No Saint but....
Updated: Aug 31, 2022
Harry Leonard Funeral 14.00 BST - 1st September
The best link for the streaming – the direct youtube channel of church – is this:https://www.youtube.com/c/NewboldChurch
It is going to be streamed on Facebook as well: https://www.facebook.com/newbold.church.1/
Harry Leonard could get irritated, sometimes very irritated, by all sorts of things. One of them was the way that, at funerals, the deceased were quickly canonized beyond recognition. He would not want that. So we will not do it!
He was only 24 years old but his reputation for strictness had gone before him when, sixty-four years ago, this young giant of a history teacher, strode into the Stanborough School class which Helen had recently joined. His students longed for his approval and feared his critical eye and tongue. But, even as pre-teens, we knew he was a ‘good teacher’.
In one memorable class, he stretched his 6 foot 2inch (1.86m) self on the classroom floor and got someone to measure 4 feet (about 1.22m) above his head. – ‘That,’ he said, ‘was the thickness of the walls of the castles built after the Norman conquest of England’. Generations of former grateful students from Stanborough School or Newbold College can be heard recounting similar memorable anecdotes - as they have on Facebook since he died last Tuesday evening.
Harry not only taught history with humour and rigour, he taught study skills and, perhaps most of all, honest thinking skills. He taught students how to prioritise and summarise information, to take notes from books and lectures. Without his encouragement Helen would never have made the life-changing decision to apply to university. Her gratitude is echoed by generations of students whom he encouraged to aim for the highest standards.
From the earliest days when Helen began babysitting their children, the Leonard family had begun their life-long practice of meal-table talking, laughing and arguing...so much fun! Many of the tributes on Facebook mention Harry’s kindness and Christine’s expert cooking... Scores of us were on the receiving end of both!
In 1972 when we joined the Newbold staff in a recruitment designed to bring down the average age of the teachers – Harry and Jan Paulsen were the next generation up!! Over the years we both taught with Harry. But the Pre-University Year, beginning in the mid 70s and led by Mike and Harry, cemented a special friendship between these two Londoners that was much more than merely professional. Mike says: ‘Harry taught me my craft – teaching adults and getting them to think, which they often found uncomfortable. He taught me the art of loyal opposition to the church when its representatives claimed too much. He was in part a performer. He taught me that education has an element of entertainment and that the classroom is a place to be enjoyed.’ The two men talked politics, cricket, moral issues and much more. In community concerts their double-act hamming up Flanders and Swann comic songs became an instant and oft-requested hit.
There is so much more we could say. Harry was, as he would be the first to claim, no saint. He had little time for fake goodness. But for both of us and many others, he was a good friend and an abiding and influential presence in our lives as teacher, friend and colleague. We loved him and are saddened and depleted by his passing.