C. Helliwell joined the staff in January, 1936, was away on active service from September 1940 to September 1945, returned to K.E.S. in September 1945 and had been here ever since.

He died on Sunday, July 17, 1966, after a relatively short illness.


KES Magazine March 1951

A funeral service was held at Retford Parish Church on Wednesday, July 20th, followed by cremation at City Road, Sheffield. At the funeral service the School was represented by the Headmaster, seven of the senior masters, and the Head Prefect. At the crematorium they were joined by many more of the staff, ex-colleagues, the representatives of the Old Edwardians' Association, and members of his senior art classes. Flowers were sent to Retford from the School, the office and staff, and from his senior art pupils.

A special memorial service was held at School on Monday, July 18th, at which Mr. Vernon gave the following appreciation of Mr. Helliwell:

Up to last Christmas, Mr. Helliwell and Mr. Twyford were the only Masters left who taught here before the War in 1939, and it was only a few weeks ago that the School Magazine was published containing a generous appreciation by Mr. Helliwell on Mr. Twyford's retirement. And now, after a few weeks' illness, Mr. Helliwell has died. 

Mr. Helliwell was a man of many talents-artist, painter, sculptor in wood and stone, craftsman, architect and builder. He was interested in people, in philosophy, in religion, in literature and in poetry -indeed past issues of the School Magazine contain extracts from some of his poetical works. In his early days he was a boy-soprano of competition standard and won many prizes for singing. We all know how his powerful and magnificent voice dominated this School Assembly as he daily sang to the Lord heartily and lustily. In all he did, he put into it his whole being. He was no weak and watery, colourless nonentity.

Many of you will have trembled during his thunderstorms when the lightning flashed and the thunder rolled. But when the very heavens seemed on the point of cracking, when the firmament quivered and the earth yawned in front of you, the storm suddenly passed, the clouds rolled away and the sun shone—and Mr. Helliwell would look around you and give you an impish grin as much as to say "I didn't really mean it—I was just showing you what I can do." It is surely significant that during the last two years he did much of his work in School to the accompaniment of Beethoven's Fifth and Pastoral Symphonies. His storms were terrific but his laughter was gusty, rollicking and infectious.

His past students held him not only in awe for his knowledge and ability, not only in respect for his character, but in real affection for his kindly nature. Those who have become professional artists and architects acknowledge the debt they owe to him; indeed one at least, Mr. Twyford's son, a distinguished artist, has said that he owes everything to Mr. Helliwell.

During the War he fought in the Western Desert and identified himself as a fighter against the tyranny of Fascism and the dictatorship over men's minds. His experience there seemed to sear his own mind, and lie was never free from the urge to fight against the powers of evil. Although many of his water-colours show him in a calm, serene and peaceful mood, it is in his oil-paintings that his true self emerges it restless, striving, almost tormented struggle against injustice, insincerity and the easy acceptance of ordinariness. He prized above everything else personal liberty and the freedom of the mind. He hated overriding authority and the dogmatism of little men. He was appalled at the thought of the regimentation of human minds, particularly of the young and was horrified at the possibility of educational re-organisation, through political power, destroying this famous School. Unpredictable, even touchy at times, his hand was ever on his sword and he would leap into battle at the first opportunity and the slightest provocation-but withal he was chivalrous, gallant and lionhearted.

Many of us have known him for a long time, myself for twenty-two years, and we mourn today a colleague who was more than just a colleague. He was a vigorous, alert and generous companion. In the past three years we have all been astonished at the outburst of physical energy which he showed-swimming several dinner times a week, in Winter badminton, in Summer tennis. He was the envy of many of his younger colleagues-some more than twenty years his junior for his physical strength, his prowess and his skill. It is incredible that one so strong should so suddenly fall.

He was a fine schoolmaster, a vigorous, colourful personality, a delightful companion, a true friend and a great man-the Common Room and the School have been enriched by his presence and are the poorer for his passing.

May God rest his soul.

Other colleagues have written and some of their tributes are printed here:

From J. J. H. Clay (Senior Master in English and History, 1918-1943):

It was a great shock to hear of the illness and death of "Helli." Physically he seemed as tough and enduring as Monty of Alamein, and just as active with hand and head and tongue. As a colleague he was extremely stimulating-he had the secret of talking with you and not to you.

If he spoke of Art he made clear the problem the artist tackled - he rarely condemned because his interest was all in the artist's aim. His own lively sensitiveness made him quick to note the reaction of his audience-he would provoke argument, but not aggressively, and not to display his own knowledge. To him argument meant full and frank discussion, worth while to both sides; he was too kind ever to wish to overwhelm the other party. There was no need to quarrel, since all had to face one common difficulty, the intractable nature of the material they had to work in-the poet and essayist in "ordering" ideas and words, the musician with his notes and scales, the scientist with his experiments and hypotheses, exactly as the artist struggled with his colour and design.

He was satisfied if he could make clear his own point of view - he certainly succeeded in making the other man take a closer look at some of his settled convictions. Argumentative, yes; provocative, yes; contentious and overwhelming, no.

From T. K. Robinson (Head of Economics Dept., 1954-1965):

When I came to K.E.S. I found C.H. a rather formidable personality and I well remember how he used to give vent to his views on a great range of topics in such a manner that a newcomer to the staff felt that he would be very rash to challenge him. Although we differed in opinions on some political matters, a warm friendship grew up between us as I appreciated the humanity and generosity that lay beneath the surface. To me he seemed to mellow as the years passed, and his growing enthusiasm for swimming and tennis was remarkable for a man of his age. One had only to visit the Art Room to be immediately aware of his intense love of K.E.S.; perhaps a fitting memorial to him would be a permanent place in the School for some of his best paintings of the School and of boys of different generations. He will be greatly missed as one of the outstanding personalities of the Common Room and as the last surviving member of the pre-war staff.

From A. F. Turberfield (Classics Dept., 1954-1958):

The death of "Helli" will certainly remove a very colourful figure from the Common Room. In my time he disliked the poor hymn singing in prayers. A lusty singer himself, he used to insist on his class for Period 1 in the morning singing the morning hymn as loudly as possible before his lesson began (my room was next to his!).

A stout champion of his own subject, he vigorously repudiated suggestions that his pupils who wanted to study Art had therefore become "Bohemian."

From R. W. Prescott (Classics Dept., 1960-63):

I was impressed by Helli's forcefulness of spirit, even when he was dying. I found him an invigorating colleague, and had many discussions with him on life and art. In these he was always vigorously eloquent. For one lesson we even collaborated-having read the "Apollo and Daphne" episode in Ovid's "Metamorphoses" with a third form, I took them to see Helli's painting of the subject, to discuss the impact of the story.

Helli had a great creative ability, of course-as well as in art he wrote his epic poem "Fantasia," with quotations from which he often entertained us. It is indeed a privilege to have been his colleague.

[KES Mag Autumn 66]

See also Clarence Helliwell by Peter Holgate.

And a newspaper article c 1956.