The following obituary was writen by David Walsh (CR 1972-2009)
Tony Glover, Bursar of Tonbridge School 1980-1994
Tony Glover, who died on 6 May 2021 aged 95, was Bursar of Tonbridge School from 1980-1994. Tony was brought up in Beckenham, where he lived with his family all through the war, enduring being bombed out twice in the Blitz. He volunteered for the RAF in 1944, training as a pilot in the USA, but was demobbed in 1946 and took an economics degree at Queen’s University, Belfast. Graduate training at British American Tobacco (BAT) followed, for whom he worked in Nigeria, Sudan, Ghana and Hong Kong, in the latter as finance director. In 1970 he changed jobs in Hong Kong to become administration director of the new Mass Transit Railway, building the underground system, a huge project. In 1954 he married Valerie and they had two daughters. In 1978 Tony left Hong Kong to work in the UK, answering the advertisement for Tonbridge a year later.
When Tony was appointed in 1980, five people worked in the Bursary. By 1994, when he retired, this had grown to nine, while in 2021 it is now twenty. He brought a business acumen and professionalism to the finances of Tonbridge, bringing costs under control and rigour to the budgetary process. Tony had little previous experience of dealing with teachers, ‘you academics’, as he sometimes called those of us whose budget demands he deemed excessive. Teachers in that era, it would have to be said, were notoriously unworldly about school finances outside their own little empires. One former head of geography recalls putting his head round Tony’s door to ask for some more money for the department, but, before he could even start to argue his case, Tony said, without looking up, ‘the answer is no’. It is a sentence which bursars regularly need to utter, but in Tony’s case it was never a final word. If you had a good case to make, and it fitted within the proper budgetary controls and planning process which he needed to shape and apply, then he was sympathetic and helpful to meeting such requests. He became a well-known double act with John Harding, the Clerk of the Works, as they toured school buildings together with housemasters and heads of department, identifying priorities for refurbishment and planning well ahead into how and when they could be done. ‘What do you think, John?’ Tony would ask, clipboard at the ready, to which John would purse his lips and reply in his broad Geordie accent, ‘Well, I am not sure, Mr. Glover, but I will have a look at it’.
Tony was particularly intent on ensuring that the existing school buildings, which had suffered from significant under-investment in repairs and renewals, should be put on a sound footing before anything new was planned. This was particularly true of the boarding houses, whose sorry state many parents had started to criticise in the 1980s, when schools had to start paying more attention to what their customers wanted for their money. John Harding, and many other loyal servants of the school within the Works Department, ensured that the school plant was brought to an acceptable state, while new building projects were planned. Tony’s own experience with building Hong Kong’s underground railway made it unlikely that he would be daunted by Tonbridge’s problems. In partnership with Christopher Everett and Martin Hammond, he guided the school surely and wisely into a strong financial position, which was then to underpin the re-building of the Chapel and the expanding development programme of the 1980s and 1990s. This programme included the new School House, with all the consequent classroom and administrative re-organisation in the old school buildings; the sale of the old Fifty and subsequent re-development of that area; the Orchard Centre; and, by far the biggest project, the restoration of the Chapel which was completed as he retired. His daughter Kerry recalled how much Tony loved his time at Tonbridge, and only very reluctantly decided to retire in 1994 at the age of 68.
Sue Streeter worked for Tony as his Secretary for his last eight years at Tonbridge and has offered this tribute to him: ‘A very tall, erect and imposing figure, Tony commanded the utmost respect. He managed to strike that fine balance, so crucial for a Bursar, between keeping people happy whilst, at the same time, keeping a firm hand on the purse strings. Tony always set high standards. He'd continually say, with a twinkle in his eye and a wry smile, ‘’You'll catch up in a day or so", but I knew I never would! He was a sensitive, thoughtful and kind man, who considered the welfare of his staff of paramount importance. Staff knew they could utterly depend on him to deal swiftly and intelligently with the many difficult situations which occurred, including bomb scares, break-ins, floods and the 1987 hurricane. When the Chapel was destroyed in September 1988, the huge task of rebuilding was masterminded by Tony. He was very ‘hands-on’ and could be seen, wearing his hard-hat, climbing to the very top of the scaffolding. No mean feat indeed!’
Christopher Everett, who worked closely with Tony for nine years gave this tribute: ‘Every Head depends on having a strong relationship with their Bursar. I was fortunate that, for the greater part of my headship, Tony Glover was the Bursar of Tonbridge, and my wife and I join all his friends and former colleagues in sending to his wife Valerie and all their family our heartfelt sympathy on Tony’s death after a long life of such creative achievement. In addition to those things mentioned above, his contribution included masterminding the creation of the new playing fields and the new Fifty, and the introduction of a central catering system relieving housemaster’s wives of the direct responsibility for house catering. A feature of his Bursarship was the prompt efficiency and good humour with which he masterminded all his administrative duties and the way in which Valerie and he became valued members of the school community. From my point of view. and from that of the Governors and Skinners Company, his clear grasp of the school’s finances was of great importance, as was his grasp of the changing context in which the school operated. It is difficult for me to imagine my headship without his friendship and support. Tonbridge owes him a great debt.’
After Tony retired from Tonbridge, he joined the board of governors at Yardley Court which had moved to Somerhill, the listed Jacobean building to the south-east of Tonbridge. His long experience of working with architects and building contractors was of inestimable value in coping with serious defects to the building, while he also provided the financial rigour needed at a time when the school was struggling with low numbers. One fellow governor remembered a good piece of advice which Tony gave her: ‘Don’t ever say yes or no in a corridor’. He helped other schools and organisations on a voluntary basis and even found the energy to complete an Open University degree in 2001. With Valerie, he continued to travel, working out that he had visited in his life more than seventy countries.