It is with deep sadness that we have heard that Peter Bilton passed away yesterday at the Arthur Rank Hospice, Cambridge.
Peter or ‘Pablo’ as he was affectionately known by the staff he worked with at the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys, later Hills Road Sixth Form College, was a Biology teacher from 1953-1989.
Peter was educated at Aireborough Grammar School, near Leeds, where he gained a County Major Scholarship to Leeds University, graduating in Botany and Zoology. After a year’s postgraduate study in Mycology at Nottingham University, where he gained an MSc, he was called up for two years National Service in the Royal Air Force. Basic training and trade training as a copy typist lead to a posting to 12 Group Headquarters based at RAF Newton, Nottingham, where he remained until demobilisation in 1952.
Peter was appointed Assistant Biologist at the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys and commenced his teaching career in January 1953, then not envisaging that he would complete his career in the same establishment. His first Headmaster, Mr Brin Newton-John (father of Olivia), encouraged him to undertake the development of careers work when its importance in schools was beginning to be realised. He became Careers Master in the School and then Careers Tutor and Head of the Careers Department in the Sixth Form College. Early developments in careers work included the forging of links with the LEA Careers Advisory Service and the Careers Research Advisory Centre, introduction of careers conventions and higher education conferences. Careers work occupied more of his time in the Sixth Form College although he continued to teach Biology until his retirement in July 1989.
Ian Harvey, Head of Biology at the College said, “Peter was exceptional in so many ways. As a teacher, he always saw the person, not just the pupil or student and genuinely cared about them. Two of his phrases for the less committed were “creature” and “wicked boy” yet it was often the creatures who benefitted most from his kindness and support. His circle of friends was huge, all types and all ages and he loved nothing more than sitting in Brown’s, drinking red wine and chatting. The many people who enjoyed and benefitted from his friendship, support and guidance will always hold fond memories of Peter and he will be sorely missed.”
Since retiring Peter continued his opera and concert going. He attended choral evensong at St John’s College and was actively involved in the life and work of St Benet’s Church in Cambridge. He did voluntary work with the Friends of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden including serving in the gift shop and took an interest in the Old Cantabrigian Society of which he was Vice-President.
He was honoured in 1991 by having one of the new Biology Laboratories named after him in the presence of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and later a Travel Bursary for Biology students was endowed in his name by an Old Cantabrigian in appreciation of his teaching.
Peter kept in touch with the College after his retirement through the Old Cantabrigian Society and as a member of the retired staff committee.
Linda Sinclair, Principal said “Peter was a much loved teacher, colleague and friend with an infectious joie de vivre and a mischievous sense of humour. It was always a joy to spend time with him, listening to his stories and wondering at his eternal optimism. He will be very sadly missed.”
A love and contribution to Biology in Cambridge alongside 40 years of commitment to Hills Road earns Ian Harvey the Society of Biology's President's medal.
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