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News > Deaths & Obituaries > Geoffrey Wickham (1947-1954)

Geoffrey Wickham (1947-1954)

You are warmly welcomed to leave a message below, share your memories and celebrate the life of OE and former teacher Geoff Wickham who we sadly lost in January 2023
Geoff Wickahm
Geoff Wickahm

Many of the QEH community will remember Geoff (as we all knew him) from his years as a teacher of Chemistry in the 1980s and 1990s. However, Geoff’s association with QEH began in 1947 when he entered the school as a boarding pupil. Geoff retired from teaching in 1998; he had seen QEH evolve over a half-century of immense change, from the post-war period (when, as a direct grant grammar school, QEH was a somewhat spartan institution) to the cusp of the millennium by which time QEH had grown considerably and was firmly established as a leading independent school.

A long and active retirement followed Geoff’s teaching years, allowing him to spend many happy hours involved with his lifelong passion for music.

Richard Gliddon, Headmaster of QEH from 1985-2000, remembers Geoff as “an outstanding  Head of Chemistry; a patient and kindly man, well loved and respected by all.” Richard further commented that “his knowledge of, and enthusiasm for his subject was keenly felt.” Geoff invited guest speakers to QEH besides organising various industrial visits and trips to the London Science Museum for his classes; there were also residential trips for VI formers.

Richard Gliddon also commented on finding a woodwind group rehearsing weekly in the Chemistry laboratory when he arrived at QEH, much to his surprise! In fact, Geoff not only directed those rehearsals but also made many skilful arrangements for the group, ranging from versions of lesser known classical pieces to lighter repertoire. Geoff was a musician of wide tastes and sympathies; when a joint choir from QEH and Red Maids performed Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo at a charity concert in St Mary Redcliffe, his neat sense of humour came to the fore in his arrangement of a compilation of well-known tunes for wind octet, including Singing in the Rain and Burt Bacharach’s classic, Raindrops keep falling on my Head!

Geoff’s involvement in QEH music included a role in the 1990 production of Oliver! that marked the school’s 400th anniversary, and directing the music for the annual pantomime produced by the Friends of QEH.

In the Greater Bristol area Geoff was musical director for choral societies and performances of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. His knowledge was encyclopaedic, and he reached the final of the Radio 4 musical quiz Counterpoint. In the many concerts he conducted, Geoff was wonderfully supported by his wife Hazel, a talented musician who had studied Classics and Music at Bristol University at the same time as Geoff was a Chemistry student. After graduating, Geoff and Hazel married at Victoria Methodist Church in Clifton in 1959. They remained staunch members of that church, where they gave many years of dedicated service.

Hazel died in 2019. By way of loving musical tributes to her, Geoff organised a most moving memorial service in St. Mary Redcliffe (during which he conducted a number of the items), and then - during the recent pandemic - he composed a work for chorus and orchestra reflecting her upbringing on a Devon farm; this was performed by his choirs when musical activities re-started.

I was able to enjoy sharing in Geoff’s music making over many years as an orchestral cellist, and knew what pleasure these occasions gave to performers and audiences alike. Geoff was deservedly awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours of 2020 for services to music in Bristol.

A number of us last saw Geoff at a lunch for former members of staff in early December, when he was in fine form. However, not long after enjoying Christmas with his family, he fell ill. Geoff died in Southmead Hospital on 19th January, surrounded by members of the family; his passing was calm and peaceful.

We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Geoff’s daughters Ruth and Carol, and to their respective families, as we remember with affection a fine colleague who was a good friend to all.

Richard Jones, Former Director of Music at QEH, 1974-2010

 

Geoffrey Wickham was a pupil at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in the 1940s/1950s, studied Chemistry at Bristol University and became a teacher. He returned to teach at QEH for some eighteen years from 1980 – 1998. Geoff was an outstanding Head of Chemistry; a patient and kindly man, well-loved and respected by all and, his knowledge of, and enthusiasm for his subject was keenly felt. Of course, he didn’t really leave and returned each week to pursue another of his great loves: making music. I was impressed on arrival at QEH, in 1985, to find a woodwind group in the Chemistry laboratory at lunchtime and that tradition continued for many years.

Geoff’s teaching style and his musical contributions were generally gentle, even pianissimo but they held the attention of his pupils. He reserved the “Crash, Bang Wallop” for the practical Chemistry sessions in the laboratory: very fortissimo! He believed in starting a few fires in the lab; not as an arsonist or pyromaniac but with plenty of pyrotechnics!  He realised that fire provides light and warmth and is self-sustaining. With that approach, many of his pupils studied Chemistry at University and even became Chemistry teachers. (Andrew Clements!)

Geoff also took a leading role in the school’s production of “Oliver!” in 1990 when we were celebrating our 400th anniversary.

Geoffrey and his wife Hazel contributed so much to choral and orchestral music in Bristol for decades.

Richard Gliddon, QEH Head, 1985 – 2000 

 

Geoff Wickham’s funeral will be on Friday 10 March at Victoria Methodist Church, Clifton, at 1 pm 

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