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Death of former Collyer's head

A FORMER headmaster of Collyer's Grammar School in Horsham, described as 'one of the kindest and most courteous men to work for', died on Christmas Eve.

Derek Slynn, of Broadbridge Heath, was 89 and leaves his wife Joan and two daughters – Angela and Juliet – as well as three grandchildren.

Mr Slynn took on the headship at the then grammar school in 1966 and threw himself into life in Horsham, especially in cricket and music circles.

He played cricket for Horsham town, became vice-president of Horsham Cricket Club, and was a committee member of Horsham Music Circle, which met at Collyer's in Hurst Road in those days.

He lived at the headmaster's house in the school grounds until a decision was made to demolish it and he moved to Richmond Road before retiring to Broadbridge Heath.

He was also made a Freeman of the City of London and became a member of the Committee of Voluntary Services Overseas.

It was under Mr Slynn's guidance, with the help of governors, staff and students, that saw through the smooth transition of Collyer's from grammar school to sixth form college and the admission of girls to what had previously been a boys-only establishment.

Mr Slynn was a great traveller and fan of languages.

In 1943 he travelled the world during the war but mostly spoke about Italy and Africa.

In Italy he learnt the language and developed a passion for opera.

He was also attached to Bletchley Park, the site of secret British codebreaking activities.

In 1944, he went to Gibraltar for Eastern Command and learnt Spanish. He played cricket on the airstrip, moving out of the way when aircraft landed.

He was granted class B release to return to Oxford to finish a languages degree and married Joan.

He played cricket for Oxford and added Russian to his French and German studies.

His first teaching post was Dover College where he played cricket and became a keen member of the Dover Players Drama Group.

Mr Slynn's first headship was Adams Grammar School in Wem, Shropshire, where he introduced the teaching of Russian and Chinese.

He retired in 1983 and became a governor of Burgess Hill School for Girls as well as joining Dr John Dew coaching under-16 cricket at Horsham Cricket Club. He also undertook coaching at Harlands Primary School in Haywards Heath.

He was a founder member of Horsham Weald Probus Club whose members proved the principles of the club by helping his wife Joan and the family without hesitation in their recent time of need for which they send many thanks to 'this great club'.

His daughter Angela said: "His joy in retirement was spending time with his three grandchildren Anna, Nicola and Alistair, still teaching them the joys of cricket and languages.

"The family has received many wonderful and kind letters which epitomise his life."

Former deputy head, Vernon Davies, wrote: "He was the kindest and most courteous of men to work for, and always so appreciative of one's efforts. He had the interests of all his pupils at heart, and this is how he will be remembered."

A former member of staff, John Hamer, wrote: 'I learned a great deal about teaching, educational values and human relationships – and much of this was due to Derek's guiding hand.

"I had the highest possible regard for him as a wise headmaster and as a warm and principled human being."

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