Richard Balkwill g64


My top five memories of School are: singing tenor solo with John Phillips in the carol service in Chapel; acting in the last (July 1961) Masque and in The Wild Duck in Hall; helping to write and edit Greyfriar and the 1963 book on Charterhouse; successfully completing an early version of the 50-mile march; and, with other School Monitors, burning the Head of the School’s canes on Northbrook.

The year after Charterhouse, in 1965, I worked for Voluntary Service Overseas in La Paz, Bolivia. Following this I went to Christ Church, Oxford University, to complete a degree in French and Spanish. Between 1968-1992 I worked as editor, publisher, editorial director and finally managing director at four educational publishers: Ginn, Thomas Nelson, Macmillan and Heinemann. From 1992 I set up Copytrain, an independent consultancy to the publishing industry, offering professional training and coaching in editorial and financial management, copyright law, negotiating rights sales and contracts. I’ve also taught on MA in Publishing Courses at Oxford Brookes and City Universities.

Aside from this I have also written and published over 20 books, from The Professionals’ Guide to Publishing to The Guinness Book of Rail Facts and Feats; plus children’s non-fiction including Food and Feasts in Tudor Times, Trafalgar (Great Battles series), Discovering Vietnam and My Best Book of Trains.

In 1975 I married Elisabeth and I have a family of four daughters and 11 grandchildren.

In my retirement I am chair of trustees at Calibre Audio, a charity that supplies audio books to the visually impaired and print disabled. I also love choral singing (thanks to Charterhouse). From the LSO Chorus in the 1970s to the Guildford-based Occam Singers more recently, my best moment was singing William Byrd’s Four-Part Mass in Rouen Cathedral.

I still support Charterhouse in many ways, principally: I led sixth-form Challenge of Management workshops in the 1980s; I am an active member of the Old Duckite Association and was its President from 1999-2016; I have been on the committee of the Carthusian Society since 1985; and I was for many years a Founder's Day Steward, helping to organise the Quatercentenary Dinner at the Guildhall in December 2011. 

With hindsight my time at Charterhouse straddled two eras: I arrived in 1959 to find a strict, games-focused institution, typified by the cold discipline to be found in hashroom 13 and Mr Arrowsmith’s Special Remove. When I left in OQ 1964, the generous and warm-hearted Henry March was handing over his brief role as acting Headmaster to Oliver Van Oss, whose arrival signalled major change – including the appointment of my elder brother Philip, who joined Brooke Hall in 1966 and taught English at the School for over 30 years.

Models for later life came from many members of Brooke Hall: above all, Peter Gardiner, whose love of life and literature inspired my publishing and writing career; Geoffrey Ford who produced plays I falteringly acted in and who patiently listened to my piano-playing ‘play-offs’; Wilfrid Noyce, sadly killed in the Pamirs in 1962, who talked modestly about climbing and allowed me to help his children design and build their model railway; and Brian Young, whose example of leadership impressed me at every level – despite not appreciating his scholarship or his intellect until I got to know him again when he was in his eighties.

I am deeply grateful for the example that Charterhouse gave me. Its structure and formality helped me to take responsibility for myself, and the courage to make a difference in the wider world. It gave me the foundation constantly to follow the school’s motto – Deo Dante Dedi. It is nearly 60 years since I first understood what this ablative absolute actually meant, and later realised what would be expected of me.