An Appreciation for Donald Haigh (by Peter Rooley)

Posted on 12/May/2018 Under Blog, News

There are people who significantly influence our lives without us realising it and for me Donald Haigh was one of them.

Donald was a school master at Bradford Grammar School preparatory school well before my entry to the main school as a pupil in September 1958 and his career continued long after I left in December 1965. In fact, I was never taught by Donald, either as a class or subject teacher, but he was also the master in charge of the school’s Archaeological Society and I began attending meetings in the early 1960s and later served as Secretary for seven terms.

Today he would be recognised as a highly skilled facilitator. It was undoubtedly his wide range of contacts in local archaeological circles which gave us boys the chance to hear from Professor Maurice Beresford, Vince Bellamy, Phil Mayes, Terry Manby, Ken Wilson and Jean le Patourel amongst other.

Donald Haigh (left) on site. Photograph by Eric Houlder

Often he persuaded these same contacts to give us our first practical experience of digging and site recording. I now understand the high regard they must have had for Donald and his efforts to widen our interest in the subject. Moreover, when browsing through the school magazine for this period, it is clear to see how he encouraged us to speak at the Society about the various digs we participated in at weekends or during the school holidays.

Along with other boys, I learned from George Wilmott at the Abbey Gardens in York, Dr Ian Stead at both Winterton, North Lincolnshire, and at St Albans and later to have the ultimate thrill of participating in the re-examination of the Sutton Hoo Anglo-Saxon ship burial under Rupert Bruce-Mitford and Dr Paul Ashbee.

When, in more recent times, I found myself working at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, I felt that I had to acknowledge just how much I owed to Donald’s input so many years before. Late in 2009 I wrote him a short note of thanks and, characteristically, despite his own difficulties then, he responded at length, with many details which he still had at his fingertips but which I had long forgotten. The following extract provides a fitting insight into the character of this exceptional man:

Thank you for saying how much I and other colleagues whom you mention have helped you. It is pleasing to be thus remembered. I recall the words of the Rev. Peter Newell, BGS Headmaster 1953 – 62, speaking as he left to become Head at the King’s School, Canterbury: “As a schoolmaster one should not look for gratitude but when it comes, as it surely does, it is a reward beyond price or value. Experto crede.”    

To my deep regret now,  I never again met with Donald after leaving Bradford but I am pleased that I was able to acknowledge his influence upon me and many others and in which he rightly found great satisfaction.

Peter Rooley,

Secretary, BGS Archaeological Society, 1963-5,

Supervisor, Sutton Hoo, 1968-9.

Donald Haigh on another site. Photograph by Eric Houlder