It is sad to report the death of Tony Holcombe, a much respected teacher who left PGS in 1968 to teach at Tonbridge.
Tony Holcombe (1935 - 2018) -
Many Old Boys from the 1960s will be sad to hear of the recent death of Anthony (Tony) Holcombe, aged 83. Tony was a language teacher at Purley throughout most of the 1960s and focused on French and Russian, teaching these to 'A' level. Tony was my form teacher in the 6th Years - Lower and Upper 6th Modern 1 in Room 9 - and I always found him to be a fair minded and approachable individual. My one regret (in view of results) is that I did not have him for 'A' level French. Tony was known for his love of nature and bird watching in particular. something which is still remembered by Old Boys to this day. He left Purley in 1968 to take up a post at the University of Montpelier, but returned to the UK in the 1970s and spent the majority of his working life thereafter at Tonbridge School, remaining in the area following his retirement until his death in September 2018. Tony married Brenda (a former pupil at Purley Girls School) in 1983, and she survives him, and our sympathies have been conveyed to her. RIP Tony.
Comments from other Old Boys:
"I remember him with affection, and he helped me to take A-level French in my spare time.
Tony was our Russian teacher for A level and I have very warm memories of him. He was a very civilised and fair individual (not all that common at PCGS in my view), with a dry sense of humour. He tolerated our sometimes juvenile behaviour with a gentle smile and a sense of resignation. When Mrs Ananin came to Purley as the first woman teacher at the school, Tony reminded us of the need to treat her with respect, something which we were happy to do.
I remember him well. He taught us French (or tried to!) and was a decent bloke and a good and pretty fair teacher. He used to turn up to school in a blue Austin-Healey Sprite (might have been an MG Midget) which was quite cool at the time. Always the keen ornithologist which wasn't at the time quite so cool to a bunch of adolescents much more interested in birds of a different kind, to use the vernacular of the day. He did get a bit tetchy when we asked to be let off early on a couple of occasions so we could get to away basketball matches. His retort was 'Ultima Prima' (last things first) but having shown his feelings he did let us go. Sad to hear of his passing.”
His son, Nick Holcombe, gave this Tribute: Tony was born in Addiscombe, near Croydon, on the 15th January 1935. The only child of my favourite uncle and aunt, Frank and Florence, his early years were spent with his parents at Chalfont St Giles, where his father’s office was located during the war years. It was at Chalfont St Giles that he acquired his passion for steam trains and a life-long love of nature, as well as his first lessons in French; the first of many languages he learnt before becoming a brilliant linguist. He won a scholarship to Whitgift School in Croydon and later another scholarship to Peterhouse at Cambridge University to study languages. His military call-up papers for National Service arrived soon after he finished at Cambridge; but not wanting to be drafted into the army, he fled as fast as he could to the Navy Recruitment Office and signed up. The years with the Royal Navy were perhaps the most influential in his life. After initial training, he was transferred to Crail, in Scotland, where he joined others for an intensive course in Russian and later, continuing in the RNR (Royal Navy Reserve) as a Russian interpreter he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander; although he always claimed he could never be in command of a rowing boat, let alone anything larger! He was later awarded a decoration for his services to the RNR. It was to Crail in 1984 that he took Brenda to show her where he had spent his days learning Russian. The whole area had been turned into a pig farm; so he took her to the nearest building, which used to be the Guard House, but was now a pigsty and proposed to her! To this day, she has never found anyone else who had accepted a marriage proposal made in a pigsty! I don’t know at what point Tony decided on his future. I do know that his father died while he was still at Cambridge and Tony was determined not to spend his life in office routine, like his father and several of his uncles. I have always shared the same determination and am profoundly grateful to Tony for showing that there is more to life than conventional success. Most of you here will have known Tony as a keen and knowledgeable birder, in fact a world birder and traveller. Of the 10,000 species in the world today, Tony has set eyes on over 5,000 of them – an amazing achievement. But, he was also a naturalist. He loved plants, moths, butterflies and insects, etc. His botanical knowledge was exceptional and he kept lists of absolutely anything and everything he had ever seen, including the dates he first saw them. When September arrived we had the annual event of Hoopoe Day and Chiff Chaff Day, celebrated annually from those very first observations he made with his friend, Peter, at the age of 10. Tony was also a teacher of languages, most of his teaching years were spent at Tonbridge School, where he influenced many young lives, opening their eyes to the beauty of nature.