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Obituary – Douglas Garrad (B1 1939-44)

“When, in his late forties, he was asked how he felt about spending all his time with children as a headmaster, my grandfather Douglas Garrad, said: ‘I don’t see children, I just see people.’

For his former pupils at Hawford Lodge which he founded in 1955 and ran for 30 years, his family and for those local to his home in Worcestershire, this response would come as no surprise. It was this generosity of spirit and belief in children’s abilities which defined his career and long life.

John Douglas Garrad was born in Reigate, Surrey, on January 26, 1926, while his parents were on a year’s furlough from their work as Anglican missionaries in Myanmar (then Burma). Known as Douglas, he lived there until he was seven, alongside his sisters Anne and Elizabeth.

The family returned to England when he was seven with his father taking up post as the vicar of Barrow Gurney in Somerset, and Douglas heading off to board at a prep school in nearby Burnham on Sea. He had a miserable time there, and later would recall how these early experiences influenced his vision for a more homely, enjoyable educational environment for Hawford Lodge.

As war broke out, he was sent to Marlborough College in Wiltshire which he very much enjoyed, joining B1 in September 1939. He played hockey for the first XI and trumpet in Brasser. In the school holidays he remembered hiding under the dining room table, watching the bombing and fires in nearby Bristol.

He joined the Royal Navy after leaving school in 1944, becoming an officer and accompanying convoys of merchant ships in the Atlantic. When the war ended, he served on minesweepers in the Mediterranean until his return to England in 1947.

Douglas studied forestry at Oxford and in August 1951 he married Mary Ann Wynne Willson, who he had known since childhood. Their 69-year marriage was remarkable to all those that knew them.

In 1955, the couple opened Hawford Lodge in Worcestershire, a day school in the countryside for boys aged seven to 13, which was a rarity in the independent sector at the time.

Starting with 15 boys in the first September, it quickly flourished, and was recognised by the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) in 1959.

A spirit of adventure was key to Douglas’ educational vision and it was very much a family enterprise; pupils were encouraged to spend time outside and enjoyed a famous home-cooked lunch prepared by Mary Ann every day.

After 30 years at the helm, Douglas moved on and co-founded what is now TFH Special Needs Toys in 1984, designing and manufacturing disability awareness toys for sensory education.

In 1996, Hawford Lodge merged with The King’s School, Worcester, which was a great source of pride for Douglas. He and Mary Ann continued to live on the grounds of the school with Douglas, a keen gardener, keeping a bountiful vegetable patch.

The qualities admired by so many in his role as founder and headmaster were also much-loved by his four children – Charles (C3 1965- 69), Andrew (C3 1967-71), Caroline and Alice – ten grandchildren (including Florence Armstrong (Littlefield 2009-11) and Grace Armstrong (Littlefield 2013-15)) and four great-grandchildren.

Douglas was formidable but kind, sometimes fierce but unfalteringly fair, generous privately and publicly, and with a steadfast belief in the importance of fun.

Although he was greatly saddened by the distance from his family caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, he died peacefully aged 95 at home with his wife, as ever, and children by his side.”

Tilly Armstrong