After a long illness, Frank Loveder passed away on the 2nd May. This is my tribute to him.
I first met Frank when I joined the staff of King’s Worcester in January 1988. He had already been Head of Chemistry for a few months. Initially our paths did not cross but Frank was very difficult to miss as his blond head stood head and shoulders above everybody else in the school.
Our friendship began with the Himalayan Club. Frank was already running a hill -walking club for pupils when I went to talk to him about my intentions of taking a group of Sixth Formers to the Himalayas. His eyes lit up and his immediate response was that he wanted to be a part of it. Hence, with his support, I launched the Himalayan Club. Frank was a great asset to the club and a huge support to me. We created a fairly comprehensive training programme in order to prepare the boys (it was only boys in those early days) for a major trek in the Himalaya. As well as numerous visits to Snowdonia and the Lake District, we backpacked the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Wainwright’s Coast to Coast and the hardest of the lot, the Lakeland Round. When Frank organised a trip to walk part of the GR5 in the Alps for a group combining his hill-walking club, scouting friends and the Himalayan Club I was only too happy to lead the support team.
Frank had a huge reserve of energy, and after a full day of hard walking he would happily set about erecting tents and preparing a sumptuous meal, regaling us with tales of adventure in the mountains and on the sea. He was immensely practical and, although I had years of experience of my own, I really appreciated his help in those early days of the Himalayan Club.
In addition to all the training, we had three fantastic trips to Nepal together. I say fantastic. The first to Everest went a bit pear shaped but the second to Annapurna and the third to Everest again were successful in every respect, inspiring me to carry on and Frank to set up his own Himalayan Clubs in St Edward’s College, Liverpool and Presentation College, Reading. On that first trip we had a lot of illness and ended up with students dotted about in various parts of the Khumbu. Frank had the constitution of an ox, so while I was not wanting to venture too far from a toilet, Frank forsook his own ambitions and focused on gathering the various lost sheep, ensuring they were well and cared for. I think, had we not been returning to Nepal three months later with the next group, we might have thrown the towel in.
At the end of that first trip Frank bought two t-shirts and had them embroidered. His idea was that we would wear them in school on our return. We wore them with pride. Frank, being a chemistry teacher, had not checked his for spelling and it caused great amusement to everybody when they read his embroidered message. It read, “Been there, done it, and this is the t-shit.”
Our relationship was not always a bed of roses. We often shared tents and hotel rooms and it did not take me long to discover that Frank snored. It was important to get to sleep first. However, on one night in the Marshyangdi Hotel the combined efforts of Frank lying in the bed next to me and the dogs barking in the streets around the hotel, sleep was impossible. I tried encouraging Frank to rollover on to his front only to discover he was already lying on it. At about 3.00am the solution to my problem was found. I heard a window open, a gun shot, a dog yelp and die. I was so close to opening our window and asking if I could borrow the gun.
Occasionally at Christmas, the staff at King’s would put on a pantomime and for some reason Frank and I found ourselves playing the Ugly Sisters. These were fun time, especially as neither of us were confidently word perfect and tried to trip each other up by adlibbing. However, we were so used to each other by this time that we managed to pull it off, much to our own and the audiences amusement.
I alluded earlier to Frank’s culinary skills and was fortunate enough to experience his world famous pancake parties where he produced pancakes with every conceivable filling and, boy, were they delicious.
In 1992 I had a serious skiing accident, which required surgery to put me together again. The six weeks I had to take off work were mind numbing and Frank knew how hard I would find confinement. One afternoon, when he was not committed to the lab teaching, he turned up at my house laden with Tesco bags. He then proceeded to destroy my kitchen while he concocted six fabulous main courses and numerous puddings for a group of friends he had invited that evening to cheer me up. Frank was a true friend and was always there when he saw there was a need.
It was a shame for the Himalayan Club when Frank moved on to St. Edward’s in Liverpool but it was not the end of our working together. Once Frank had settled he set about forming his own branch of the Himalayan Club, and I went up to visit and help him launch a trip to Everest Base Camp. The event coincided with another of his famous pancake parties.
When he moved to Presentation College he fulfilled his ambition to become a Head Teacher. I went along to present the prizes and I also helped him launch a trip to Nepal for his pupils. Sadly it was not to prove a happy move and through the callous behaviour of the chapter of monks who owned the land and through no fault of Frank, the school went into a decline. I am convinced that that very stressful time was the catalyst for Frank’s subsequent ill health, which makes me feel very bitter.
In more recent years we kept in touch, largely when Frank would appear unannounced on our doorstep during his annual Christmas or New Year travels to visit people. Then we would catch up on his news. In recent years he would update us on his health and treatment but, at no time, was he less than positive or down hearted about the hand he had been dealt. As I write this I am so pleased that he was able to join us for the two Himalayan Club 20th Anniversary Dinners that I organised last year. At those dinners he was able to meet up with those boys who had gained so much from sharing a remarkable experience with him. I too am so grateful for his knowledge, his skill, his towering sense of fun and his friendship, and I can forgive him for his snoring.