School photo

Malcolm Iliff
Courtenay 1963

“I have come to realise later in life that the qualities shown by staff such as my Housemaster, a man of huge care, integrity and love for his charges, is far more important than anything else”

I arrived as a new pupil at St Lawrence just 12 years old.  The family home was Coventry so I was possibly one of the more distant, UK based boarders at school.  My uncle, Reg Iliff, was a Governor here.   I recall only seeing my parents during holidays. It was a different environment to the one children have today.  The phone was never used: letters to and from home sufficed.  Life was focussed entirely around School activities.  We, in Courtenay House, benefitted from a very talented, paternal Housemaster – “SOS” as he was known - Samuel Speakman.

My time at SLC very much focussed my development of a love of music and particularly the flute thanks to our Director of Music, Dennis Cox. My other free-time passion was the School printing press with its advanced(!) Heidelberg machine that generated extra pocket money to support my meagre 40/- (£2) per term spending money. Swimming for the School allowed me briefly to hold a few records in Breast Stroke. Academic study was not my forte and 1% in my mock Spanish ‘O’ level was the nadir. The marker awarded me that, he said, for putting my name at the top of the paper.  There was no entry to the real exam; it saved the examination entry fee!

I managed 6 ‘O’ levels and 3 A’s, the latter in Physics, Chemistry and Maths.  To the puzzlement of SOS, I aspired to be a chicken farmer – my uncle ran a chicken farm in Devon - which sounded much more fun than training for the law, as the careers advisor suggested. My brief aspirations towards Oxbridge quickly reduced to the reality of Battersea College of Advanced Technology.  The course there in Humanities and Physical Sciences fortuitously transformed into a degree course as the College was elevated to the University of Surrey before I left, and I was awarded a BSc degree in Surrey’s first year. Later on I completed an MSc at Warwick.

I had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished my first degree so escaped to Uganda with VSO for 12 months.  In retrospect, it was a foundational experience – genuinely transformational.  We volunteers were on our own, no parental oversight, learning to stand on our own two feet.  I remain convinced that most children (both my girls have done so), should take a gap year, preferably abroad and before going to University. 

My career has been varied.  I started in banking and IT, trained as a Chartered Accountant, and subsequently ran my own Management, IT and Web Development consultancies.  I was founder Trustee of Northwood Missionary Auctions, a charity that since 1969, has supported Christian Missions (over £1m so far) at home and abroad.  I am happily married to Käthi, a Swiss lady whom I first appreciated from a distance across the floor of a crowded social function and surmised that she would be the woman with whom I might spend my life.

St Lawrence has been a consistent thread in all my years as a pupil, Membership Secretary of the OLs, as a Governor and, for a while, Vice Chair of Council.  It means a lot to me that the School maintains its solid Christian foundation and ethos and continues to wear these characteristics on its sleeve today and in the future.   St Lawrence has a vital role in developing children’s characters and establishing high standards of personal care, responsibility and behaviour. Everyone, staff and pupils, learn that they are part of a family.  As critical as academic achievement is now and in the future, it is vital that the School retains its focus on non-academic aspects too.  I have come to realise later in life that the qualities shown by staff such as my Housemaster, a man of huge care, integrity and love for his charges, is far more important than anything else.  Lawrentians, past and present, must work to preserve these values for generations to come.

Copyright St Lawrence College 2018