Clive Okill, a teacher at Edgehill College and Kingsley and one of our school Governors, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family at the very start of half-term. Many of us were privileged to be able to attend his funeral at Westward Ho! Baptist Church on Thursday 21st February. Every aspect of the funeral bore Clive’s stamp, from the “flash-mob” style introduction which saw a dozen musicians from local churches standing up and playing along with some of Clive’s favourite worship songs to the fact that Clive himself preached the sermon, as we listened to a sermon he had delivered in a local church not long before Christmas.
The funeral truly was a wonderful celebration of Clive’s life and we heard two incredibly moving tributes to Clive from his daughters, Amanda and Catherine.
Clive was born in Cape Town and grew up in South Africa. He was a good sportsman, particularly enjoying Rugby and a keen surfer. He worked for a pharmaceutical company and met Alexis on a blind date in 1968.
Clive and Alexis married in 1970 and had three children: Richard, Amanda and Catherine. Alexis and Clive became Christians and Clive trained as a minister at theological college. He ministered in several churches around South Africa until 1993. They returned to England that year, Amanda had a job in France, Catherine went to Edgehill College and Richard remained in South Africa with friends for a few months to complete his matriculation from school. Just weeks after arriving in England they received a phone call telling them that Richard had been murdered. In 1998 Clive wrote a book called “Lightning Strikes Twice” which recounts the story of Richard’s murder and the long and difficult road to recovery that followed. As Clive stated at his funeral in an address read by Rev. Tim Sutton of Westward Ho! Baptist Church, the community that he, Alexis and the girls found in north Devon was the silver lining on the cloud that was Richard’s murder.
Clive had a long involvement with both Edgehill College and Kingsley. He was originally employed as a History teacher but also taught some RE. He was Head of a competitive house, Head of sixth form, led the school orchestra and loved to contribute to school productions. His rendition of ‘Beauty School Dropout’ in the school production of Grease, whilst wearing an extremely tight white suit was particularly memorable! He also taught briefly at Grenville College. Later he became a Governor of Kingsley School and was always a fervent champion of staff and pupil well-being as well as being passionate about the spiritual life of the school. As Headmaster, I used to love the fact that Clive would sometimes simply pop in to have a coffee, a quick chat and offer to pray for me in my role as Head, which I always found so helpful. The huge number of people at his funeral told its own story; everyone there had different memories of Clive and some of the memories of my colleagues are recorded below:
‘I was so fond of Clive. He always had a hug ready and never failed to offer stimulating conversation and a terrific sense of humour. A man of special empathy, intelligence and love.’ Diana Percy
‘I knew Clive when I first started at Edgehill many years ago and he was teaching History (among other things) in the Senior School. I have 2 stories to relay.
The first was one Clive told me. He had been doing a History lesson about barricades, so he decided to build a barricade with his class in the classroom. They did so successfully, moving desks and furniture to block off the door, however, it happened to be a day that the then Head, Mrs Burton, was touring the school with a visitor and when they came to Clive’s classroom, his class manned the barricades and the Head couldn’t enter! She hauled him over the coals afterwards, and being Clive, he was not at all repentant!
The second was something that happened to me. Clive came to cover my Year 5 or 6 History class (I can’t remember which year group it was and it was some 15/ 16 years ago). I had set up some work for them, all about the Aztecs, but Clive didn’t think the work was exciting enough, so he chucked my lesson out and did his own; he explained the ins and outs of Aztec sacrifice (ripping hearts from the still breathing victim’s chest and then ceremoniously burning it to their Gods). He laid a child over a table and had other children hold his legs down and he pretended to carve open his chest with a ruler and pretended to sacrifice the ‘heart’ to the gods, complete with chanting and imaginary rivers of blood. They all then drew pictures of the whole thing, complete with rivers of blood. When I got back to my class, I remember it took me the whole afternoon to calm them down. It was the best lesson they had ever had and I was furious with Clive – for a short while.
‘He was a wonderfully irrepressible man, full of joy and thirst for life. He always made me smile when I saw him. He will be sorely missed.’ Rae Wilson
‘A fond memory I have is Clive bringing in his Bulldog called Nelly, on a few occasions… she would wander around the staffroom snuffling things!’ Jon Dickinson
‘Clive taught History at Edgehill College for many years. He ran a trip to London each year for the whole of the new Lower Sixth. We left at about 5am with the bus laden with food and drinks. Taunton signalled breakfast and Clive and I would wend our way down the bus serving orange juice, yogurt, croissants and hot drinks to the sleepy travellers. Danish pastries and biscuits for ‘elevenses’, usually around 9am! Once in London we would go to the Houses of Parliament where we were given a tour by an MP, sometimes a local one, sometimes a representative from the Department for Education. In those days the building wasn’t open to the public and, whilst we weren’t allowed to sit down in the Lords, we did conduct debates from the floor of the House of Commons and thump the dispatch box – none of which is allowed now! Following a lunch stop we’d separate and take groups with us, usually Clive to Oxford Street (Foyles bookshop mainly!) and me to Harrods. After a meal we’d travel back, arriving, exhausted, around 11pm. The trip was a great way for the new mix of students in L6 to get to know one another, fuelled by Clive’s indefatigable enthusiasm and sense of fun.’ Sue Ley
I was privileged to meet with Clive twice in the weeks before he died and the abiding memory I have of these meetings was someone who was finishing his life well. Acts 20:24 says: “