Recently, we received the sad news of the death of Old Suttonian Norman Collings (1940 W). In reporting his death, his widow, Susan, sent us through a scan of a letter he had sent to his mother shortly before he concluded his time at the School. The early summer of 1940, when he penned the letter, will always be remembered for the Dunkirk evacuation and the start of the Battle of Britain, but life at SVS at that point carried on as normal. In reflecting upon his seven years at the School, Norman wrote that he would miss things about School life that he had “taken without thought for so long”.
Life at Sutton Valence School in the late 1930s was a long way from the schooling experienced by pupils today, but the common transcending denominator remains the School community that underpins all that we do. For Norman, the community had particular affinity. Aged 15, he lost his father, but the School helped him to heal and set him upon a career path that saw him study at UCL and go on to travel the world as a Public Relations Manager for a multi-national chemical company. He concluded his letter with gratitude for the opportunities that he had been presented; “Mother, all my thanks are not enough to tell you what I’ve learnt here but I pray, in my life which lies ahead, that I may show you that I can follow the traditions which generations of boys from Sutton (Valence) have created”.
In times of struggle and crisis that we have all, as a community, endured over the last year it provides an apposite reminder that strength and recovery will follow, but also that we should be grateful for the opportunities we are afforded. Our thanks go to Susan Collings for her provision of the letter and photo.
Norman Hixon Collings died, aged 98, on December 2nd 2020.