Book overview

Foreword

To what extent is the life of any person of value or interest once they cease to exist? Memories and recollections of their deeds and work might linger perhaps for a long time afterwards in the minds of their disciples, only to be forgotten entirely as in turn, their lives come to an end.

In recent years there has been a growth of interest in the biographies of the famous including politicians, artists, composers and leaders. Perhaps read by some through fascination to know what contributed to notoriety, success or failure, or even out of curiosity about the personality and a wish to learn or to emulate some of their qualities. It is perhaps easier to understand why those who achieve outstanding feats in science or medicine can be seen as models for others to learn about and imitate.

However, what merit is there in knowing about the lives of those who moved in smaller circles to achieve success without any universal accolades? Such questions have been in the forefront during the long compilation of this life-story of Arthur Edwin Simms which can be in no way definitive.

Arthur became an established figure in hotel and catering education in the UK after the Second World War and died in August 2003. He and his contemporaries were primarily concerned at that time, with developing proficiency in skills through practice and the acquisition of standards of achievement through awards and examinations. All regarded as the means to enhance the image of the then hotel and catering industry in the UK to a professional status.

What he and his contemporaries achieved became the foundation for standards in the UK hospitality industry as it is known today. His former colleagues and students numbering many hundreds could each write an entirely different biography on his accomplishments as a life story and express their personal views as to whether he had uniqueness in his ability to nurture all those whom he later came to regard in his words as, “life long friends”.

He was very much a ‘people person’, as his former secretary Sandra Pearce noted, although somewhat surprisingly he was a shy man. It is sad that in his latter years especially after the death of his wife Bridie, he was to become such a lonely one.

Although all who knew him personally are steadily diminishing in number, one important underlying question prevails. It is who would be interested in reading this biography and what might they derive from it? Given that those who knew him perhaps feel indebted for his guidance and assistance at some stage in their development especially if he gave them a chance. In the case of the biographer it was a second one.

Perhaps they might be curious about aspects of which they never knew such as his childhood when he assisted his father ‘Quisto’ with Punch and Judy shows for the royal children at Buckingham Palace and Sandringham (Chapter 1).

What can be gained by those who never knew him at all serves to raise the question as to whether this particular life story has any historical value. For do not the achievements of any past life have even greater relevance when viewed reflectively, in the context of how that person addressed themselves to the changing demands during their time as an exemplary study?

The focus of this biography therefore is that it is not just a story on his life alone. It seeks to consider some appropriate aspects of social history and how Arthur and his contemporaries reacted to the demands, restraints and opportunities which confronted them in their day. Hence the chosen title ‘The Life and Times of Arthur Edwin Simms 1915-2003’; with the mission to present a chronological account against a tableau of pertinent social changes. A background to serve as an example and to capture the interests of a broader readership, even scholars and those in other fields of work activities.

This project would not have been possible without all the contributions of some fellow students who studied at Highbury Technical College Portsmouth, between 1952 and 1977. Especially Peter Mereweather MBE who has been patient and discerning with his valuable annotations and comments throughout the long process of compiling this rendition.

To David and Moira Thomas for their time and patience in deciphering the biographer’s intentions at earlier stages, their attention to detail in the interests of accuracy and again their patience in awaiting the final outcome.

Also to Judith and Alan Williamson for their advice and guidance and encouragement throughout. To some Portsmouth students who later became lecturers there and Heads of Department in other centres, whose contributions are featured in Chapter 9 and are also acknowledged at the end of specific chapters throughout.

Fernand Boulert who was a secretary and President d’Honneur for both the Association Culinaire Francaise (A.C.F) and the Conseil Culinaire Francaise (C.C.F).

President Alain Cahour and his predecessor President William Hamelin, lecturer at Westminster Kingsway College (Chapter 12).

Harry Cracknel the only survivor in Arthur’s cohort at Westminster Technical Institute (1930-33), who survived him by five years, sadly passing away in 2008 at the age of 91.

Some Westminster Chef Diploma students recollections during the Second World War at the Beare Green Centre Surrey and at Brighton Technical College, which became a second centre in 1946 with Arthur at the helm. (Chapter 6) To staff of the Pusa Institute in New Delhi India, some now retired, where Arthur was seconded between 1964 and 1966 (Chapter11).

Many pertinent records which would have enhanced the factual content of this biography were destroyed prior to Arthur’s last move to a rest home.

Consequently most of what is contained here has been researched over a period of seven years and during part of this time, when the biographer was in full time employment. Some six interviews were conducted with Arthur prior to his death in August 2003.