Radley is fortunate to have a talented and dedicated staff body. Our My Radley series sets out to shine a light on the people who help to make Radley such a special place, tell their stories and discover what Radley means to them. In the first edition, Iain Campbell, Head of Classics, spoke to Radley’s longest-serving member of staff, Pat Clarke.
It’s 1966: The Beatles release Revolver, England win the World Cup at Wembley, and 16 year old Pat Clarke from Sunningwell is looking for a job. He is directed to Abingdon School, but when it turns out they don’t have the vacancy he was expecting they send him up the road to Radley, where long-serving Head Groundsman Harold Smithson does need a new staff member. Pat is that man, and he is actually going to work under Harold, four other head groundsmen, five Wardens and about the same number of Bursars for five decades and counting. Wyndham Milligan is about to hand over to the legendary Dennis Silk. Pat remembers him fondly as a great Warden who well deserved the entire school applauding as they lined his exit from his last assembly.
In 1966 the Radley campus looked very different. Pat spent a lot of time mowing Social lawns which no longer exist. There were far fewer buildings (the ever-increasing construction is noticeable when you can no longer navigate a tractor around the campus as easily!), while what was to become the golf course was then a soggy ploughed field. The athletics track was made of cinders, and the hockey pitch inside it was a grass one. After that it was redgra (basically gravel) before it became the College’s second Astroturf in the 1990s.
In addition to the changes in buildings and facilities, over the last 55 years Pat has seen the number of staff in the Gardens & Grounds teams grow considerably, and the same is true of the number of boys and teaching staff. From his day-to-day perspective, the biggest change has probably been the ever-improving kit the groundsmen have – he spends a lot of time on his sit-on mower and in the tractor, and they are very smooth and effective.
In some ways surprisingly little has changed – Pat feels the boys don’t seem so very different to the ones he encountered when he arrived. Echoing Hamish Aird, he says it was noticeable that ‘their hair got a bit longer in the seventies!’ Funnily enough, despite all these years on the grounds, Pat has never been very interested in sport – he plays a bit of golf to keep moving, but that’s about it.
I feel I have taken up enough of his valuable time (he needs to finish mowing outside the classrooms before lessons start or he will get an earful, he jokes), so I let him get back on his trusty mower. Not everyone has been doing their job as long as Pat, but he is one of many very committed College employees who quietly get on with their jobs to a very high standard – allowing things to function smoothly and us all to enjoy such a beautifully-tended campus. He fires up the engine and returns to putting immaculate stripes onto the lawn.
With many thanks to Iain and Pat.