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News > Fondly Remembered > John Ashurst, Former Headmaster 1971-83

John Ashurst, Former Headmaster 1971-83

Mr John Ashurst, Headmaster at Hymers College between 1971 to 1983
Mr John Ashurst, Headmaster at Hymers College between 1971 to 1983

We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of former Headmaster John Ashurst (1971-1983) who died recently at age 99. Many of our alumni speak fondly of their memories of Mr Ashurst and the time they were here under his leadership. 

Mr Ashurst steered Hymers through what was a challenging time for independent schools. In the 1970s the direct grant system was phased out and the school had to make a choice between joining the maintained sector or becoming fully independent, a decision that the Head and governors took in 1975. Subsequently he oversaw the implementation of the assisted places scheme that came in 1980 whereby 25 local pupils joined the school each year on government-funded support.

1971 was also moment of significance for Hymers, an all-boys school. The arrival of the first girl at Hymers College, who came to prepare for the 7th term Oxbridge examinations. This signaled the start of change, paving the way for future generations of girls to attend Hymers.

The family of John Ashurst have shared dates of both his funeral and memorial service.  

The funeral service is on Wednesday 9 November at 1:30 pm at St Giles Church, Ashtead, Surrey.

A Memorial Service will be held on Monday 19 December at 11 am at Beverley Minster.

His family have respectfully requested no flowers or donations, but hope that anyone who would like to attend, on either date, are welcome to do so.

Below are some words from alumni who have heard of his passing:

Amazing guy and pulled me aside on my last day at Hymers in 1974 and demanded to know why i was late on my last day “I just took my driving test sir”, “Did you pass Wall”, “Yes sir”, “Good boy, that’s the way we do things here, now get along!”

Sorry to hear this news. He made a significant, but understated, contribution to the school.

A great man. Period. Rest in Peace, Jake.

A sad loss, and a great man. I had (and still do) an eye condition which risks a detached retina if I get a blow to the head - as such my parents met with him before I started at Hymers to ask that I be excused games (for obvious reasons). According to mum, he was initially sceptical, until she convinced him she wasn't just a doting mother who didn't want her son playing rough games, then he was fully supportive of (as he put it) making sure I got through Hymers with my vision intact.I also remember going into school between A levels and Oxbridge to collect my AO Electronics result (thanks, Roger Wooldridge) and being actually *teased* by him for not being certain that I'd got the A grade I actually did Mum and Dad used to occasionally run into him while shopping in Beverley, and he still remembered them long after I'd left school and asked after me. I don't think I fully realised his contribution to the school over 10 short years until I read the First Hundred Years book.

I managed to hit his car with a cricket ball from the nets. He came out demanding to know who'd done it! When I owned up he simply bellowed, 'great hit, make sure you do that on the cricket pitch!'

A great Headmaster with a classically intimidating - but fair - style. I have forgotten the names and faces of most of the teachers during the 42 years since I left the school, but he was someone who made an indelible mark on my memory and, having experienced his presence, you could never forget him. Glad he had a long and seemingly happy retirement.

Sad news. Jake reorganised class sizes in early seventies and I had one of the high scores in UIIIC Latin exam (21% !) . This meant I was elevated to the clever boys class of 3 Greek. Jake’s own son, John, was in the same class. As I was somewhat rubbish at everything Jake tutored a few of us on Friday nights, after the normal school day had finished. As a spotty disinterested teenager he saw I was more capable -his belief in me drove me on to unimaginable achievements. Thank you “Sir” and rest in peace.

A man who was both feared and respected. He always seemed fair, not without a sense of humour, a leader who clearly set high standards for staff and pupils.

What a life. Wow, he retired whilst I was still at school! And that is along time ago! I have some very fond and humerous memories of Mr Ashhurst. He had great integrity. I wasn’t always on the right side of him, but I never felt that I was dealt with unfairly. Best wishes to his family

I celebrate the passing of a great gentleman and fantastic headmaster. He had consumate respect from our generation. Sad that he did not make the 100 not out but surely one of Hymers finest.

This is very sad news about ‘Jake’ - a formidable and considerable presence for the first eight of my ten years at Hymers and in my life and memory ever since.

He gave me great encouragement and support throughout my time at the school and particularly when applying to Cambridge. I don’t remember seeing him again after leaving Hymers (perhaps once or twice?), but he always remembered and asked after me when my sister served him at Lloyds Bank in Beverley, where she used to work, or when she or my Mum bumped into him around the town. It’s a sad loss, but he lived a good life to a great age.

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