Geoff Rowe

5 July 1925 - 17 August 1992



Photos added to this page
1st Nov 2002

Some notes from former pupils.

Not surprisingly, our pages about Geoff have already produced a response from former pupils. If you would like to add a memory of him here, please get in touch with us.


from Tony Collins

Richard Burgess has good reason to remember Mr Rowe, having been saved from drowning by him. Richard was a late learner to swimming and one session at the 'Muni' found him bobbing up and down, gravity taking him ever further towards the deep end, until the upward bobs were no longer enough to keep his head above the water.

There was no hesitation on Geoff's part. As soon as he saw Richard's dilemma he plunged in completely clothed, with white cricket pullover and non-waterproof watch and pulled Richard to safety. All part of a teachers work maybe, but it made a lasting impression on all of us. The watch never worked again but he refused any offer of compensation or thanks.


Geoff Rowe

Pictures of Geoff are from Linda Sharp. Below, Geoff is with David Hill.

David Hill & Geoff Rowe

from Ray Hooper

I remember Mr Rowe well and, like many others, have much to thank him for. It is sad to now realise I will never be able to do so. I was taught maths by Geoff Rowe at Downhills up to GCE O level. I can recall many "incidents" with him but my main memory is of a dedicated maths teacher committed to getting the best out of all his pupils. I continued to study maths formally for many years after leaving Downhills. What I remember most is Geoff's "practical" approach to the subject and the use of innocent subterfuges to get you to learn things - this is what I think Steve is referring to in his account of his father's life.

There are many examples of his "practical" approach, but I would like to mention two that I particularly remember Geoff for. I've never forgotten the mnemonic or memory aid; "To Obtain A Cigarette Altogether Horrible, Smoke Old Holborn!" The capital letters give some basic formulae for trigonometry. (tan=opp/adj; cos=adj/hyp; sin=opp/hyp). You can't progress without knowing these formulae - Geoff was well aware of this. However, I've never come across this memorable mnemonic anywhere else. I wonder if Geoff got it from his RAF training.

The second example is perhaps more profound. Before the advent of pocket calculators, multiplication and division were often performed using logarithms tables. The numbers to be multiplied or divided were converted to logarithms and then added or subtracted. The resulting logarithm then had to be converted back to a "proper" number to get the answer. This could be done using another set of tables - antilogarithms. However, Geoff taught us to use the logarithm tables themselves to do the conversion. The second set were not needed. He applied this principle to the trig. tables as well.

When asked later by tutors why I never used antilogarithms, I would come back with the standard Geoff Rowe response. "If you're in an exam and your book of tables has the antilogarithm tables missing you can still answer all the questions!" It was another clever little subterfuge by Geoff. He had realised that if you only had one set of tables you would never make the mistake of using the wrong set! Thus your chances of passing GCE O level Maths were increased. Again I wonder whether this technique could have come from his RAF training - navigators getting the right answer quickly could be life enhancing in a war - little chance of a re-take here! Perhaps Geoff and even the RAF had discovered the importance of reducing paperwork and trusting the intelligence of the people doing the job! If so he had profound insight.

On paper Geoff was not the best qualified maths teacher I ever had, but he taught things in a way that was useful and practical, which was what I needed at the time. I'm very grateful to him for the start he gave me.


from John Hanline

Many thanks to Steve for invoking so many memories. If it had not been for your Dad's perseverance I believe life would have been a good deal different for me.

Mr. Rowe, I could never imagine referring to him in any other way, was a friend of my Dad, through sport - cricket & soccer, though on opposing teams. Back to the original theme. Mr Rowe helped me through my maths GCE - two attempts and many hours of private tuition, which I now realise Mum & Dad could not afford, to achieve a lowly grade. But never the less a pass which gave me toe-hold on a career in property which has been very kind to me.

Sorry to hear he has passed on, my Dad similarly in 1995. They will be greatly missed.


from Stuart Gilles.

(To be seen in Geoff Rowe's class photo, page 2 of the '48 Intake: fattish boy with glasses sitting on the left hand end of the front row.)

My first memory of Geoff goes back before Downhills. I was an 11-year-old in one of his classes at Earlsmead, where, as Steve's biog mentions, he taught briefly shortly after he left the RAF. Apart from having a memory of his face as he stood in front of the class, I can't recall what he taught us. I was one of three from Earlsmead who 'caught up' with him later at Downhills. The other two were Robert Holl, who at the end of his second year left Downhills to move with his family to Braintree, and Raymond 'Tubby' Wright. Both are also in Geoff's class photo, which, I guess, was class 2C, taken in 1950-51, Geoff's first in Downhills.

