More than 200 attend funeral of former Midhurst Intermediate School head Pat Neil

Pat Neil speaking at a reunion of staff in 2011
Pat Neil speaking at a reunion of staff in 2011

More than 200 people attended the funeral, last Tuesday (June 20) of former head of the Midhurst Intermediate School (MIS) Pat Neil who died on May 30, aged 79 after a courageous battle against leukaemia.

The school became part of the Midhurst Rother College when the former grammar school turned into an academy in 2009. The buildings were refurbished and are now home to Easebourne Primary School.

Mr Neil joined in 1974 and took over as head in 1981, He was a popular and charismatic leader for a decade before he retired in 1991.

He had been an England schoolboy international, making national news when he made his debut first team appearance at Portsmouth Football in 1955. Inspiring He could have been a first-class footballer - but decided, after the 1962-3 professional season to pursue a different career.

With a degree in modern foreign languages at Cambridge University, he first taught French at Horndean School and then joined the Midhurst Intermediate School.

“It was clear from the outset Pat was unlikely to be a conventional deputy head. School assemblies took on a life of their own with his quick wit, wry asides and carefully chosen choice of subject matter. Best of all, from the pupils’ point of view, was when he would demonstrate his skill with a football by nonchalantly performing ‘keepie-uppies’ on various parts of his anatomy as he spoke - not to show off in any way, but simply for the joy of sharing a skill that could be emulated by anyone willing enough to put in the amount of practice necessary to master it. He also, on one occasion, amazed pupils and staff by using ‘sky hooks’, made famous by author Roald Dahl, on the wall of the gymnasium to hang pieces of card to illustrate the point he was making: few people had noticed that the gym wall sported three wall-coloured hooks, above child height, and the effect was electrifying,” said Sue Edwards, former colleague.

She said he was seen as a natural successor to the headship.

“Pat’s passion for education shone through in all that he did. He possessed so many talents - aside from his fine intellect - and staff and pupils enjoyed especially his beautiful hand-made artefacts such as a lectern, and large cabinet in which to house all his lovingly created wooden trophies which were an integral part of the school’s annual prize-giving (to name but a few examples). He loved teaching and was happiest when in the classroom rather than in his office and could often be seen around the school, dropping into lessons informally. Even when

in his own room, his door was usually open for staff - and pupils - to approach him; he always had time for people and valued their contributions.”

Sue added: “He had boundless energy and was always willing to share it. Who could forget the staff Christmas pantomimes: firstly with Pat and Mark Caton cast as Hinge and Bracket; and subsequently with Pat and his deputy, Mark King, cast as Muppets - all whilst benignly keeping as many as 700 pupils under sufficient control in order to allow the cast to get through their performances!”

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