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Personal News > Obituaries > Keith Ramsay 1933-2021

Keith Ramsay 1933-2021

We are very sorry to learn that Keith Ramsay (staff 1962-1973) died on 14th March 2021 aged 87 and share with you memories from his daughter Sophie as well as so many of his former students.
21 Apr 2021
Written by Emma Judge
Keith with Richard Weeks & Jill Lockley in 2008
Keith with Richard Weeks & Jill Lockley in 2008

5th December 1933 – 14th March 2021

Keith’s daughter Sophie writes:

Keith was born in South Africa, returning to the UK 6 months later. He lived in Hampstead and Highgate as a child. He attended Michael Hall Rudolph Steiner School aged 11 in 1944 and met Tazza. They started dating aged 14 and married in 1957, July 13th in West Wittering, whilst still students at Aberdeen University, completing their final year as a married couple.
Keith was waiting for an interview at ITV for a post as a Floor Manager so he took a temp teaching job at a boys secondary modern in the East End called Percy Road. He then decided to become a teacher. He moved from Frensham Heights to Bishop Grosseteste College (in Lincoln, to train teachers) and worked there till he retired.
Keith remained life long friends with fellow teachers from Frensham Heights: Alan Matthews, Michael Lee and Richard Weeks. Richard is now sadly the last man standing. The families are still close.
Keith revived and directed the Lincoln Mystery Plays from 1978 until 2000 and received an honorary D Lit in 2009 from Bishop Grosseteste University.

Keith died peacefully in his own bed on 14th March 2021, 5 months exactly after his beloved Tazza.

Stephen Hart

Keith taught English and directed plays at Frensham between 1962 and1973. He inspired a generation.

Frensham Heights then presented a particular challenge to new teachers. Expectations were high amongst the students, boredom thresholds low, and little respect was paid to the notion that discipline was the answer.

Keith succeeded in part through sheer force of personality. He brought a fierce brain and great knowledge of his subject, and a love of theatre. He might have been an actor if he had had better eyesight; which would have been our loss. Theatre was the right term, because his sense of drama did not focus on modern understatement. He brought Milton, Donne and Tolkein to blazing life for his students, often through his own reading.

Many of us remember with greatest clarity the plays he directed. Scores of them. And in the holidays he started the Farnham Youth Theatre and did more! This writer remembers particularly two productions of The Crucible, and one of The Diary Of Anne Frank. Both were plays about outcasts, written in the aftermath of the Second World War when Europe was awash with refugees. Helping refugees has always been close to the heart of this school. Whilst for many of us that war seemed an age ago by 1965, for the families of many at the school and on the staff this was not so. The Anne Frank play he directed with great compassion, adding his use of his own great voice to impersonate the German Officer who ends the play by shouting from the end of the auditorium “Aufmachen! Schnell! Schnell!”

Keith moved from Frensham to Bishop Grosseteste College in Lincoln in the mid 1970’s. Here he taught drama to trainee teachers.  Between then and his retirement in 2000 he revived the Lincoln Mystery Plays, performed every four years or so, often in the Cathedral. In 1989 his production toured open-air theatres in Oregon, USA, performing to audiences of thousands.  For more information about this, see his book: “The Lincoln Mystery Plays – A Personal Odyssey”.  

Shay Cunliffe 63-5

“The most inspirational teacher I have encountered in my entire life”  [We managed to get this remark to Keith a couple of years ago. He and his wife Tazza smiled brightly. And that word inspirational occurs again and again.]

Richard Dale 67-72

An inspirational teacher - and a very nice bloke too.

Olivia Buttigieg  69-73

That is sad. Very nice person.

Karen Yates  72-74

Yes, so sad, I only remember him with fondness.

Anna Lieven-Flood  61-66

Such an inspiring teacher. My favourite and someone whose lessons I have always remembered with gratitude. RIP.

Alexis Walmsley  67-73

What very sad news. I was incredibly fond of Keith. A wonderful teacher (someone who introduced Tolkien to huge numbers of school children!) - someone who always made lessons fun! I used to baby sit his children (unless I’m muddling it all up with Richard Weeks’ and Mr Matthews’ children!!).  I think he made the national press because of his herbal tobacco.

Fiona Lofthouse  69-72

He wasn't my English teacher. He nevertheless has conveyed a sense to me of a well grounded man, gifted in his craft of teaching and inspiring young people and a love of literature. R.I.P. xx

Vanessa Nicolson  66-73

Yes he was a good teacher. I had both him and Mr Hagen (not sure if that’s how he spelt his name) for English.

