Our school community is greatly saddened by the recent passing of Mr James Tilly, who was without doubt one of King’s Ely’s longest serving and most influential members of staff.

James started working at King’s in 1969 and he retired in 2007, although he remained an active member of staff until 2012, and a much valued friend of the school right up until his passing.

James’ last official position at King’s was Senior Master, which very much reflected his knowledge and experience of the school, and the esteem in which he was held. But he did so much more.

For many years, James was Housemaster of Goodwin; he was the first person to hold this post. He became the first Boarding Housemaster of the newly formed Choir House in 1983, and he was always a devoted champion of the Choristers and the school’s connection with the Cathedral, of which he knew virtually every stone! Later, James nearly completed the full set by being a Housemaster of both Saunders and Queen Emma.

With such a wealth of pastoral experience, it is no surprise that James was held in such high regard by so many pupils. He was an extraordinary History Teacher, he ran sports teams and took cruises, and he genuinely loved King’s, the Cathedral, and Ely itself.

Messages have been pouring in from people following James’ death.

Merrick Cardy, who was taught by James, said: “The English language does not contain sufficient words to encapsulate what James was to me and many others who fell under his care and influence. A truly wonderful, empathetic, and caring human being, who saw something in me that I would not have found on my own.”

Old Elean, Felix Hawes, said: “Mr Tilly was truly an inspiration. A King’s legend. I fondly remember him teaching me French back in Acremont. His lessons were always ones to look forward to. May he rest in peace.”

Another Old Elean, Luke Prior, said: “James was my Housemaster, Teacher and colleague. A fabulous human full of so much British eccentricity. Never met someone quite like James, and the world is forever a little worse without him in it. A foundation of King’s and his legend within those halls shall live on forever.”

James’ funeral is being held at the Cathedral on Thursday, September 28th at 2.30pm.

Thank you, James for everything that you gave to King’s. May you rest in peace.

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