We are sorry to announce that William John Daniel white has passed away. The following obituary is courtesy of his close friend Chris Wood.
In such a relatively small space, I can only touch on some of Bill’s many achievements during his long and active life but you may have your own memories as to fill in the gaps.
87 years ago Bill was born into education – literally because he was born at Ashford Grammar school where his father was a schoolmaster. Bill always said that he was blessed with loving and generous parents who were such a strong support to him. He attended Aldenham School in Hertfordshire and went on to study classics at Trinity Hall Cambridge. This was to prove an excellent grounding for his career. It was at Trinity Hall that Bill made lifelong friends with Mike Jackson and Bill was godfather to his daughter Liz.
After university his university friends steered him towards the Royal Artillery for National Service which sorely tested his mathematics and it was at the training in Troon that he perfected his Scottish accent and his ability to mimic others.
Having decided on a career in teaching, Bill trained in Kent schools and then spent a time in a French Lycée in Limoges as an English teacher. He became a most competent French speaker which he was able to use later in his teaching and many visits to France.
In 1961 Bill applied for the position of Latin and English teacher at Rendcomb College. His father, by then a headmaster, and John James, the acting Headmaster at Rendcomb were friends through History examining for the Cambridge examinations board and reputedly this was instrumental in Bill accepting the post.
Thank goodness that Bill did accept the job because he proved to be not only an outstanding teacher of Latin and French but also an excellent all round schoolmaster. His preparation of lessons in his immaculate handwriting was exemplary and always a great support for pupils, particularly with set books such as Caesar’s invasion of Britain.
His proactive approach to teaching kept pupils engaged and he brought much humour to his lessons. Pupils always enjoyed Bill reading Winnie Ille Pu and then translating it into English.
Bill was an outstanding tutor and housemaster always keeping his ear to the ground and never overreacting to tricky situations. Despite being single he comfortably assumed the role of father figure and was able to empathise with teenagers perhaps better than their own parents on occasions.
Bill taught at Rendcomb College from 1961 to 1997, a career which he found both rewarding and enjoyable. During this time, there were three headmasters but even after he retired, headmasters continued to value his counsel on matters Rendcombian. He was second master from 1973-1985 and, when he stepped down from this position, the post of Senior Master was created specifically for Bill to ensure that his wisdom and experience would continue to filter into the decision making within the College.
Bill was also very interested in pupils’ progress after they had left Rendcomb and his influence on the Old Rendcombian Society has been far reaching. In 1975 he founded the society’s newsletter which began as a very modest foolscap document printed at the school and which is now a popular 70 page full colour booklet. Old Rendcombians loved to keep in touch with him by regularly writing, phoning or visiting him. So it was fitting that more recently he was President of the Society.
Rendcomb benefited greatly from Bill’s love of gardening. He ran a gardening activity for years and he tended the flower beds and urns around the school grounds. He even joined the gardening staff for a while after retiring from teaching. Needless to say he had a lovely garden in his house at Northleach in the Cotswolds and the U3A there tapped into his enthusiasm. He also tended the flower beds and planted trees around Northleach church.
His other great interest was walking. He belonged to the Ramblers Association and went on many organised walking holidays at home and abroad. Here he made many friends to add to his long list of friends from school, university and teaching. He thoroughly enjoyed organising walking weekends in Broadway for his circle of walking friends.
I am sure in the last year or so, when his mobility was declining, he must have been so frustrated at not being able to take his constitutional walk in the countryside around Northleach.
He also really enjoyed singing and he was a member of Cirencester Choral Society and the choir at Northleach.
Bill lived a very full life and just talking to godchildren, former pupils, colleagues and friends, it has emphasised how much Bill influenced people’s lives in positive and profound ways.
Many have referred to Bill’s passing as the end of an era. Perhaps so, but we will never forget him.
Adaptation of the tribute by Chris Wood at Bill’s funeral on 24 February 2023.