Robert Barton  70-77

He read us The Hobbit in the First Form and got me writing poetry. A really great teacher. I heard that, in about 1971, he was (nearly?) arrested in the Hare and Hounds when his herbal pipe tobacco was mistaken for grass!

John K. Grande 71-73

Good memories of Keith: his sense of humour and one day when he brought us to see Tyger a fun popplay about William Blake.

Linda Clunies-Ross  65-72

He was always fantastically theatrical in his brilliant selections in readings and reciting at morning assembly.

Simon Thomas  81-84

I think he had a good little gig up in the library, such a nice atmosphere. Always welcomed anyone who pretended to show an interest in literature.

Simon Gardner  67-72

Sad news, he was always very encouraging to me.

Susie Spencer  70-72

RIP Mr Ramsay

Vanya Hackel  70-73

Oh dear. Lovely person and teacher.

Jill Hitchins  58-63

He was a kind and inspiring teacher.

Heather Ann Witt

A lovely man kind and a great teacher.

Nigel Bennett  68-74

He was a lovely Man. Sad.  Remember him reading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

John Miskin  63-69

That was my lasting memory of Keith. The different characters were always played out with great enthusiasm and fantastic mental imagery. He was so good that I just hated the films as they contradicted my own image of the characters and events. RIP Keith Ramsay

Mary Elizabeth Horsley  62-65

Jane Keay and I lodged in his house for a term, maybe post the fire? He and his wife were so tolerant of two teenagers clogging up their bathroom for hours. He was very kindly.

Bronwen Coe  60-65

Quiet unassuming, kind, a great teacher and fondly remembered.

Toni Vert Williams  57-65

Very fondly remembered. Both he and Campbell were excellent English teachers - we were so lucky ! At the 80th anniversary he told me he'd taken a troupe to act a Shakespeare Play in my town in France, Perpignan. I'd seen it advertised but thought it was in FRENCH so hadn't gone to see it ! If only I'd known !!

David Hodgson  64-68

I remember him reading Lord of the Rings to the class on Fridays.

Jeremy Fenton  -67

The Lord of the Rings readings were a memorable event for me too. I think he lived just down the road from me near my favourite climbing tree.

Paul Robertson  67-71

He was one of the best at Frensham.

Lizzie Saunders  62-67

He was a lovely man and theatre director. I played a witch in The Scottish Tragedy with him as Director and he was kindness itself. We exchanged Christmas cards until his eyes failed him. He lived in Lincoln I think and was involved in the production of the mystery plays. My condolences to his family.

Peter Pilley  59-64

Keith took our small group for A-Level English Literature. He was a kind, highly intelligent, sensitive young man, an enthusiastic, committed teacher, and he had a ready charm and good sense of humour. None of these qualities does full justice to the natural warmth and optimism which he brought to his subject. I liked him very much. He helped me understand and appreciate the love poems of John Donne, which left a lasting impression on me. One hot summer's day he took us to continue our studies of the grim read that was The Duchess of Malfi outside the classroom, and onto the lawn not far from the entrance to the Walled Garden (that private domain of Stephen Hogg). This is how I keep the memory of KMMR, in my rather dreamy, permanently sun-filled, Frensham afternoon.

Jane Read. 58-63

Keith had the unenviable job of taking us for Useless English, as we rather rudely and arrogantly called the exam (Use of English) introduced in 1963. Although it was mainly (I think) supposed to be for those studying non-arts subjects, it was decreed that all A level candidates would sit it. Those of us who were on the arts side gave him a dreadful time, paying scant attention in classes and treating prep with disdain. He tolerated us amazingly well …and equally amazingly, most of us passed!

Timothy Blake  54-64                                                                                                                                                                                         I can't remember Keith with the detail that Peter (Pilley) can, but we did drama as our third paper - after Shakespeare and Chaucer - and some of the plays we did remain favourites. It's not easy to make a play live on the page but he must have done a good job because theatre-going has been one of my passions all my life. He was informal, approachable, human and enthusiastic and that's a great basis to make people interested in something.

Robin Lawton  62-64

Sorry to hear of his passing. He was one of the good guys. I remember his green souped up Minivan too!

Shirley Worsfold

Sad to hear.

Sara Bennett  69-74

I remember being in his classroom at the top of Flottage on a very hot sunny day struggling to stay awake and trying to get to grips with, I think, Anthony and Cleopatra which we were doing for O Level and getting stung by a wasp. Cue visit to the nurse! But what I most remember is doing World War 1 poets and Seigfreid Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (also for our O Level). I absolutely loved both and still have the books. Very inspiring teacher.

