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News > Obituary > Obituary - Ron Rollock

Obituary - Ron Rollock

6 Sep 2023
Obituary

Dear Gattonians,

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of Ron Rollock.  For those of you who were at the school in the early to mid eighties I’m sure that you will remember this popular and larger than life character who excelled at all aspects of the communal existence of the vibrant Boarding community. His life after leaving Gatton was inextricably linked with the many Gattonian friends that helped to shape his life and of course theirs.

An outstanding musician and sportsman; the latter being so well expressed by one of his teachers and lifelong friend, John Ahern:

“an outstanding sportsman who represented Surrey Schools at the National Athletics Championships for three consecutive years between 1982 and 84. Held the Surrey Junior 200m record at 22.5 seconds for many years. Played cricket and football for Surrey and captained to School 1st XV in 1984 when they played in the Final of the Surrey Cup.”

The following tribute to Ron has been composed by a number of his friends from Gatton who have continued to meet and communicate with each other since leaving the School

To Ron, from your friends.

                                                                                                                                       

It was 08.17am on Friday the 1st September, 2023 that the message our WhatsApp 'Class Act of '84' old scholars’ group had hoped we would not receive, arrived.

With great sadness we were informed that Ron Rollock, one of the most prominent and often larger- than- life pupils and a friend to many from our time at Gatton and since, had passed away the night before at Barts Hospital, London.

We had been kept up to date about Ron’s condition, since he had been taken seriously ill on or around Monday the 21st August. This has been such a tragic outcome despite all our hopes and prayers, and is still somewhat unbelievable and difficult for us all to process. The loss of any old scholar is often poignant and difficult to hear and accept, but Ron's passing is perhaps a little more exceptional, particularly for our group. 

Our group of around 15 - 20 old scholars last met in Feb 2023 for a great evening of revelry and reminiscing in Windsor, firstly for drinks and then for dinner. Ron was on usual form, seemingly jovial and beaming and pleased to see everyone, as we all were, and to catch up again.

The group has gone from strength to strength over the years with some terrific nights out, firstly in London and more recently a number of dinners, drinks and pub visits around Gunwharf Quay in Portsmouth. Ron, a keen participant for all those years, inevitably providing terrific sounds via his pre- planned 'old skool’ playlist. Ron loved his music and his infectious appetite for new sounds was something he shared with others, both at school and over the subsequent years. He had continued DJ'ing for many years probably more for pleasure than financial gain, near his home in Essex. This was long after he was spinning vinyl at the Gatton School Discos and 'Boys Club' nights in the school gym, in the early 80's.

These reunions have been immense fun and a testament to the strength of the friendships and the strong bonds that continue from our days at Gatton, almost 40 years ago. Every time we meet, we kick off as if it was still yesterday. So easy, and really quite joyous occasions. Ron was always a central figure at these events, one of the core group.

Reunion events always commence with a glass raised for absent friends quite early on in the evening, particularly to the memories of Danny Halpin and Andrew McIntyre from our '84 year, who are sadly no longer with us, but also remembering others we have lost from Gatton Park. It is somewhat unbelievable that we will be raising a glass to Ron at future events, as Ron too, is now sadly an 'absent friend'.  

Ron started at Gatton around Sept 1979 as a 1st year and was placed in Cornwall House. He came from Bromley By Bow, London E3, which way back then was light years away from the trendy hipster highway it is these days. Bow was very much the proper 'East End', and certainly quite gritty .  I'm sure Ron would not mind it being said that he faced a degree of adversity in his younger years. This led to him, and many others in similar situations, being relocated out of London to Gatton Park for their education, and for the more preferable wide, open, green spaces of the Surrey countryside. 

Ron excelled at sport and this is illustrated by all his sporting achievements and accolades, collated and remembered by Mr Ahern who has provided this list. Ron was also academically gifted - very bright in many subjects, but also a hard worker. He was musical - a good guitarist, and also a leading member of the Church Lads Brigade,  playing the main bass drum on parade days and on Remembrance Sunday, if  memories are correct. Smartly ‘suited and booted’ in the CLB uniform, with a huge bass drum attached to his chest marching to and from the flagpole and chapel. 

