Paul Howson’s Website

Personal Reflections

Remembering Ken Field

The following was written in December 1988 after attending the funeral of Ken Field, former Bursar of Scotch College in Melbourne.

On Tuesday this week I went to Ken Field’s funeral. Ken died last week during his sleep. He had recently been spending most of his time looking after his wife, Dulcie, who was suffering with a serious illness.

The funeral was held in the Memorial Hall at Scotch College where, upon the wood-panelled walls, are hung portraits of past headmasters.

Around 500 people from all walks of life came to Ken’s funeral. They ranged from politicians to groundsmen, businessmen to housewives. Ken was an influence on many people during his long and fruitful life — loved for his generosity and enthusiasm for life, for his love of people and his devotion to both Scotch College and his own family.

Ken, his wife Dulcie and children John, Robyn and Ian, were our next door neighbours in East Malvern for over thirty years. Ian and I were the same age and we were good friends during our early years. I remember many times visiting the Field household and noticing the carefully tended garden — Ken and Dulcie were avid gardeners.

In later years, when visiting my parents, Ken would sometimes call in. He was always cheery and interesting to be with. He had a wealth of general knowledge about many things, was a lover of opera, ballet and classical music, and had an openness of mind which was refreshing.

At the funeral, a number of people shared the eulogy to Ken. There was past Headmaster of Scotch, Colin Healey, who spoke of how Ken had been not a subordinate (as the bursar was considered by the School’s constitution), but rather a partner. Many times Ken would anticipate what the Headmaster wanted and already have things underway.

Ken extended himself far beyond the call of duty. He could often be found at Scotch on weekends, organizing volunteer workers who he had enthused to come along and work for the improvement of some aspect of the school.

As a child I well remember the Field family spending holidays at the Scotch College camp at Cowes on Philip Island. Ken often took on the role of camp organizer and even camp cook — a role for which his pre-Scotch College training had prepared him.

I was quite moved by the funeral ceremony, and in particular the fact that so many people had wanted to come to pay their respects. It was very impressive that an individual could have affected so many people in so many ways. To me, as a child, Ken had been just the next door neighbour.

I remember Ken’s kindness by a couple of seemingly trivial examples.

Once on a visit to my parents, after I had left home and was living in a shared house, I remarked that I needed to buy an iron because our iron had belonged to one of the residents who had recently moved out. Ken was present at the time and immediately announced that he had a brand new iron at home, which he had been given by someone. I would be welcome to have it. And with no further ado, he ran in next door and returned with a brand spanking new German AEG iron. It was a gift to me.

Another time, I was involved in launching a new magazine dealing with computer software. When we distributed copies of the initial issue, Ken was given one by my parents and was the first to respond with a subscription, on behalf of Scotch College. The publication was aimed at professional programmers and was not intended for high school students, but Ken was showing his support and encouragement for our venture — something which he was under no obligation to do. Unfortunately the project was not a commercial success and we duly returned the subscription money, but I never forgot Ken’s generosity and encouragement.

I feel grateful for having known Ken. He obviously left many people the better for having known him.

Portrait of Ken Field (courtesy John Field)