Julian French

I remember him reading “Wind, sand and stars” in morning talk, it was inspiring.

Laurence Singlehurst  63-69                                                                                                                                                                  Listening to him reading the Lord of the Rings was the best part of my Frensham education every character a different voice. Magic.  I was inspired to read and have never stopped.

Patrick Stewart   70-77                                                                                                                                                                                        I remember Keith reading an excerpt from Titus Groan in morning talk - totally mesmerising.

Natasha Maddison   69-74                                                                                                                                                                          Keith Ramsey was a joy as a teacher, he did wonderful creative stuff including a brilliant piece with the BBC for Music on Two, I will somehow edit it to get the piece up here - he was an actor and director at heart and that he went on to run the Chichester Theatre was perfect for him. But he brought plays and novels and poetry alive - he loved teaching and I am always grateful to have known him and been taught by him.

Mark Charles                                                                                                                                                                                            Lovely man fond memories. Rest in peace

Alison Anholt-White                                                                                                                                                                                         Very fond of Keith. One of the best teachers I ever had. Such a kind and gentle man. He and Hagen were wonderful teachers. 

Robin Lawton                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sorry to hear of his passing. He was one of the good guys. I remember his green souped up Minivan too!

Tim Adams    63-68                                                                                                                                                                                            Very sad to hear of the passing of Keith Ramsay. Like others, it seems, my fondest memory is of Keith - in the classroom adjacent to the library, sitting on his desk with his feet planted firmly on a chair dragged to the front for that purpose - enchanting us all with his readings of Tolkien.

Equally Keith was no soft touch. I can recall him admonishing pupils who were talking during the reading saying 'if you're not interested you can leave' ... silence ensued. A perfect touch!   RIP Keith.

Martin Townshend 61-68

I vividly remember Keith Ramsay’s personality and teaching style at Frensham.

Here are two memories:

Keith introduced us to Middle English through Chaucer and Layamon’s Brut, the latter not on any known syllabus. Laboriously written on the blackboard (pre-IT). The thorns and yoghs fascinated me.

We also did a good deal of choral speaking, of Tennyson’s  The Eagle (‘and like a THUNDERBOLT he falls”). Also James Elroy Flecker’s Golden Road to Samarkand. I remember Lyndall Stein was chosen as the leader because of her “dark brown voice”. Among other things this exercise taught me about the importance of taking a proper breath before speaking.

We weren’t always the most well-behaved students, I have to say!

Howard Smith 61-66                                                                                                                                                                                         My main recollection of KR as a teacher is his constant encouragement for what is now called ‘creative writing’. As a man I remember his appearance, especially the camel-coloured duffle coat and long university scarf, which were the standard items of undergraduate clothing of a slightly earlier period. He was also very approachable, sharing jokes (I recall one about the ‘Semen strike’, a major national crisis taking place at that time), keen to relate to us at a shared level.

Kay Alexander 61-68                                                                                                                                                                                          When I was 13, Keith Ramsay gave me an opportunity which changed my life. He cast me in “The Hole” by N.F. Simpson, an hilariously absurd comedy. He put me on the stage, and I never looked back. While I was never going to be another Dame Judi Dench, I did spend my working life in front of the BBC Television News cameras in Birmingham. A different kind of performance, but I had been shown the way by someone who knew. Thank you, dear Keith.

He was my English teacher from 1962 to 1968, and I loved his classes. When we were young teenagers, he made us learn poems by heart. That goes deep and they remain with you. I still love “Kubla Khan”.

He started the Book Club, or it might even have been the Book Shop. It took the form of a rotating stand that you might usually see selling birthday cards, but this one, open once a week in the Drawing Room, sold paperback books. My parents were kind enough to give me a monthly book allowance, and I spent it. As for so many others, it made us read and read. Everything. It was a brilliant way of encouraging youngsters to love reading and books. Thank you for that too Keith.

The Drama continued. “Thieves Carnival”, “Crown of Fire”, the story of Joan of Arc, The Diary of Anne Frank, and then he created the Farnham Youth Theatre, which became the West Surrey Youth Theatre, taking place in the Summer Holidays. There was “The Crucible”, and in “The Infernal Machine”, Oedipus was played by a young Michael Radford, just down from Oxford, who went on to become one of the most famous film directors in the world.

Another lovely memory is that our A-Level English classes were conducted in the study I shared with the Head Boy. We students draped ourselves around various benches, tables and chairs, while Keith sat in splendour on the seat of an old coat stand, leaning against the back, holding court. They were informal, full of laughter, delightfully eccentric, and guess what?  We passed the exam.

