Peterhouse Head Porter - Mr Gerald Meade
Message from the Master
Dear members of the College,
I am sorry to have to inform you of some very sad news. Gerald Meade, our longstanding Head Porter, has passed away after a short illness in hospital.
This is a big shock to us all. Gerald was a pivotal figure in the College and had been for many years. His deep loyalty to the College knew no bounds. For an entire generation of Petreans he was an unforgettable and much loved figure. Less than two weeks ago he was still on duty, overseeing the Porter’s Lodge, offering greetings and assistance to all those passing in and out of the Porter’s Lodge, College members and visitors alike. We shall all miss him very much.
I sure you will all want to join me is offering our condolences to his children, Stacey and Michael.
We shall be flying the College flag at half-mast for three days from tomorrow morning to mark his passing.
With all best wishes
Master of Peterhouse
Gerald Meade is no more. He died in hospital on 29 November after a short illness. His was a familiar face, his voice sometimes a rather too familiar voice in the Peterhouse Porter’s Lodge, for twenty-seven years. He was a College treasure, who gave fatherly advice to sixth-formers coming for interview – ‘relax’, who gave friendly welcome to new students arriving in this environment, and reassured parents leaving their offspring and who needed to be encouraged – he did so as a parent himself. When the day came for graduation he was there, marshalling the robed graduands in the right order, helping the Praelector with the sock check, marching in column with him to the Senate House. The column would go at the Head Porter’s words to the Praelector: ‘on the right, sir’, ‘lengthen your stride, sir’. And the Praelector would cap and the Head Porter raise his topper to well-wishers and dignitaries as we passed down King’s Parade, a human juggernaut sweeping cyclists and tourists before us. Gerald had style, sporting his top-hat-and-tails, his gold watch and soldierly bearing.
He was a hands on, front-of-house man, who mucked in with the others when a job needed doing, but he was no friend to technology – he believed in the value of personal contact. Gerald held that there was a proper way to do things and upheld the traditions of the College. He understood rank and was at his best when College Officers behaved to him as Army Officers are expected to treat an N.C.O; but he treated lords, Fellows and old members with the same equanimity as freshers. Then there was the everyday Gerald, aiming to give wise advice or chastisement, sending to ‘Dr P’ students in their gowns for a ‘gowning’ – but sometimes not telling his Senior Tutor why – which would inevitably lead to the question ‘Well, why has the Head Porter sent you to me? What have you done wrong?’. How often did he convey information in the Lodge, how often did he share a joke, often wry, at times risqué, sometimes interspersed with unrepeatable interjections? Who does not remember his laugh, as he rocked back showing his teeth? – but he was discreet.
He was swift and decisive in emergency and kept calm as his Army training must have shaped him. He could give first aid to a badly injured cyclist outside his Lodge in Trumpington Street or rescue an aged Emeritus Fellow and his wife after falls in their locked house. He always knew how to handle this kind of emergency.
He had spent his first career in the Army, where he was known as ‘Titch’. He was short in inches but tall in stature and had risen almost to the highest non-commissioned rank. One of his most faithful friends on the staff always addressed him as ’sergeant-major’.
Which member of the College could fail to know about his love of bowls, of a beef wellington, of his garden at home and the pots outside his Lodge? He never got to enjoy his planned retirement to bowls by the sea.
He had a rich fund of reminiscences about College life as it is no more. Gerald was for years the face of Peterhouse. We miss him.
***A book of condolence has been opened in the Porter's Lodge for anyone who would like to add to it. If you are unable to visit the Lodge messages can be sent on the link below and will be added to the book***