The Prescotian Webzine

(Master, PGS 1947-73)
A eulogy delivered at his funeral service in Ormskirk Parish Church by Desmond J. Roberts

IT was at Prescot Grammar School that our paths first crossed, I was an uncertain teenager and he my Latin Master. I soon benefited from his love for his subject; his commitment to even the most difficult tasks - myself, for example - from his knowledge and understanding a nd his earnest enthusiasm to communicate them both - and all this along with a special type of humour, waving finger and penetrating gaze. I remember well as a Vth former sitting at the back of one of his classes for the Third year as we were short of Classics staff. My friend, Luke Mitchell, and I were struggling with the intricacies of Latin syntax under Gilbert's watchful gaze. At one moment, Luke pointed out an amusing juxtaposition of Latin phrases and we smiled and laughed a little. "Mitchell and Roberts," said Gilbert with an ironic smile, "studying is not supposed to be enjoyable!"

In his influence of us, he did not limit himself to his subject. I remember his recommending to us a book, The "Story of San Michele" by Axel Munthe. I acquired it, read it and read more. This was the awakening of my mind. Such was Gilbert's influence and power as an educator.

I left the School in the fifties but returned in the early sixties as a colleague to teach French, German and Russian. Gilbert, immediately and with great ease and warmth, took over the role of colleague, giving advice and much needed encouragement both of which became features of our continuing acquaintance to become, in time, a special friendship.

It was during this time that I learnt of Gilbert's Masonic involvement and, with him as an example, I became a Freemason myself. One of hundreds of quotations which Gilbert collected and recorded is, 'One of the nicest things that can happen to one is to be honoured by one's fellow men.'All his brethren in Goodacre Lodge and the Pharus Chapter recognised the qualities of brotherly love, relief and truth which he possessed in plenty: they honoured him accordingly.

They are here now to regret the passing of departed merit. It is a comment on his love for others that, despite his own discomfort, he visited Mrs Papworth for the best part of two years. The most important aspect of my knowing Gilbert, however, was the friendship he bore me and which I returned with gratitude.

So long as we love, we serve.
So long as we are loved by others, we are indispensable
And no man is useless while he has a friend.

These words Gilbert himself penned in the most beautiful script and the style of medieval times. This was another feature of his talents. Visiting him at home and in hospital, I shared the sadnesses he experienced at the losses within his immediate family: a rare sharing experience because he revealed little of his emotions to but few. Gilbert had an encyclopaedic knowledge and he leaves an extensive library. He collected magazines, newspapers, cigarette cards, stamps and photo-graphs: All are systematically and meaningfully Catalogued. They tell a fascinating tale of a fascinating person. He would quote liberally, yet always appropriately, from a vast range of cultured sources: Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Longfellow, Omar Khyam etcetera. And all this was flavoured and enlightened by a delicious and special sense of humour, inimitable and strikingly effective.

How I shall miss him! How I shall miss my visits. I have been privileged to be his friend and I am the better person for it. The world is a better place for his having been here.

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