Obituary: Nick McCabe

Mary Apperley, daughter of former teacher Nick McCabe (BS 1961-1988), has got in touch with the sad news that her father passed away on Saturday evening, 11th December, aged 94.

The service shall be at Bournemouth Crematorium at 10.30 on Thursday 23rd December, followed by a service of thanksgiving for the life of Nick McCabe at 10am on Wednesday 29th December at St Lukes Church, Wimborne Road, Winton. No flowers, rather contributions to the work of the Parish of Winton, Moordown and Charminster.

Nick McCabe joined the school in 1961, having moved from another grammar school in Kent, and was soonafter appointed as Head of Modern Foreign Languages. He is best remembered for organising the French exchange, which David Hilliam, in his book Bournemouth School 1901-2000, recounts:

The slow, then rapid, growth of the ‘French Exchange’ with Cholet is now part of the history of the school.

It is impossible to describe the sheer physical immensity of this annual undertaking, in which, by the late ‘eighties scores of teenagers enjoyed the opportunities which were being offered.

Boys and girls from other Bournemouth schools joined in, and the whole enterprise took on a gigantic family atmosphere. Nick McCabe was joined, every year, by various and numerous colleagues but the thrust of the organisation was his alone, for twenty-one years or so, until Nick retired.

It came as a surprise to Nick that in 1997 the French Government awarded him the honour of the ‘Palmes Academique’ for his services to education and international understanding.

More recent Old Bournemouthians will remember Nick’s son, Simon McCade, who followed in his fathers footsteps and also taught Modern Languages at Bournemouth School.

David Trenchard, Chairman of the Old Bournemouthians’ Association, writes simply, “another legend of the School has passed”.

14 thoughts on “Obituary: Nick McCabe

  1. I will always remember Mr McCabe teaching us french in 1972, his son was in our year too. Many will recall him as a teacher of note! I went on to work for a French bank based in London for many years. My basic french was soon improved and became such a useful skill and a personal asset, all thanks to Mr McCabe.

  2. I knew the whole family very well and often spent many happy teenage times at The McCabery in Gresham Road with Dom and Si (Mary and Hannah too). I’m very sad to hear of Nick’s passing. He was a real character and a very clever man. Never had him as a teacher myself when I was at Bournemouth School. But we did have some fantastic times on the French Exchanges (I went three times to Cholet) Also I remember night fishing with the family down at the beachut in Bournemouth. Eating tiddy oggies in the early hours for those that hadn’t gone to sleep. My love and best wishes to the whole family at this sad time. Know that what your Dad and Mum did for us will always be long treasured in my heart. Sincere condolences Tony Armstrong (aka Twang!)!!

  3. Nick McCabe was something of a disciplinarian who could stand for no nonsense. There were occasionally explosions of anger, but what i most recall about him are the explosions of laughter. He was a caring mentor, and I would never have gone on to become a professor of German history without Nick’s guidance. In 1963 he had set up the first German exchange with the families of pupils at a secondary school in Wildbad im Schwarzwald. i was already keen on German, but my parents could not afford to send me with the group that summer. Then that year two of my grandparents died, and there was a little extra cash to make it possible. Too late, however. So, Nick took the trouble to arrange for me to go alone that Christmas to stay with one of the teachers and his wife. They had no children and did not speak a work of English. My German language skills were quite limited but, being thrown in at the deep end, I simply had to get on with it. And so began the most memorable Christmas I had ever experienced: deep snow in the Black Forest! Every photo I took could have graced a Christmas card, and my hosts were kindness itself. My love affair with Germany was now unshakable.
    I wanted to study German at university but, taking my A-levels when I was not quite 17, I was regarded as too young to apply for that autumn. Nick encouraged me to stay on for a third year in the 6th Form and read widely in German literature, starting right away in the summer holidays, and to discuss the books with him. He pressed me to rank University College London as my first choice, claiming that it was the best German Department in the country at that time, even better than Oxbridge. When I was called for interview at UCL, what do you think happened? They wanted me to talk about what I’d been reading recently. Had I applied a year earlier, I would not have been able to discuss much more than the few set books for A level, and they would certainly have turned me down. As it was, I was welcomed into the Department for four wonderful years as an undergraduate, including a year abroad in Tübingen.
    Those German classes with Nick in the final year were quite relaxed and informal. But one enduring memory of him back then was, when the bell rang from St. Francis Church at noon, Nick would stop literally in mid-sentence, bow his head, and quietly say the Angelus prayer. Nothing was more important to him than his faith.

  4. Nick McCabe helped manage the school choir with Mr Harcourt-Smith [often known as Harpsichord-Smith]. in the early 1960’s.
    He set up a smaller ad hoc singing group that met before school known as Les Moineaux . Les Moineaux sang French folk songs and competed against the full choir in a Bournemouth competition [I think it was called the St Cecila festival]. I can still remember some of the songs we learnt. We learnt them in French by memory without music. He was a great music teacher and inspiration. I have had one of those songs stuck in my head all day.

  5. Funnily enough I was thinking about Nick McCabe today and how he used to play viola in Mr Bellinger’s string orchestra and Mr Blackett’s school orchestra. Sad to say these days many schools would struggle to put together a string quartet. And then there was ‘Atom und Aloe’…

  6. Yes – he just about managed to enable me to squeeze across the French A level pass mark, but of far greater impact and long-term benefit for me was his encouragement in the field of music: an introduction to madrigal singing and my first opportunity to conduct (a performance of Trial by Jury). It is for that, rather than the fragments of the French language I retain, that I shall always be grateful. I’m only sorry I never made the effort to get in touch to thank him in person.

  7. Nick taught me German A Level (1975), and I later taught German myself at Maidstone Grammar School which he had attended as a boy – his name is engraved on an honours board above the grand piano in the Big Hall. He was an accomplished viola player, and I appreciated his knowledge of classical music. Condolences to the McCabe family.

  8. Lovely to read so many comments about Nick here. I did German O level and A level with him, and in the first year of A level, we didn’t read any of the set texts, but listened to Mozart operas with the libretto, and le Marteau sans Maître (for some reason), read Mann’s Tonio Kröger and books by Dürrenmatt, and several other things. By the time we came to the set texts, we flew through them enjoyably. He was a brilliant teacher who gave me a lifelong love of languages and German literature. I worked in Berlin for 3 years, and everything I learned in our classes (usually taken in that tiny room off the language lab) were invaluable to me. He was also a mentor in so many other areas, about life, music, religion, you name it. He taught me organ lessons at St Francis too. Also have happy memories of playing chamber music at his house on Sunday afternoons. There’s not been a year gone by when I’m not grateful for his influence and education.

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