We were sad to hear of Peter Arter’s death on 24th October 2022 at the age of 70. Peter was on the staff at Friends’ from 1974 to 1988 when he left to teach at Merchiston in Edinburgh where he has lived ever since. Many will have fond memories of Peter who had an incredible memory and was a great help to many pupils as shown by the comments on our Facebook page. As well as teaching Mathematics he coached swimming teams, was assistant housemaster in the Boys' House, and for a number of years was our examinations officer. His funeral was held in Edinburgh on 25th November. Our thoughts are with his sister Caroline and family.
Eulogy for Peter Arter by his sister Caroline Adams
I’m Caroline, Peter’s sister or TG which stood for tiny girl, as he called me for many years until I outgrew the name.
Our parents met on the troop ship going out to the Malayan Emergency and Peter was born in Hong Kong, two years after their marriage in Singapore. He moved to the Solomon Islands in the Western Pacific where my father was the headmaster of the teacher training college. He was immersed in a culture of learning from a young age and lacking other reading matter he read through the full set of Encyclopedia Britannica – all 24 volumes.
From the age of 7 until aged 14 Peter travelled across the world to attend boarding school in Devon and subsequently at Bedford Modern School. As this entailed many flights in the 1960s he developed a love of planes and their technical specifications. Strong friendships forged with fellow boarding pupils continued for the following 57 years.
Peter went on to study Maths, Physics and Psychology at Bede College, Durham University, and subsequently a postgraduate qualification in Education. Always an academic he later obtained a Masters Degree for Social Sciences in Education at Edinburgh University. He had an amazing memory for names and dates and could recite the Kings and Queens of Britain and recall events from years ago with clarity, such as the confiscation of his tin soldiers by an airport official.
Having a swimming pool outside the back door of our home in the Solomon Islands helped Peter become a strong swimmer and he represented senior school and the University. He was proud to be made Captain of the College team swimming the most challenging of strokes “butterfly”. His efforts were rewarded by Half and Full colours by the college.
After Durham Peter obtained a post teaching Maths at Friends’ School Saffron Walden. As Assistant Housemaster his experience as a former boarding pupil assisted in dealing with pupils caught sneaking out of the boarding house. The Quaker community were very supportive and he enjoyed his time there but seeking a promotion he obtained a position at Merchiston Castle School in 1988 becoming Head of Maths and swimming. He was especially proud of those pupils he helped to achieve excellence both academically and in swimming.
On leaving teaching he continued to research subjects of interest producing papers on educational psychology, the meanings of stained glass windows for Scottish Heritage and backgrounds to heraldic shield content. I will always remember him lying on the floor making notes in tiny writing, surrounded by sheets of annotated paper being so engrossed he forgot meal times.
Keen to share his expertise he was very happy to give his free time to coach children and adults to achieve good results for examinations. Peter had a kind and considerate side and had many friends and acquaintances who he helped with gardening, shopping and trips out using his Scottish Heritage and National Trust Life memberships for free entry. He also attended church regularly, Quaker meetings, Heraldry Society and Theosophical Society meetings, and regularly liaised with friends from school, university and his working life.
For our small family it is comforting to know that Peter had many friends who were “there for him”. I will leave you with three quotations from friends and a former pupil which I consider sum up my brother well.
“We were intrigued by Peter’s letters which often had a mathematical theme”. No one in our family ever had a birthday or Christmas card without some nugget of mathematical knowledge.
He was an inspirational teacher and person. - He spent many additional hours at school to help pupils with their Maths understanding
And finally from Professor Topping who knew him from the age of 13
“A special person with lots of insights and a wealth of knowledge he shared with us.”
I too felt he was one of a kind. We will miss you Peter.
1. Peter receiving his Master's degree.
2. A form photo taken in September 1981 of 1x boys of the 1988 Year group with Mary Mileson and Peter Arter as form teachers.
3. A photo of Peter by Philipp Doermer (YG 1980).