‘Uniquely, I am lost for words.’ Doriel was never lost for words. George had that impact on people on a truly personal level.
George was funny. The mere mention of his name makes me smile. He loved his puns. He loved his idiomatic expressions and was delighted when you accused him of sounding old fashioned. A real linguist.
George came into Manor after a term as a day boy. The best bit of transfer business I ever did. He was a dream to have in the house. He made people laugh. He drew people in. He coaxed people out. He emanated feelings of comfort, enjoyment and amusement. George was the glue that brought Manor together.
George loved matron’s room. He lived in matron’s room. It was always a happy place when he was there, winding people up, that grin of his never far from his face. That must be an abiding memory for many of us. George gained legendary status as the only boy to have slapped matron’s bum. Why you ask? Why not? A good story there. Forever in the annals of Manor folklore. Legend confirmed. He loved Nicky. And she loved him too. She used to drive him home every Saturday. He once walked home to bake her a chocolate whiskey cake on her birthday when he had forgotten. They were like an old married couple. Forever playfully bickering. Forever winding each other up. George used to walk everywhere. Fast. And he made no allowances for matron, telling her to run instead. All the boys loved the double act. George loved Manor and Manor loved George.
George loved the outdoors. He spent three happy years doing conservation on Wednesday afternoons where I must confess it was his company and good humour rather than his work that stood out. He was a specialist at making the tea on the fire. There is an apple tree dedicated to him in the orchard. Golden Noble if you want to know. A cooker, like George. George was a baker long before Bake Off made it trendy. A very good one too.
I once compared George to a tree in a Christmas speech along with the rest of his year group. A hazel. With upright stems. A wonderful procrastinator like George trying in make up its mind whether it is a tree or shrub. Though, like George, tough and well liked and good for starting fires.
For George loved an argument. He was his own man. He would stand up for himself. He was strong minded but also thoughtful and inquisitive. He liked to question things. However, when wrong he would always eventually accept it. I loved our discussions around the lunch table. He infuriated me and made me glad I was a teacher in equal measure. His insistence on proper manners with little people. Better than me with my own children.
George was loyal. If you were on his team, one of his friends, a Manorian he backed you to the hilt but he was always open to new friends even those he had disagreed with. Most of the time……
George could talk to people. Really talk to people. It was a wonderful gift. He was my ‘go to’ boy whenever we had guests at lunch that I was worried about or seemed awkward or shy. Not with George. George was genuinely interested in you. George was genuine.
George was generous. Generous with time. Generous with advice. Generous in spirit. An excellent prae. Efficient, authoritative and good humoured; he set the right tone in the house. The younger boys loved him. He always had time to lend boys pens, paper, books as well as help. There are a few people who owe an A level grade or two to George! George got his year group through A levels. Boys get stressed. George would always rally the troops. Frisbee on the upper hundred. And if it was raining, he would sit in your room and make everyone laugh.
George could be bossy. He could be stubborn. He could be grumpy, but he mostly got away with it. He very rarely had a cross word for anyone and when he did, he was quick to apologise much like one of his beloved dogs.
Sporting success, as he measured it, eluded George. But not in the eyes of those he played with. His final Fives report is one of the warmest reports I have ever read. George made a considerable contribution to the Ultimate Club. Committed for 5 years. A really good player too. George and Ultimate were a perfect match. A non-refereed sport, it relies on a competitive approach married with respect for the rules and the opposition. George’s charm, generosity, thoughtfulness and humility were ideally suited to this.
I have not nearly done justice to George here, but I sincerely hope that you all spend some time today remembering those moments that made us smile and laugh and sharing them with each other. I think he would like that.
Sadly, an illness that we didn’t see coming took him away from us too fast and all too soon, but I feel lucky to have been involved in his life in a small way.
I am beyond sad that he is gone but know that we are all richer for having known him, and his is a life truly worth celebrating. I for one still smile at mention of his name and the times we shared. Thank God he didn’t go to Sevenoaks.
Farewell George and thank you for everything.