Geoff RoweGeoff took over 1C from Mr. Thomas, who taught science. In those early days, Geoff's prime subject was sport and PT for boys - physical torture as far as I was concerned. I was not sporty at all, with the result that for me, his lessons in that subject were more of a grind than a pleasure. Let me emphasise that I was very much the odd man out. Most of the other boys in the class seemed to love his sessions. It was only many years later that an optical surgeon told me that due to an eye defect I had a false perspective, which meant I could not see properly the angle at which a ball was coming towards me. Hence, I would often miss what others would find the easiest of catches, coupled with a throw equally erroneous. But I did not know about my flawed eyesight then, and, obviously, neither did he. My bad vision was also coupled with a type of physique suited more to bike riding (which I still do) than to running, which also didn't help.

Geoff also taught his class English. And that caused further problems. Because, for some stubborn reason, I could not be bothered to do the homework he set. He was not alone. I would not do it for many of the other teachers, either. It wasn't all bad, though. One occasion, when I actually did my homework - I wrote a nine-page essay when only two pages were required - he was so impressed he read it out to the class. Come the English exam at the end of the year, Geoff's frustration over my lack of completing homework was compounded when I came top.

Looking back, the combination of sporting inability and obdurate attitude to homework must have made me something of a thorn in Geoff's side. So imagine my surprise when, at the end of the second year, I was one of I think three who was put up into Mr. Davis's 'B' class - a real promotion in the academic stakes.

Many in the C class reckoned Geoff had engineered my moving up purely because he wanted me out of his sight. I don't think that was truly correct, because Geoff, and many other members of the staff, including Mr. Mercer, the headmaster, consistently told me that I was seriously under-achieving,. Perhaps by putting me up my attitude to studying would improve.

Later, I was one of the pupils who went on the trip to Kandersteg with Geoff. It was there, I think, that things between us started to get better. Away from the formal pressures of school life, I first started to appreciate what a great bloke he was. The way he mucked in with us all, whether on the snow slopes or in the pub boozing and smoking (yes: we 13 and 14-year-olds were allowed to smoke and drink, but only in Kandersteg, never in the playground) came as a revelation.

My connection with Geoff did not finish when I left Downhills in Coronation Year, 1953. A few months later, quite by chance, I went to South Grove Evening Institute - these places were common then. Schools would be taken over in the evening and provide classes in education and leisure facilities for the under-18s, something today sadly lacking, although needed even more now than then. Imagine my surprise - and shock - to discover that Geoff was in charge of the leisure side. Knowing he was there, and very much aware of the recent history between us, I was in trepidation of attending at first, but within a short time Geoff and I became really good friends.

While my sporting ability never improved, Geoff quickly learned that I was someone who could be relied upon, and that I had a commitment to help. Whenever he needed a hand to organise something, he knew I would be there, and was. If a function needed setting up, I was often the first there after him to help get it going, and the last out at night after making sure things were put away. From that, Geoff and I had a close friendship during my late teen years, from about 15 to 19 and we got to know each other and got on very well.

And not only him, but I got to know his brother Norman too, through being with him at Kandersteg and meeting him a few times at South Grove. Whether he will remember me is another story.

By the age of 20, my life was forcing me to move on. I lost contact with him, but never forgot him. He was a major influence in my life during those years, and hardly a season has gone by when he has not appeared in my thoughts. It was only on reading Steve's biography about him a few days ago that I found out how he fared after Downhills and of his untimely death.

As for me, in my early 20s I moved out of London for about 10 years to follow a career in journalism, although you would never believe it reading this! I worked for newspapers in Eastbourne, Yeovil, Blackpool, Birmingham and Manchester before returning to Fleet Street in 1969. There, I was a senior correspondent for the Manchester Evening News, one of the country's biggest regional newspapers, a job I loved, until I was made redundant just before my 60th birthday in 1997. Since then, I have been unwillingly semi-retired.

I finally married in 1973, had two children - my daughter was born in 1980, my son four years later. It seems unusual to many, I suppose, to be 64 and have a daughter in her final year at university and a son just about to take his A-levels. Again, odd man out. I now live at Northwood, Middlesex.