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Peter Knowles

Jan 2014: It is with great sadness that we report the death last week of Peter Knowles. Peter was one of the great servants of the game, as a player then as a coach, especially at Highgate School. He ran the the National Schools' Championships, was the EFA's archivist, secretary of the Eton Fives Charitable Trust and co-author of "A History of Eton Fives". A full obituary appears below:

It is particularly sad to record the untimely death of EFA Vice President, Peter Knowles, at 68.

Enduring his illness with courage and no rancour, he stayed on the Fives scene right to the end, including a trip to Switzerland for the Zuoz Fives Club Festival celebrations, even though he knew that his health was failing.

Peter's contribution to the game was unceasing and widespread. He undertook, with Dale Vargas, the monumental task to produce 'A History of Eton Fives' - an encyclopaedic masterpiece, covering every aspect of the game. The delving for information from old school records and those of universities, clubs and individuals, took patience and perseverance, unearthing facts previously unknown to even the keenest of enthusiasts. Part of its appeal is the light touch given by Dale and Peter and their assessment of the past and possible future, making it an absorbing read with fascinating historical illustrations.

When Peter was aware of his diagnosis, as the EFA Archivist, he secured a new home for the treasure trove of data that he had amassed over the years, to be sure of its future safekeeping.

The Eton Fives Charitable Trust saw him as secretary, which, if time had allowed, would have been a role for him to relish and, indeed, to fulfil to great effect. He was formerly an EFA Director and also served on the Strategy Sub Committee. As a long-term administrator at the School Championships, he was a stalwart and not once complained about the sometimes freezing conditions to be suffered.

Peter learnt his Fives at King Edward's, Birmingham and though he regarded himself as a "third pair player", he appeared in a Barber Cup semi-final, a County final and a Veterans final. He was also a regular contender in the Aberconway Cup for fathers and sons.

After Oxford, where he obtained a doctorate in chemistry, Peter taught at Shrewsbury for two years, then moved to Highgate: during his thirty-one years there, when he became Master-in-Charge of Fives, he coached School Championship winners at both senior and junior levels. In addition, he became a Housemaster, Head of Chemistry and Chairman of the Common Room.

When Peter and his devoted wife, Marian, arrived at Highgate in 1974, they immersed themselves completely in the school community and tributes from from former students and colleagues talk of a man, solidly supported by Marian, caring for each and every one of Peter' pupils, providing a wonderful environment for teenage boys to develop and learn about life. He brought an aura of calm to everywhere and struck a balance, knowing when to allow some freedom and when to crack down, communicating in a fair and reasonable manner. Inspirational and motivating, always cheerful with a quick and very dry sense of humour are other memories that have flooded in.

Peter and Marian had a particular affinity with France, but in fact travelled the world. In retiring to Corfe, they maintained a very full life of extensive interests, but Peter still found time to do voluntary Fives coaching at Bryanston.

Peter was very much a family man - feeling particularly proud on daughter, Emma's, wedding day when he gave his father- of- the bride speech, and of son, Jonathan, when he became a consultant at the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead.

However, Marian and the family can look back with pride to have had a husband and father of such integrity and distinction, coupled with a modesty and warmth of personality and to them we send our sincere condolences.

Gordon Stringer