After school, Keith and Tazza remained good friends, and when they moved to Lincolnshire, I stayed with them on occasion, always keeping in touch. Last Christmas was the first we did not receive a Christmas card. Now I know why.

Dear Keith, thank you for blessing my school days with so much kindness, warmth, fun and good fortune. Bless you and Tazza both.

Jenny Swann (1967-72)

Keith Ramsay was a brilliant and extraordinary teacher.  I remember many of his lessons and stories, and some of my poetry-related activities in working life stemmed directly from his inspiration.  Like others, I remember sitting in the room next to the library; his lessons always felt full of concentration, with sunbeams and wooden beams punctuating the room.  I absolutely loved his lessons; he got us all writing poems based on pictures in books and I remember how clever some of the other students' poems were (Guy Lester, inseparable Francesca and Belinda, if you are reading this, I still remember lines from poems you wrote in response to his prompts).   He was truly inspirational.  I remember his description of discovering, at the age of about five, that in fact the world was not blurred at the edges but that he needed to wear glasses - the revelation of seeing the world for the first time through them.  And like others, I remember him reading from Lord of the Rings (and asking us, after one holiday, which of us had finished the book he had started!).  I have always felt it a privilege to have been his student.  I'm so sad to think that he and Tazza have died. 

Mahendra Wardhana (Datta)

Our paths never crossed. My deepest condolences on the passing of Mr. Keith Ramsay. My prayer goes to him an his beloved family.

To everyone at Frensham, I wish you all health, happiness and the strength to overcome the pandemic.

Kindest regards,

Nick van Praag 1963/70

Keith Ramsey had an outsize influence on my life. I thought that would be the case as I sat in his classes - and it’s been confirmed over the past 50 years. 

I loved his classroom next to the library. It did not feel like school. The periodicals about movies and books offered a link to a creative world beyond. I remember, too, Keith’s tweed jacket and all-weather sandals, his readings in Morning Talk and his delight in life’s better things. 

My most enduring debt to Keith is clarity and honesty of expression - about which he cared deeply and was exceptionally good at encouraging in his students. 

One of the great teachers who inspired us with his many passions.  

Simon Chedzey (1968-1973)

A much-loved teacher who inspired a lifelong love of English, poetry and drama in so many of us. Thank you, Keith! And RIP.


Yann Kerbiriou

I am sad to hear that Keith Ramsay has died.  He was one of the small number of teachers at Frensham that I felt a real connection to.   I struggled scholartiscally at Frensham big time and I failed many O-Levels but most notably English Language twice.  So the powers that be decided, as a last ditch attempt, to create a "third stream" for the "somewhat less talented"  There were four of us in this special class and Keith Ramsay was our teacher.  I can remember well the twinkle in his eye and his ability to connect with me as another human being.  And what I am really pleased about is that I met him only a few years ago at an OF reunion and I was able to thank him - some 50 plus years later.  And also to tell him that I passed my O Level English!

There are other occasions such as working in the Theatre which I also recall with fondness.

Throughout the time I knew him I experienced him and his teaching as what I would now call, person/student centred, which I value to this day.  This meant he was an early practitioner of what became known as the Carl Rogers approach to learning and later Counselling (which subsequently became my profession).

Thank you Keith and I wish well on your journey.


Catherine Dawson

I was so sad to hear of the death of Keith Ramsay but am comforted that so many of my contemporaries valued him as much as I did. He was an inspirational English teacher and director, with light-touch authority, and a kind, sensitive and humorous man, so important in a boarding school. 

I was in The Hole with Kay Alexander and others from our class, and he cast me as Rebecca Nurse in the production of The Crucible that (with Vivien Soldan's The Wall) opened the Nevill Hall in 1965. That was my introduction to Arthur Miller who has been a favourite playwright of mine ever since. When we were 13 to 14 I think he said to us he had put on a play at school at our age, and would support us if we wanted to do the same. Anyway, Patrick Allain took up the challenge and I was in Campbell of Kilmuir with others from our class and Patrick directed. We performed it one Sunday evening in Keith Ramsay's first classroom (in the Mummery) which, appropriately, had a stage in it. Keith himself starred in The Servant of Two Masters by Goldoni, a brilliant performance in the 'staff play', which I think he also directed. I could go on. But I am so glad I talked to him at Frensham's 80th birthday Founders' Day in 2005 and said something of how much I had appreciated him. I remember him replying that he felt very lucky that he had always enjoyed his work.


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