‘The complete Schoolmaster’ – Christopher Hirst


The OS Club is saddened to share the news that Gerry Blackwell passed away on Thursday 31st March.

He will be remembered for his warmth, generosity and professionalism towards everyone he encountered. Since moving to Sedbergh in 1963 he has given his time, energy and great skill to many individuals and groups within school and the wider community.

After joining the English department from Cambridge he fostered a new enthusiasm for the subject and under his guidance the number of successful Oxbridge English candidates rose sharply. He trained with the CCF, played with the Assassins and played against the school on the town cricket team as wicketkeeper batsman. For ten years he edited the Sedberghian magazine with his trademark meticulous English. Throughout his retirement he was quick to offer assistance as a thorough proof reader and editor to any Sedberghian colleague wishing for a second opinion and as such was a silent assistant on many of the 21st century Sedbergh School publications and projects. Since 2008 Gerry has been an invaluable copy editor for the many Old Sedberghian annual newsletters as well as the new e-newsletters.

As his career progressed Gerry took on more senior roles as Deputy Head and later Senior Master. In his Valete article the Sedberghian Magazine records,

‘He has been a sage scribe, and counsellor of state, both characteristically efficient, and discreet. He kept his opinions to himself most of the time, but nevertheless, numbers of colleagues, old and young, have reason to be grateful for his gruff, level-headed, sound advice whenever it was sought. He has with typically unostentatious care run the Chapel seating for both mundane and spectacular occasions, and in the Common Room, organised cover for absent colleagues – a tough job, and about the least popular portfolio anyone can have, yet it was carried out with scrupulous fairness and courtesy.’

As Housemaster of School House from 1972 – 1986 he and Sheila created a warm family environment during a time of great sporting success for the house. Pictured at a picnic for the 1976 house leavers Gerry is in his element, relaxed while offering his usual skilfully understated guidance.

Former Headmaster Christopher Hirst paid homage to Gerry’s career saying that pupils in his care had been in the ‘safest possible hands’.



Gerry was one of several young masters who arrived at Sedbergh in 1963/64. He took me for A level English. Not only did we respect and like him but we could identify with him. He always played in the Masters’ cricket team; he was one of the lads; he was approachable. When I used to come back to Sedbergh soon after I had left, Gerry was always someone I made a point of looking up. I went to the same Cambridge College as Gerry which gave us a common link. I remember watching 1st XV matches with Gerry and enjoying pints with him at “The Railway”. He was great company.

Over the years, he never changed – he had a distinctive voice and a distinctive laugh. He was warm and affable. He recounted incidents and talked of people with wry and gentle humour. Whilst regretting not having seen more of him in recent times I am pleased to have visited him towards the end of January. He was watching the cricket from South Africa and seemed in remarkably good spirits. During the course of our reminiscing, a propos of I can’t remember what, he reminded me of my English A level grade of 50 years ago.

From John Walford OS Club President

Details of the funeral will follow.