Obituary: Professor Raymond Wilson

Raymond Wilson, writer, educationalist: born 20 December 1925; English master, Dulwich College 1957-61, Chief English Master 1961-65; Lecturer in English Education, Southampton University 1965-68; Professor of Education, Reading University 1968-89 (Emeritus), Chairman of the School of Education 1969-76, 1980-89; married Gertrude Russell (two sons, one daughter); died Reading 21 March 1995.

Referring to his service in the Second World War, Raymond Wilson once said, "I was just a killick writer - still am really" (a killick writer in the Navy is a ship's clerk). He was in fact Professor of Education at Reading University for over 20 years and was Chief English Master at Dulwich College in the Fifties and Sixties. He was also a skilled educational editor, introducing new editions of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poetry and Jane Austen's novels; a sensitive critic, with texts on Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Golding's Lord of the Flies; and a prolific anthologist, producing numerous collections of short stories and particularly of poetry. Many owe their own introduction to literature to his writing.

His naval service, from 1944 to 1947, qualified him to enter teacher training. He went on to a London external degree, took a First in English in 1954 and next year started at Blyth Grammar School, Northumberland, combining his extraordinary range and love of the language with his compassionate understanding of education.

Wilson worked with words, profoundly and playfully. He orchestrated them in his scholarship, lectures and, as vice- chancellors found as he moved on to lecture first at Southampton University in 1965 and then at Reading in 1968, in his memoranda. He had little time for the powerful and none at all for party politics, where he was the Edenic innocent. In my copy of one of his books he wrote, "Hoping that it's poetically sound enough for the ideology not to matter (which it never does!)". He knew enough, however, to fight the big battalions and defend the individual. In articles such as "Dropping out from Doomsday" (1975) and his brilliant "letter" from Danapur (1983), both published in the British Journal of Educational Studies, he derided the "contamination of a reductive reasoning" and warned of the consequences for education of an overvaluation of rationality.

Frequently Wilson's own poetry scorned reckless technology. Some found his view gloomy, and he did write, in "He Sings a Song of Progress" (part of the Daft Davy series of poems, published in 1987):

O, It's too, too late for braking

Though you peer through dark wind-


At the pile-up of all Progress

And a world in smithereens!

But he was the least gloomy person imaginable. His point was that, without an education of the emotions, science and technology cannot of themselves bring happiness - for Wilson, the attainment of good - and that modern education stands in more need of the arts and literature than ever. He understood that education is what happens between people. He knew that it was not mere cognitive development, nor a system, nor statutory instruments, nor an industry, and never a business. This is from one of his poems for children, "School Inspection" (included in the anthology Nine O'Clock Bell, 1987), which politicians could do well to read:

"Well, what do you say?" the In-

spector asked,

"Just speak up! There's no need for


"But if I don't think, how can I know

What to say?" Mary answered him,


Wilson shared Coleridge's opinion that deep thinking can come only from deep feelings, once letting me win an argument because I quoted Pascal, "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of." Leading a modern scientist to that insight was victory enough: through his lecture series for the MSc in Physics Education at Reading, he introduced scientists from all over the world to the works of Shakespeare, Coleridge and W.H. Auden alongside those of the philosophers Karl Popper and Thomas S. Kuhn.

As head of the School of Education for all but four of his 21 years at Reading he showed kindness to everyone, and an ability to foster his colleagues' ambitions, nurturing developments like the Reading and Language Information Centre and the Agricultural Extension and Rural Development Department from foundation to international status.

In retirement, Wilson could concentrate more on poetry, a lattermath which completed the story of Daft Davy, saner than society, told in 31 poems, each in a different metre. He wrote and anthologised for the young because for him literature had to be moral and the stuff of education. The following is taken from "The Traveller" (part of the anthology Out and About, 1987):

Children, children, I do the best I may:

I meet a friend at my journey's end

With whom you'll meet some day.

On his desk the day he died were the proofs of his latest anthology.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape