9th June, 1932 – 14th April, 2020 Pupil at Frensham Heights, 1945-47
By his friend, Lillian Dewar
If anyone asked Roderick where he was born he would normally reply truthfully “Salisbury”, only revealing some time later that is was probably not the place they were thinking of. He was actually born in Salisbury, the capital of Southern Rhodesia, now Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. His parents were both Oxford graduates and, on his mother’s side, he had some illustrious ancestors, including Thomas Fremantle, one of Nelson’s Trafalgar captains and Sir Charles Barry, the architect who redesigned the Houses of Parliament in the 19th Century. So his prospects seemed to be very favourable.
However, at a young age, Roderick had to cope with a lot of unhappiness. When he was ten years old, the father, whom he loved very much, died on war service in Madagascar. His mother was anxious to get him and his two younger brothers back to England, so, in June, 1944, the family embarked on a risky voyage from Capetown to Liverpool on board R.M.S. Andes. 65 years later we celebrated Roddy’s birthday with a day out at Southampton Maritime Museum, where he was surprised to discover a big model of that very ship. (He studied it for some time, identifying all the public areas including the precise location of his dormitory!)
In 1945 Roddy started at Frensham Heights as a boarder. He did not shine academically, but enjoyed the Woodwork lessons, thankfully doing extra Woodwork instead of Maths. The Headmaster, Paul Roberts, had enlightened ideas on education, stressing fairness, encouragement and high moral standards – values which remained with Roddy throughout his life.
While at Frensham Heights Roddy developed a love of the countryside, exploring hills and heathland on long walks and cycle rides. Over the years a day-trip to that area from his home in Reading was a favourite outing.
At 15 Roddy left school to serve a printing apprenticeship with the Oxford University Press and the last 15 years of his career were spent as a proof-reader with the Newbury Weekly News, an independent, respected newspaper.
My own friendship with Roddy began in 1981 when we were both members of the same social club. We’ve had a lot of happy times together, but he’s also been close to his relatives and other friends, who have valued his kindness and interesting personality.
One quality which particularly impressed me was his idealism. As a young man he joined the International Friendship League, doing practical work to relieve poverty and promoting friendship between all countries. He maintained a life-long link with his German pen-friend, meeting with him and his family on several holidays. Roddy was also keen to have his say on local and national issues, writing detailed letters to important people, often as a protest against injustice. If need be, he was even ready to challenge wrong-doers. Once, when driving through Cowley at night, he saw a teenager being beaten up. Without thought for himself, he stopped, scared off the attacker and drove the victim home to his grateful parents. Another of his concerns was the welfare of children. He enjoyed the role of benevolent “uncle” and every year he would buy gifts for older children, donating them to the Reading Christmas Toy Appeal.
Whenever possible, Roddy wanted to help others, becoming a regular blood donor. During his life-time a number of charities benefited from his support, the ones meaning most to him being the Reading Samaritans and ZANE, which helps vulnerable Zimbabwean people of all races.
After school-days Roddy was determined to broaden his education, gaining GCE ‘O’ levels in French, German and Spanish and dipping into Esperanto (a universal language intended to bring about world peace.) His wide range of interests, which he could discuss in depth, included steam trains, railways, bears (both real and fictional), ancient ruins, traditional folk music and European travel.
It was on holiday in Greece in the 1960’s that he met Edith Brill, a London University graduate and notable author, who had just lost her husband (H.W. Timperley, an academic writing on historical subjects). She and Roddy had many things in common and soon became firm friends. They would walk the byways of Southern England together, gathering historic material for her books. His photos appear in “Ancient Trackways of Wessex” and “Old Cotswold”, the latter containing a generous credit in the acknowledgements, i.e. “My thanks are due to Mr. Roderick Standing, not only for his photos, but for his help and encouragement when exploring ruined mills.”
Of all his hobbies the one that gave Roddy the most enjoyment was undoubtedly his complex play entitled “The Supermarket Saga,” a project which he pursued with great enthusiasm for many years. The inspiration came loosely from Anthony Hope’s novel, “The Prisoner of Zenda” and the plot, with its cast of 17 colourful characters, is highly imaginative. It centres around Egbert Gamaliel Green, a humble proof-reader whose father, Marshal Verda, is the Minister of State Security in Ruritania. Ideally, Roddy saw the Saga as a T.V play or film, but realised this outcome was unlikely. Yet his writing was very important to him and he would readily provide much amusing entertainment by recounting excerpts from the story. The Supermarket Saga was finally completed (with a happy ending!) in the last weeks of his life and his manuscript, accompanied by thick files of background music selections and pictures, is treasured by his closest friends.
It hadn’t occurred to Roddy to make contact with his old school until 2015 when we attended Frensham Heights’ 90th birthday celebrations, a most enjoyable occasion. Every year after that we came to Founder’s Day and in September, 2019 to a summer picnic in the grounds when we were pleased to meet Rick Clarke, the new Headmaster who was walking with his dog – recognised by Roddy as a Rhodesian ridgeback cross, similar to the pet his family had once owned. Then, unexpectedly, a youthful “Old Girl” came along to say hello. We soon learnt that her name was Pasha, a portrait artist by profession, and she introduced us to her convivial group of friends. This led to some lively conversation and Roddy was delighted that they were genuinely interested in his reminiscences. It proved to be the last time he would visit Frensham Heights and, thanks to Pasha, we had a specially happy day to look back on.
Many people had a high regard for Roddy and, after his passing, I received a number of letters and phone calls mentioning his kind-heartedness and courtesy. When he’d had a really good day out, his parting words would often be: “Thank you for the pleasure of your company.” – but his company gave pleasure to others in equal measure.
His strong principles, too, were commendable and, by his actions, he tried his best to do good in every way he could.
On 7th August, 2022 we are holding a celebration of Roddy’s life and, if anyone would like to share their memories, please get in touch with me via Lexi Pepperday at the school.