Alan David George Oates
6 April 1927 – 16 January 2019
He grew up in Godalming and then Reigate, attending Reigate Grammar School – something he was very proud of all his life, wearing their tie with pride even in old age.
He reluctantly left school in order to help contribute to the family household and got his first job as an estate agent, collecting rents and showing property. He did this until the war came. After tragically losing his 19-year-old brother who was shot down flying a Lancaster bomber over Germany, Alan was called up to the Army once he reached 18 in April 1945.
He was sent to Egypt, to help establish a British Prisoner of War camp for soldiers who had been captured by the allied forces and were suspected of committing atrocities. He told many interesting stories of his role in interviewing prisoners to see if they were true fascists or if they were, like him, just following orders and then consequently deciding where to send them -back to Germany to work in the mines or to Nuremberg.
Later in his life Alan would give eloquent talks to various groups detailing his experiences in Egypt and I fear I haven’t done it justice in anyway- I found listening to the whole story very touching especially the empathy Alan felt for the young soldiers.
After he returned to England, he started working in the City of London for Insurance Brokers Baines Dawes where he worked for many years. He described having a front row seat to watch the Lord Mayors Show from his office window in Bank and meeting Chad Va rah – founder of the Samaritans, whilst taking communion in his lunch break at St Stephen’s church next to Mansion House.
Religion and spirituality was so important to Alan. During his life he was a member of several churches; Catholic, Anglican, Congregational and Unitarian, the latter being the one he said he felt more at one with.
At the age of 50, Alan took early retirement from Baines Dawes due to anxiety and stress, something he struggled with throughout his life. He then would go on to achieve a bachelor of Art in Philosophy from the Open University.
He was constantly reading, learning about and attending conferences in different schools of thought and it was at such a psychology conference he would meet Marjorie who was then training to be a special needs teacher.
They were married in Wrexham Cathedral and moved to South Norwood where they lived for 30 years. They moved to Placehouse Lane in Old Coulsdon in the late 90’s and Alan became a philosophy teacher at the local adult education centre in Coulsdon.
Alan and Marjorie spoke about these times with great fondness as they made likeminded friends and held annual garden parties for the class for over 15 years. Alan was also involved in a debating society, a circulated letter writing group as well as other discussion groups and was always sniffing out a good second-hand bookshop.
Anyone who has been to their house could see how important books were to Alan as they lined every wall, old and new, there never seemed to be enough. They both loved classical music, good plays on radio 4 and with Marjorie’s paintings adoring the walls, they really were a cultural couple. They complimented each other perfectly and really loved each other. At the end. of her life, Marjorie’s main concern was Alan’s welfare.
In the last couple of years at Hill House, Alan had become reclusive, happy to immerse himself in his poetry and occasionally singing hymns – loudly. Whenever I visited and asked him if I could do anything for him, he would without fail reply ‘Just be yourself’.
He would write snippets of advice as to how to be the best person you could without judging others and would often read Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ and say it was a recipe for life.