Mr. Harry Mees - At Harrow County and Gayton High 1947-82
Sadly, Harry Mees died on January 15th, 2008, aged 87. Tributes and memories will be posted here as they come in. Also, check the Guestbook for more memories.
Tributes in chronological order of years at HCS:
From Graeme Young 1947-53
The death of Harry Mees has come at a time of my life when friends are beginning to wither and drop off the tree, and I feel that another benign figure of my past has, & to quote Shakespeare "Home art gone and taken thy wages, Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney-sweepers, come to dust". Harry was my form-master one year and what a great fellow he was with his very audible "Settle down, four-d!" We respected him. May he rest in peace but not be forgotten by the many young men he educated through the years. He made life bearable at HCS.
From Professor Bob Garratt 1954-62
What sad news of Harry Mees! A great history teacher and Scout Master but I learned most from him about my ability to organise large numbers of people to both work hard and have fun at the same time. This basis of Stage Management led me to apply it in the wider management field and has led to greater things in life and in many countries.
At the Backstage Reunion he took me aside and said, to my astonishment, "you know, you saved my life!" I had no idea what he was talking about. He then reminded me that many years ago we were the only people on the stage working late. I was up in the tower tying up some loose ends. He had gone out on one of the beams way above the stage. This was in the days when we never considered safety harnesses and all that (eat your heart out Health & Safety) - and those beams could sway about a bit as they were secured firmly only at one end. It seems that he froze some 30 feet above the stage and had only his balance to save him. But he couldn't move. Eventually I looked up and felt that something might be wrong so I called out and found that he was in a bad state. So I managed to gently talk him into reverse and then very slowly talked him back until I was in a position to grab him. I had completely forgotten the incident but he certainly had not.
And he remembered also our rescuing one of the flats which was collapsing during a performance of St Joan. Quite unbidden the two of us crawled on our bellies from each side of the stage to keep out of sight of the audience and endured many minutes of agony (it was, of course, a long scene) trying to keep the flat totally still. I won a Commendation for that.
"Good night, sweet prince, and may angels sing thee to thy rest". We shall miss him greatly.
From Chris Wilson 1954-62
Sad to hear of the death of Harry Mees. He was my history teacher for only one year, 3rd form, I believe. In the Christmas term I came second in the end of year test and he was very pleased with my progress, but sadly it was a only a blip as I came in my usual position near the bottom of the class in the spring and summer term tests. And that was the end of history as far as HCS was concerned as in the fourth year the scientific options I chose meant that most other subjects were excluded. Perhaps if I had had him as my teacher earlier I might have left school with a wider knowledge of the subject.
From Paul Romney
On my tottery passage across the tightrope of a protracted adolescence towards a destination vaguely resembling adulthood, Harry Mees extended a helping hand of the most tangible sort: he helped me get into his old college on the basis of two mediocre A Level passes. Perhaps he recognized in me, more clearly than I did myself at the time, the historian I became. But since I had pursued the far-flung and inconspicuous paths of Canadian history, I felt it both safe and prudent, after a silence of nearly 40 years, to begin my letter “I don’t suppose you remember me …” Back came the magisterial response, slightly cushioned by a few initial pleasantries: “One does not easily forget the anxiety of losing a complete team (you mistook South for North or some such error) on a night’s wide game centred on Phasells Wood, nor yet the relief when David Thorpe (not even fully on the Staff) located you and your damp adventurers in, I believe, a shop doorway (or was it the local cop-shop?).” Search me, guv: my life was too rich with traumatic memories for that little escapade to have gained a purchase. Yet his words did conjure up a vague mental image of darkness, dampness, despondency and, yes, a doorway. “So much for nostalgia,” he went on …
Though I took the path of History rather than English, and so had the benefit of some one-on-one tutorials with Harry in preparation for the Oxford exam, I find my memories of Jim Golland are more vivid – but that, at least in part, is because that relationship was more traumatic. Foremost in my recollection of Harry is his broad-minded tolerance. He may not have suffered fools gladly, but he was better than Jim at bottling up his exasperation, and one feels that when he uncorked it he did so in measured amounts. He was, I believe, a school-teacher because he wanted to be, not faute de mieux.
As expressed just after the Backstage Reunion, Harry’s perspective on the virtual resuscitation of Harrow County was wryly elegiac. “I’m too old and mentally stiff to attempt any analysis of what seems to be going on all round me. My constant habit of losing wives – the third died in November last year – doesn’t help either. However, we all cling together (survivors on a raft?): the Staff have an association, news sheet, etc. School archives are now being systematically collected, nostalgic Rugger memories pile up on my door-mat, utterly undeserved encomiums in the OGA news, all for the tattered remnants of a square that broke (even Newbolt’s sentimentality comes to mind) yet meeting in some sort of euphoria. You’d have thought we’d won.”
From Katie Finch (Harrow County School for Girls)
My stage staff certificate is the most valued qualification from my school days and Harry was just wonderful-life would not have been the same without his acceptance of a mere girl onto the stage.
From Peter Vincent 1966-72
Harry Mees RIP. As one of the co-organisers of the 2001 backstage reunion, I believe it gave everyone present great pleasure to be able to recognise Harry's backstage work with our surprise "This is Your Backstage Life". Not everyone, however, was aware that Harry's third wife had tragically died only a few days beforehand but Harry was determined to attend and put his personal feelings to one side for the day. The cast brilliantly picked out many significant - at least to us - occasions in Harry's life little to do with his main role as a fierce but highly respected History master. We didn't manage to track down the details of the medieval bridge he tried to demolish with his tank during WWII, but we did have the time he spilled paint all over his best suit! His life has come to an end - and I for one feel privileged to have known him and had the chance to thank him for a hobby I embarked on 40 years ago this year.
From Richard Bunt 1966-73
Harry Mees, What a fine example of an enlightened teacher who produced far more from his charges by encouraging them to reach their full potential, who realised that the benefit of responsibility and self reliance far exceeded that produced by intimidation and bullying, a man who knew when familiarity worked well and when discipline should be re-asserted. To me Harry was just one of the few real lights shining in what was mainly a rather gloomy institution that was HCS in the 1960s. Although we will all be saddened by his demise we should remember him not as what he became of recent years but that which inspired a generation of students who will be proud to say that they knew him.