Harrow County School for Boys

ARTHUR HALEY (1916-2004)


Arthurís life-long passion was music.  It began at school in Dunstable where he devoted his Wednesday afternoons to piano lessons and study of the great composers instead of taking part in school sporting activities.  Leaving school in the 1930s for ďa couple of unimportant clerical jobsĒ (his words) he continued to accompany amateur singers and instrumentalists, which twice took him to The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London to accompany singing exams.

He was persuaded to apply for the Carnegie Scholarship, which paid for a full curriculum course at GSM&D with instrumental lessons on piano and organ.  One of his piano teachers there was Waddington Cooke, who had in turn been taught by the celebrated pianist and composer (and one-time Prime Minister of Poland) Paderewski, so Arthur came from good musical stock!  He won the organ prize in each of his first two years at GSM&D, and the composition prize in his third year.  His most treasured award, however, was the 1938 Gold Medal for his piano AGSM diploma results.  (I am proud to be the custodian of the medal now at his bequest.)

With the outbreak of war, Arthur chose to sign on as a regular on a four-year engagement with the Royal Navy.  He was refused for being two days over the age limit for a four-year engagement so, on the rebound, he joined the army.  (Later he got his own way by joining the Naval Section of the CCF at Harrow County!)  He chose The Royal Corps of Signals, having heard of several other musicians there who were forming an orchestra; the war could not separate him from his music.

It was while serving in the Signals Office of Northern Command at York that he met Ethel Petty, who became Ethel Haley in March 1942.  After a honeymoon in St Albans, the war called Arthur back to service and he was shipped overseas to North Africa later that year.  He already had a working knowledge of French so he added Arabic to broaden his education at that time.

With the return of peace and demobilisation it was natural for Arthur to return to the Guildhall, joining the staff as a professor of piano and of harmony & counterpoint.  Here he was in his element, passing on his passion for music to countless grateful music students.  The arrival of daughter Janet, and then three years later son Martin enriched family life, and it was Arthurís responsibilities to his family that eventually caused him to consider leaving the Guildhall.  He loved the work, but he had no financial provision for his future retirement.  Making the break, he entered Trent Park Training College for teacher training.  After a short spell of teaching at a school in Ealing he arrived at Harrow County in September 1959.

This was my first encounter with Arthur.  Having successfully taken O-levels in French and Maths in my 4th year I approached him to see if there was any way I could take O-level Music in the 5th year.  (My HCS contemporaries may remember me as a member of the CCF Corps of Pipes & Drums but only some will know that I also attended Trinity College of Music in London on Saturdays on a Junior Exhibition.)  Arthur was most accommodating.  Finding that a couple of his free periods coincided with my maths timetable, Mr Wright obligingly released me for music lessons.  I was a competent practical musician but there was much to learn to cover the syllabus in eight months, so Arthur invited me to his house at weekends to complete the work (my first introduction to the family that I was to join fifteen years later).

After O-Level he entered me for the Mayor of Harrowís Annual Music Award.  My winning composition (a most inconsequential little three-part minuet) was to be performed at the Granada Cinema by Muir Matheson and the London Symphony Orchestra but I was in hospital following a road accident.  Arthur arranged with the cinema manager to drop a microphone through the projection window to illicitly record the performance for me, risking a mass walkout of the Musiciansí Union membership for non-payment of recording fees!  How thoughtful of him; I still have the tape.

Following the road accident I gave up on the piano.  One of my lesser injuries left me permanently without the ability to lift my right little finger from the keys, but Arthur wasnít prepared to give up on me.  He wanted to perform the Schumann Piano Concerto and needed a second pianist to play the reduction of the orchestral parts.  As we rehearsed I noticed that he was playing without a top joint of one of his fingers but this didnít impede him in any way.  (Iíve since learned that it was the result of an accident before he ever went to the Guildhall.)  If he could play like that without the full complement of ten complete fingers, why shouldnít I?  After a miserable set of A-Level results I had to reconsider my science-based future and he encouraged me to apply to both the Guildhall School and Trinity College.  I was successful with both and chose the college I knew from my junior days.  Without his encouragement I would never have made the change of direction that provided me with my own career in music teaching.

After I left HCS in 1963 I lost touch with the Haley family but we met again briefly in January 1972.  Arthur and Ethel had been seriously injured in a road accident in 1971.  Their son Martin was married in Kingís Lynn in January 1972 and, although only just discharged from hospital, they managed to travel by train for the ceremony.  My parents were still in touch with them and they dispatched me to meet the Haleys at Kingís Cross to transport them back to Pinner.  As the passengers left the train I saw Arthur sitting on his suitcase atop a baggage trolley being pushed down the platform by a kindly porter, his dignity somehow enhanced by this comical sight!  It was later still that circumstances brought their daughter Janet and me together, and we were married in 1974.

During these intervening years Arthur had encouraged countless other HCS boys, many of whom have been in touch with the family following the news of his death.  The transition from HCS to Gayton High in 1975 didnít sit comfortably with Arthur and he retired to Norfolk soon after the event.  There he continued to teach piano and organ privately right up to the time of his death.  We were present when he gave an organ recital on his 80th birthday and sat in wonder at his display of intricate and energetic pedalling.  Organ playing certainly kept him fit and he seemed to be indestructible.  Janet and I were with him just a week before his death and he was still showing the energy of many a man of half his age, leaping over a flowerbed instead of walking round it!

Arthur had many fond memories of HCS and was kept in touch with news by Beryl Chase.  He kept a photograph by his desk of a reception for former HCS staff at the House of Commons, hosted by Michael Portillo, and he travelled down again for the 90th birthday reunion in 2001.  Sorting through his lifetime accumulation of treasured mementos we are finding many carefully preserved photographs of school musical productions and CCF events.

Arthur was an excellent typist (a skill learned in the Royal Corps of Signals) but not very computer-literate.  He was fascinated whenever we showed him Jeff Maynardís excellent website and he had just bought his own Internet connection before his death.  Martin was to have visited him to give him a lesson at the weekend; instead, he had to summon the doctor to see him.  Arthur declined rapidly and expired 48 hours later.  Sadly it is only now that we can truly appreciate how much our lives have been enriched through him.

It has been comforting for the family to receive so many tributes after news of Arthurís death was published on the website.  A couple have appeared on the site but many other messages have been received privately from former pupils and colleagues alike.  We have tried to acknowledge them individually but there remains the possibility that one or two may have escaped our attention.  Ethel and all the family wish to express their thanks to everybody who sent their condolences and shared their memories.

Roger Bowen.

(HCS 1955-63)


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