Philip Martin Hollins – Obituary

Philip Martin Hollins (BGS 1958-1966)

by Andrew Hollins (BGS 1970-77) – brother of Philip
If there was one thing that my brother was truly good at throughout his life it was forming and sustaining friendships. Philip was also a great contributor, someone who did things for worthwhile causes driven by his compassion and a willingness to get involved and make things happen.
Philip was born in Lincolnshire and grew up in the villages surrounding Boston. He attended Boston Grammar School. Here his academic ability came to the fore and he was one of the top pupils in his year.
Philip did very well in his examinations and won the Parry Gold Medal, which is awarded to the sixth former gaining the highest A level grades in the school. His name is to be found on the honours board in the old school library. As an Old Bostonian myself I feel more than a hint of pride in his achievement.
It was during these teenage years that he started to develop his love of music, theatre and literature; interests that continued throughout his life. His friend Stanley Abbott describes it as discovering the 3 Bs; the Bard and Beethoven. The third B was of course beer. Friends from his Grammar School days include Brian Jackson and Terry Squibb, among many others.
From Boston Grammar School Philip went up to Jesus College, Cambridge where he read Natural Sciences. Cambridge gave him the opportunity to acquire an entirely new group of friends. I can remember Philip returning home at the end of term talking enthusiastically about Keith Evetts, Peter Terry, Stephen Funnell, Roger, Richard, Peter, and others.
Living out of college in his second year and lodging together in Malcolm Street it is perhaps inevitable they should form the Humm club; named after their redoubtable and, if Philip was to be believed, readily impersonateable landlady Mrs Humm.
Philip once told me that the two things that he most valued from his time at Cambridge were this group of friends and gaining the ability to spot a good claret at 20 paces.
Philip retained a strong attachment to Jesus College attending reunion dinners and garden parties. There were also periodic reunions of the Humm club and, in more recent times, lunches for Jesaun contemporaries organised by Stephen Funnell; a chance to renew old friendships. On the whole Philip rather preferred these unofficial gatherings.
After graduating he moved to London to pursue his chosen career of accountancy. Living in London gave Philip ample opportunity to go to Covent Garden, for opera increasingly became one of his passions, to concerts and to the theatre.
Philip formed another circle of friends. One of whom was Gillian Barker a children’s nurse working at Great Ormond Street Hospital, or Gilly as we came to know her, for she was increasingly in Philip’s company.
I can recall their weekend visits to Lincolnshire; Philip & Gilly, Julie & Simon, Martin, Monica, Anthony and others – many of them are here today.  These were weekends of walks on the salt marshes, hearty meals and relaxation.
Philip and Gilly’s love grew and they married. They made their family home in North London. In due course, they were blessed with a daughter Henrietta and a son Charles. I remember them as a close and loving family and it has been a privilege to observe Henri and Charlie grow up.
During this period of his life Philip was a regular worshipper at St Bartholomew’s [St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, London], eventually becoming one of the Church Wardens. This was also something of a family enterprise, for Henri was a crucifer and Charlie served as a thurifier.
Philip was especially proud of Henri’s & Charlie’s achievements, their days at university and their subsequent careers: Henri as a midwife and Charlie as a speech therapist. He was in tremendous form when Henri married Dan in 2013 and he was delighted and really excited by the arrival, only seven months ago [2015], of his grandson Jack.
He also took pride in our sister Elizabeth’s achievements – as the first girl from her school to gain a PhD and of her subsequent academic career. What he thought of my more modest accomplishments I do not know. But, perhaps the most touching thing that Philip ever said to me was how much he enjoyed my company; praise indeed, and a remark that I shall always treasure.
We were all deeply shocked when we learned that both Philip and Gilly had been diagnosed with cancer. Philip won his personal battle with the disease.
Gilly’s illness put a tremendous emotional strain upon Philip, Henri and Charlie. Towards the end she was admitted to St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney for periods of rest and palliative care, with Philip ever present by her bedside. Indeed, Gilly spent her final days there. Afterwards Philip said to me that he truly did not know how they would have coped without the support of that wonderful organisation. After her death Philip and other family members have continued to support the work of the Hospice.
Philip maintained his relationship with the Barker family, visiting her father, brother and sister, and attending the gathering and celebration of the Barker clan that is “Barkerfest”.
Philip brought [the same professionalism, integrity and high standards he set for himself] to his voluntary work [as he did to his professional life]. For some years he was a trustee of the Shaw Trust, an organisation that helps and supports disabled and disadvantaged people. He was also a member of the governing board of the University of Chichester. His contribution to the management and running of these organisations was particularly valued.
Following his retirement Philip moved to a house in Mid Lavant, not far from Chichester. Here he started to play an active part in the life of the village becoming a member of the committee formed to get a village shop up and running, in between his various travels and other activities.
I know that Philip was especially proud to have completed  the Camino de Santiago walking the 300 miles from Salamanca to the tomb of St James in Santiago de Compostela; staying overnight in the pilgrims’ hostels. While doing so he raised money for St Joseph’s Hospice. Philip had clearly developed a taste for walking and only last year [2014] he completed the South Downs Way.
A significant person in Philip’s life in his retirement was Cherry. She had been a part of his circle of friends in his days at Boston Grammar School. Their friendship was renewed and latterly they became companions spending time together.
As many will know, Philip had an endearing habit of pitching up out of the blue to knock on a friend’s front door on the off chance that they might be in.
I last saw him in October when he visited us in North Yorkshire. This was part of an almost stately progress around the northern counties of England to visit his various friends in the north, as he would describe us.
I am extremely glad that I took the Monday off work so that we could go to Scarborough and Whitby together. Philip was in really good form and we ate our last meal together in the Magpie cafe overlooking Whitby Harbour.
Philip’s passing has left a great void in my heart and I shall continue to miss him. As, indeed, we all shall. I have much to thank Philip for; for being my brother and one of my best friends, for introducing me to music and claret, for his wonderful company, but above all simply for being Philip – a thoroughly nice, decent, considerate and compassionate human being and all round good chap.
[Philip John Hollins died tragically at the age of 68 as a result of a road traffic accident in Carlsbad, San Diego, California on 23 November 2015. Philip was hit by a pick-up while walking. The 51 year-old driver was given a sobriety test, which he passed. Philip was born on 12 August 1947. His father was headmaster of Swineshead Secondary School and later of Giles School, Old Leake.]

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