Kenneth Mason MBE (1907-2010)
When Ken Mason retired from Hurst in 1973 at the age of 66, few would have thought that that retirement would last for 37 years. One’s first thought is “What a waste!” however well deserved after forty years devoted service at the college, for here was a man of intellect, energy, great ability and with a wicked sense of humor. He was born in Leicester, and supported the “Tigers” for ever. The family moved to Bedford and Ken went to Bedford Modern School where he excelled not only in the classroom but also at sports. He represented the school at rugby, athletics, water polo and hockey, as well as taking part in musical comedies. He won a Kitchener Scholarship to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where again he excelled at sports, hockey being his first love. He was playing for Bedford and Bedfordshire while still a student. He taught for a short time at a prep school, but in 1933 he arrived at Hurst to teach history and to be housemaster of Junior House. Here he flourished. In 1939 his orders from the War Office were to remain at the school to keep the place running and as commanding officer of the OTC to “produce officer material for the armed services”. So well did he succeed that, on the recommendation of George Lambert, after the war he was awarded a military MBE.
In the immediate post-war years, Ken was housemaster of Fleur de Lys, and with Robin Gregory, Robert Bury, George Lambert and Frank Florey formed a legendary quintet of housemasters. He taught history at the top level; he did not suffer fools gladly and many was the essay adorned in spidery red ink with the final comment of “verbal diarrhoea”! His humor did at times spill over into sarcasm, but many pupils owed him a great deal. He was in charge of hockey for many years and produced at least three internationals as well as a legion of first class players. Can any other coach claim to have nurtured both goalkeepers in an England trial?
When Martlet house was built, he and his wife Peggy, whom he had married in 1943 and who was always of immense support, moved “over the road”, and there they remained working wonders in the solid clay garden until retirement. Their son James (Red Cross 64) and his wife produced three granddaughters for Ken and Peggy. In his quiet way, Ken doted on them and was very proud of his family. Yes, Ken was a quiet and slightly reserved man, and yet his amazing personality touched so very many others’ lives. May he rest in peace.