Paul Farmer came to Chigwell in 1961 from “The Red School” in Woodford Green, and entered IIIA under the guidance of David Balance. His musical flair, under the sterner eye of John Auston, soon got him into the school band and orchestra as a French horn player. He subsequently played in all the summer concerts, including several solo items on the horn and piano, and was included in the ensemble which entertained HRH Princess Margaret in 1968.

Paul went on to study the organ with John Auton, played the hymns for “small prayers”, and was joint accompanist for the production of Constant Lambert’s Rio Graande. But despite his achievements he never gained the music prize, whilst his predilection for the “bun shop” and skipping games for the assignations with girls left him with severely undistinguished A level results.

Nevertheless, only two years after graduating from The Royal College of Music, Paul became Head of Music at the high-profile Holland Park comprehensive school in London, where he established the first CSE course and exam in pop music. He gained a London University MA in his spare time, and wrote several educational books which sold nearly half a million copies.

By this time Paul went on to become the Head Teacher of Dick Sheppard School, Lambeth, at the age of 33 – reputedly the youngest secondary Head in inner-London. Four years later he became Head of Sedgehill School, Lewisham, then the fourth largest mixed comprehensive in the ILEA.

In 1990 Paul left the stress of London headship and returned to Suffolk, where he became organist and choirmaster in Walsham le Willows, joined a local prep school part-time, and toured the country examining for Trinity College. He later became active in local politics, was a Suffolk County Councillor, and founded a national charity, The Men’s Health Trust.

In 2003 Paul was elected as both a town and a borough Councillor for Bury St Edmunds, gaining the highest number of votes locally since 1995. He retired from politics in 2015, two years after being appointed MBE for services to the community in Suffolk.

By Angela Farmer, wife of Paul Farmer

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