Garth Ratcliffe (1983 - 1999)
Garth Ratcliffe joined the RGS in 1983 on a temporary contract; he left RGS at Christmas 1999, after 16 years of dedicated service to the school both as a teacher of Economics (later becoming Head of Department), and as an assistant in the RE Department.
With his appointment as School Chaplain he was able to put his personal faith to good use beyond the immediate confines of the classroom and on all levels within the RGS community.
Garth was legendary for his practical jokes. Disguised in a school blazer, resting his head in his arms, sitting among the disaffected element at the back of a poetry lesson, and his colleague and dear friend of 30 years, Peter Cowburn, realising to his horror, that the lesson had been in progress for ten minutes. Perhaps if the content of the lesson had been Garth’s own notorious nonsense verse, Peter might have emerged with his dignity intact!
On a serious note, Garth was an inspirational schoolmaster with a passionate knowledge of his subject, taking a keen interest in all his students, encouraging rigorous thinking and questioning but always keeping humour close at hand to lighten up those period eights on dull winter afternoons. It was a sad day for Garth when the changes in the National Curriculum dropped the name of ‘Home Economics’ and he therefore could not perpetrate the ‘misunderstanding’ that his Economics syllabus included the making of jelly during the first week of the course!
As a committed Christian, Garth took his role as School Chaplain very seriously, seeing it as a challenge to share his personal faith with 1400 boys from a variety of religions and backgrounds. This he did skilfully and enthusiastically, not just through assemblies and discussion groups.
Whether in the classroom, on the squash court, or at one of his Chaplain’s Oxford dinners, Garth remained the epitome of the good schoolmaster.
In retirement, as Hon Assistant Chaplain, Garth was a weekly visitor to RGS and would be a presence around the School, talking to students along the way. His weekly discussion groups were well attended. Whilst Garth had his own deep sense of the natural place of the Christian Faith in the lives of people, he was aware and sensitive to the fact that many did not share this view. The result was intelligent, lively and informed debate about matters worldly and heavenly.
Garth will be greatly missed by us all; his own strong faith will have assuaged any fear of death.
We echo the words of St Matthew: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’!