Roland was a caring, modest man, always thinking first about others and what he could do to benefit you. He was a good loyal friend and he enjoyed keeping in touch with people. A man with huge talents, as a sportsman – particularly his love of rugby, a glider pilot, an artist and an excellent, committed and atypical teacher – as we are told by some of his ex-pupils.
Roland was born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Moving to Herne Bay, Kent, Roland was just ten months old when his father, George, a member of the Home Guard, was killed in an accident during an Army exercise in 1942. His mother, Marjorie later met and married Roland’s step father, Tommy Sargent, and the family moved to nearby Chestfield in 1945.
It was very quickly noted at Roland’s local schools that he loved sports and was already a very good artist, something he’d inherited from both his parents. When he was 15 years old, Roland gained a place at West Buckland School in Devon. It was here that he first made it into a First XV Rugby Team, something he continued at home with Canterbury Rugby Club. He also embarked on his lifelong wish to be a pilot by joining the ATC and learning to fly gliders, and gaining his glider pilot’s licence in 1960.
He was academically bright and developed his love of English, but his first higher education choice was to study art in London, going on later to further his English studies. He decided to study for a Post Graduate Degree in Teaching, and qualified in 1975.
He joined The West Midland Gliding Club in Shropshire, eventually forming a syndicate and buying their own glider. He was an excellent and keen pilot and regularly contributed to their newsletter with his brilliant cartoons – mostly concerning humorous mishaps!
Notably, as a teacher, Roland succeeded even with the most challenging children, earning their respect as someone who really did care about them. He enjoyed bringing as many of his pupils as he could to his mother’s house in Chestfield, in the school minibus. This is where some of them saw the sea and open countryside for the first time in their lives and could climb trees and play in the large garden.
Following his retirement in 2004, Roland was able to spend more time ‘soaring’ into the skies. He greatly enjoyed his visits to Nevada where he met and formed lasting friendships with local glider pilots. He travelled to Australia to see old friends and visited Kenya and Argentina with the Blackheath Rugby Club and team.
Roland never lost his love of drawing and was a brilliant cartoonist as well as being a fine portrait, wildlife and landscape artist. True to his modest character, he preferred to give his work away and seldom sold anything. Some of you, his school mates will no doubt remember how quickly he could produce a suitable cartoon depicting some event.
His letters to me whilst at sea in the Merchant Navy usually contained some imaginary event he believed I must have been doing whilst ashore in some foreign port! My ship, the B.I.S.N.Co’s tanker S.S.‘Queda’ dry-docked in Falmouth and he banned me from coming to see him and his pals at West Buckland as he thought I might be a bad influence!
Roland was a fit, tall and strong man until soon after retirement when health problems began to surface. Eventually he gave up driving and flying and in 2014, he moved back to Kent. For the last year, his deteriorating health took a firm grip and he moved into a Care Home in nearby Beltinge where he stayed until his untimely death on 6th October 2016.
Roland’s legacy will be as someone you could never forget. A strong motivator, leader and teacher, and he carried out everything with a huge sense of responsibility and very often with his characteristic zany humour. Friendship was important to Roland and all the tributes to him show how much he meant to so many of us, how he was admired for his talents and loved for the unique and caring man he was.
Roland knew his health was in steady decline and he wanted to go sooner rather than later and he would not want people to feel too sad at his passing. He did live a very fulfilling life, doing work he loved and testing his skills to the limit in his sporting and gliding activities.
We say our farewells with gratitude and respect for this man who shared his gifts with us all. As you know, he had a zany humour and the last song at his funeral “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, sung by Eric Idle, summed up many of his views on life. He would recommend those sentiments to us all.