John Pedder (44-52 B)
Remembering John Pedder
John Pedder (44-52 B)
John was in many ways a larger-than-life person. I’m not referring to his shape, about which he often made uncomplimentary remarks, but to the immediacy of his presence which quickly caught everyone’s attention. Yet at the same time this concealed a degree of hesitation when the spotlight was upon him. Many held him in great affection and could understand the loving closeness of his family life.
There had been Pedders in Lynton and Lynmouth for many years and his father was the postmaster. He sent his son to West Buckland after he left primary school. The story is that he was caned on his first day for smoking. He wasn’t a smoker, but had agreed to carry cigarettes for another boy because he was less likely to be searched, not looking like a trouble maker. John never claimed to be an academic, but he believed that he gained much from his education at WB and was a long-time supporter of the school.
John left in 1952 and within a few weeks, on the night of 15th - 16th August, he was a national hero, having saved his father from the destructive Lynmouth flood by hoisting him out of a skylight window. 34 people died in the town that night. The sea, the Lyn and fishing were always a close part of John’s life: he joined the merchant navy that year, the fourth generation to go to sea, and he fished the river for salmon for many years. We won a fine fish that was the star prize at a school fund-raising event. I cannot vouch for the truth that in chart training in the Mediterranean he fixed the ship in the middle of the Sahara.
Leaving the navy he became a prominent member of the business community back home, succeeding his father as postmaster and building quite an empire of shops, always aiming to make the town successful and a popular destination for holidays. He served for a long time in local politics as a town councillor and a chairman of North Devon District Council. It was very much due to John’s energy and initiative that the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth were twinned with Bénouville on the Normandy coast. Pauline was always there in close support for 58 years.
John was a Governor of the school from 1971 to 2000 serving as Chairman for five years. He brought both business acumen and a deep understanding North Devon and its relationship with the school. The school was dear to him and he worked hard for its success, always ready to come in to discuss ideas or share a problem. His humour could soften a tense situation. His stories made him great company and his and Pauline’s hospitality were legendary.
Michael Downward (Head Master 79-97S)