Harrow County School for Boys

Tony Rhoades - Obituary from Colin Dickins



Born in September 1929, the youngest of six children, Tony Rhoades arrived in this world, contrary to his mother’s best hopes, not only on Friday 13th but with flaming red hair.  She need not have worried. 

The family lived in Acton, moving to Wealdstone in 1938.  In 1941 came perhaps the defining moment of Tony’s life when, in September, he arrived at Harrow County School for Boys in Gayton Road.  It was an inauspicious start: the war was at its height and Tony arrived on his first day without his gas mask!  He was promptly sent home to collect it.  No hurt was felt, clearly, because a few months later the family returned to Acton and Tony knew where he wanted to be.  He elected to stay at Harrow County, travelling the not inconsiderable distance daily.  His devotion to the School, and his friends and the staff there, was strong and constant for the rest of his life.

In 1946 he left Harrow County to train as a librarian at the London School of Economics.  He also joined the Old Gaytonians Association and played his first game of rugby for them.  When National Service came in 1947 he joined the Royal Artillery and saw active service in Malaya.  It was an early recognition of his character that he rose to the rank of sergeant, a rare achievement for a national Serviceman.

On demobilisation he started work for Permutit, later part of the Portals Group, where he stayed for the rest of his working life.  As Industrial Services Manager he paid many visits to all the UK nuclear power stations and also travelled abroad, notably to Egypt.

But the story of Tony Rhoades is above all of a man whose personal code of loyalty and responsibility was a shining example to all who came in contact him.  When “comprehensivisation” threatened the end of Harrow County his forceful contributions to the correspondence columns of the Harrow Observer were legendary.  He lost that battle, but his loyalty to “the School” never wavered as it became Gayton High School, then Harrow High School.  In his later years he was “School Liaison” between the Old Gaytonians and the School.  He forged a particularly strong link with the present Head Teacher, Christine Lenihan, whose shrewd, energetic and benign leadership he welcomed, and with her co-operation and encouragement restored the tradition of a joint Remembrance Day Service in memory of Old Gaytonians who died in the service of their country.

Beside his family and his work, Tony’s great love was the Old Gaytonians.  He held many offices in the OGA, starting with Bar Secretary at the Sudbury clubhouse, which he was in 1951 when Joan Melson joined the Tennis section.  In 1954 he and Joan were married and in due course became the proud and adored parents of Carole, Barbara, Alan and Alison.  Also in 1951 he was instrumental in reforming the Athletic Club, of which he eventually became Captain, Chairman and Vice-President.  He was thrilled to see the OGAC, now Harrow Athletic Club, become one of the top 10 in the country.

His greatest sporting passion was rugby, which he played with fierce commitment as a powerful forward.  In 1986, still playing, he arrived for a meeting at Sudbury called by his lifelong friend and fellow OG, Jack Preston.  The car park was full and his initial thought that Jack had carelessly picked a night when another event was taking place was confounded when he found a huge assembly of OG Rugby Club members of all generations there to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of his first game for the Club.  He continued to play for another three years, finally hanging up his boots at the age of 59.  Meanwhile, in the absence of School rugby, he took on the task of providing colts rugby and built several successful teams.  The long-standing mutual affection and loyalty this generated was another testimony of his contribution.  When his playing days were over, he was for some years weekly contributor of match reports to the Harrow Observer.

Perhaps the high point of his Old Gaytonian career was as Chairman from 1986-91.  He followed a good man but was held by many to be the best ever.  He took office at a difficult time (all voluntary organisations have them) announcing that “I have not come to preside over the demise of the Old Gaytonians.”  Nor did he; he introduced business disciplines into his management and, although a traditionalist, he was also a realist and managed change to the lasting benefit of the Association.

When Tony and Joan moved to Waverley Road in 1959 they became members of St Andrew’s Church, South Harrow, and worshipped there since.  Tony organised a number of Church Fêtes for them over the years.  As a devout Englishman, he also joined the St George’s Day Club, for which Joan has worked tirelessly in a secretarial capacity.  He died on Good Friday, 19th April, sitting quietly in his armchair, and Joan found it in herself somehow to oversee the following Wednesday’s annual St George’s Day Lunch at Grosvenor House.  Tony would have liked that.

His best and oldest friends - and his family – would cheerfully say that Tony could be stubborn and cantankerous at times; he was a man of conviction and high principles.  But he was robustly good natured, generous of spirit and wonderful company.  He was also a proud man, an “old fashioned” sort, believing in freedom with responsibility.  He was loyal to his country, to his regiment, to the Harrow community, to the School, to the Old Gaytonians and to innumerable friends, colleagues and acquaintances.  To all in time of need he would give support, comfort, solace, encouragement – unostentatiously and without thought of reward or recognition.  We should all be like him.

Colin Dickins


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