17 May 1924 – 27 December 2017
My father, David Rooney, a pupil at West Buckland over 70 years ago, remained a life-long supporter of the school which had instilled in him many of the beliefs and standards that inspired him in his future life as a teacher, author and family man.
Here is his amused reaction to hearing a few years ago about the en-suite facilities in the new accommodation wing, in which he sponsored a room:
“En-suite? Blimey! I joined West Buckland in 1934 – aged 10 – and left in 1942 as Head Prefect. My reward for this august position was to have the end bed in the row of twenty in the Courtenay Dormitory – each bed with its chamber pot. From September 1939 we were responsible for cleaning and everything in the dormitory, and every four days, on a house basis, we had to wash up after breakfast. Splendid training, which created intense loyalty.”
After West Buckland and a year at University in Exeter, in 1944 he joined the army and served in India and in West Africa where he met Muriel Coutts, a teacher at a multi-racial college in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), whom he married in 1948. After gaining his MA and B Litt degrees at Oxford he began his teaching career in Northern Ireland working in Armagh, Lurgan and finally as Head of History at Campbell College, a prestigious boys’ school, in Belfast. Then followed four years lecturing in History at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
His military connections continued when he became headmaster of King’s School in Gütersloh, Germany, a large comprehensive school for the children of military personnel stationed nearby. After returning to the UK in 1972 he was Head of the Neale-Wade School in March, Cambridgeshire, and then Warden of Swavesey Village College near Cambridge.
After he retired he wrote over 10 books on aspects of history, especially the Second World War, the history of Africa and a biography of Henry Morris, the inspirational Cambridge educator who improved rural education through establishing the Village College system.
Until David’s death in December 2017 at the age of 93, he was a strong supporter of West Buckland and the OWBA and visited the school on many occasions. These visits brought back memories not only of his own education but also the close friendships which he maintained throughout his life with other former pupils including Ken Scarlett, Johnnie Walker, Bill Bray and Jim Ray.
Seeing the school and its Devon setting also reminded him of other exploits including being in the Home Guard and helping protect north Devon from possible German invasion, a duty which they carried out with good humoured seriousness. Then there was the ill-fated outing to a cider festival at the Poltimore Arms which a group of friends went to with the inevitable result, David and others had to carry one of their prostrate teenage companions home for the whole of the six mile return journey.
David was a devoted family man. He enjoyed a long and happy marriage to Muriel. He was a proud father to Kathy and Keyth, loving grandfather to David, Sara, Katrina and Kirsten and in recent years a fond great-grandfather to Zac, Gabriella and Amelie.
West Buckland was always part of Dad’s universe. Even in the final weeks of his life when he was in a care-home he had a picture of the school on the wall alongside family photos and Christmas cards. West Buckland inspired his life as a teacher and he credited much of his later success to the values and standards he had learned there.Kathy Rooney