‘Where the hell have you been’? This rhetorical question was posed by Keith Jeavons to me on a cold November morning in 1962. I was a small twelve-year-old school boy and Keith was the art teacher and part time rugby coach at Brierley Hill Grammar School. I was a little apprehensive when I learnt that I had been selected for the opening game against Sir Gilbert Claughton School and after a restless night I had set off early on my journey from Amblecote to Kingswinford on my bike. I had arranged to call for Ernie Spears on the way but on arrival at his house it became evident that he had not shared my anxiety for the forthcoming game. His mother informed me that he was still in bed and had not mentioned the rugby match to her. Both Mrs Spears and her offspring Ernie moved at a slow deliberate pace and it seemed like an eternity to me whilst the two of them gathered themselves together, dressed, ate a breakfast of corn flakes with warm milk and packed Ernie’s duffle bag with his kit. I recall shuffling from one foot to another whilst the early morning Spears family ritual was re-enacted in front of me.
We eventually set off for Penzer Street rugby ground -the original Home of Dudley Kingswinford and this morning being utilised to launch the embryonic careers of thirty grammar grubs. As we neared the ground, I could see a tall figure dressed in a sheepskin coat and flat cap pacing to and fro at the entrance gates. His body language said it all. It became apparent that Mr Jeavons was far from happy with my performance so far that morning as the kick- off time was less than five minutes away. Both Ernie and I were encouraged to increase our pace to the damp dingy dressing room with a firm cuff round the back of our heads.
The gulf between a 12-year-old pre-pubescent school boy and a teacher was of course great but we managed without difficulty to adjust our standings and bridge the void between us when our paths crossed again some fifty years later and our mutual love of the beloved Black Country found us sitting on the Committee of the Black Country Society.
Keith Jeavons was born on 3rd December 1936 and grew up in Gorsty Avenue in Brockmoor-the home his parents were to occupy for the rest of their lives. He was educated at King Edward VI School Stourbridge and was called up for National Service in the Army in 1954.His training commenced at Norton Barracks followed by Bulford and then Iserlohn in Germany in early 1955. He left as a platoon sergeant.
On his return to civvy street he picked up the threads of his academic career attending St Pauls College Cheltenham to train as a teacher followed by courses at Birmingham College of Art and Bristol University. He taught initially at Brierley Hill Grammar School followed by a period working for Walsall Education Authority where he became a school’s inspector and finally an OFSTED Inspector-retiring in 2002.
Apart from being an inspiring teacher he was also an accomplished artist in his own right.
Running in tandem with his teaching career, however, were many active years in the TA.
He joined the 7th Battalion and gained his TA Commission in July 1959.
Between 1959 and 1967 he served in the 7th Worcester’s as a platoon Commander, Mortar Officer and Company Second in Command in Halesowen, Kidderminster, and Dudley.
He was promoted to Major and became Company Commander in Kidderminster and Wolverhampton.
From 1975-1980 he was a Brevit Lieutenant Colonel before taking over as Chief Instructor of the Western District Territorial Army Specialist Training Team from which he retired in 1987.
Keith was an active member and official of the Mercian Volunteer Regimental Association and the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment Association, whilst at the same time assisting in the running of the Regimental Museum in Worcester.
At the time of his death, he was in the throes of compiling the history of the Worcestershire Regiment TA battalions.
Keith served as a committee member of the Black Country Society for the best part of two decades during which time he became a reliable and much valued member of the team.
His contributions included representing the society at many formal occasions, acting as our representative on the West Midlands Area Canal Partnership- as an owner of a canal cruiser he was obviously well qualified to comment on many day-to-day matters and major policy decisions.
He regularly assisted in manning the society’s stall at Country Fairs, Canal Events, book launches, The Dudley Rock and Fossil Festival and the Armed Forces Day at Himley Hall.
He was secretary and arranged the speakers for the Kingswinford branch of The Black Country Society for many years and was a familiar figure on the door at most of our lectures -politely welcoming both visitors and members with his air of military dignity.
Keith was a straight talking but kind man who possessed a strong sense of duty combined with a desire to help whenever he could.
He was predeceased by his wife Margaret several years ago.
Our thoughts and condolences go to his daughter Rebecca and sons Richard and Edward and five grandchildren.
He will be remembered with affection by many that knew him - an Officer and a Gentleman.