Category: Old Shebbearians (page 2 of 4)

John Mill

A day boy at Shebbear in the 1930s, John Mill would eventually hold a senior position with the Independent Television Authority. Not only was his office in Knightsbridge, London, but his flat overlooked Harrods.

When he left Shebbear at 15 in 1939 where under Leslie Johnson he enjoyed English, Maths, Music and Art and excelled at running, he worked firstly as a clerk with a meat company in Bude. In 1943 he was called up for military service and learned how to fly gliders after being conscripted into the 6th Airborne Division. On his way to Normandy by ship to take part in the D-Day landings he was injured by shrapnel. Once ashore, he was taken to a farmhouse to be treated. While there the farmer’s wife gave birth to a boy who was immediately named John.

After the war he entered Morley College, London, to study personnel Management. He joined the ITA as a personnel manager before being promoted to executive administrator.

In the mid-1950s he returned home to help on the family’s 400-acre farm at Walter’s moor, Shebbear. Five years later he decided to become a probation officer and contacted the ITA for a reference. Instead, they invited him back to work for them again and he stayed until taking early retirement to look after his parents. After their deaths he lived in Cyprus for several years before settling in Westward Ho!

John, a gifted painter in both oils and water colours, died in January 2008, aged 83.

(We are grateful to Reflecting Shebbear, the village magazine, for the biographical details in the this obituary)


2008 OSA President – Norman Venner

Four Venner brothers were at Shebbear from 1944 to 1963. Two of their sons were to follow.  At the same time two sisters were educated at Edgehill.

Meanwhile, their father Thomas, farmer and agricultural merchant and a true believer in all things Shebbearian, found time to chair the appeals committee which raised money to build Pyke House in 1965.

A dormitory in the new house was named “Venner” in recognition of his work and the family’s contribution to the school. Now, the name will appear again on the panel which records all the Presidents of the Old Shebbearians’ Association.

Norman Venner, second of the brothers, was elected President at the Centenary Reunion in January.

Born in the Parish of Bampton in 1939, he was a boarder from 1950-56. After Shebbear, he qualified as a Public Health Inspector and worked for local authorities in Barnstaple, Northam and Bideford.

He left local government in 1965, moved to Cheshire and worked for Odex Racassan as Technical Sales Manager for eight years. The job took him all over the world.

Another move took him to Flintshire in North Wales when he was appointed Managing Director of Celtic Furniture Manufacturing Ltd. Then it was into business for himself with the opening of Venner’s Restaurant in Wrexham.

A heart attack forced him to sell the business in 1998 after 16 successful years. For the next five years he helped his wife run her outside catering business until she, too, had to sell because of illness.

Norman is involved in Freemasonry. As a Grand Officer he attends many Lodges and committee meetings. He is a past President of Wrexham Rotary Club and is currently vice-President of his local Conservation and Heritage Society.

He attends his local church regularly and when vice-chairman of the appeals committee helped raise £600,000 for renovations between 1996 and 2000.

He is helping his wife market a cookery book she has written to raise £65,000 for the Hospices of Cheshire and Wales. They are three-quarters of the way towards the target.

He married Patricia, a farmer’s daughter from South Molton, in 1964. They have two sons and two grandchildren.


Brian Letheren

Brian Letheren, a member of an old established Hatherleigh family with strong Shebbear connections, died shortly before Christmas 2007. He was 67.

He was at Shebbear from 1951-56, leaving with eight O-levels to join his father in the family firm of agricultural merchants. He later took over the business and eventually saw it combine with Oke’s of Holsworthy and Heard’s of Morwenstow, all also run by old boys – with many Old Shebbearians among their customers.

At Shebbear, Brian won his 1st XV Rugby Colours, played for the Second X1 cricket team and was a promising athlete. The Shebbearian of Summer 1955, records that he won the 880 and 440 yards, setting new Middle records for both. He also won the shot and was second in the discus.

Edwin Guy

The younger brother of Dennis, Edwin Guy died in December, 2007, at the age of 82. He was at Shebbear from 1939-42 and in Ruddle House.

Like his brother, he was an excellent sportsman playing for both the 1st XV and 1st X1. He was also very musical, a good singer and a member of the choir. He gained his Oxford School Certificate.

Edwin was a popular figure with both boys and staff. He had an engaging sense of humour and excelled in end of term plays. After Shebbear, he returned to his home village of Exbourne where he lived for the rest of his life. He joined the family business of Master Bakers and Confectioners and became a Director of the company, along with Dennis.

He kept up his love of sport playing cricket and football for Exbourne and Okehampton for many years. He is survived by his widow and sons, Andrew and Philip, both Old Shebbearians, and their children.

Roger Colwill

An obituary in a newspaper in Victoria, British Columbia, tells of the “incredible spirit” of an old boy who entered Shebbear more than 50 years ago. A friend was quoted as saying: “Any time you spent with him, you came away feeling a better person.”

