Old Vikings

RIP Nick Bevan (1942-2014)

Nick Bevan
21st February 1942 - 12th January 2014

‘Nick is a man who has done more for Shiplake College than any other single person in its history. He has raised academic standards and put up a succession of impressive new buildings.’ Alexander Everett.

Alexander Everett, the founder of Shiplake College, was delighted with the progress of his educational project when he returned to the College early in the 21st century, and was not slow to attribute much of that success to Nick Bevan.

Education was the strong thread that wove itself through Nick Bevan’s life. As a pupil at Shrewsbury School, where his father was a Housemaster, he left through his garden gate, waved his parents goodbye, and strode off confidently towards his own house for the term.

After reading Geography at Oxford, with a Rowing Blue achieved, Nick spent five years in the Army  serving in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He served in British Honduras (now Belize), UK, Malaya and Mauritius. He also qualified as a Malay speaker. He won the Far East pairs at rowing in the tri service regatta in Singapore and was an uncompromising blind side back row forward for the regiment.

Then, he opted for another year at university, this time at Cambridge, taking a Certificate of Education as he planned a return to the family business. Incidentally there was never any doubt where Nick’s loyalties lay in the varsity clashes; dark blue triumphed and he even hosted a reunion for his Oxford crew at Shiplake.  

Returning to teach at Shrewsbury, it was on the river that Nick laid down his marker, which in turn led to following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a Housemaster. After 8 years he felt it was time for a change, before he became the Mr Chips of his era. Eric Anderson, Headmaster of Eton, had spotted that a small school on the River Thames, that rowed, needed a Head and might suit Nick very well. Nick applied and felt the interviews had gone well. However, Annabel, his wife, convinced him that Pangbourne College was not the school for the Bevan family and gave many reasons for Nick to wait until the right school came along. Fortunately for Shiplake, Nick heeded her advice and as the Headmaster advertisement had just come out, they had a quick look around Shiplake College before driving back up to Shrewsbury.

For sixteen years Nick was a passionate advocate of boarding at Shiplake. He worked tirelessly from early morning administration, through chapel and appointments with prospective parents, watching sport and coaching rowing, finally onto the evening meetings with prefects, teachers and coaches. Sundays were rarely any quieter. In the early 1990s it was common for over 200 boarders to cram into the Great Hall for a Sunday service. Of course he also had to support his and Annabel’s children, Oliver and Emily, at their plays, concerts and matches. Enjoying the astounding view from Court Mead, these were happy times for the Bevan family.

As a Headmaster there were many balls to juggle; requiring immense stamina. Throughout the holidays Nick was often at his desk, tidying up loose ends from the previous term and eagerly discussing future plans. One of Nick’s priceless skills was his ability to lift his head from the day’s pressing challenges; to stop, think and create a new vision. Scarcely had the dust settled on the Goodwin Building, the new Pavilion and Orchard House before discussions commenced for the next dream. For a small school, investing £12m in new buildings during a period of recession in the early 1990s was a remarkable achievement that paid enormous testimony to Nick’s managerial skills. 

After years in the classroom, on the river and in the boarding house at Shrewsbury, Nick rapidly developed a new set of required skills. His year as Chairman of the Society of Headmasters of Independent Schools certainly raised Shiplake’s profile. Yet Nick had his eye on membership of the Headmaster’s Conference (HMC), the premiership of independent schools. With teaching standards on the up and much improved facilities, the application was approved. Just over four decades after its foundation Shiplake had joined the great names of English independent schools. 

League tables arrived during Nick’s era, but he resisted the temptation to chase statistical success. Shiplake was always near the top of academic added value tables but Nick believed in finding time for character-building activities; DofE expeditions, artists’ long weekends, leadership exercises and finishing term a day early so that sports tourers could get a better deal on their flights!

Every day, a Headmaster has to stand up and speak. There was always a degree of self-deprecation and a mischievous touch of humour too. Once, after a mother’s mobile phone rang during his address to prospective Sixth Form parents, Nick quipped: ‘Do you know what the penalty for that is at Shiplake?’ Silence. ‘Confiscation and dropping it into the river.’ The prospective parents roared with laughter, checked their phones were off and decided that Shiplake was exactly the school they were looking for.

Nick presided over an era of immense change. Wooden shacks were replaced by state-of-the art buildings, e-mails replaced memos, while girls joined the school in the Sixth Form. Business Studies, Media Studies, Sports Studies and Theatre Studies all arrived on the curriculum. Computers were on every desk. Shiplake College not only survived but thrived and gained a national reputation as one of the best small schools in the country.

Nick headed into retirement at the end of the 2003–2004 academic year, wishing to further his work as a magistrate, walk his Labrador and improve his golf. When asked by head boy Pierre Kunkler what he would miss in an assembly just before his retirement, Nick explained: “Firstly, the place. We are very fortunate to be living in this lovely environment, seeing the view from my house. I will miss my 50 second commute through the church yard. I will miss the roses on the corner of the Burr garden and their fantastic aroma in late summer. I will miss Housemasters’ Meetings; generally a warm and friendly moment in a frenetic week. I shall miss watching sports, plays and concerts, when unlikely people do really well, and miss watching us beating Pangbourne on the river and the rugby field. I shall miss a really good night in the JCR, candlelit communion services and church bells.

