KPE on balcony

Ken Elliott

Ken Elliott.  How do you pay tribute to one of the finest people and orators that this school has ever seen?  I think many staff members secretly hoped to leave before him so that he would make their farewell speech.  He had a real gift at understanding and capturing the essence of a person.

I always thought that Ken Elliott and his beloved wife Joan formed part of a whole and when he lost her, it was as if half of him was wrenched away.  They were inseparable, always together at Sport Fixtures (all of which he attended) and in every meeting and conversation he would mention her and their sons, John and David, and their wives and grandchildren, with love and admiration.  He was a true family man.

As far as heading the school was concerned, he led with a light and gentle touch, trusting the wisdom of his staff and time-tested structures.  He was modest and sensible and this was punctuated by a great sense of humour and fun.  He was the epitome of a gentleman.  And this theme always arises in tributes to him.

I’m not sure how many of you knew that he was fluent in Zulu and would often stop and converse with employees of the school in their own language.  He was also a gifted Mathematics teacher.  In a tribute from a Maritzburg College boy we read: I was one of the “less abled mathematicians. He was hands down the best teacher I ever had! RIP”.

It was not an easy transition for Mr Elliott, leaving Maritzburg College, an all-boys school to come to Durban Girls’ College.  Knowing that he was moving from the jaws of rugby to the relative delicacy of hockey, I made a point of discussing the weekend’s school and rugby fixtures on Mondays to help him feel more at home, sharpening up on the jargon.

There have been the most wonderful tributes pouring in about Mr Elliott on facebook and I would like to read some of them to you.

This is from Yea Kyung Kim (a College old girl living in Korea)

I remember once, when I was in Grade 3 (quite a while ago),
I plucked up the courage to stop the man in his tracks and ask:

“Mr. Elliott, why do you always wear a Harry-potter-cloak to assembly?”

At first he seemed slightly startled, then confused.
Finally, he smiled, apparently rather amused,
and answered me with a chuckle,
“My wife says it makes me look fancy.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Elliott.
You were one great headmaster who will be remembered.
A true gentleman.

From our English teacher Mrs Naidu:

Ken Elliott, you are a giant among men and we shall miss you terribly. The years spent under your leadership have been some of the best years of my life. And though we grieve, we are glad that you have been reunited with the love of your life, Joan. Flights of angels sing you to your rest, dear, kind gentle-man.

A quote from “Le Petit Prince”:

Quand tu regarderas le ciel, la nuit, puisque j’habiterai dans l’une d’elles, puisque je rirai dans l’une d’elles, alors ce sera pour toi comme si riaient toutes les étoiles. Tu auras, toi, des étoiles qui savent rire.

When you look at that stars at night, since I will be living on one of them, since I will be laughing on one of them, so it will be for you as if all the stars were laughing.  You will have stars which know how to laugh.

And in conclusion, from Val de Beer, a quote from a poem by Maya Angelou:

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

Tory Hathorn