Brian Idris Evans: [Heath 1962–1968]

Brian Evans died in a care home in Ilkley on . The funeral was at Christ Church in Hipperholme on Monday, .

Brian Idris Evans was at Heath for five years; in that short time he earned lasting respect and affection. Many will remember him with gratitude and mourn the news of his death. Brian arrived in Halifax early in 1962 as Head of History, filling the void left by the death of C.O. Mackley. He soon established himself as a highly organised teacher, combining vigour and high expectations with compassion and understanding.

Profoundly honest, he saw no need to conceal from his pupils either his deep religious faith or his liberal internationalist beliefs, but he never sought to impose them. In the chair of the idiosyncratic sixth form debating society, the Favorites, he was both good humoured and scrupulously fair. When he encouraged his sixth form historians to attend a day-long Student Christian Movement conference held at Princess Mary High School, one of them wanted to know if it would be ‘held against’ anyone who declined; Brian assured him that it would not, and meant what he said.

A talented sportsman, particularly when there was a ball to hit, he was a patient coach. Though transferring his skills interested him more than showing them off, in the cricket nets and occasional staff matches he played all the shots with timing and grace. Similar skills in his preferred winter sport of hockey were lost on Heath, but he took charge of the Second XV to good effect, and was a competent and calm referee.

Brian was a cousin of Gwynfor Evans, the resolute president of Plaid Cymru, but he had no trace of a Welsh accent — unsurprisingly, since he grew up in London, where his father Idris was a Congregationalist minister. Aged eight, he was sent to Caterham School in Surrey, a Victorian foundation for the education of ministers’ sons, where he spent ten fruitful years, first in the preparatory department, then the main school, in due course heading both his house and his school; as Senior Prefect he addressed the Old Boys’ dinner with ‘a most lucid and well-presented picture of the year’s activities.’ He won the school’s debating prize, and acted in its plays, his final role being the Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice. Blackface for the part was directorially dictated: in sensitivity to racial issues Brian was always ahead of his time.

On the playing fields he captained the prep school football XI and played rugby for his house; but his preference was for the uninflated ball. Though he had taken 29 wickets at under 3 apiece in school matches in 1947, after his move to main school he focused on batting. Perhaps inspired by his hero the dashing Denis Compton, whom during vacations he would watch spellbound at Lord’s, a few miles from home in Acton, Brian became ‘the stylist of the side,’ as well as being a good fielder in the covers. But he was evidently a source of some frustration to his cricket master, whose Wisden report for the 1951 season noted that B.I. Evans, ‘though a good stroke-player, repeatedly disappointed by getting out when he looked most settled.’ Of his hockey, the Caterham magazine commented that ‘His stick-work and clearing shots have saved us from many an embarrassing situation. He is handicapped by lack of speed, and should learn to clear the ball without dribbling out of the circle.’ Nobody is perfect.

His academic talents had secured Brian a place to read History at Jesus College, Oxford, most of whose intake was and is Welsh. Having combined his studies with three productive winter and summer seasons for the college hockey and cricket teams, in 1955 he was awarded the undifferentiated Second then obtained by the vast majority of Oxonians, did the mandatory two years’ national service and then, returning to the metier in which he had been so successful, became a schoolmaster.

His pupils at Heath will remember his efficiency and communication skills; he controlled his classroom not so much by imposing his will as by sweeping the group along in a shared mission. And for all his diligence, he was well enough organised to enjoy a fulfilling personal life. Lodging off Manor Drive, he became a member of Heath Congregational Church, where he deployed inherited talents in the pulpit, and through which he met Pat Sumner, who had attended Princess Mary High School and was to become a Maths teacher. Romance blossomed: they married in 1964; their children Paul and Catherine would in due course follow in their father’s footsteps to Jesus College.

Quietly ambitious and genuinely interested in the pastoral aspect of his vocation, Brian was not going to remain a departmental head for long. In 1967 he moved to Newport, in South Wales as a deputy headmaster, one of whose duties was to deal with the daily parade of naughty boys. Five years later the Evans family was back in Halifax. There were headship vacancies at the grammar schools at either end of Savile Park; Brian applied for and secured the post of head of Crossley & Porter, in which he served with distinction from 1971 to 1977. A former student recalls him as authoritative but caring and sympathetic. Brian’s final career move was to lead a large comprehensive school: Honley High School, formerly Holme Valley Grammar, had 1300 students on roll.

Following his retirement in 1993, he characteristically accepted the invitation to take on a different responsibility, that of clerk to the Yorkshire Synod of the United Reformed Church while continuing regular preaching. Eventually Brian and Pat retired to Ilkley, and it was there that his life of achievement and service drew to a close. He will be greatly missed by his wife, son and daughter, five grandchildren and a host of friends.

Andrew Connell [Heath 1958–1965] drawing on conversations with various people, including his widow, Pat.

Tom Roper [Heath 1959–1966] writes:

Cathy and I were invited to attend the funeral. Brian and Pat were regular attenders at Hipperholme URC and it amalgamated with Hipperholme Methodist to form Christ Church, where Cathy is a regular attender, me less so. So Cathy knows Brain and Pat very well. For my own part, Brian taught me at Heath and appointed me as Head of Maths at Crossley and Porter way back in 1975. The connection was renewed when after leaving to go to Greenhead College in Huddersfield, in 1980, I appointed Pat Evans to work in the maths department there. So we have a very long connection with them. I enjoyed many chats with Brian at church events about rugby and cricket — he was a very stylish bat in his time.