Peter Cowling

Peter Cowling (KES 1955-63) passed away on 5 January 2008, after suffering from cancer since early 2006. His funeral was on 18 January in Bradford where he had been living for many years.

He attended the centenary events at KES in 2005 and appeared on a photo taken by the Star; he can also be seen in 1(1) in 1955, in Upper Sixth in 1963 and a list of his mentions on this website can be seen here.

At the request of Peter's widow, Pip, Alastair Gunn provided the piece below for the celebrant to read at the funeral.

Peter Cowling

Pete should have been a Formula 1 driver, or maybe a test pilot: he had the right stuff.

I’ll get on to that in a moment but, first things first.  I met Pete at King Edward VII Grammar in the fifth form, but at 16 he was a whole year older than the rest of us and so much more sophisticated. He was tall and mature looking and he evidently knew more about girls than we did. He would stride confidently into the pub with a couple of us in tow and order a round (always of Stones, the real Sheffielder’s brew of choice) and we never got challenged. 

We all smoked in those days; Pete, when he could afford it, smoked American cigarettes, so I can blame him for my (thankfully former) Marlborough habit. 

OK, we’re talking Sheffield 1960, but it’s all relative. Everyone wanted to be his friend and I got lucky, possibly because I was one of the few Sheffield Wednesday supporters in the class. 

Schools were dire in those days, even our elite grammar, the best in the city. The teachers were mostly time-servers and as bored as we were though there were some brilliant exceptions: if there are any of our KES contemporaries they will remember people like Ned Johnson with great affection. So we did our best to keep ourselves amused and Pete was a leading light. One of his best ideas was to pick up a particularly despised teacher’s Morris Minor 1000 and place it on four milk crates (this will not make sense to those of you who were not at school before the days of Thatcher the Milk Snatcher).

Pete and his family were terrifically hospitable and we often found ourselves round at their house on a Saturday night, especially after a Wednesday home game. One of the attractions, it has to be said, was his lovely sister Rosemary and her friends. But, in 1962 and 1963, all the gossip and chatting-up stopped when TW3 (That Was The Week That Was), the best British satirical programme of all time, came on. We all wanted to be as sardonic and cool as the young David Frost; Pete probably came closest.

In 1964, when I was a student at Sussex, Pete came to visit and my then girlfriend and later wife, Carole, and I introduced him to Pip. Carole and Pip met as room mates the previous year in one of the University guesthouses where they would lurk in their beds in the morning instead of going to class, drinking coffee and smoking unfiltered Gauloises.

Pip already had a boyfriend but Carole and our friend Geoff and I, in our arrogant 20 year old way thought she and Pete were a much better match and encouraged him to be optimistic and, well, true love conquered all!

We moved to New Zealand in 1969 and although we’ve stayed in touch we haven’t seen much of Pip and Pete – the last time for me was about 10 years ago when I had a reunion with a few old school friends. I wish I’d made the effort to go to Bradford more often.

But let me mention Pete’s driving, as promised.  When I emailed Geoff with the sad news he replied – “Good Heavens - yes - I remember Pete and his sister Rosemary of course.  And his Minor 1000000 ferociously driven.” Pete once drove from Sheffield to London in the Minor, with me as terrified passenger, in truly maniacal style, because he was so pissed off that his girlfriend, a self-styled witch, had dumped him for a self-styled wizard.

But the real thing was his dad’s 2.4 Jag which, for some reason, he was often allowed to borrow. The boy racer lost his Jag rights when he ran it into a lamppost 50 metres from their house while changing the radio channel. But before that, one day he decided we should have the ultimate experience and “do the ton” during a school lunch break. However there was no accessible motorway so Pete selected a rural road on the outskirts of Sheffield. Downhill though it was, we didn’t manage to hit the magic 100 MPH until we were well into the 30 MPH zone of Ecclesall Road. We and all around us were lucky!

All of us who knew and loved Pete were lucky.  My memories of Pete are of fun, excitement, and a lot of laughs.

Go well, mate.

Alastair Gunn (KES 1956-1963)