THE King’s Ely community has been left saddened by the death of an inspirational headmaster, teacher and musician, Roger Firkins, at the age of 92.
Roger, who was a member of staff at King’s Ely for 32 years and a friendly and familiar face after retirement, died on April 9th after a period of illness. He leaves his three children, James, Tony and Susan, five grandchildren and ten great grandchildren. Roger’s beloved wife, Elizabeth, died in 2001.
Roger was an accomplished musician; not just as a singer, but also as a violinist and conductor. As a member of the Westminster Abbey Choir, he was present at the Coronation of King George VI. His musicianship grew from those early days to singing with the choirs of Magdalen College Oxford and King’s College Cambridge. His expertise meant that he performed with some of the finest musicians in the land. In 1956, he was invited to join the Ely Cathedral Choir by Michael Howard, who was organist and choirmaster at the time. It was in that year that Roger joined King’s as a French and English Teacher.
In 1960, Roger founded the school’s Madrigal Society, which saw sopranos and some altos from what was then the Ely High School for Girls joining tenors and basses from the King’s School Ely (as we were called then!) at 38, Cambridge Road every Saturday evening. Roger was also Director of Music across the whole school during the 1960s.
In 1968, Roger became Housemaster of Priory – a post he held and delivered with sheer enthusiasm for 13 years, before he took up the post of Headmaster of the Junior School in 1981. Roger was a kind and caring Headmaster, yet determined and forward-thinking in every task he approached during his eight years in the role. He oversaw a huge expansion of the Junior School buildings and applied his varied skills in ensuring the school stayed on course in what was (and still is!) a competitive world.
Roger, who was appointed as an Honorary Old Elean, retired in 1989 and even though it is more than three decades since that day, he is still remembered of so fondly by the many Old Eleans and other members of the school community who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Our thoughts are with Roger’s family and friends.