In a previous life the editor of Llanelli Online worked for a man by the name of Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Townend. Colonel Townend was the headmaster of Hill House International School, which had a number of campuses in Kensington and Chelsea and Switzerland. It was the world’s largest private school and the school where HRH The Prince of Wales had attended as a boy. Townend as he was known by Her Majesty The Queen was an eccentric. He could be seen being driven around Knightsbridge in his bentley estate or else walking the streets looking for ways of tunnelling under Harrods for more classroom space.
His mantra was simple. We are all equal but different. The school was founded in the 1950’s and opened with one table one chair and a tennis ball so the legend goes. When asked by his first parent where the other children were, he had to pretend that they were late. Every Wednesday the Colonel would standup in assembly and hand out awards to the children. They were mainly for swimming. He believed in teaching children to swim before they could read or write.
Central to the school’s ethos was Townend’s firm belief that every child had a talent that could be drawn out, much as had happened to him with athletics. “First find the talent,” he would say, “and then teach ’em to be the best; the rest follows.” He himself was a man of extraordinarily robust health. He rose at four to take the first of 10 cups of tea, with eight lumps of sugar in each. He also drank 12 cups of Ovaltine a day, with five lumps of sugar in each. He had no teeth of his own, having many years ago told his dentist, “Knock out the whole shooting match”. He smoked 30 cigars a day.
Men like Colonel Townend are few and far between. He was a leader in every sense of the word. He inspired, he enthused, he had character and he had charm. Those in his employ, which numbered many hundreds held him in the highest esteem and valued his leadership. It was an honour and a privilege to work as a teacher at Hill House. He was irreplaceable and became the bar by which any leader who crossed my path would be measured.
It is hard then to know what to make of the leader and CEO of Carmarthenshire County Council as once more he has been admitted to Private Eye’s pages. The satirical magazine has a penchant for seeking out and highlighting, what it sees as fair game in public life. Mr James is now becoming a firm favourite in the sites of the magazine’s authors. He appears in the latest edition: no 1442 21 April 2017