Ian Pratt – MaA 53-61

Wednesday 14 December 2022

Some thoughts from Ian’s contemporary at Christ’s Hospital, Brian Walling.

Ian Pratt (MaA 53-61) became a Classics teacher and remained in this role until his retirement in
2011 at age 69. His skills and personality seemed to be ideally suited to such a role and he appears
to have been much liked by his students. The news of his passing, posted by his last employers in
their College Newsletter, mentions that “he had great charm and a lovely gentle wit.” Ian seems to
have found a role that he was good in, that he liked and where he was a success with his students.
Ian and I were close contemporaries at CH.

Ian and I were part of Maine A’s intake of six new boys in 1953, just eight years after the end of the
2nd World War. Strong memories of the War still persisted at that time among our families and
could also be sensed in various aspects of school life.

Ian and I were not only in the same House, but also in the same Form at each stage of our CH
career. We both joined the Classics stream and worked our way through, under the strict regime of
Head of Classics Derek Macnutt, to open scholarships at Cambridge in late 1960. At that point we
parted ways. I left CH at Christmas 1960, needing to earn some money before taking up my
Cambridge place in autumn 1961. Ian, as was more usual at that time, stayed on at CH until the
summer term and left in July 1961. I had been House Captain in Maine A and after my departure Ian
assumed that role for the rest of the 1960-61 year. Derek Macnutt was a fearsome taskmaster,
renowned not only for his output of classical scholars from CH, but also for being the creator of The
Observer newspaper’s difficult “Ximenes” crossword every Sunday.

At Cambridge we headed for different Colleges: Ian to Corpus Christi where he continued to study
Classics; myself to Peterhouse, where I made a planned switch to Economics. At Cambridge we saw
little of each other and crossed paths rarely, generally only in the street from time to time. We did
in 1962 together make the tedious cross-country journey by train one day from Cambridge to
Oxford and return, to catch up with one or two Old Blue contemporaries at Oxford.

We new boys in Maine A in 1953 were generally from homes in central or suburban London, except
for one of us who came from Southport in Lancashire – typical of the sprinkling of provincial UK
boys in the school mix at that time, which was otherwise heavily weighted to London and southeast origins. Ian’s home while at CH was in the centre of London, close to Victoria Station. His
family, with several children of which he was the eldest, lived tightly packed in a top floor flat.
At CH, Ian distinguished himself as a very serious person, dedicated to studying. He was methodical,
analytical and well organised. He had a deep intellect, but never flaunted it. He gave no hints
anywhere of flamboyance or extravagance. He became a regular award winner in various subjects
at the school prize-giving ceremonies that took place in connection with Speech Day and other

Along with all this Ian was a quite private person, seeming not to be interested in having a wide
circle of friends. He was kind, calm and considerate always. I believe, based on my limited contact
with him at Cambridge, that he carried these qualities with him into life after CH. All these qualities,
as I look back, probably suited him ideally to be a teacher of Classics – which is the career path that I
believe he followed after Cambridge. I do not know where exactly he went to teach for his first 25
years after leaving Cambridge in 1964, but it is confirmed that he subsequently spent 22 years from
1989 to 2011 as Classics head at the Sixth Form College, Woodhouse College in Barnet, North
London, retiring from there at age 69.

During school holidays from CH, Ian regularly spent time with his grandmother in Wallasey,
Cheshire, and seemed to regard Wallasey almost as a second home – and relishing the lengthy train
(steam at that time) journeys up from London to Liverpool and back.

An early photo of Ian in his first year at CH, spring 1954, taken by me beside the railway line to
Littlehampton alongside CH.