I heard the news on the TV but was far from thinking that Rex was involved. What a sad loss for us all. He was known to me for over 40 years and inevitably our paths crossed frequently. I met him at the RGS in June and again at the Institute of Education for the 13 October seminar ‘Engaging Geography’.
Dr Rex Walford OBE
Dr Rex Walford OBE
President of the Geographical Association (1983 – 1984)
Rex Walford lost his life in a tragic accident on the River Thames on Sunday 2 January 2011. The accident has been widely reported in the media and more details are available from Cambridge News, Sky News and the BBC to name but a few.
Everyone who met Rex knew very quickly they were in the company of an extraordinary man. He had a huge heart, boundless curiosity, sharp intelligence and above all commitment and enthusiasm which was infectious and mobilising. He is an enormous loss to the world of geography education.
The fact that he features, coincidentally, on the front cover of the Spring 2011 issue of GA Magazine is a testament to all of the above.
On a personal note he was my PGCE tutor (1973-4) at Cambridge University. It is impossible to exaggerate the impact this year had on me professionally. He invested in us relentless joy at the prospect of teaching geography and also why it matters: not only to do it, but to do it well.
One of his more recent and most important books was Geography in British Schools 1850-2000 (Woburn Press). Its subtitle is an appropriate summary of a remarkably full life: Making a World of Difference.
Professor David Lambert
Geographical Association Chief Executive
5 January 2011
Download the full obituary published in Geography, Summer 2011.
Download a copy of Rex's 1984 Presidential Address 'Geography and the Future' (PDF)
This speech was given by Chris Kington at Rex's memorial service on 16 February 2011.
An obituary was published in The Guardian on Thursday 10 March 2011.
We are inviting you to share your thoughts on Rex's life using the Comments form below:
We are all stunned and devastated. Rex and I were emailing very regularly over the past weeks about the cricket results. Rex was delighted and surprised by the excellent play of the English team. I've known Rex since 1976 and his effect on me in so many ways has been enormous, especially while I was teaching at the Institute in late 78 and since then in our visits to England.
I have just received the dreadful news concerning Rex's sudden and untimely death. He was such a great friend whose zest for every facet of life invigorated so many of us for so long. I am stunned but grateful for the wonders of the electronic age that we in the antipodes can learn even such sad news so quickly. There were numerous wonderful times we have spent in his company in the contexts of geography education, cricket, music, convivial dinners and every other aspects of his wonderfully full life.
I didn't know Rex personally but always considered him as one of the 'giants' of geography education. As a geography educator and teacher, I was (and still am) inspired by his thinking and owe him a great debt.
I heard the news via the BBC - my immediate reaction was to shout 'No' at the TV screen. Then came the various emails from GA headquarters - and emails to others. John, my husband, and I have known Rex for over 40 years in connection with multifarious matters.
Rex was one of those incredible, many facetted people who gave considerable lustre to many different activities in both his work and play. There will be a great hole left not only in the world of geography and education but also in the world of theatre and music. Always excellent company he was also wise and perceptive and brimming with enthusiastic, workable, ideas. He will be missed but not forgotten.
Rex visited our PGCE course in 1970/1 and his Railway Pioneers became a key part of my geography teaching for many years. From that meeting onwards he continued to make big inputs into my teaching through his writing and lectures. Thanks for everything Rex!
Rex's untimely death means that the world of Geography and the Geographical Association has just lost one of its most influential, talented and committed friends.
'Geography through the window' was only one of so many brilliant ideas that Rex gave to us geography teachers. Rex , a man who always looked out for us and our subject.
What a terribly sad loss of a wonderful colleague who did so much for geography education; without such dedication, commitment and charm geography would not be in its current healthy state in the British education system.
Rex was ebulliant enthusiasm, fiercely intelligent, giving and generous with his time, and boundless in energy and commitment to creative and engaging geographical education spanning experimental play, drama, music and history - he was a passionate educator and learner as well as teacher trainer, and he hailed from my humble part of NW London too! Hugely inspirational and encouraging, Rex had been helping me with my research into the recent history of geographical education and his continual interest was much appreciated. I was privileged to have spoken alongside him at the launch of the Institute of Education's Geography textbook archive at the end of the 'Engaging geographies' Seminar and am deeply shocked and saddened at the untimely news. My thoughts go to Wendy and his family.
Where to begin? So many memories of a lovely and wonderful man. Rex was our PGCE External Examiner at Brunel, always kind and thoughtful with students and with a zest for geography that fed through all he said and did. In my last school in 2006, I invited him to come and speak to launch a HEI day conference for our Yr 12s about 'the value of a university education in the 21st century'. 'How long do I have?' he asked at the start. '40 minutes,' I replied. He spoke brilliantly, without a note, for exactly 40 minutes, and received a standing ovation; his warmth, drive and enthusiasm - and above all, his love of education - shone through. What a terribly sad loss, for his family and friends, for Geography, for us as his colleagues, and for young people.
Rex was a great geographer but also a great human being with a genuine interest in people, a stimulating conversationalist and a wonderful sense of humour.He will be sadly missed by many pople and the world will be a duller place without him.
I am member of over 50 years and GA president 1974/5
I was deeply saddened and shocked to hear of the tragic loss of Rex. Like many other geographers, I had the privilege on countless occasions both whilst studying for my PGCE at Cambridge and in the years after, of listening to Rex part his sound advice and enthusiasm for the subject. As one former student put it, Rex was to the Geography World what Michael Schumacher is to F1..I think that aptly sums him up..indeed, the Geography World is a much poorer place without him. Thanks to him and my tutor who also knew him very well, I got the best Geography teacher training possible. I shall always remain indebted to him, I wouldn't certainly be where I am now without his numerous lectures and works. May he rest in peace.
I am in tears and in shock. Rex was such a total sweetheart of a man - in my experience making him almost unique within academia, especially Oxbridge. He was external examiner for my PhD, where he arrived with the thesis in The Chancellor's 'Red Box' which he opened with theatrical dignity, proclaiming the scholarly value of its contents!. It turned out that the case was a prop for "Murder in the Cathedral" which he was directing at the time and had come straught from rehersals for. This set the tone for a wonderfully enjoyable and fun discussion of my work and our shared passion for geographical education. What a tragic loss (and on a stretch of the Thames so close to my childhood home and very familiar to me). Rest in Peace, Dear Rex. You were what my late mum would have called "One of Nature's Gentlemen". I hope you meet up in heaven, which I know would tickle the two of you pink.
I did not know Rex Walford personally, but did meet Rex Walford at Conference on more than one occasion. However, I do feel that I got to know Rex through his writing, particularly as my research 3 years ago focused on the nature of geography and the history of geographical education. Your book 'Geography in British Schools' is extremely well thumbed . You will not be forgotten for the influential contribution you have made to geographical education.
We heard this terrible news this morning; we were privileged to know Rex in two or three capacities. Professionally, he quite simply changed my life when I discovered Games In Geography in 1972. Suddenly even the most boring subject in the curriculum became full of opportunity for discussion, research, and problem-solving, and if he could show me how to do this in geography, it had to be possible to do it in mathematics as well. Personally, we knew Rex as part of the family of a close friend. And in one of the few activities he didn't shine at, I was proud that Rex played for some 25 years as the manager of a postal football team in a game I invented.