I fear that people will look back on my 16 years as the time when all these lovely buildings went up, but that’s not significant at all. There have been a certain number of events that have given me great satisfaction. Such whole school occasions are very special. It is also the achievements of former pupils. I am told that in my time here around 1,300 pupils have passed through the school. If I meet the vast majority of them they say that their time has been rewarding and I feel very proud of them."

Inevitably Nick was soon lured back into education. Advising parents, he served as an educational consultant but could not keep away from the river. Living in North Oxfordshire, he joined St Edward’s School as a Rowing Coach. However, his retirement was marred by health problems. He suffered a heart attack at Marlow Regatta, and awoke in good medical care, but was dismayed to discover that his crew had not qualified for the final.

In September 2013, Nick suffered a major stroke. After a spell in the John Radcliffe Hospital he was transferred to Witney to receive further treatment. Even the physiotherapy brought out his competitive spirit. He suggested that he and some other patients should use their time on the exercise bikes to notch up the miles between Oxford and Cambridge.

Inevitably Nick received hundreds of messages of good will. He was eager to answer them all but he became frustrated by the slow progress of his one-fingered typing. In November it was discovered that the stroke had been triggered by renal cancer. A painful chest infection rapidly developed into pneumonia. Nick was transferred back to the John Radcliffe Hospital and died on Sunday 12th January.

Messages of condolences and tributes have been flooding in for Nick Bevan. They are displayed on the Old Vikings page. If you would like to send your own message, please email oldvikings@shiplake.org.uk

Sand Dance Performance at The Royal Oak, Ruscombe

Old Vikings Nick Harper and Freddie Greaves, accompanied by Louise Rapple on the piano, will be performing THE SAND DANCE, written by Catherine Saker,  for one night only at the Royal Oak in Ruscombe.

The performance begins at 7pm on Tuesday 10th December. There will be a collection for Berkshire Air Ambulance.

It promises to be a hilarious and enjoyable evening. All are welcome and please contact any other Old Vikings who you feel may be interested in case they have missed this post. Please click here to see the event poster. 

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Upcoming Old Vikings Events

OVS Sports Festival

Saturday 13th September

12.00pm: OVS Hockey
1.15pm: OVS Rugby
3.00pm: OVS Regatta

The 2012 OVS Regatta proved to be a hugely popular event and many OVs are keen to take to the Thames again. The day will be combined with the annual OVs hockey tournament and rugby match. After the sporting action has ended, Old Vikings are invited to stay for drinks and a BBQ.

If you are interested in taking part in any of the sporting events, please email oldvikings@shiplake.org.uk. 

OVS London Drinks Reunion

Tuesday 11 November 2014, 8.00pm

Venue TBC

After the success of the 2013 London Reunion, plans are being made for a similar event in 2014 to catch up with friends and staff from across the years. Smith's Bar and Grill was a popular venue for its handy location, but the bar area did get rather cramped. Suggesitons are welcome if you know of a potentially superior venue. Stay tuned for details of the finalised time, date and location. 

OVS Committee

OVS Committee and Contacts
Hans Wells-Furby (President)
Via College 

Ben Fitzwilliams (Chairman)
01344 777203

Henry Summers (Treasurer)
07733 328409

Katherine Green (Director of Marketing and External Relations at Shiplake College)

0118 940 5222


Ross McSweeny (Marketing and Alumni Officer at Shiplake College)
0118 940 5231

Michael Edwards
0118 940 5244

David Collis
0118 2759756

Hugo Lowry
07941 009037

Gregg Davies (Headmaster)
0118 940 2455

Peter Webb
0118 940 3334 

Richard Alldrick
020 8557 1549

Malcolm Woodcock
Via College

Old Vikings

Welcome to the Old Viking Society Website

You are an Old Viking if you spent three years at the College or joined us for the Sixth Form. If you taught at Shiplake for two or more years you are an OV too. We are a very inclusive and welcoming alumni society. So what do Old Vikings do? We host reunions and sporting events at the College and beyond. Once a year we gather in London for a rip-roaring reunion, usually around November. Every January an OVS Magazine should drop onto your doormat, wherever you are in the world. We like to support OVs to get in touch with each other and to organise their own events and reunions. We look forward to seeing you and if you have any ideas please get in touch with us.

Ben Fitzwilliams - OVS Chairman


OVS Magazine:

The Old Viking Society Magazine 2014 is now available to download online here

The new-look publication is packed full of news and information about all things Old Vikings, including news updates from former staff and pupils from across the decades. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine via post, please email your current address details to oldvikings@shiplake.org.uk
Should you wish to keep up to date with current news at Shiplake College, the termly newsletter is available to download here