The Leas School,  Hoylake

Keith  Brian  NORMAN

b 21 Jun 1937,  University College Hospital, St Pancras, London, England

d 12 Jul 2009,  4 Islip Place, 26 Islip Road, Oxford, England

Keith Norman's father was Edward Carl Buckpitt Strobach, who changed his name to Edward Charles Buckpitt Norman before marrying Stella Porter (his second wife) in 1929. Edward had been born in London of an immigrant father, and described himself (at the time of his second marriage) as a pastry chef and confectioner. Stella had been born Susan Porter, youngest child of a London bus driver.

Despite Edward Norman's death on Christmas Eve 1955, finance was found to complete Keith's time at Magdalen College School, Oxford, and for his undergraduate studies at Merton College, Oxford; in April 1958 he was awarded a pass in Mods, and in 1959-60 managed a pass in Greats. Keith joined the staff of The Leas in May 1960, appearing in the 1960 school photograph; he must have started teaching before being awarded his degree.

Keith soon gained a nickname: with his umbrella and glasses he looked a bit like Wally Cox as the title-character in "The Adventures of Hiram Holliday", which was shown on the BBC 1960-61. The series was soon forgotten, and the nickname faded away.

The teaching of Ancient Greek had ceased at The Leas, but Keith's arrival brought it back onto the curriculum. He made it fun to start learning the Greek alphabet as a secret code, and he had clever ways of teaching vocabulary and making it memorable. He prepared his own abbreviated versions of Aristophanes comedies (in English), and cajoled a wide range of boys (not just those learning Greek) into recording them on his reel-to-reel tape recorder, with music and sound effects.

Keith inherited from Kenneth Sutton the teaching of Latin up to Scholarship level, and during 25 years continued to impress, amuse and infuriate boys, teachers and parents with his quirky approach to classical studies. It is rumoured that at one time he successfully took out insurance against being killed by a falling tortoise or turtle, this being the reputed death of the playwright Aeschylus.

Keith was a great solver of puzzles and crosswords. Patiently he would try to train much younger minds (and also some older minds amongst his staff colleagues) in understanding the deviousness of cryptic clues and in cultivating the diligence required for logical solutions. Less well-judged was his involvement in setting off the school's fire-alarm.

He had an unpleasant habit (completely unacceptable in more recent times) of tweaking upwards the short hairs at the back of a boy's neck, or at his sideburns. Keith thought this was a way of making sure a boy was paying proper attention; but it was probably pretty counter-productive.

After The Leas closed, Keith continued teaching until 1997, at Dumpton School, Wimborne, Dorset (first at Gaunt's House, Hinton Martell; later at Deans Grove House, Wimborne Minster). Keith then retired, moving back to Oxford.

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