OBITUARY OF J SLATER
Obituary written anonymously shortly after his death.
It was with great sorrow and a deep sense of loss that his colleagues and pupils learned of the death of Mr. J. Slater at his home in Ribchester on Sunday 26th August 1962.
He took his B.Sc. degree in Maths and Physics at Manchester University. After teaching at several Lancashire schools, he came to St. Joseph's as Science Master in 1938. During the war he was commissioned in the Education Branch of the R.A.F. from which he returned to the College as Senior Physics Master. For the last 6 years he was Head of Mathematics.
His kindly and thorough exposition of his subject was the basis of many a university career, as many of the boys who have passed through his hands will gladly testify. A loyal and cooperative colleague, he will not be forgotten in the Common Room he graced for so long.
He had at times all the bluntness of the countryman, which he was at heart (he never tired of singing the praises of his beloved Ribchester) but his bluntness was never meant to hurt and behind it was a kindness and good humour which generations of boys will long remember. Perhaps his chief characteristic was his devotion to the school for which he lived. His journey to school was a long one but even in the snow and ice of the most rigorous winter, he was never absent. Two days before his death, his chief worry was that he might not be better in time for the beginning of Autumn Term.
We offer our deepest sympathy to his sister Mrs. K. Parker and we mourn a man who possessed in full measure those qualities which are the mark of a true Christian gentleman.
This obit is rather thin. Can anybody add anything?
Ray Wood adds:
Mr. Slater lived in a pub in Ribchester and on occasion treated 6th formers to a drink when they called to see him. He used to say grace before meals in Latin and I think drove an Armstrong Siddley.
Lawrence Whalley adds:
He was nicknamed ‘Oscar’. This has always struck me as affectionate especially when I heard how it arose. On 25th May 1909, Oscar Slater (a Jewish immigrant) was convicted of the murder of Mrs Gilchrist (an old woman) by a majority of the Jury at the High Court, Edinburgh and sentenced to death. I think Slater had left Glasgow (the crime scene) and gone to Liverpool. Slater's sentence was afterwards commuted to one of Penal Servitude for Life before he was released on licence in 1927, after serving nearly twenty years in prison. He was awarded six thousand pounds for wrongful conviction. That Oscar didn't do it is obviously very sad, but the connection with St Joe's seems tenuous. Maybe the boys were suspicious of their maths teacher coming in each day in his fancy limousine. The case of Oscar Slater remained a cause celebre in Scotland because it showed for the first time how a large section of Scottish public opinion would not be silenced in their detestation of racial prejudice and intolerance of injustice. If there was a link with the boys' Maths teacher, I'd like to think he provided a court of last resort in the face of the arbitrary approach to crime and punishment taken by the CB's.
Another thing. He was the only secular teacher in 1960 to have his own study. This caused much envy especially from the French teacher (Le Brun).
Oscar's contribution to teaching was immense. When asked what St Joe's was good at, I once heard in 1962 the head of Maths at Arnold School say "Maths, Music and Muscle!" And there was lot of truth in that. In my short time, a good number of boys went up to Cambridge or Imperial College to study sciences much helped by Oscar's good grounding in maths, a couple played in the English National Youth Orchestra and we had awesome reputations in hurdles (Peter Hurst), javelin (Colin Condron), shot (John Oswell), discus (Adrian Dunn), pole-vault (Peter Morgan) and hammer (PJ ‘Muck’ McArthy) with English Schools National champions and many at a county level.
I can remember Oscar's approach to marking homework in Lower Five A. Each of us would come to his desk and be handed back our exercise book. One boy (not me) got a disgusted low growl followed by "If a spider with chronic diarrhoea had crawled across the page it would have got a better mark than you!" In a perverse way, he did me a great favour by advising that I would never make a mathematician and should consider something else ("medicine, the law ...even economics!"). He died in 1961. The school gave him a terrific Catholic Requiem Mass in St Kentigern's which pleased his sister enormously. She thanked the choir especially Harold Barnes who had played the organ. The moment is etched on my mind because as she turned away, the Parish Priest, Fr Burrows reprimanded Harold for playing the organ when there was already a choir. I often think of that episode when listening to recordings of a Requiem. Harold had played beautifully and movingly - the best possible tribute to Oscar."
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