Headmaster Dr Barry Trapnell CBE (1924-2012)

4 September 2012

Barry Trapnell, who died in August, aged 88, served as Headmaster at Oundle School from 1968-1984.

Born in Hampstead and educated at University College School and St John’s College, Cambridge, Barry came to Oundle with a distinguished record as an academic and outstanding sportsman.

He played squash for Cambridge and had a first-class season as a cricketer, including a Championship appearance for Middlesex. After university he turned his sporting prowess to Fives, becoming National Singles Champion once and National Doubles Champion twice. Later he was President of Cambridge University Rugby Fives Club from 1989 to 2004. Cambridge Past now play Cambridge Present each year for the Trapnell Tankard in the fixture known as the Past versus Present.

After his undergraduate studies at St John's, Barry held a fellowship at Northwestern University, was a Lecturer in chemistry at Worcester College, Oxford, and a researcher at Liverpool University. When he was appointed as headmaster of Denstone College in 1957, he was the youngest headmaster of a public school in England.

Barry took over as Oundle’s Headmaster in 1968, just as student protests and intellectual ferment were challenging the status quo. The economic instability of the 70s and the traditionalism of the 80s all posed challenges that demanded creative responses. Barry thrived on the range of problems and opportunities posed by a large school in an ever-changing world. His starting point was an insistence on high academic standards backed by a high-calibre staff. He supported his staff in new developments, such as the creation of expanded extra-curricular opportunities, the introduction of a tutorial system to improve pastoral care, and more sophisticated career guidance for school leavers.

A major appeal, launched four years after his appointment, was followed by annual appeals that made possible significant additions to all facilities. Never complacent, Barry was always restless for a new project to be developed every year. Along with his passion for competition on the School playing fields, Barry had wide ranging enthusiasm for art, silver, wine, pottery, glass and poetry.

When Barry left Oundle in 1984, he was recruited as chairman of Cambridge Occupational Analysts, and continued his work in education as President of the Independent Schools Association, Governor at Roedean School and advisor on teacher training and the teaching of Religious Education.

His combination of scientific insight, wide ranging interest in the arts, writing skills and personal contacts were of immense value to all who knew and worked with him over a long and productive career.

Barry’s wife Joan died in 2005; he is survived by their two daughters.
 

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