Memories of Ian Martin (1947-2017)

By Dave Bannister

I first met Ian in 1975 as the new master in charge of my Under 16 rugby team at Caterham School. Who was this slightly built bookish-looking economics teacher with glasses and curious Scouse accent? What does he know about rugby? How dare he move me, this athletic Number 8, into the second row where all they do is push in the scrum? However we were soon to find out how good Ian was, as in those days pupils versus staff matches were allowed - ideal opportunities for pupils and staff to exact revenge on each other. We watched many so-called “hard” sixth formers getting absolutely mullahed every time they tried to run past or through the diminutive Ian.

Ian at Sandilands in 2015

Ian was born in Birkenhead on 15 September 1947.  His father Alec had been a teacher but this never seemed likely to be Ian’s long term career. Although super-organised, a great communicator and dedicated to his charges, patience wasn’t his strong suit.  It was no surprise that shortly after I left school, Ian changed career to work for Christie and Co as a commercial property valuer. Over the years we used to enjoy his stories about his hard life visiting and trying out luxury hotels in exotic locations. Once in North Africa, Masterchef was being filmed at the hotel he was valuing and he was one of the diners required to sample the contestants’ offerings. The clip of Ian uttering “The lamb was delicious” on prime time TV was soon circulating round his many friends.

Rugby was Ian’s real passion and he played it to an exceptional standard. He went up to Christ’s College Cambridge in 1967 and played many times for the university against first class opposition. He would surely have got a blue but for two problems. One was the fact that there were only fifteen in the squad in those days as no subs were allowed. The other problem was that a certain Gerald Davies was occupying Ian’s position at centre.

Having failed to get a Cambridge blue, Ian was creative: he moved to Oxford to do his teaching qualification. Unfortunately, although again playing for the university, he didn’t get a blue there either!

Ian’s first teaching post was in 1971 at Bedford School where he joined Bedford Rugby Club, which at that time played at the top level. In 1975, he moved to set up a new economics department at Caterham School. He joined Purley, the local rugby club, thereby meeting his future fellow choristers Ralph Osborne, Martin Perkins and the late Mansel Barnes.

Ian’s quality and leadership were soon recognised and he was elected captain for the 1977 season. The club benefited enormously from the pupils and staff from Caterham School who followed him and joined Purley. Although he stood down after one season as captain he was soon elected club secretary. During this time he organised a number of tours including to his brother’s club in Garches, near Paris.

The tour to Valencia in Spain allowed him to demonstrate his lifelong penchant for nicknames as Ian (aka Senor Citizen) produced a tour programme with every player allocated an appropriate alias. El Bo, El Onnerth, El Owello, Juan Tumenni, Don Payin and Muchos Pesetas are just a few examples.

Ian’s last game of rugby was on the Lions tour to Australia in 2001 where he got up early after the Melbourne test and turned out for a former Purley member’s local club. Martin Perkins and I were on that tour but were nursing hangovers in bed, missing the game but arriving for the beer afterwards. Ian was proud to say he had then played rugby in six decades since his debut at Birkenhead School in 1959.

Ian took up skiing in his early 40s, which is relatively late in life. This accounted for his unique style, so different from the classical elegance of his offspring Emma, Andrew and Jeremy. In his funeral eulogy Ian’s brother Chris likened the style to that of a defecating dog.  Ian came to love skiing and organised expeditions all over Europe and further afield to Chile, Argentina and Canada. I and many others benefited so much from his organisation and leadership on these tours and all the fun that we had.

Ian was a choir supporter and came to our concerts for many years. Having heard him sing (tunefully!) at rugby and skiing for nearly 40 years, I finally persuaded him to join as a singing member in 2013. He loved the camaraderie of the choir: its rehearsals mirrored rugby training, concerts mirrored matches and of course the celebrations in the pub afterwards were even better than rugby as the singing was more accomplished. There were even tours with all the fun and games he enjoyed so much.

From his youth Ian had been a great fan of the Irish tenor Josef Locke.  Following his death on 22 September, it was poignant and appropriate that the huge crowd streamed out of Mortlake crematorium to the strains of Joe Locke’s “I wish you all a last Goodbye...”

By Dave Bannister