Taught me English, and life stories in general, especially some wartime Lancaster ones, and shared his appreciation of Jazz, as a Sax player.
Philip D. Havercroft (“Doker”) He was born in Bridlington in 1921. He retired in July 1981 (though I don't recall him going before I left in 82 ?). Lived in West Runton many years.
Addendum / Eulogy
Having attended Doker's funeral with family and friends, 4th March. Peter provided a copy of the Eulogy very well delivered by Jane, and it is included it here - Doker would have liked that. A moving testimony and lots of information that Old Boys would not be expected to have known previously:
Dad was born in Bridlington, on the Yorkshire coast in 1921.
He didn’t have an easy start as his mother died when he was just three weeks old.
His aunt Frida moved from Cornwall to bring him up, ably assisted by Jenny who became the rock in his life.
He always fondly remembered their house on the cliffs, playing on the beach and his exploits with older brother Ralph.
When Dad was ten, his life in Bridlington ended when his father died. In straightened circumstances, he moved to Hull with Ralph and Aunt Frida. Hull was so different from Bridlington – then a large, dirty and industrial city.
As a teenager, Dad showed the qualities and interests that were to characterise the rest of his life.
He was good at languages, played rugby and took up the saxophone. Playing jazz in those days was seen as dangerous and radical but it was his lifelong passion.
As for so many people, the Second World War changed everything. He joined the RAF and, after training as a navigator and observer, served in the Middle East. He was part of the crucial battle of Alamein and was awarded a Mentioned in Dispatches – a measure of both the danger and the contribution that he, and the rest of 223 squadron, made.
After the war, he studied hard and got into Cambridge to do his English degree. It was in Cambridge that he met Isobel and they married in 1954. Dad had just got a job as an English master at the Paston School in North Walsham - a job he would keep for his whole career.
He put a huge amount of energy and emotion into his teaching. The boys nicknamed him Doker.
And he helped them run a music club and a newsletter called the Daily Register.
He also ran a jazz band called Miscellany which played venues including the Little Theatre in Sheringham.
He very much appreciated the letters he got in later life from old boys of the school who reflected favourably on his influence on their early years. Many also remembered how he threw chalk and board rubbers to get their attention!
Immediately after their marriage, Mum and Dad settled in West Runton. The quirky house called Westwood became his home for 60 years.
They had four children – Jane (that’s me), Clare, Pete and Alan.
Due to heart problems, Dad took early retirement at the age of 60 when the Paston School was going to be transformed into a sixth form college. It was probably one of the best things he ever did [healthwise].
So what did he do in retirement?
There were the jazz bands, including the Phil Havercroft Quartet, which played in local hotels and pubs.
And holidays to Greece where he honed his knowledge of Retsina and Greek culture, both ancient and modern. He drew masterful humorous cartoons and wrote poetry.
And he read.... Everything from the works of the ancient Greeks to modern American poets and always his beloved Homer, an almost daily source of inspiration
He loved to learn, acquiring a phenomenal depth of knowledge, for example in sports such as cricket and rugby, even teaching himself all the rules of American football. He taught himself Greek, Russian and Mandarin and he used to consider chess puzzles light reading!
And then there was his expanding family. He and Mum welcomed our partners including Paul and Cecy.
Dad loved his grandchildren too - Megan, James, Alec and Owen- and imparted his own brand of wisdom to them.
But there were losses too - Alan’s early death then Mum suddenly in 2008. He never expected her to go first but coped extraordinary well with his loss. He found comfort in writing poetry and by staying at Westwood, the house they had shared all their married life. He was determined to end his days there and was supported in this by his family, neighbours and carers. He remained cheerful and stoic to the end, always taking an interest in people’s lives whether it was their service life, their upbringing abroad or some other topic of interest like the cricket!
It’s hard to summarise him in a few words but here’s an attempt.
Resilient and Determined
Funny and Convivial
A natural linguist
A jazz fan
And a big character.
May he rest in peace.