Even so, there were many more sides to Rex we knew little of - cinema, musicals, and drama; while few people see their nominal retirement as the opportunity to acquire both a Harley-Davidson and a theology degree. And perhaps most of all, we'll remember Rex as fine company and for his constant and genuine warmth towards those of us with far fewer acheivements.
Rex always had a twinkle about him and your picture shows this. He was in the centre of so many things where he created energy and joy in all around him. He had huge talent but was only ever interested in encouraging the best in others. He was modest and in 37 years of friendship I never heard him be negative, complain or put someone down. He inspired literally thousands of teachers, geographers and others in the many fields he had an interest. Rex dazzled and we were inspired. How we shall miss him - Charney Manor, Worldwise, Land Use UK, Through the Window, CoBriG are just some of his gifts to us. Now if you talk to others in the worlds of the theatre, music, vehicles -aircraft and motorcycling, sport, dancing, jazz - I could go on - they will have equally long lists of Rex's unique contributions. News of his tragic death came in as there was a partial eclipse of the sun. For many of us it feels total.
And of course never forget The Gobi Desert.
Rex was my PGCE Tutor at Cambridge University 1986-87. In the pre-course interview he showed me a dot distribution map of Britain and asked me what the distribution represented. I hadn't a clue and Rex smiled and said it was the distribution of Curry's Electrical Stores. Then he told me that Geography is all about patterns. That is something that has never left me and I keep telling it to all the children I teach (I am now Head of Geography at my school). I remember playing Caribbean Fishermen -one of the Geography Games that Rex invented and laughing with him as he 'sang' the calypso. I shall remember Rex with great fondness as he was kind to me and proved over and over again that Geography is THE subject that explains all the others!
Rex was a very good friend of mine over more than 4 decades and, as always, his recent Christmas Newsletter reflected the breadth of his contributions to the life of so many people. This is a sad loss to the world of geographic education - and all who were fortunate enough to have known him. I respected him as a geographer and loved him as a person.
What a great shock to us all. Rex was a pillar of the worldwide geographical community and the best ever champion for geographical education in the UK and beyond. He was a great friend and colleague over many years and he unfailingly impressed me with his infectious enthusiasm, incisive mind and down to earth manner. No one could make a better 'case for geography' !
I was fortunate to serve on the Cambridge GA committee for many years with Rex in the early 80's. At the time I was a new geography teacher and I always found him such an inspiration and willing to offer help. Whenever I bumped into Rex or Wendy he would always stop for a chat and as usual he had a big smile. I cannot believe that such a genious has been taken from us so tragically. The world of Education has lost a master. My thoughts and prayers are with Wendy. RIP Rex you will be sorely missed.
Living near Shepperton, I was shocked when it was first announced that people were missing; then to find out that one of the people who died was Rex, made the news all the more tragic. He did so much for Geography, and did it with such style and enthusiasm. He was one of those magic people who always made time for others, and combined a powerful intellect with a real care for people. He was gentle and caring. He lived life with passion and a smile. The world is vastly poorer for his passing.
I saw Rex's smiling face in a provincial newspaper on a train this morning on the way to Edinburgh. I simply could not believe what I was reading!
I had the very great pleasure of working with Rex on, among other things, Land Use UK, where through Scottish Association of Geography Teachers (SAGT) I encouraged/pestered/cajoled our members to take on squares in "their" areas. It was great fun and his enthusiasm was boundless!
Other GA/SAGT links and conferences on both sides of the border were enhanced by his enthusiasm for Geography and for life! He made us all feel better just by being in the room!
Erica M Caldwell Hon President SAGT
We were devastated to hear the news. It seems incredible that this immensely talented, ebullient, and original man is no longer with us. We first knew Rex in 1969 when he came to UBC to give a scintillating summer course (Were Rex's courses ever anything other than scintillating?), and our friendship continued over the years. We enjoyed two other Canadian summers with Rex and Wendy when Rex gave courses, first at Mount Allison University in 1974 and then in the Montreal Olympics year of 1976 at McGill, and we enjoyed frequent visits with them whenever we were in the UK. What remains with one, after any time spent with Rex, is the recollection of brilliant, sparkling conversation. He knew so much, was excited by so much and contagiously enthusiastic about all of his many areas of interest and expertise – geography, education, the theatre, especially the musical theatre, cricket and (this may surprise some) baseball. What a terrible loss for Wendy and for the many, many others whose lives he touched.
I am struggling with digesting this news. Rex was such an extraordinary man -his thirst for life, his sharp mind as well as his passion for learning in geography was contagious. I first met him 20 yrs ago at an interview - my PhD interview - after a few spicey questions and an honest exchange about national curriculum developments, I knew that I would learn a great deal from him! I later took advice from him at important life changing moment - and I grateful to him for his foresight. I have the upmost respect for Rex, as a person, as a professional committed to key ideals that shone through his work and exchanges with students and colleagues. My prayers are with Wendy with the friend who also lost his life in the same accident.
My first PGCE inspiration was his book on Games in Geography teaching.
It lit the blue paper for me and countless others, a Giant always in our corner.
A very great loss , my thoughts are with his family.
It was a great pleasure and privilege to be taught by the late Dr Rex Walford at several of the short residential courses he gave at Madingley Hall, Cambridge in recent years. He was a mine of enviable, expert knowledge on theatre, cinema, radio comedy and popular poetry.
It was thus very shocking to learn late on Tuesday night on ITV London News of his sudden passing in such tragic circumstances, along with that of his friend whom I sadly never knew.
Rex's courses at Madingley enjoyed a substantial regular following, due as much to his great personal charm, infectious enthusiasm and sense of both humour and fun, as to his erudition.
Nobody who was present could possibly forget the deftly devised performances he incorporated into each course, given by talented local professional and amateur performers culled from the many East Anglian operatic and dramatic societies he directed. These included on one occasion his wife on hilarious radio sound effects of yesteryear, and always himself on keyboard accompaniments. If not staged in the elegant Saloon these entertainments might take over the more capacious onsite Church, enabling local parishioners to swell the audience.
An abiding memory is of him sacrificing his entire coffee break in order to search a DVD for a short sequence in which my sister appeared. One does not forget such kindnesses, and she was both honoured and highly amused by the round of impromptu applause her brief scene drew in her absence, as captured on my recording of the session.
When I last saw him a few months ago he was excitedly starting to plan a course next March on the American light music composer Harry Warren. He will prove irreplaceable and a great loss to the Institute of Continuing Education. My sympathies go out to his family, friends, colleagues and my fellow-students.
I met Rex many times as a teacher, when he visited PGCE colleagues from Cambridge placed at my school, and also since joining the GA. It was fascinating to hear his memories of the Madingley lectures at last year's GTE conference, also held at Madingley Hall, and he was humorous and generous as always when attending the recent official opening of Solly St. Few geographers past and present (and no doubt in the future) will be untouched by Rex's work.
Rex was my PGCE tutor at Cambridge in 86-87. I don't think I've ever met some one with such enthusiasm for his subject and the importance of teaching it and doing so with zest and energy. The impact of that year has stayed with me. This is a sad and shocking loss for Wendy and his family and my thoughts are very much with them.
An absolute legend. An inspirational PGCE tutor and a warm and genuine man. A monumental loss to the world of Geography and teaching.
Rex has been a major part of my professional life for the past 25 years. When I was a secondary school HOD, he would bring his PGCE students to spend the day in our department. As a member of our school governing body for 22 years, and vice-chair for 8, he helped appoint me as Head. Subsequently we served together on RGS Council. I last met him at Christmas. Always the same......enthusiastic, engaging....when he spoke, others stopped speaking and listened. A great friend.
He and Wendy were a delight to be with. So many interests and passions....how did he fit them all in?
On behalf of all at Meridian School in Royston........a big thankyou for giving us so much.
Gone but never to be forgotten.
I was lucky enough to take his games in education course as part of my Physics PGCE (1990-1991) and had been back in touch with Rex last year as I was developing a session on educational games in teaching UG health sciences. It's not just geography teaching his work has impacted. His enthusiasm was boundless and the news was a great shock. My thoughts are with his family.
Lecturer, Centre for Medical Education, Dundee
It was with the deepest shock and horror that I, and Maureen, learnt of the death of Rex Walford in such tragic circumstances that surely only Rex could have scripted.
My greatest sympathies must go to his wife and family but the entire geographical world will be in tears of mourning as I am.
I am no longer a GA member although still a FRGS, but my connection with Leicester Branch started in my Sixth Form days and ended as Chairman from 199X to 2000. All past Leicester Branch officers, committee, branch members, supporters and E.Midland FRGSs will be paying their respects on the passing of Rex, who was a person, nay, a most fantastic character, of towering stature throughout the Universe of Geography.
One can think of previously dearly departed geographers with whom Rex, once through the Pearly Gates, will soon be having for evermore an absolute whale of a time.
Rex, you were loved, admired, respected, honoured and will be greatly missed.
--- Paul Brydson (as above) & Maureen (Head of Geography, Rutland SFC 1969 to 1997). 6 January 2011.
Rex Walford inspired a generation of aspirant geography teachers and put high-quality geography teaching firmly on the educational map. Having been a schoolteacher before becoming a university lecturer, his ideas and enthusiasms carried conviction with the PGCE students who attended his courses in Cambridge. Rex worked with a missionary zeal to convince all who would listen – students, teachers, educational administrators, politicians – that geography is not only challenging and important but also great fun. He played a key role in forging links between geography in schools and in colleges and universities during a period when examination boards were severing those connections and when there was increasing pressure on university geographers to concentrate on research at the expense of all else, including their links with the secondary sector.
Rex conveyed wonderfully his enjoyment of both geography and his students. He had a great sense of humour as well as a deep geographical knowledge and understanding. But he was always asking questions, pushing knowledge and experience to their limits. Lively discussions were marked, and will for long be remembered, for his distinctive, ‘twangy’, voice and his twinkling, bright, eyes, and for the way in which he put his head quizzically to one side in conversations as he delighted in paradoxes, real or perceived, and in new lines of enquiry. Most importantly, for most of those who met Rex his enthusiasm for geography was infectious. With his sudden and tragic death, geography in Britain has lost one of its most powerful advocates.
Lecturer in Geography, University of Cambridge, 1966-1999.
Rex was a man of seemingly boundless energy and extraordinary humanity. To many of his contemporaries he was not only a good friend and colleague but also, as he was to his students, an inspiration. Through the curiously named but innovative 'Models and Quantitative Techniques' committee of the GA in the 1960s, the Charney Manor conferences, his stint as the first Chair of the newly-formed GA Education Committee, the GA Quiz and in many other ways Rex made an enormous contribution to geography education.
And there were always the drama productions he took to the Edinburgh Festival, the fortunes of Northants cricket or Cambridge United football and the joys of life in general to be shared long into the evening.....
Rex was an inspiration to all those lucky enough to meet him. I first met Rex when he interviewed me in his office in Trumpington Street in August 1985. I was a late applicant for the PGCE Geography course. I was so fortunate to be offered a place and the opportunity changed the course of my life. It was a real privilege to be a member of his group. His boundless enthusiasm for teaching and geography was infectious. Such a great loss to so many people.
Ripon Grammar School
Tragic news what a great loss, what a sad start to the year. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.
What a man - he was my Geography PGCE tutor at Cambridge 1985-86 and the best teacher ever! His enthusiasm was infectious. We met up with him again at a mini renunion about 5 years ago and he still remembered the names of all the students that year - amazing. I will always think of him in those rooms in Trumpington Street with the GA sticker in his window and of him teaching me how to use a bander machine! My thoughts to his wife and family - a true legend.
Christine Thomas, Llangollen.
The Faculty of Education at Cambridge is organising a book of recollections and reflections, to be presented to Wendy at an appropriate time in the future. Colleagues are most welcome to e-mail their contribution to either Judy Stevens (email@example.com) or Susannah Lacon (firstname.lastname@example.org), and i will then ensure that they are assembled appropriately.
With best wishes
Head of the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
The world of geography education has lost a true great. I was actually in the process of reading his excellent book on the history of geography education when I heard the tragic news. I did my PGCE at Cambridge, though after he had ceased to run the course, but did have the good fortune to meet him- he even came round my house to sell me some inflatable globes that have since found their way to schools in Nepal and Zambia.
He will live on, of course, through his publications and will no doubt continue to influence generations of geography teachers to come.
I was deeply saddened when I heard the news. I visited Rex in Trumpington Street to seek advice about applying for a PGCE. I had a long chat with him and only afterwards realised that he'd interviewed me! Rex then offered me a place on the PGCE course at Cambridge, 1982-83. I thoroughly enjoyed that year. Rex was so enthusiastic and supportive, a real inspiration. If it wasn't for Rex, who knows what I'd be doing now? I met him in more recent years when he came to observe a PGCE student at my previous school. he was as engaging as ever. It's a huge loss to the world of Geography.
We have lost our best. Rex changed my life when he gave me the opportunity to be a teacher and he helped me to become the teacher i wanted to be. I remember him as being good at so many things and interested in everything, the geographer's geographer. Oh how he will be missed.
He has been a fantastic asset to Geography, particularly the teaching profession side of it. He inspired me first back in 1972 at an amazing PGCE lecture on the value of Games in Geography, many more times since then. A tragic loss.
Rex did a great deal to connect many people with geography. This inspiring legacy will endure.
I have only just caught up with the very sad news of Rex’s death. Rex was a lovely man, always enthusiastic and interested. I met Rex more than twenty years ago through involvement in the book he edited with Derek Gregory on 'Horizons in Human Geography'; but I got to know him better in the early 2000s when he was working on a late-flowering PhD on the role of the church in inter-war Middlesex, where he grew up and I was now living. He subsequently turned this into a book on'The Growth of "New London" in Suburban Middlesex, 1918-1945, and the Response of the Church of England' (Edward Mellen, 2007), a neat example of how Rex’s geographical and non-geographical lives intersected (or rather, another demonstration of how everything is geographical). The last time our paths crossed was another ‘geography and religion’ occasion – during the sermon series at Sidney Sussex in Cambridge to commemorate Dick Chorley, another larger than life geographer. I will remember Rex with very deep affection.
Anyone involved in environment and geography in the UK is likely to have come across Rex's name, and I have regularly over 15 years. I eventually had the great pleasure of meeting him in person at a GA/ESRC seminar before Christmas. In the days that followed I found myself mysteriously re-energised and aware of being excited again by the job I do. On reflection it was clearly something to do with my brief conversation with him. Its clear from all these comments that he cast this spell over many many people over many years. What a gift to the world.
I've known Rex for 40 years and am proud to have been his friend and professional colleague. For 20 years I did a day with his PGCE students every May and found that I came away geographically stimiulated! And what fun we had during those first 10 years of Worldwise Quiz. I was so appreciative of his personal influence and support that I dedicated a book to him. I am saddened beyond words. Sleep peacefully, pioneer par excellence.
I was shocked to learn of this tragedy Rex.
I ususally bumped into Rex at GA conferences - although occasionally at other events too - and he was always prepared to have a friendly word and discuss geography teaching matters. It was always refreshing to debate these with Rex, with his enthusiastic but critical eye on the issues and the wide knowledge and experience he brought to bear. I always came away feeling I had learned something from him. A sad loss and he wil be missed.
Swansea School of Education
What a sad start to 2011. I couldn't believe the news when I heard it earlier in the week.
We have lost one of our greatest geographical inspirations and such a kind, gentle, intelligent human being.
My thoughts and parayers go out to his family.
PGCE 84-6 was fantastic (Rex really stretched me with a term at The Manor) and then what a help on my Caribbean visits for a few years after that. 20 years apart seemed just a moment when a lunch in 2007 at Browns re-cemented our friendship, and the last three years were the culmination of my professional career as he helped guide a project to increase our Cambridge profile at the Luxembourg European School and i finally seemed to grasp the full range of skills he'd tried to get us to bring into public sector teaching.
This summer his vast Cambridge experience quietly helped solve the biggest crisis of my professonal life (C.U. applications) and I looked forward to years of further collaboration as my proteges also benefitted from my mentor - in Novemebr thank God I sent him a long email thanking him fulsomely on behalf of all our students and looking forward to the future. Suddenly the flame has left us all and we have to pass on the torch alone, feeling very alone.
But this site reassures me I am not alone (Richard Dennis from UCL 1979, Geoff Dinkele 1985), that we all felt the 'touch' and can go on sharing it and getting energy from it.
It seems the Cambridge University Education Dept. is beginning to compile a book of recollections / remembrance which will be presented to Wendy at a much later date, so if anyone wishes to send a contribution, this can be included. The remembrances are being collated by Mike Younger's PAs, Judy Stevens (email@example.com) and Susannah Lacon (firstname.lastname@example.org), so an email to either will ensure they include them.
Perhaps something further may develop to ensure his current students and we their teachers will carry life forwrd to the next generation (including my 6 year old twin girls who now sadly will never meet him in the flesh.).
Dear, dear Rex; poor, poor Wendy
Rex brought life and light to geographical education at a time when it was urgently needed. He was a beacon of inspiration and scholarly innovation whose impact was second to none. I hope the GA will be able to find a way of actively sustaining his legacy for many years to come.
What a sad and tragic loss; my sympathies go out to his family and friends.
I felt so sad to hear that news. First came across Rex's amazing talent in the drama world of Mill Hill in the 60s-had no idea what he did and then discovered one of his many other lives (and incredible talents) when I trained as a geography teacher! What luck -and what a privilege to know such an inspired practitioner. Sat on the Cambridge A Level exam board with him in later years and saw him on various occasions when he appeared at events to continue his inspirational mission to keep Geography relevant, fun and well taught. Not sure he will ever be able to 'rest in peace' but I'm sure he will rise in Glory. A great man and desperately sad loss.
Rex made me want to be a Geography teacher after his inspirational work with the 1980/81 Cambridge PGCE cohort. Everything he did and said oozed an enthusiasm not just for Geography but also for young people. I have moved away from Geography in recent years but his influence on the way I try to teach is fundamental. His influence extends beyond the geographical world ! That twinkle in his eye, did he know Jayne (also 80/81 cohort) and I would still be together 30 years later ?
What a tragic loss to so many worlds and a cruel loss to Wendy and those close to him. I admired Rex enormously and enjoyed working with him, especially on the Quiz Committee in the 1980s-90s. From the first days of "Railway Pioneers", to much more recent work, his ideas and inspiration for Geography teaching influenced me and thousands of others in our classroom practice, and Geography
What sad, shocking news. Rex was my PGCE tutor too in the mid-1990's (I was a trainee maths teacher), and his weekly groups had a huge impact on me. His vision for life went far, far beyond his immediate discipline. A Cambridge undergraduate, I'd been privileged to sit at the feet of some outstanding people but Rex was in a different league altogether.
A common thread in all the tributes I've read this week is the extraordinary, life changing influence Rex had on the lives of those who were fortunate enough to be one of his students. I wasn't an obvious choice for the 84/5 Cambridge PGCE group, but one of Rex's many talents was to see beyond the obvious and, through his infectious enthusiasm encourage and build confidence. What more could one ask of a teacher! I had seen Rex on and off through the years and never needed to tell him what I was doing, he always somehow already knew. I am so glad that when I saw him last a couple of years ago I was able to thank him.
Rex was my tutor when I was an undergraduate at Homerton College from 1986-1990. He had the unenviable task of introducing the new National Curriculm to us as part of a 'Curriculum' module but as he did when he made guest appearences in our geography lectures, his enthusiam was tangible and his infectious smile, soon settled all our nerves. I met up with him again at the GTE conference in Cambridge in January 2010. I was able to tell him that I had moved from the primary classroom to HE and that I had just replicated some of his research (1996) in my Masters Dissertation. I have personally written the reference Walford a few hundred times in the past 18 months. Rex was a true gentleman and I know that I am one of many who he had had a huge impact on both personally and professionally. His death is a real tradegy but he will live on, I am sure through all of us who he inspired and worked with!
A shocking accident and a tragic loss for Geography. His legacy will endure of course, and his visits to Sussex university in connection with land use studies and education engaged and stimulated all who met him. Our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
Emeritus Professor of Historical Geography
Rex was a very special man and I was so sad to hear the tragic news. I was one of his PGCE students in 1992-3 and had a fantastic year. Inspired by his enthusiasm and unstinting love for Geography you left the course eager to spread the word. I bumped into him only just before Christmas in Cambridge. He was as ever on the ball about everything and we recalled the last time I had seen him, at a musical evening with a Geographic theme where he had performed with Gabrielle Bell for Bedford GA,earlier in the year. It was a brilliant evening showing another one of his many talents. As ever in that brief but now very memorable chat he was interested to know what was happening in my world of Geography and that of my colleagues.
I often picture Rex at the back of the class and will continue to do so, keeping all of us Geography teachers on our toes .
This is terribly sad news. I remember Rex well from my time as a Geography teacher in Cambridgeshire from the early 1970s up to the early 1990s. The first time I heard Rex speak was at an evening event at the Key Theatre in Peterborough when Rex talked about Games and Simulations in the classroom. That evening had a major influence upon my professional life as a teacher. Over the years Rex did a brilliant job supporting geography teachers within the county through the Cambridge GA branch - we were both founding members, but Rex played the major role in setting this up, I was just a member - and through supporting local authority CPD. In the late 90s we actually appeared on the same platform at a Cambridge GA meeting - one of my career highlights. His influence upon me as an educator has been major.
Simply insperational. Taught me at Maria Grey College and inspired me to teach geography in away which had impact. A great guy to.
Although a publication deadline was not something which ever much exercised Rex, he was unrivalled as an author - in his originality, dedication to the possibilities inherent in published material and his infectious enthusiasm which touched everyone who worked on his books at his publisher, Longman. His influence, though his books, through the collected papers from his inspiring Charney Manor weekends, through the magazine Teaching Geography (born at the final session of a freezing Charney) went worldwide. He was a joy to know and to work with and to suggest January 2, 2011 as a final deadline is out of the question. 'You can lose a man like that by your own death but not by his.'.
I was very sad to hear about Rex's death. What tragic circumstances. He was an enthusiastic supporter of geography, geographers and of the GA. He will be missed.
I was lucky enough to be one of Rex's PGCE students in 1984/5 in the Department of Education in Cambridge.. He was a brilliant teacher of teachers and quite rightly felt that entertainment was a high priority for any classroom teacher. Rex was a passionate supporter of the subject and we were encouraged to widen our approach to see that geography is relevant to anyone interested in trying to understand the world. As a mature student, I perhaps felt more upset than some by failing to control some classes during my teaching practice term in a local school. Rex showed great kindness during a particular bad patch, visiting me at the school and encouraging me to see that such skills can be acquired over time. Thanks to him, I continued and went on to enjoy nearly 20 years teaching geography; he was right, of course, geography is a great subject to teach.
As a former member of the GA and a long-time associate and friend of Rex Walford I was shocked by the tragic loss of a man who was a global giant in the world of geographical education. I 'discovered' Rex via his friend John Everson in the late 1960s when Rex was leading teachers to adopt a 'new geography' based on the work of Peter Haggett and Richard Chorley. In the late '60s and '70s Rex was the leading member of a group that included Peter Hore, Trevor Bennetts, 'Everson and Fitzgerald' and Rex who wanted Geography to move from from crude regional geography to a more 'scientific' approach based on 'concepts, quantification and models, inspired by educationalists such as Jerome Bruner. How I yearned to apply the 'spiral curriculum'. Rex inspired me in numerous ways. Together we co-edited Perspecives in Geographical Education, a 'reader' that attempted to fly the flag of the so-called 'New Georgaphy' to students and teachers. Rex responded to the rallying cry and 'translated' erudite academic studies into classroom learning. He had a huge number of 'hobbies'. Not many people know that he authored an article on 'The Spread of first Class Cricket venues since 1945: A study of colonial Expansion'. He loved sport, notably cricket, but the theatre was his love. He was also, at times a long distance runner, a theologian, jounralist and, just to fill his empty time during 'retirement' he compleded a PhD. Rex wrote the history of British Geography; I doubts that anyone will be able the handle the biography of Rex Walford - much loved and massively missed
Rex Walford's death is a great tragedy and I was shocked when I learnt of his untimely passing. Rex not only inspired several generations of aspiring geography teachers (in both London and Cambridge), he also had great influence on many geography lecturers such as myself. Of those who were fortunate enough to meet him, few failed to be moved by his tremendous enthusiasm for the subject. Furthermore, his publications (such as "Games in Geography") made a very significant mark in the field of geography teaching in schools.
I first encountered Rex when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge (in 1972 or 1973) when he gave a lecture to the Cambridge Geographical Association which I was fortunately enough to attend. The lecture was thought-provoking and also inspirational. I was, some years later, very pleased when Rex accepted an invitation to become the geography external examiner at the Hertfordshire College of Higher Education (now part of the University of Hertfordshire). As our external examiner, Rex gave of his time unstintingly and he was everything one could possibly want as an external examiner. Although rigorous and always expecting high quality work, he was also compassionate when necessary and his words were always wise. I never met Rex outside of my professional life but I do remember watching him on an episode of "Mastermind" when - to his great chagrin - he answered a geography question incorrectly. He told me afterwards that sitting in the Mastermind black chair was an absolutely terrifying experience. Rex was a great character and geography needs characters like Rex. It was a great privilege to know him. Requiescat in pace.
The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) wishes to send its condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Dr Rex Walford OBE.
Dr Walford supported the Society in many ways for more than 25 years, including as Vice President and Chair of its Education Committee, as a member of Council, and as a current assessor for its Chartered Geographer professional accreditation. He received the Society’s Back Award in 1990 for his contribution to geographical education.
Director of the Society, Dr Rita Gardner, paid tribute to her friend and colleague:
“Rex made an outstanding lifetime contribution to geography and the arts. His legacy will live on in the many people and organisations that he inspired and unstintingly supported with his time, knowledge, warmth and passion for all that he did. He was one of life's wonderful people,” she said.
I have just read through the tributes to Rex and the theme is enthusiastism in everything he did. I have known and worked with him for many years and his contributions to Geography are widely known and appreciated. He was also a great help to me at BBC School Radio, constructive in comment, imaginative in programme ideas and supporting publications. He was an exemplary chair of many committees of the GA- everyone felt that they had had a fair hearing in any discussion he led. A great loss.
Rex was one of the very few truly inspirational geography educators. I first encountered him at the end of my PGCE year at the Intitute, when he gave one of a series of guest lectures. I remember it as the highlight of the whole year.
Over the years that followed, I had the pleasure and privilege of regular encounters with Rex in various capacities. I'm not sure that we always agreed about all aspects of geography education (or football and cricket for that matter!), but Rex was always someone whose thoughts you would want to hear before coming to your own view.
Rex was not just one of the best geography educators, he was also one of the nicest people you could wish to meet. He will be hugely missed for all sorts of reasons by all who had the great good fortune to have known him.
I am deeply saddened by the death of Rex Walford. I shall remember him for his passion for geography, his enthusiasm for innovative geography teaching, his unfailing humour and optimism, and his enduring commitment to the GA. I was fortunate to be Joint Hon. Secretary of the GA when Rex was the Chair of the Education Standing Committee at a time when the case for geography was being framed in the context of the Great Debate. His energy was boundless and he became the public face of the GA.
Tragic news as I always believed that Rex was 'there' in the background of academic space. Last seen at a Northants. cricket match, but we went back to the revealing days of the Geography rampage when Rex led those who heard into a new potential for school geography ; he was a premier voice and a great character. When my son,Carl, joined Education at Cambridge we met again, relishing the continuation of his insight to a further generation. In writing for geographic education, Rex was the beacon.
A great man who will be much missed. In the words of David Lambert "He invested in us relentless joy at the prospect of teaching geography and also why it matters: not only to do it, but to do it well."
What sad news. Rex worked with myself and others in South Africa in the 1970's and was a great mentor to many young geography education researchers. Wendy and he were always happy to see me and provide accomodation in Cambridge when I and my wife visitied. He was a very interesting person with a sharp mind, great wit, charming personality and always 'full of bounce'. We will miss him. Roy and Claire Ballantyne
I still cannot believe the news. REX was everything and more that all the comments to the GA show. Your photo of him is so well chosen , the twinkle in the eye, the ready wit. His commitment to Geography was/is massive. Taking over as a novice lecturer in Geography at Middlesex Poly I needed inspiration post Maddingly and the Geographical Quantitative Revolution. Rex and "games" was one such boost. I much appreciated his help as "editor" , his inspirational input.
Heady days ! I just can't believe it. Future Geographical thought is deprived of a giant intellect and inspirational focus
Rex Walford was an inspiration to me. My one year PGCE at Cambridge with Rex was the most stimulating year in education. He was a great educator, a true Renaissance Man, unfailingly polite and good natured and will be sadly missed. I cannot believe what has happened.
Rex was my PGCE tutor (1990-1) and made a huge impact on my life. He had great insight and understood people. He was always interested in what we did and encouraged us. He was a friend and I owe a huge deal to him. I shall miss him.
I was deeply saddened by the news of Rex's tragic death. He was a lovely man and friend who always had time for a kind word and a chat. He contributed so much to geography and I will remember him with great affection.
I first met Rex soon after he arrived in Cambridge when Richard Chorley introduced him at 'The Andre Previn of Geography' and Rex showed his talents at the piano. Bedfordshire Geographers will remember him for the concert at Bedford School the Geography of Music and Glenn Miller which displayed his great versatility. Rex narrated, arranged, conducted and presented the evening.
As a tutor of teachers and as a friend he will be greatly missed.
Our condolences to the family.
On behalf of the European Association of Geographers
drs Harry Rogge MA
I had the honour and privilege of meeting you when Professor A. Kent and I visited Cambridge in early 2000. At that time, I was grappling with the genesis of my PhD proposal and it was so timely to meet you. I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity of learning and tapping from your bountiful reservoir of knowledge. I thank you and always will, as I acknowledged in my PhD thesis. Your sad and untimely death is a painful loss not only to your relatives but to all of us and Geography in the UK and the wider world. May your soul rest in peace.
You have had a wonderful life. Thank-you for all that you have done for us all. My thoughts are with your family at this time.
Waking up in a cold Sunday morning from HK to read the sad email by Simon Catling about the tragedy and sad loss of Rex Walford, yet another huge towering figure in Geographical Education. Rex will be sadly missed by all the geography teachers and educators round the world. However his legacy will be remembered through his works, projects and books. His inspiring and nurturing support given to colleagues, students and all young educators will be greatly treasured. Trust he is now at total peace in the Heavenly Home.
I heard the tragic news about Rex when I returned from a holiday in Spain. I first met him before his Cambridge days when we were young geography lecturers teaching in adjacent Colleges of Education in West London. He inspired me then and we always kept in touch although our careers took different paths.
As Hon. President of the Bedfordshire GA Branch I feel honoured to have seen Rex at his best last September at our 50th Anniverary concert at Bedford School. For me it will be a wonderful lasting memory of him - a truly awe inspiring geographical educator.
Re. Rex Walford
Sally and I were shocked to hear the sad news about Rex and we feel strongly for his family and friends. I shall always remember him as an admired and respected colleague in geography education for so many years (since around 1968). He was in such good spirits at the Institute of Education on 13th October last year and I greatly value this last meeting with him.
Rex's tragic death will leave a gap in many lives across the world. I was privileged to be part of his 80/81 PGCE cohort and kept in contact over the past 30 years. He was always willing to share adivce, offer help and never ceased to inspire. I echo so many of the thoughts expressed in other tributes but I will always remember his kindness to me whist I was on 'teaching practice'.
Rex was due to observe a lesson with 20 or so boisterous boys and I'd pulled out all the stops to impress. After an introduction recapping on previous fieldwork, I went to turn on the projector to stimulate debate using slides taken on the fieldwork. To my horror I found that there was no 13A outlet in the room and it took ages to find an extension lead by which time the boys were pretty high! I knew I'd failed. Such a basic mistake. Rex sat at the back making copious notes whist the lesson eventually continued. In the de-brief I really expected that he would suggest a different career, but no, all he said was "You won't do that again, will you?" and continued to discuss the geography of the lesson! Rex always saw the bigger picture and I've never forgotten those words and over the years as a teacher and teacher educator I have often told the story to nervous students in their observation de-brief.
I owe so much to Rex who later paid me the greatest honour of sitting in on my workshops at a GA conferences and who was always happy to discuss the finer points of geography. He will be greatly missed; my thoughts are with his wife, Wendy.
Just picked up an email with the very sad news about Rex. Rex inspired me to get involved with the WWQuiz in the 80's. I can still remember the smell, the excitement of the quiz in the circular room of the RGS. Charney Manor and my first steps in writing took place under the guidance of Rex. Always a friend who took a personal interest. We shared an interest in games including postal football. I will miss Rex, he was a great inspiration to us all.
I have received an email titled the death of Dr. Rex Walford from Prof. S. Catling in Japan, and shocked. His many great works, including Games in Geography (1969), Signposts for Geography Teaching(1980), Land Use- UK(1997), have been inspired many Japanese geography educators and teachers. So, he was a key of the worldwide geography education community. I met him at the GTE 2009 conference in Madingley; it was the first and the last time for me. His marvellous lecture is unforgettable for me. I and my colleagues miss him and pay his last respects in Japan.
Dr. Takashi SHIMURA
Joetsu University of Education
Something which has not been mentioned up to 17.15 Tuesday is Rex's masterly Ph.D. thesis for Anglia Polytechnic University, ' The Growth of London into the County of Middlesex and the Response of the Church of England' ( I hope I have the title right). One of the best pieces of analytical historical geography written in recent years and I cannot recall seeing one review of it. Had Rex not sent me a flier as part of some other correspondence I would not have known of it.
By the way I have been a G.A. member for 50 years and still secretary of the Bedfordshire Branch!!)
Rex is always in the back of my mind whenever I wrote or taught. Is it significant? Is it interesting? Is it engaging? His influence remains deep and profound.
What a remarkable life to have touched so many people, so significantly both within and beyond geography.
We need to find a way to honour Rex's outstanding contribution to geographical education,and to the G.A.
I knew Rex for 40 years, from student days, when infectious contributions to the geography education programme run by Norman Graves of the Institute of Education for the BEd degree were much admired. He has been an enormous influence on so many lives, not least my own in many ways. Such a generous, thoughtful, caring, humorous and gentle person. So very much missed by us all. He lit a light for geographical education and, with others, kept it burning by his fun and intellect. Its a light we need to keep both in his memory as well as for the the people of the future, which is where he always aimed.
What a loss to the Geographical World and to geographical education especially. I forget when I first met Rex but it was a long time ago at a London Conference and I remember many happy hours in his company. Always had time to give advice, to talk about teaching the subject, to chat about cricket and always his way we were inspired by him. His charm, smile, his sense of humour and that that chuckle will be missed by us all involved with Geography. My thoughts go to Wendy and his family. He will be remembered by Geographers of all ages and his legacy to Geography will live on.
The Manchester branch committee of the GA was shocked and saddened to hear the news about our friend Rex Walford, he had touched our lives in many ways and will be greatly missed. The committee sends their condolences.
Sue Bermingham President
Rex's untimely death has understandably shocked and saddened the geographical community. It is heartening to read such wonderful tributes to an exceptional person. I first met Rex in 1985 at a Cambridge round of the Worldwise Quiz. I have attended courses led by him (his course for geography mentors is one of the best I have ever been on), worked with him on Cambridge GA events and been involved with his national GA work: he was always motivating, invariably challenging and ever supportive. One of the last times I saw Rex was at the 25th anniversary of the Worldwise Quiz in Cambridge at which he turned the tables and quized the students' teachers - with humour, humanity and purpose. My thoughts are with Wendy and Rex's family at this sad time.
Thank you is not big enough a word to express my gratitude for all the wonderful tributes to Rex and personal messages to me at this terrible time. Over the coming months I will respond to these but for now I hold your thoughts and prayers very dear to my heart.
To remember Rex's joyful commitment to life a Service of Thanksgiving will be held at Ely Cathedral on Wednesday 16th February at 3 o'clock.
What a terrible loss to Geography. We are so sad to hear the news. We remember the many times he came to Poulton-le- Fylde College of Education to inspire students and teachers and would stay with us overnight. We used to have a competition as to how many football teams we could name who played in the Corinthian League in the 1950's. I contributed Uxbridge and he did the rest.
As Rex would say, it was a dereliction of duty for teachers not to arouse an interest in and a love for geography. Thank you Rex for your sheer joyousness of life. God bless.
Although not a geographer myself, I was fortunate enough to attend a number of his lectures whilst he was at Maria Grey College of Education, although I met him first as a drama adjudicator. Then again when he interviewed me for a place at the college.
Rex was an inspiration in everything he did, a man who really made an enormous difference to the world of education, and in the lives of many.
On a personal note, he was what St Paul called "a man of encouragement", and he gave that to me without any doubt. When my younger brother died, Rex drove me home to be with my parents, and in a quiet and sensitive manner he helped me through a terrible experience. It was a real blessing to have known Rex.
Former Student Maria Grey College
I too am terribly saddened to hear about Rex. Although I did not know him personally, he has touched my life professionally in so many ways through his writing and the influence he had on people who I do know well. It seems that he has been so influential both directly and indirectly on so many in the geography community and beyond. He will be much missed but his legacy will be long lasting.
Rex was a brilliant student. His work for geography and its teaching was outstanding, He was full of energy and ideas. He became a splendid President of our Association and he was a Founder Trustee of the Dudley Stamp Memorial Fund. His Ph.D thesis on The Growth of North London and the role of the Church was highly original and is now published as a book. He will be remembered for his sense of humour, his great energy as well as for his great achievements as a geographer,
Like many others, I seem to have known Rex for ever, and have only very good memories of him. Certainly in the 1970s and 80s he was one of the principal teachers and authors we turned to for the latest ideas on pedagogy and geographical promotion.
I remember once introducing him at a conference, and in my research for the event noted his name in the 'Handbook for Geography Teacher', first published in 1932 [5th edition 1964] in which he was noted as the Lecturer in Geography and Mathematics at Maria Grey College, as well as having a Bachelor's Degree in Divinity. His roots and philosophies went back a long way. Perhaps a new Handbook for Geography Teachers could be dedicated to him.
My last contact with him, last November, was at the RGS, where we attended the annual meeting of assessors for the Chartered Geographer awards, little thinking it was the last time I would see him.
I was first introduced to Rex by Dick Chorley through the Madingley Lectures, which sparked a series of collaborations and madcap schemes that lasted throughout my time at Cambridge. We shared a love of theatre as well as geography, and my lasting regret is that we never trod the boards together (though his delight in musical theatre was probably the only thing on which we parted company!). We edited 'Horizons in Human Geography' together, and it was Rex's idea to have thumbnail photographs at the head of each chapter to remind our readers that authors are people too. Leafing through those pages now, and seeing all those gloriously youthful faces, I remember how, whenever I saw Rex, my own face would break into a smile. His ability to make the world light up for everyone who knew him was also an ability to make the WORLD light up: his human geography was always wonderfully alive, open and endlessly creative. He was such an infectiously restless spirit the very last thing he will be doing is resting in peace, and I'm sure he wouldn't have it any other way. I know, too, that our collective loss must be only a fraction of Wendy's.
As an entertainer at the piano Rex was flawless but he could not pass up singing George Gershwins "Our love is here to stay" with stopping at the lines 'In times The Rockies may tumble, Gibralter may crumble, they're only made of clay' and pointing out, as a geographer, the geological errors in the lyric. A gentle, wise and wonderful man.
Working with Rex and his trainee teachers from 1974 till the 90's was an inspiration and a joy. He lead by example as always, with enormous enthusiasm and commitment to his PGCE students as well as for the learning experiences of the pupils. He demanded the best, as much from himself as from his students and the mentors working alongside him in school to ensure that teaching and learning in geography was enjoyable, exciting yet exacting. His energy and enthusiasm knew no bounds and we are indepted to him for helping to ensure that generations of pupils and teachers know what it is like to be a real geographer. He brought awe and wonder to teaching and learning geography to all who were privileged to have met him and been taught by him. He was a teacher's teacher, a geographer's geographer and a great all rounder.
Sheila and I were in South America when the tragic accident took place but significantly we were informed of Rex’s death by a number of different emails. Now we are back in the country I have read the tributes to this larger than life man who has meant so much to so many, and so much to geographical education. I have many thoughts but there are two I would like to share. The first time I chaired a telephone meeting (about 8 people) Rex was one of the members. I did not know some of the people and anyway I asked people to identify themselves initially when they spoke. Most forgot to do so after a while but Rex said ‘Rex, here’ every time as requested. Having such a distinctive voice he must have been one of the very few people who never needed to do so. As we think of him I am sure we can and will always hear his voice with its insight and wit. The second thought, as we fight to regain Geography’s position in the school curriculum, we should remember that it was due to Rex in particular, together with a few others, that Geography took its major place on the original National Curriculum. Remembering the many theatrical talents of Rex and everything he has done for the GA, perhaps informally, if not formally, we might call our newly owned HQ, ‘The Rex’.
Michael Bradford, GA President 2000.
I can't believe that it is already almost 6 weeks since Rex died---it is still so vivid and horrifying.
His qualities shine through so clearly when you read peoples' comments expressing such love and appreciation for him---one need read no further to get the measure of the man!
Rex touched so many people in so many ways and in a variety of 'worlds'---certainly not just geography/geography education.
At meetings I recall him saying 'just three points'---and he would then outline his clear thinking in those three areas. So I'll do the same---just three observations from my memories of him.
First I remember as a student teacher at St Dunstans College, Catford (1968/9) where a certain Brian FitzGerald was HOD and Nev Grenyer taught---wasn't I lucky! I remember as a green student teacher being in a car with Rex and Brian going to a meeting on the 'new geography' and being captivated by their enthusiasm and passion for the then latest developments---it felt slightly dangerous and so exciting---his vision and passion was there to see and I was won over to a career in geog ed.
Secondly over many years I have sought Rex's advice which he always readily gave me and it was always good 'horse sense' as my tutor used to say. So I sought advice for example on chairing COBRIG; new members of staff joining the Institute of Education; and most recently my grand daughter's education!---he always was wise and ready to help.
Thirdly Rex has been a great supporter of the recently established---and some of us think rather important--- 'Geography Textbooks Collection' at the Institute of Education. He helped its establishment in many ways including a wonderful collection of text books from his Cambridge Department;advising on its direction;as a member of the Soddy Trust Board he helped the project to gain necessary funding; and most recently at its formal opening on October 13th 2010 he agreed to speak about the importance of such a resource---he did so as ever wisely and with passion and humour. I hope we might be able to make it 'The Rex Walford Textbook Collection' as a reflection of one of his many interests in geography education.
These are just three ways---there are so many more---in which Rex touched my life.
Perhaps most important of all was the humanity, fun , wisdom and enthusiasm he brought to all he did.
I can't finish without mentioning Wendy as part of that great 'team'---clearly such a support and cell mate for Rex---my most recent and happy memory of that super partnership was at The National Theatre and Zena and I joined Wendy and Rex for 'Time and The Conways'---it was great having a couple'of the theatre' trying to deconstruct the complexities of a complex production--but they did it well!
What has held me back from writing about Rex until now? – the shock of his tragic death? the magnitude of the loss to geographical education? the sheer impossibility of describing a man of so many parts? Yes all these….
In 1974, in my second year of teaching in an Oxfordshire school, I attended one of the Charney Manor Conferences and it was there that I met Rex Walford, the organiser of those influential events. The heady mix of high quality presentations and analyses, informal discussions with key players in geography and enjoyable social interaction owed much to Rex’s leadership, and provided an inspiring experience to someone like me just starting out on my career in geographical education.
Through the 1970s, 80s and 90s, I came to know Rex well as a colleague and friend. Our paths overlapped frequently in relation to Schools Council Projects (Rex was involved in 14-18 Bristol Project, I was part of 16-19 Project team); the Geographical Association (we both chaired GA committees and eventually became Presidents); the DES National Curriculum Geography Working Group 1989-90 (we were both members); HMI Short Courses, UDE Tutors (later called GTE) Conferences; RGS-IBG Education Committee; and countless geographical education events. Rex was always the star – the big name, the man who drew the crowds, the wise words at the committee meeting – but also the welcoming smile, the amazing sense of humour and the fund of anecdotes that enlivened many a tired meeting.
I remember the numerous occasions that Rex has given me advice and support, his efforts to help me through the strains and stresses of managing a career and children, his perceptive comments on pieces of my writing and research. But most of all, for me and the wider world, he came to symbolise the huge possibilities of a school geography breaking free from a rather staid past to embrace current social and environmental issues, rigorous conceptual underpinnings, games and role-play, enquiry-based teaching and learning and, above all, the opportunity for enjoyment by teachers and students alike. Geography was important, a crucial subject for the future, but it was also fun.
Rex’s vision of a relevant, rigorous and enjoyable school geography never failed, even through all the curriculum changes and political direction of recent times. It shone through all his teaching and writing and it will remain as his legacy to the geography education world. Rex Walford was a very special person – we will miss him.
I learned so much from Rex from 1968 onwards. My first meeting was through John Rolfe at Haberdasher's Aske's School where Rex used my class to demonstrate and test a decision making board game on the siting of a third London Airport.
From then on I helped to demonstrate Railway Pioneers at conferences organised by Rex, attended Charney Manor conferences organised by Rex where we debated the new National Curriculum. Rex wrote the reference which helped me to move to teacher training at Loughborough where I worked for nearly thirty years Rex came talk to my students and his enthusiasm for games and simulations in teaching gave a direction for much of my subsequent research and teaching.
My last and wonderfully happy contact with him was at the dinner to celebrate Michael wise's 90th birthday.
He was such fun to know, and he gave anyone he met so much inspiration that it is hard to take in that a tragic accident has taken him from us.
I have just returned to Loughborough from the memorial service for Rex in Ely Cathedral. I have never had an experience like it. The verger told me there were 1,000 chairs, all filled; the service brought together all those aspects of Rex's life of which I had known only a part. I learned so much more about him, I joined in the hymns and prayers and listed to the wonderful music. It made a special occasion which will be always in my memory. It was a very fitting tribute to an exceptional life.
Tim Foster :
I was first introduced to Rex by my PGCE Tutor, Vincent Tidswell over thirty years ago and I was immediately struck by his boundless enthusiasm for geography - which of course never left him. I have a great memory of Rex being the question master for the Northern Final of the Worldwise Quiz at York Sixth Form College captivating participating students and the audience alike with his oratory skills.
I remember Rex primarily for his generosity. He was prepared to acknowledge and respect views which may have differed from his own and to encourage debate about values which he may not have shared. He was prepared to shift, when he'd considered new perspectives. Kind, considerate, essentially democratic and above all, generous in spirit. I really liked him.
Rex was my PGCE tutor at Cambridge (1984-1985) and his unquenchable enthusiasm lives on in me and my teaching of geography, 28 years further on. His influence will live on through the children and students I teach and hopefully this will pass on through all generations of geographers. How sustainable an influence is that! It was always a delight to meet him again at the GA conferences. He was a very great man that I was privileged to work with. He has a special place in so many people's heart.
I had no idea that Rex had passed away until today, so a shock to read about this now. I was a member of his '91-'92 PGCE course - a small team of budding Geographers. I knew the instant I met him, that Rex was a very special person. He was an outstanding mentor. Very sad. No doubt he's looking down on the active volcanoes not so far from where I now live in New Zealand and wondering how the teachers will put together a fascinating case study!
I learnt of Rex's death whilst visiting Gonville & Caius today and was utterly shocked and deeply saddened by the news. I feel indebted to Rex and feel very fortunate to have been in his last cohort of students at Cambridge. His friendly approach and inspirational teaching style was second to none. It is safe to say that he was my most influential lecturer at university and it is a mark of the man that we (Geog PGCE students 1999) nominated him for an award from the University as a sign of our respect for a great man.
I have fond memories of visiting his home with my PGCE colleagues and felt truly honoured that he allowed me to contribute towards his book ‘Geography in British Schools.’ Over the years in both high and low moments in my career I have thought about Rex and his reassuring words of encouragement.
My thoughts go to Rex’s family, especially Wendy. I have little doubt that Rex is probably passing around an inflatable globe up there and keeping everyone fascinated with hilarious anecdotes. It’s a lot duller down here without him...