Brian Kennett's OM Tribute
Brian Kennett was a master at Manwoods for thirty-seven years from 1945 to 1982. On 24th February 2003 he reached his eightieth birthday, and a few Old Manwoodians from his early teaching years decided to commemorate his achievement with a celebration lunch. So a couple of weeks later twenty-four of us who had attended Manwoods between 1945 and 1959 entertained Brian at the King's Arms Hotel in Sandwich.
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Brian packed a great deal into his school career: history teacher, musician, choirmaster, play producer, house tutor and above all pupils' friend. He was as successful in kindling a lifelong interest in history among junior boys with his 'beam of progress' as he was helping the aspiring historian win a prestigious university scholarship. He encouraged me to listen to classical music rather than just to hear it, and eventually to enjoy, appreciate and sometimes even understand its subtleties. He used his considerable musical talents to nurture both the chapel and the school choirs, and his occasional operetta productions were a pleasure to both cast and audience.
Despite his many other responsibilities he found the time and energy to produce the annual school play. Imagine the challenge of explaining the significance of the text, teaching us to interpret this as actors and to communicate it to an audience - without any girls for the female roles! At the time I never appreciated the magnitude of the management task to transform the hall into a stage with all its attendant technical and organisational challenges. His productions were always a success and helped all who took part to grow a little in the process.
But mostly I remember his kindness and compassion as my tutor and friend. I vividly recall asking him to write me a reference in support of my university applications, but foolishly sent his handwritten draft with my first submission. He wrote me another without fuss, this time suggesting that I might like to keep a copy. Colleagues at the lunch related a string of similar stories about his genuine concern for his young charges. I wondered how many of the hundreds of boys he tutored in his long teaching career had similar tales to tell.
Despite his longevity Brian was as sprightly as ever, with the same powerful delivery so reminiscent of his classroom performance. He was clearly delighted and touched that so many OMs had come to his celebration lunch from as far afield as Scotland, Cheshire and Devon. It must be one of the profound satisfactions of teaching to be able to see the fruits of your labours live on amongst your pupils.
I enjoyed the lunch enormously and so, it seemed, did all those present. I'm sure I speak for everyone by offering a big thank you to Dai Rickard and Tony Rumm for their faultless organisation. We swapped memories of school, exploits and achievements of others not able to attend, and renewed long forgotten friendships. We were reminded of the many facets of our old teacher and mentor, Brian Kennett, and how they had contributed to our early development. How nice it would be if we could all do it again to celebrate another milestone in Brian's long life.