Brian Pile (70-78F)
Brian was born in Lynmouth in 1958. His family ran a guesthouse there and had a strong connection with West Buckland School – his father, Joe, attended before him and his brother, Ian, after him.
On our first day at school, we new “Langholmians” had to sit in a room together for 30 minutes waiting for Mr Phelps to arrive. No one knew each other so the room was mostly silent. Brian broke the ice by offering around a bag of sweets. It was the only time anyone offered around sweets for the next seven years, but it was very typical of Brian – a kind, friendly gesture.
Brian was a senior prefect, member of the Phoenix Society and Head of his Fortescue House. When he bothered, he was good at sports. He was a good rugby scrum player and was in the 2nd XV. He did very well in his O levels and A levels. He was the drum leader of the Combined Cadet Force Band, starred as the Narrator in “Joseph and his amazing technicolour Dreamcoat”, was a member of a touring Barber Shop quartet called “The Poltimore Four” and a four piece rock group called “Band Condemned”. He led Fortescue House to victory in the Glee Club in 1976.
All that was done, apparently, effortlessly. While others slaved away for hours on an English essay, Brian listened to music with his feet up, smoking in his study. He would glimpse at his books. Dear old Charlie Phelps described him as the only pupil who submitted his essays “on the back of a bus ticket”. And yet he would get high marks.
Brian was impossibly nice. He was universally popular amongst pupils and staff. Yet beneath that niceness he had a strong, sensitive conscience. 25 years later he expressed regret for things he said to people at school and even sent a letter of apology to one former fellow pupil.
Brian went from WBS to Leicester University where he graduated with a BA Combined Honours degree. In his early twenties, he secured a position at Loughborough University Business School where he remained for twenty-seven years, eventually becoming Manager and then Director of Finance. In 1986, Brian married Linda Haggett, whom he had first met in 1979 when, as the “boy-next-door” to Linda’s house, he had gone to retrieve his Frisbee which had sailed over the wall into her garden.
In the late 1990s, when Brian just forty years old, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Brian refused to accept the limitations of his illness and carried on with a dogged determination to live his life to the full. He was an extremely positive person whose glass was always three-quarters full.
Despite the loss of things he held dear, he still found life rewarding and fulfilling. He had the inner strength to take on new projects such as Open University courses in finance, philosophy and literature, and he was endlessly planning holidays, film and theatre trips right to the last. (The photo shows him on holiday in Cyprus). This dogged optimism and strength of character stood him in good stead in his final months when the cruelty of cancer was added to that of MS.
Brian’s final six weeks at The Leicester Royal Infirmary were a positive experience. His brother Ian, with his wife Sue, managed to make it up from Australia to say goodbye to him. During his final days, he fired off emails to donate money to the Leicester Royal to buy equipment and for the ward nursing team to go out for a meal together.
Brian’s funeral in Loughborough revealed his ‘proclivity’ for WBS friends called “Simon” – Simon Boorer, Simon Gray and Simon Tippet attended along with David Grierson, Brian’s music teacher and friend. The service featured music from David Bowie and 10CC – both artists to whom Brian spent many hours at West Buckland listening. The poem “Success” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, was suggested by David Grierson, and seems to encapsulate Brian’s philosophy.
The goodbye to Brian was humbling. He was an unadulterated force for good in the world, who lived life to the full, despite his illnesses. It was all perhaps best summed up in the fine eulogy from his nephew, Sam, who said: “There are Syrian families living in Leicester who would not be there without Brian’s support.”
Our thoughts and love go to Brian’s widow, Linda, his mother, Pam, brother, Ian and their families.
Donations in Brian’s memory can be made in aid of The Multiple Sclerosis Society at JustGiving: