Peter Barrett, Headmaster of King's Mead School, 1951-1968

An account of the day of his Thanksgiving Service from Peter Bowles

Perhaps I should set the scene for you, or at least for those of you who do not know Criccieth and the Lleyn Peninsula. In technical geographers' language the Lleyn Peninsula is the long thin bit that sticks out from the north Welsh coast just below Anglesey. At its landward end is the Snowdonia National Park, and though the mountains of Snowdonia are always in the background, the peninsula itself is mostly rolling, rather than hilly. Almost all the way round, the coastline is dramatic, with rocky cliffs giving onto beautiful sandy beaches. I'm beginning to sound like a tourist brochure, but it really is a lovely part of Wales. Nearer the tip, the peninsula reminds me of the West of Ireland, with small, wonderfully green fields, lots of cattle and sheep and stone walls with small trees bent by the sea winds. It is a stronghold of the Welsh language, and it is predominantly that that one hears in shops, bars etc.

Criccieth itself is a seaside resort whose hey-day in the Edwardian era is betrayed by the architecture of its sea-front houses, though its origins go back a lot further. It looks South along the great sweep of Tremadog Bay, and down to Harlech Castle. Or at least it would do on days when the cloud base isn't about 50 feet, with rain being driven in from the sea by a strong southwesterly gale, as it was on the day of Peter's Service!

St Catherine's church is a low stone building cut into the hillside above the town and stands at the end of the road where Peter and Jane lived all their time in Criccieth. Names were not being noted on the way in - I think people where in too much of a hurry to get out of the rain! - but Polly and I had sought Jane and Robin out the day before, and given her a letter containing the names and messages of those of you who had contacted me. I can tell you that Jane was deeply touched that so many Old Boys had been in contact, both by letter and through us. She said to me at the end of the day that she had often wondered, but that all the messages and kind thoughts had made her realise finally that they must have run a good school!

The church was full, say 150 people at least. Peter had chosen the hymns, and the singing would have delighted him! The Vicar, Rev. Sue Williams, gave a very moving and personal account of Peter as she had known him over the years and particularly in his last months. She referred to many theological and spiritual debates with him, which she described, with a twinkle in her eye, as "interesting"! I think we can all imagine them. An address was given by an old army friend of Peter's who had known him since the Second World War. Robin, who had beside him his two sons and their mother, got up to read two passages from the Bible. He read very quietly, but so compellingly that you could have heard a pin drop.

Another short tribute was given by one of the members of the Criccieth Garden Club. Peter and Jane have a lovely garden, and were keen contributors to the Club. Peter held various offices and apparently judged and won (though not at the same time, I imagine!) several of the annual flower and vegetable competitions. I was, with Robin, the only Old Boy there, but it was nice for Jane for there to be at the church someone from all the major stages in his life and their life together.

After the Service, we were all invited to tea in a little restaurant in town which Peter and Jane had run for some years when they first came to Criccieth. There I was able to talk to Denise Rawlins and her son James. Jane Barrett was on very good form and looked as fresh at the end of the day as she had at the start. Polly and I were both tired out!

All in all it was a fitting farewell to Peter. Jane, I know, appreciated it greatly, and, as I said, valued your kind thoughts and good wishes deeply. I am instructed to tell you all, that none of you better go anywhere near Criccieth without seeking her out. This was still, quite clearly, our Headmaster's wife speaking, too!

Jane Barrett

Peter Bowles, James Rawlins, Denise Rawlins

Order of Service

Photos also courtesy of Peter Bowles

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