Thank you Rev. Tim Hall
At the end of last term, Rev. Tim Hall stepped down as school Chaplain after an extraordinary 50 years' service to St David’s College. Mr. Hall has been likened by some of the youngsters of St David’s College as ‘Dumbledore’ the wizarding headmaster of Hogwarts in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Rowling describes her character as a “very wise man” and the “epitome of goodness”. Both descriptions could fit very well for a man who has commanded school assemblies, carol services, and memorably on one occasion the annual Swimming Gala when he led parents and pupils into a rousing rendition of the famous Welsh hymn ‘Bread of Heaven’ when the teachers were busily totting up the scores. His true passion is providing pastoral support to pupils and their families and to staff. He is always on hand to provide support and encouragement, and this will continue as part of his new role as Chaplain Emeritus.
Rev. Tim Hall arrived in January 1971 as a fresh-faced 19-year-old barely older than the Sixth Formers. As well as being appointed as a residential assistant at St David’s, Tim taught Geography and said his former school Trent College, gave him the confidence to stand up in front of a class. Looking back Tim said he’d always thrived in a boarding school environment and quickly rose through the ranks. He became a prefect and then Head Boy, head of the CCF, and was in the school’s First XV for three years. He also took his exams a year early.
St David’s was lucky to have had him because at one point Tim was destined to join Sandhurst and become an officer but realised during a selection panel he wasn’t totally committed to a life in the forces. Following the Sandhurst interview, his father who was head of a Prep school in Sheffield told him of a school he’d recently visited in North Wales and suggested to his son that he thought they’d make good use of his skills. Tim, who had never even been to North Wales before, borrowed his grandmother’s Ford Escort and drove to meet the then Headmaster John Mayor for an interview.
What were your first impressions of St David’s College?
“The driveway was even more magnificent in those days. It started from St Hilary’s Church, and you’d drive past fenced meadows and there were all these beautiful trees. As for the school itself, I found it a bit of rabbit warren as there were just corridors going off everywhere as it wasn’t a purposely built school. I quickly became very good friends with the then Head Boy Richard Pinn, he was only a year younger than me, and we are friends to this day. The school community was a lot smaller in those days as there were only around 161 pupils, mostly boarders.
All the pupils were in dormitories in the main house, and the teachers were very close we’d go for dinner in each other’s homes. In those days, the teachers would eat in the Minstrel Hall in the evenings, and there were two dining rooms for the pupils in Mostyn Gallery and the GSE/RE classroom. The kitchen was in the Music Room.”
Can you think of a funny anecdote from those early days?
“Oh yes, I can, in 1971 there was a food strike! The food was terrible in those days, there was a lot of Spam in lots of different forms, powdered eggs, and tapioca that the pupils called frog spawn. One day they’d finally rebelled and simply refused to eat the lunch.
John Mayor was very upset, but the cook was given some more money from the Bursar to feed the pupils, so the strike was a success!
By 1975 I was in charge of sailing despite never having sailed before in my life! Although I was sent on sailing courses and became a good sailor there was one unfortunate incident that could have caused some choppy waters with my relationship with Mr Mayor.
I’d seen other schools take their minibuses onto the beach, so I did the same on the North Shore of Llandudno. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised the tide was rapidly coming in, and by the time I had tried to drive the minibus off the beach, it was thoroughly stuck in the sand.
I phoned Chris Bilton, a businessman in Llandudno, who I knew had a Land Rover with a winch. He immediately came down but saw there wasn’t a hope to drag the minibus out and promptly drove off.
I thought that was that and made my way to the Marine Hotel to phone the school and break the news, but I couldn’t get through. I was still in my wetsuit, thinking all was lost as by this time the water had come up to the bonnet of the minibus.
But miraculously when I came out of the hotel the vehicle had been parked neatly on the Prom. Apparently, Chris had come back with a Second World War jeep, drove into the sea dragged the minibus off the beach, and then had simply driven off. Since then, I’ve always told people my guardian angel has a Second World War jeep! The minibus survived to tell the tale, becoming one of the longest-serving vehicles on-site – LCA 932 F.”
