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Geoff Hewitson

This page was created on 15 November 2020

I wrote this recollection on 2018-09-17, a couple of days after learning of GH’s death earlier that year

History teacher and pantomime fairy

I was in Geoff Hewitson’s class in my first or second year, I think, being taught history (“The Holy Roman Empire, which wasn’t Holy, wasn’t Roman and wasn’t an Empire”). He oozed personality, and his slightly gruff expression would readily crack into a relaxed grin.

I would have been glad to be in touch with him—indeed I had thought about him when I heard his voice on a 2011-produced BBC programme about Wesley Kerr—and of course I am saddened to discover that it’s now too late.

He features in my bicycle diary from an occasion when I was cycling back from Alresford as fast as I could—I think it was the occasion when I got closest to breaking the 30-minute mark; he would have seen me evidently giving a great deal of effort as I raced through the final mile of my route, and he shot me a quizzical glance from the pavement of College Street. I knew he was into his racing-bikes and was under the impression that he’d nearly become a racing cyclist too, though obituaries suggest he was merely a fan of racing and of fine machinery.

In the school’s five-yearly staff pantomime, he played the part of Fairy Liquid: I remember him ad-libbing at the end in response to audience participation; and how evident it was that he felt entirely at home up on stage in front of hundreds of teenage boys, while dressed as a fairy.

A classroom incident

A classroom incident springs readily to mind. It features an objectionable yuppy-boy from “Phil’s” who had floppy blond hair and some French background but an address in New York City. The boy got quietly kicked or otherwise nobbled during the class and, interrupting the lesson, shouted, “Owww, don’t fucking do that, that fucking hurts!”.

Nobody used that sort of language in lessons, certainly not in the early 1990s, and particularly not in front of a man like Geoff Hewitson: who, standing very straight and tall at the front of the classroom, with the precision of a sergeant-major emphatically flung his arm toward the door, his bony forefinger pointing the way, and thundered:

“Sebastian [redacted], you will leave this room and you will walk around Flint Court and not come back until you have calmed down!”

The snob turned beetroot and sweaty, rapidly leaving the room as we all sat in stunned silence.

Several seconds passed.

In an entirely different and contrasting voice, GH took up the lesson from where it had been interrupted; you could have heard a pin drop as we tried to process what had happened to our easy-going, friendly teacher.

A minute or two later GH masterfully broke the spell with a quirky grin and a laconic aside, “That was quite impressive, wasn’t it?”. When the odious individual subsequently returned, GH kept the upper hand by remarking,

“I can see from your body language that you are sorry for your outburst.”