Thursday, 11 October 2012

Martin Jones write about Len Kneller

Martin Jones must have missed the piece on the F et P website on Len Kneller's death and he wants to share his thoughts with other Old Boys

"I was sorry to hear of the death of Len Kneller. Len was my first form teacher when I arrived at Purley midway through the autumn term of 1960-61. I was in 1C and we were located in 'Harry', one of three portakabins - Tom, Dick and Harry - which housed the first years until the mid-1960's. Len was a gentle man, and I never recall him raising his voice, unlike other teachers at the school at the time. His bamboo samurai sword, which he used to bring out and wave around from time to time, was never used in anger, but the cold stare that he used to give us from behind his glasses served a similar purpose in quietening even the most badly behaved lads in his class. Len was also my maths teacher, and a good teacher at that, but we were always happy when we could persuade him to diverge on to his 'Jim-Jim' man (? is that what it was called?) or 'moving the steam engine from one end of the track to the other without passing under the low bridge' - lateral thinking is what it was probably all about but I don't think we ever resolved the problem! I recall that Len ran 'circuit training' sessions in the gym at lunchtimes round about this time although I was never persuaded to take part, particularly as the participants always seemed to come back totally exhausted and fit for nothing other than a lie down in Mrs Marlow's medical room! I also recall that Len came from his home in Streatham on an expensive-looking motor bike which he parked in the tin shed close to the caretaker's flat. When some of us started to play table tennis in the shed during the cold winter months, Len gave us one of his stares and let it be known that the pannier tanks alone cost more than we could ever afford to repay him should the bike end up on its side! At the end of the 1960-61 year, I stayed down in the first year and moved to 1A in 'Tom'. I had Len once more as a maths teacher in the third year, and then he left the school, and completely disappeared from the scene for 45 years. A man of mystery in many ways, but as John has pointed out, a man whose life was obviously well lived!    

Martin Jones

PS. Len was certainly bald and had a moustache when I knew him, but I don't recall him having a beard and I'm sure he wasn't at the Final Reunion (a photo taken in 2010 shows a v similar face and moustache to the 1960's, and I think we might have guessed if he had been at the Reunion, even if he had been there under another name!) "      

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