Ron brought more to Gatton though and to the friends he made over the years. His vibrant and enthusiastic love of music was apparent from day one. Dub, Reggae, Soul and particularly Lovers Rock were mainly his thing. Sharing a dorm with Ron was a revelation. His plastic, battery operated record player was hilarious by today’s standards, but we used to listen to the plethora of records, mainly 12-inch singles he brought back to school after the holidays, imports and limited editions that were more likely to be played on the moon than on Radio 1. Those of us living outside of London, which was almost everyone, would never have had access to most, if not all, the sounds Ron brought back to school.

It really was whole new world for many of us.  A musical and to degree, a  cultural education. Ron spoke about  Haile Selassie, Bob Marley, Jah Rastafari and the symbolism and meaning of ‘The Red, Gold, Green and Black' as these were important to him.  This was no damascene conversion for anyone, but a small and incremental insight and introduction to another culture with music as the central ‘ peg’.

No doubt there are many who can recall busting moves to Ron’s ever  burgeoning vinyl collection - 12-inch mixes of ‘Southern Freeze', 'Rock the Boat’, and the final smooch at the school disco usually to Brenda Russell's ' So Good So Right'. Brillant memories.  Particularly memorable was  Ron  screeching along to the exceptionally protracted high notes on Janet Kay’s 'Silly Games’, which he could just reach , before exploding with  laugher.

We were one big family at Gatton and we all learnt something from each other due to our different backgrounds and formative years before starting at Gatton. There were of course all the usual dramas associated with a group of teenage adolescences growing up – we argued , we fell out, sometimes there were scraps and scuffles , but the underlying bonds of friendship were usually always there and making up was never far behind.

This is regularly mentioned and acknowledged when we have a reunion and something that has put many pupils in good stead on leaving school. Ron always agreed.  Gatton was and still probably is,  a melting pot of pupils and Ron brought much to that party back in the early to mid 80’s , both literally and metaphorically. It is something that is particularly special about Gatton Park. I'm sure Ron would hope this somewhat unique attribute of those attending the school continues today:  The diverse , interesting and  vibrant mix of pupils. 

Ron continued at 6tt form after most of our year left in 1984, finally leaving in 1986. He returned to London and very soon secured a job with Child and Co, the high-end private bank along Fleet Street. Securing this job was no mean feat for a young black man from East London, fresh out of 6th form college in the mid 1980's.

Ron was a high achiever in many areas of his life, both personal and professional, but was never boastful or arrogant. He had stayed working in the financial services sector,  although for a number of different employers over the years. He lived with his partner Claire and their young son Aaron in the outer North East London / Essex boarder area. As mentioned, music continued to be an important part of Ron's life throughout,  and it is thought he was still DJ'ing, on occasion.

Our thoughts are with Claire and Aaron by the sudden loss of both a partner and a father at this incredibly difficult time. Ron will leave a big void in many people’s lives. He will be remembered by his old school friends and particularly the 'Class Act of '84' as a vibrant, funny, intelligent, positive and supportive friend. A light has most certainly gone out with his passing; however, the memories and good times will live on for ever.  Thank you and good bye Mr Ronald Rollock. We will miss you, but you are certainly not forgotten. 

N.B: We would also like to send our most sincere thanks to Simon Law from our '84 group who was firstly informed about Ron being taken unwell, by Claire. Simon then sent the group regular updates, including having to inform the group that the prognosis for Ron was not good. Simon managed to make it up to Barts in London to sit with Ron hold his hand and talk to him, although Ron was not conscious. Simon relayed all our love to Ron and that we were willing him well. We are so grateful for you being able to do this Simon and thankyou from us all. Sadly, as we know, there was no improvement and it was Simon who also relayed the message to the group that Ron had passed away. 

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