It is very great sadness that the Society must record the passing of Patrick Ridett. His funeral will be held on 27th April at Noon see details below.
Patrick undoubtedly saved the Society from closure in the mid-nineties.
With great skill, charm, drive and energy he set about reviving the virtually moribund Fareham Society leading to the merger with that of the London Society of Old Priceans. Supported by Michael Croad-Brangwyn, our late Treasurer, he put the finances of the Society back into a healthy position and created the template for the present form of the current Society with regular events in Fareham and London.
Patrick served as Chairman and President and despite the awkward journey from their home in North London, he and Janet, his wife, were stalwart and much valued supporters of our events.
I met Patrick 70 years ago, when we danced the Bunny Hug together. On that occasion he was Kate, and I was his/her brother Dickie, as we acted together in the school production of “The Winslow Boy”. We never danced together again. He was a very good actor, and spoke with a fine accent, with which he was apparently born and which showed no traces of rural Hampshire. He was a successful House Captain and Head of School. He was both the mile and the cross-country champion. “Do your best,” he encouraged his teams by saying. “Remember everyone who completes the course wins a point for the House. “ Like so many people in his later life they responded to his encouragement, and School House carried off a record number of cups. He was keen, too, on cricket, later enjoying membership of the MCC, though not as a player. Right to the end he recalled with pride having taken 5 wickets for 15 runs, and 7 for 13 against two of Hampshire’s strongest grammar schools.
He left school and went to do his National Service, which all had to do in those days. But instead of serving the compulsory two years, he volunteered to serve three, thus earning 8/- a day instead of 4/- . He won a commission, the only young man in that Eaton Hall intake of 100 to have come from a grammar school - the other 99 were from public schools, or had degrees.
His friends at school gathered bit by bit some hints of what lay behind this sparklingly successful first 21 years, and the career that followed. And very surprising that background was. It was only relatively recently that Patrick provided some more of the details.
His father died of TB when Patrick was two; his mother died two years later from the same disease. As a result of these successive tragic deaths, Patrick and his older sister, Angela, found themselves downsizing from a comfortable middle-class home to a life of stringent simplicity. Their dear 66 year-old grandmother, who had buried her husband in 1910, and subsequently three of her four children, undertook their upbringing in very straightened circumstances. At 11, Patrick was the only boy in his junior school to pass the 11+. His grandmother, who never thought it appropriate to visit the school, was so delighted with his achievement that she had a formal photo taken of the little family of three. (The photo appears on the order of service.)
Then his grandmother had a series of small strokes. It was now that Patrick developed his nursing skills, and his lifelong empathy with older people. He was 14 when his grandmother died, and, as he said, he lost the most important influence of his life.
Patrick became a ward of Hampshire County Council. He was sent to live with a disagreeable guardian who insisted on his earning his keep by helping with the small-holding, and in a fish-and-chip shop. (No wonder his A-level results were not quite as good as they might have been! He was offered a place at St John’s College, Oxford, “subject to grades”. He didn’t get the grades, as he said with disarming honesty.) Indeed, if he had taken a turn to delinquency, nobody could have been surprised. But he had already proved himself to be one of life’s survivors, and would go on proving it. Twice he had to move from making a start at one grammar school to move to another, and then to a third. And here he was allowed to settle. At Price’s School, Fareham, he won the sympathy and support of a gruff Headmaster and his staff, and embarked on the fine school career with which this tribute started. He forged life-long friendships, and was later responsible, as chairman and then president, for reviving the Old Priceans Society, some members of which are here today.
Then came the army, which became his home and his family. It was a time he loved. He would regale family and friends with very funny stories about his time in Germany and in Korea. Some pronouncements of his Company Sergeant Major were hilarious, but unfortunately unsuitable for tender ears on this occasion. One tale that the family never tired of recalled his mistake in leading a filed-gun convoy of several vehicles north instead of south on the autobahn. Realising his mistake and aware that he would be late for the regiment’s rendezvous, he gave the order for a u-turn, which his obedient troop obeyed, and they set off hell-for-leather in the right direction, guns bouncing along merrily. And in Korea there were very cold times, and times of great jollification in his number-ones laid out by his trusty batman. In Hong Kong he improved his golf, a game to which he had become increasingly attached, and reduced his handicap to ten. Later he became a devoted member of Highgate Golf Club. Asked when he had joined the Club, Patrick would reply “When I could afford it!” His good friend, Roger Lane, the current President of the Club, will speak about this aspect of Patrick’s life.
Patrick’s time in the army reinforced his already strong sense of honesty, duty, and morality, and also allowed him to have the most outrageous fun!
After the Army, cast forth upon a world with no family safety net, and the need to eat, he became an excellent purveyor of luggage at Selfridges. However, the sale of luggage swiftly gave way to the world of advertising, on the lowest rung of the ladder in the accounts department. Following this period when Patrick felt his abilities were not being properly recognised, he joined Independent Television News. This dream job took Patrick in his mid-twenties twice round the world, annually, visiting ninety-three countries; or, as he used to say, everywhere there was television! His traveller’s tales deserve more time than we have now.
Back into advertising, and Patrick began to work his way up through the ranks. Now he invited to lunch with him the loveliest of the Agency Art Buyers, a mere youngster, called Janet. This was the beginning of a fifty-year friendship, love and marriage, and the appearance of two daughters and four grand-children. HIS family, which meant so much to him.
A significant part of this period of his life showed Patrick’s love of the older generation. For twenty-one years three generations of the family lived in one house in Highgate, albeit the grandparent in-laws in the garden flat, supposedly to the mutual advantage of all. Well, it certainly WAS to the Ridett part of the experiment, and the in-laws kept a brave face throughout!
Patrick ended his career in advertising as Deputy Chairman of Ted Bates, then a leading International company. Not bad at all for a man who had been orphaned twice by the time he was four!
The number of tributes paid to him mentioning his sterling qualities have been numerous, and very affecting for his family. They are certain that Patrick would have been staggered to know how much he has been valued. They have asked me to end with a quotation from one of the letters that sums up much that was said in the others: “He was one of the most urbane and comfortable men that it has been my pleasure to know, and I will remember him with great fondness. His stoicism in the face of his long illness, and his seeming inability to find any words of complaint were remarkable. I know that you and the girls will miss him terribly , but I hope you will take comfort from the knowledge that so many people held him in such affection.”
I am one such person. I am glad and honoured to have been asked to take part in paying him this tribute. Goodbye, our dear and generous friend with whom I shared many a laugh. And I WILL laugh with you again, at least in memory, when the present sadness lifts.
An Appendix for The Society of Old Priceans follows:
PBAR School CV