WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-11 > 1194116908
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [WORLD-OBITS] KNIGHT: Richard James Knight
Date: Sat, 3 Nov 2007 19:08:28 -0000
Last Updated: 10:28pm BST 23/08/2001
Classicist who as headmaster of Oundle and Monkton Combe strengthened the
schools' Christian traditions
RICHARD KNIGHT, who has died aged 85, was Headmaster of Oundle from 1956 to
1968, and Headmaster of Monkton Combe from 1968 until 1978.
An outstanding classical scholar, a talented sportsman and a man of deep
religious convictions, Dick Knight had spent 11 years as a housemaster at
Marlborough when in 1956 the Oundle governors invited him to succeed Graham
Stainforth as head.
Knight's time at Oundle was notably marked by the changes he effected to the
school fabric - changes that were seen as essential to meeting the
educational challenges of the 1960s. To finance this undertaking, Knight set
in motion an appeal to the school's old boys and carried it through to a
highly successful conclusion.
Although a classicist, Knight never attempted to influence the pronounced
scientific bias of Oundle. Indeed, he soon took on teaching elementary
physics to the Fourth form. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the
background and achievement of individual boys, and he insisted on breadth in
He encouraged boys to pursue a wider range of games and also to explore the
surrounding countryside by bicycle. He arrived at Monkton Combe in 1968,
convinced that this small Christian independent country boarding school had
a special and important job to do.
It was not an easy time for independent schools; a Labour government was in
office, drugs were becoming a problem for all schools and costs were rising
fast. Knight found that his own attitudes and convictions were in tune with
those that the school had fostered for many years, and he encouraged the
school to remain strong in its purpose.
He always enjoyed working with boys and knew his charges far better than
many of them realised. Housemasters and tutors often found themselves caught
out when the headmaster seemed to know more about their pupils than they
Knight worked to strengthen what he called Monkton Combe's "shameless"
Christian traditions; his sermons in chapel earned the attention of even the
most apathetic and his visits to house prayers were seen as special
At the same time, though, he swept away some of the school's stuffier
traditions. Many rules, such as that which forbade boys from playing tennis
on Sundays, were abolished; uniform regulations were updated with the help
of a committee of parents and staff, and a "School Council" was established
as a safety valve for rebellious youth.
Knight had the imagination and foresight to make changes which were vital
for the continued success and development of the school. Among these were
the introduction of "At Home" evenings, end of term letters and Open Days
for parents. As a result of two appeals, in 1968 and in 1974, new buildings
and sports facilities were provided and improvements made to existing
Knight was never happier than when watching the cricket XI or the XV, or
when chatting to prefects in the weekly gatherings for which he always
reserved time. He had a knack of knowing when a boy was in need of a few
words of encouragement and he would go out of his way to bump into him and
enter into conversation.
Richard James Knight was born on July 19 1915. He won scholarships to
Dulwich College and to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he captained the
university Rugby Fives team (in due course becoming all-England champion),
became president of the Christian Union and eventually graduated with a
starred double First in Classics.
He seemed destined for a glittering academic career and eyebrows were raised
when he announced his ambition to become a school master. He began his
teaching career at Fettes, Edinburgh, in 1938. During the War he served as
an officer in the Gordon Highlanders.
>From 1945 until he took up his post at Oundle, he was an assistant master
and housemaster at Marlborough, and while there played cricket for
Wiltshire. Knight was a lay reader in the diocese of Bath and Wells and
served several terms as a magistrate, in Bath, Avon and Northamptonshire.
Following his retirement, he completed an Open University degree in
Mathematics and sat on the governing bodies of several schools, including
Canford and King Edward's, Bath. He was a life member of Aberdovey Golf Club
and a member of MCC. He was an honorary Liveryman of the Grocers' Company.
He married in 1953, Hilary Argyle; they had two sons and a daughter.
|[WORLD-OBITS] KNIGHT: Richard James Knight by "Peter McCrae" <>|