23 August 2021
By Veronica and Teresa Stokes (text); The Stokes Family (photographs)
As HTBS has reported earlier, Oxford Blue Adrian Stokes passed away in May, at age 93. He was a regular reader of HTBS and, with his daughter Teresa’s help, an occasional contributor to the site. Here his wife, Veronica, and daughter, Teresa, remember him.
Lucas Adrian Fuller Stokes – always known by his second name – was born in Windsor on 17 February 1928, the eldest surviving son of Enid (née King, a niece of Viscount Northcliffe) and Herbert Bland Stokes. The Stokes and Kings are Anglo-Irish families with long historical connections to Trinity College, Dublin, and the Indian Civil Service. Adrian was educated at Arnold House in St John’s Wood and later at Scaitcliffe Preparatory School, an experience he found unhappy. From there he obtained an Exhibition to Winchester College in 1941.
Wartime life at Winchester was austere. Food was scarce (his mother reported that her growing son lost an average of a stone in weight each term), and there were nightly fire-watching duties. Though Winchester itself escaped direct damage in the frequent air-raids, the heavy bombardment of Southampton was visible in the night sky. Adrian became Vice President of the Winchester College Boat Club. In the First VIII, he took part in the Hedsor Cup (for public schools) at Henley in 1945. This was the first regatta at Henley in six years – this one day regatta was called Royal Henley Regatta, instead of Henley Royal Regatta. Adrian commented: “This was my first Henley. We only got through one round, but it was an amazing experience after the drab war years.”
The following year at Henley, his crew took part in the inaugural race for the Princess Elizabeth Cup. In training, the crew would cycle to Southampton for their outings on the Itchen, then cycle back to Winchester for a frugal meal of bread and margarine. Adrian’s other happy moments were singing in the choir and playing piano. Music became a great love.
Adrian left school in 1946 and endured two years’ National Service with the Green Jackets and Royal Army Service Corps, a period in his life he found “most disagreeable.” In 1948, he went up to New College with a Classical Scholarship. Although food rationing was now even more stringent (he had to put water on his cornflakes!) and hot bath water a rarity, the next four years were outstandingly happy and successful.
He immediately joined the New College Boat Club and soon found himself at stroke in the college VIII. The following February, the crew won Head of the River at the Torpids. His 21st birthday happened to be on the second day of the four-day competition, and the best surprise present after the win was a commemorative tankard which his crew clubbed together to give him, engraved with all their signatures.
New College Boat Club failed to win anything else that year, but 1950 was their glory year: with Adrian at stroke, the New College IV won the O.U.B.C. Coxless Fours. The VIII, also stroked by Adrian, retained their headship of the River at the Torpids and went on to win Head of the River in Eights Week, the Grand Challenge Cup at Reading and the Ladies Plate at Henley.
In 1951, Adrian rowed in the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race, which Oxford lost, but in 1952, he was elected President of the O.U.B.C. and under his leadership Oxford won, ending years of Cambridge supremacy. During this time, he obtained a First in Classical Mods and became engaged to Veronica Durham – a second cousin up at St Anne’s. Their marriage was to last more than 60 happy years and produce four daughters, Teresa, Felicity, Anastasia and “Min”.
On going down, Adrian taught for some years at Eton and Winchester and continued coaching for the O.U.B.C. until 1960. He had become a Catholic in 1954, and in those days, this proved a barrier to promotion at Winchester. As a result, in 1961, he and others embarked on an initially successful and groundbreaking venture by setting up Redrice School, the first lay-run Catholic public school. After 20 years at its Headmaster, he regretfully took “early retirement” when the school was taken over by another institution.
Next, he threw himself into the world of remedial education and for the next 20 years worked at and became Director of the Kensington Dyslexia Centre, coaching older students to postgraduate level.
On retiring from work in London at the age of 70, Adrian became Parish Clerk in his home village of Abbotts Ann in Hampshire. There was now time to enjoy his considerable skills at book-binding and furniture restoration – The Repair Shop was his favourite TV relaxation.
Always quiet and rather solitary – “I’m a typical Wykhamist,” he would say – Adrian came to life on family occasions for which he would produce hilarious celebratory verses. A much-loved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, he passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by his family and small dog. Without a fuss, just as he always preferred.
“Manners Makyth Man” was the guiding principle so well imbued and so well exemplified.
Lucas Adrian Fuller Stokes, born on 17 February 1928, died on 22 May 2021.