Wilfred Norman Stewart Hoare, headmaster
Born: 23 October, 1909
Died: 28 August, 2003, aged 93
IN HIS 19 years as its headmaster, WNS Hoare revived, reinvigorated and expanded Strathallan School in Perthshire, and he is properly acknowledged as its "second founder".
He never pretended to more than a sufficient academic standing. He was, however, persuaded that other activities, including sport, could and did play a significant part in education. The Story of Strathallan School records: "It was an article of faith with him that if a boy could be taught to excel in some enterprise, however remote from the classroom it might be, the confidence it gave him would eventually extend to his academic work."
Wilf Hoare was no musician, nor had he any flair for art, but he gave every encouragement to those who had. Cricket was his real talent. The aforementioned book recalls: "His enthusiasm for the art of batting held an absolute priority, and was liable to interrupt any business conducted indoors, the nets being within view and earshot of his study window. With an awe-inspiring bellow he would leave his audience open-mouthed as he stepped through the French window on to the lawn and, wrestling the bat from the grasp of a boy, he would demonstrate the supreme importance of keeping up the left elbow."
Before arriving at Strathallan in January 1951, Hoare taught at Fettes and was housemaster of Glencorse - his time at Fettes was interrupted by service in the army during the Second World War. He is still remembered kindly by Fettesians who knew him as "Bunny" Hoare. That was not, however, the image he presented when he arrived at Strathallan.
Schools thrive under energetic headmasters, and Strathallan in the 1950s and 1960s was no exception. Hoare found on his arrival that the school had not developed as it might have done under the short reign of his predecessor. Those who were pupils at that time immediately realised that the character and atmosphere of the school would be dictated by the enormous energy and enthusiasm of the new head. He was totally devoted to his pupils’ welfare and progress: after they left school, he followed their careers closely. From his boys, he expected certain standards of behaviour, including concern for others - for example, he would harangue them about the importance of dancing with any "wallflowers" when entertaining girls from the Beacon School at the annual dance.
Thanks to Hoare’s efforts, the numbers in the school doubled and the governors found it necessary to build. The headmaster took great pride in showing parents and former pupils round the new study block that opened in 1954; individual houses were built to accommodate Nicol, Ruthven, Simpson and Freeland; the chapel, dedicated in June 1962, replaced the Beech Walk at the front of the main building. The plans which had been translated into bricks and mortar shaped the school’s future for at least the next 30 years.
In The Story of Strathallan School, it states: "The endeavour to raise academic standards, while at the same time increasing numbers, placed a severe strain on the teaching staff ... to this end, there were regular and lengthy meetings of the whole teaching staff to monitor the progress of each individual member of the school."
It was a tribute to the headmaster that he earned and kept the loyalty and respect of his staff at this time, without which academic progress could not have been achieved. Former members of his staff speak highly of his leadership and drive, as do members of the board of governors who worked closely with him.
In 1964, the arts block and language laboratory were opened, and soon afterwards the science laboratories were enlarged. The foundation stone for the present dining hall was laid in the 1960s. It was from this dining hall that Wilf Hoare and his wife, on his retirement, were clapped all the way across to their house, an experience which overwhelmed them.
In his retirement, first in Milnathort, then in the West Country and finally in Shrewsbury, Hoare maintained a keen interest in the further development of the school. It was, after all, the abiding love which he shared with his wife and family.
WNS Hoare is widely acknowledged to have been one of the great post-war Scottish headmasters. He is survived by his wife, Gracie, his daughters, Rosemary, Ruth and Patricia, his son, Ronald, and his grand- children.