Jeremy Nichols (1943-2020)
27 August 2020
Photo: Jeremy and his family on South Front
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Former Headmaster, Jeremy Nichols, on Saturday 8 August. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren at his home near Truro, Cornwall.
When Jeremy retired in 2003, The Rt Hon. Sir Nicholas Lyell QC, Chairman of Governors wrote the most fitting tribute to this remarkable man.
‘At the Governors’ farewell dinner for Jeremy and Annie Nichols on Friday 27 June in the Music Room the whole Nichols family were present. Jeremy and Annie of course, but also Lucy, Rupert, Victoria and Emma and Lucy’s husband Simon and Jeremy’s mother Muz.
The presence of their whole family epitomised what Jeremy and Annie brought to Stowe: warmth, feet on the ground, the joy of family life, and boundless enthusiasm. It characterised what I noticed so often when visiting the school, how Jeremy seemed to cherish all the pupils individually. Here was someone who really loved his job; who felt and expressed the joy of teaching.
Jeremy Nichols has been Stowe’s sixth Headmaster. He has served the school since 1989, for fourteen years. During that period more than 2000 stoics, and by definition almost twice as many parents have known him as Headmaster, and I have been his fourth Chairman of Governors.
It is not an exaggeration to say that during that time, building on the work of his predecessor, Jeremy Nichols has transformed Stowe. The effect of his personality was visible almost immediately. I was privileged at the end of his first year in 1990 to give prizes at Speech Day and became a Governor shortly thereafter. Even on that Speech Day a transformation was already evident in the demeanour of Stoics and in the confidence of their parents. What had gone before should not be under-estimated, but now suddenly the sun had come out. Jeremy’s personality communicated itself rapidly both the parents and to pupils. Stowe was once again an exciting School.
When our younger children came to Stowe, amongst a selection of other schools, this was where they said they wanted to come. I shall never forget, as I suspect most parents will not forget, Jeremy’s lecture to us as new parents, in particular his quotation from a splendid letter written by an Eton predecessor to the mother of a young entrant “…by the time he leaves us he will turn out a charming young man….but meanwhile we are both of us in for one hell of a time!...” Perhaps the secret of his success is summed up in the fashionable letter “e”, not e-mail or e-commerce but energy, enthusiasm and erudition, a wonderful combination.
Over these fourteen years he has built up an excellent staff, great teachers have been cherished, and outstanding new members of staff recruited. Not only Stowe has been the beneficiary. It takes great skill to recruit the best when they are young; to bring them on; to send them out to a wider world; and to bring on others in their place.
There is so much to remember, but when we come to look back, perhaps three things will stand out. First the Nichols years leave Stowe full, confident and with the Stowe “offer” to do the best by every child, riding high.
Second Jeremy Nichols has presided over the start and implementation of the restoration of the Mansion. We have already before us the outstanding completion of the North Front, and by the time you read this, Phase II, the South Front Portico and Central Pavilion will be wrapped, for a period of 92 weeks, in the largest single-span scaffold of Britain. This will include the restoration of the Marble Hall. These are developments of historic proportions.
Thirdly Jeremy Nichols has been the moving spirit for the plans for the revitalisation of the Academic Zone. He has put in, and continues to put, huge efforts into fundraising. Precise details have yet to be finalised but the Drayson area with its new squash courts, weight-training room and sports science teaching facilities are already in place to pave the way. At the time of writing our overall fundraising stands at some £16.7 million of a total current target of £27.7 million including real progress on the funds for the Academic Zone. It will be a legacy to be proud of.
All this has been done at no little personal cost. We remember Jeremy’s heart problems and Angioplasty back in 1995 but, as I said on Speech Day, Jeremy loves motor cars and we know that not only his great Bentley, but its driver, have for fourteen years been firing on all eight cylinders. We also pay tribute to the wonderful support he has had from Annie Nichols and their charming family.
It is not given to many to be counted amongst the great headmasters of their generation. Stowe has been lucky enough in Jeremy Nichols to have had one of those great headmasters. He has, to quote The Good Schools Guide, put the school back on its pedestal. Jeremy, we shall miss you. We salute you and we shall always remember you with deep gratitude.’
Click here to read Jeremy's retirement Speech, delivered at Speech Day in May 2003.
Photo: Jeremy with Stoics on the South Front
Mark Palmer penned a wonderful article about Jeremy in The Spectator in 2014, which paints a picture of his personality as a school master at Eton before he arrived at Stowe, click here to read the article.
Jeremy and Annie retired to Cornwall in 2003. Annie sadly died in 2009, following a battle with cancer. Jeremy married Katherine Lambert in 2013 and they enjoyed many happy years together. Jeremy will be very sadly missed by his family and friends, as well as a huge number of Old Stoics around the world who remember Jeremy as their Headmaster.
A full obituary will be published in the next edition of The Corinthian. If you would like to contribute your memories of Jeremy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to send your condolences to the Nichols family, please send letters to Old Stoic Office, Stowe School, Buckingham MK18 5EH to be forwarded to the family.
Once the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, we hope to host a memorial service for Jeremy. Full details will be added to the website as soon as possible and invitations will be circulated in due course.
Click here to read Jeremy's obituary in The Times.