For four years between 1985 and 1989 Tim trained as a Chaplain, was ordained and for a while had his own parish in Hawarden, in Flintshire.
Why did you decide to take this direction?
“At the time I was involved with the chapel, and John Mayor told me he would like me to be the next Chaplain-at the time I hadn’t realised that it would involve me leaving the school for a while.”
Since becoming school Chaplain in 1990 Tim has conducted over 30 Weddings connected to St David’s - 10 are current staff/Governor couples - 12 are past pupils, and 10 have close connections to St David’s families. He has also on a more sombre note taken 28 funerals connected to the St David’s family - 11 of the school staff and Governors and five past pupils. On a happier note, 20 children of staff have been baptised by Tim. He has also not done yet; he has another staff wedding coming up next year and one more baptism of a staff child this summer. Quite an extraordinary record!
“I feel really privileged to have been included in this way with so many of our families. It was important for me to be a Pastor to the families as well as to the pupils, as it fosters this real sense of community. I want past pupils to still feel they still belong. I’m in touch with many pupils from all the decades since I’ve worked here and I’m always here to offer support and that will continue in my new role as Chaplain Emeritus.
I have always wanted pupils to feel a sense of belonging, and if they make mistakes, they can come back for support and then go out there and have another go.”
What will you miss about St David’s when you step down from the Chaplaincy?
“I’ll miss knowing everything! I’ll miss the staff meetings and talking to the pupils and staff listening to their ideas and their stories. There are so many things I’ll miss.”
“I think apart from helping to foster a sense of community, and conducting weddings, funerals and baptisms, going to orphanages in Romania following the revolution in late 1989, was an achievement. We learned a lot, and I am also hugely proud of what we have achieved in Uganda over the years working with past pupil John Njendahayo. I have enjoyed being part of many of the innovative developments within St David’s, from pastoral structures to outdoor learning, digital learning, and pioneering a creative Chaplaincy model.
Working with every single Headmaster has been a huge privilege. They’ve all been so different, and all had a vital contribution to make. John Mayor was my model though as I worked with him for 15 years. He was my mentor and opened the door for me to become a Chaplain. He was a visionary, and his legacy is massive and must remain central as St David’s continues its progressive journey.”
Tell us something that might surprise some people?
"I’m actually an introvert by nature. I’ve had to develop a certain personality to play the game when I’m on stage. At a party, if I ever go to one, I’ll be sitting in a corner talking to someone. I’d much rather be at home getting stuck into a film. I do love meeting people though I get a buzz out of that. When I set up the new Marketing Department, I visited over 70 schools and travelled all over the UK and internationally across Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bahrain, Dubai, and Ghana. This job has never been boring. "
What does retirement mean for you?
"I’m looking forward to my next role within the school becoming Chaplain Emeritus, I’ll be down but not out!
I will be handing over the running of the Chaplaincy Department to Ed and his wife Beki Gray. Ed will be training for ordination for three years. Ed will be brilliant as Chaplain as he is young and energetic and is a keen sportsperson.
He has eight years' experience working in other schools’ chaplaincy departments, and so has vast expertise, and is used to working with teenagers. He’s also one of the best platform communicators I have ever come across."
"As for myself, I’m looking forward to continue to support past pupils and staff with my pastoral work."
"My work in Uganda with our charity, Link International Innovation, will continue. Since it was set up in 1995, a community hospital is in the process of being set up, a compound in a shantytown in Kampala has been built as a model self-help housing improvement, a vocational college on a tea plantation near Mityana has been opened, and a semi-commercial campsite and retreat centre in SW Uganda near the National Park has been operational for a number of years. I’ll have more time to focus on this journey and facilitate future 6th Form Teams to be involved."
"It’s such a huge privilege to be invited to remain in the St David’s community and hopefully, Angela and I can continue to make a useful contribution to the wider life of the school community."