Born in Tintagel and brought up in Launceston, Roger Colwill was to spend five years at Shebbear from 1954-59. On leaving he trained as a chartered surveyor with a large surveying company in Plymouth.

He emigrated to Canada in 1968 where he had a successful and lucrative career in commercial real estate in Vancouver, becoming Associate Vice-President of Royal LePage. He retired at the age of 47 and devoted the rest of his life to environmental issues.

He suffered a severe stroke 10 years ago and spent more than three months in hospital. He was left with impairment to the left side of his body and had to learn to walk again. He fought back, accompanying his former tennis partner on jogs on an electric bike. Naturally left-handed and a keen artist in watercolours, he soon learnt to paint with his right hand. The results were “good”.

From the moment of retirement, he “devoured” environmental literature. His “green activism” began with taking part in a project to remove an evasive species of the broom plant that was threatening wild flowers at a local beauty spot.
He also introduced “Green drinks”, informal monthly gatherings at a Victoria pub for those concerned with the environment.

Roger died, aged 65, in September 2007 while having a cup of tea with his wife Barbara. He also leaves a son Mike, 27, and a daughter Sarah, 25.

David Roberts

An Exeter boy, David “Rat” Roberts followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and entered Shebbear in 1941. He was to stay until the late ’40s. He was a member of the 1st XV, became Assistant Scout Master of Troop 2 and was a prefect. Later he qualified as an engineer, specialising in water projects and land drainage. After marriage to Jean, they went to Nigeria for a number of years where he worked for the Government before the country became independent.

When Milton Keynes was still only in the planning stages, David was deputy engineer for land drainage and spoke of the “limitless funds” made available.
He and Jean returned to Exeter when his parents needed their help. In recent years he had been involved in work on the restoration of the Tiverton Canal.

He died on May 18, 2007. He and Jean had no children.

Among Old Shebbearians who attended his funeral at Exeter Crematorium were David Marshall, Ted Lott and Michael Hohl.

Arthur Buse

Arthur Buse, highly respected as a North Devon businessman and for his service to the community, died on March 12, 2007, at the age of 79. Born in the village he attended Shebbear College from 1938-44 under Leslie Johnson and later Jack Morris.

For most of his life he worked for Thomas Oke & Son, agricultural and builders’ merchants of Holsworthy and its successor, serving firstly as assistant to John Oke, the owner and managing director, and later as managing director, when the company was bought by BOCM.

A Shebbear resident for many years before moving to Bude, Arthur was a long-serving member of the parish council and was later elected chairman.

As a young man he was very involved in the project to build a new village hall.

He was founding member of Holsworthy Rotary Club and later its Treasurer. He was also a member and Treasurer of Mid-Torridge Branch of the Royal British Legion.

He is survived by his wife Mary and son Nigel.

Philip Day

Phil Day, a popular teacher at Shebbear in the 1950s and known throughout the school as ”Skip” for his leadership of the Senior Scout Troop, has died.

He was one of a group of young masters recruited by Jack Morris and taught French and English and later Physical Education.

He was a graduate of the University of Wales and also spent three years with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

He was married firstly to the sister of a Shebbearian.

Moving to Canada, he graduated again from the University of Toronto, before teaching at Appleby College. In 1989 joined the faculty of St Andrew’s College “with boundless energy, resolve and commitment”.

A short obituary on the St Andrew’s website said that he retired from teaching in 1994 and “will be remembered for his love of languages, rugby, travel and music.”

He died in January 2005, aged 76, after a long illness, and is survived by his second wife Sheryl, son Nigel and daughter Nicola and their children.

2007 OSA President – Chris Blencowe

Chris Blencowe was a boy at Shebbear from 1961 to 1968 and a member of Thorne House. His younger brother Nick was also a pupil. Chris’s son William was to follow.

After studying history and politics at Reading University, he joined the Royal Air Force, specialising in logistics.

It was a 33 year-long career that would take him from the rank of Pilot Officer to Air Commodore.

Along the way he was to serve as Station Commander of RAF Stafford, study for an MA at King’s College, London, serve in Bosnia, and have three tours of duty in France, latterly as Defence Attaché at the British Embassy in Paris.

Retirement? No such thing. On returning to the United Kingdom, he was appointed as Treasurer and Bursar at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, where he is also a Fellow.

Dennis Guy

A fine sportsman, Dennis Guy was a pupil at Shebbear from 1936-39 and was awarded his colours for both rugby and cricket. In his last term he was runner-up for the Victor Ludorum sports trophy. There are some who say he was the best fast bowler the 1st X1 ever had. He also had a fine bass voice, was a leading member of the choir and was much in demand for solo performances in choral works at Christmas and Easter.

He served in the army during the Second World War before returning to manage a successful family bakery business in Exbourne.

He kept up his sporting and other interests long after leaving Shebbear, playing cricket and football for Okehampton and Exbourne.

A widower, he is survived by a son Jonathan and a daughter Rosemary. He died in hospital at Honiton on November 9, 2006, aged 85.

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