Nelson Frank Roberts (Nelly)


Nelson was born in Longfield St, Southfields; went to Riversdale School, the local primary school and when the war came was evacuated to S.Wales which, for him was a happy time. In 1944 he won a scholarship to the then Wandsworth Grammar School. He soon made a name for himself. He had an excellent singing voice and won the annual Eisteddfod for solo singing every year until he left. His reputation was further enhanced when he took the leading role in Arms and the Man and later in the schools production of Shakespeare’s Henry VI part 1. At the same time he was taking part in the local youth clubs productions.

We were very lucky that many of the boys at school also attended the local church as amateur dramatics singing/debating were very commonplace. During the General Election of that period Nelson bravely stood as a socialist in the school Mock Election. He didn’t win but it by far the best address. He eventually became Head Boy. He was the first Head Boy to convene a Prefects Court and expelled a senior boy on the grounds he was bringing the school into disrepute. Nelson studied modern languages and was offered a place at Corpus Christi , Oxford on condition he passed in Latin. During this period he won a Rhodes Scholarship that took him to Canada. He also won two scholarships to travel in France but chose not to take these up. Nelson left school in 1953 having surprisingly not acquired Latin and went straight into the R.A.F as a national serviceman. He was sent to R.A.F, Felixstow to work on radar but appeared to spend most of his time sailing. During this period he married the gentle Ann, whom he had met in his youthclub days. Nelson left the forces and went straight to Borough Road T.C to teach modern languages.

We met up again in 1958 at the newly reorganised Wandsworth Comprehensive School. Nelson worked in the French department. As a schoolboy Nelson had learnt to fence and the new school had acquired Prof. Alf Simmonds, Englands No.2 professional fencer. Nelson spent much of his time teaching fencing to a high standard. Many boys went on to National and International standard. He often adjudicated at Bisham Abbey with County and National teams. He became a prominent member of the newly formed choir under Russell Burgess and took an active part in the school plays that were regularly performed each year.

Nelson left Wandsworth in the early 70’s to become Head of Dept of Modern Languages at Cranbourne School near his new home in Fleet. Nelson spent the remainder of his teaching career at the same school moving home eventually to Basingstoke. Sadly Ann died early at 59. Nelson took early retirement shortly afterwards and used this period to really spend time with his family. His interests were in old weapons and Japanese swords. He collected and sold and spent much of his spare time attending auctions. He acquired quite a professional knowledge and came up to London frequently. He often used that time to visit friends from school days. He became an expert model maker and sang with the School Choir, travelling up for practices until the choir was disbanded. He regularly attended the Choir Annual Reunion

Those of us who knew Nelson are unlikely to forget him. He had a very strong personality, sometimes appearing aggressive, yet he was quite a gentle person. He will be sadly missed by his friends and especially by his family. Nelson leaves behind his children, Simon, Joanna and Sarah, his grandchildren Ewan, Liam, May, Sam and Joel and his younger, remaining sister Josie.

John Bourton
Wandsworth School 1946-52

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