Philip Leslie Baylis


Although Philip was born into an affluent merchant-trading family and lived in a tree-lined suburban avenue of genteel Beckenham, the family fortunes were soon dissipated following a collapse in the price of Australian merino wool. The villa with servants was exchanged for a smaller residence in a less-favoured street. His father died, apparently from the distress caused by financial concerns. Philip’s mother, Fanny, managed by careful planning and the use of meagre savings to supervise the upbringing of Philip and his four sisters.

Philip gained a scholarship to Beckenham Grammar School, but left his studies as soon as he was qualified, to earn a sovereign a week as a trainee optician in the City.

In August 1914, along with many of his friends, Philip was happy to exchange a tedious occupation for the unknown hazards of war. He volunteered to serve in the 5th City of London Rifle Brigade. After training, he was shipped direct to Rouen and thence to the horrors of the Somme and Ypres Salient. During the following year he was mercifully banished from the Front Line by a medical regrading and, thanks to his acute short sight, was elevated to working with mules. Despite the dangers of transporting ammunition to the Front, Philip was usually able to sleep under cover, wash regularly, obtain a cooked meal most days and enjoy the odd evening out in Mons or Abbeville. In a beautifully written letter from his landlady to Philip’s mother, we read of her son’s courtesy and his ability to cheer his comrades with rousing ‘sing songs’ around the battered piano of the local café.

At the end of 1918, Philip returned to the U.K. determined to carve out a totally different career. After attending the Guildhall School of Music and the Royal College of Music (where he obtained his L.R.C.M.), he taught at a preparatory school in Burnham-on-Crouch, from where he moved around 1925 to King’s School, Canterbury.

While here, he married the girl who grew up next door to his parents. With Mary, he spent four idyllic years absorbed in the musical life of the ancient cathedral city, before a dramatic exchange of locale.

Terence, their first-born, arrived en route to Sheffield, Yorkshire – then in the grip of depression. Philip was responsible for the music of over 700 boys aged 8 to 18 years, who attended King Edward VIIth School. A thriving choir and orchestra were established. Twenty private pupils studied piano each week in the front ‘music room’ of a gaunt millstone ‘semi’, rented for 10/6d (52.5p) per week.

Their second son, Timothy, was born in 1932.

Seventeen years were spent at King Edward’s, including six years of war from 1939-45.

New opportunities arose in 1947 with a national teacher shortage allowing Philip and his family to escape the smoke and dust for balmier air in Sussex-by-the-Sea. There could be no greater contrast than his new appointment as music lecturer at Eastbourne Emergency Training College and, later, as Senior Lecturer at the permanent Women’s Training College. This was to be the most fruitful period of his thirty-five years in teaching. He combined the running of a vigorous department and flourishing choir with duties as Chief Usher at nearby Glyndebourne Opera House. Only an injury to a hand persuaded him to relinquish his teaching position in 1960.

After a long and mostly happy retirement he died shortly after his 90th birthday. His wife had died three months earlier – a sad event, which caused him to lose all his previous enthusiasm for living.

Recording in 1962

Hugh (aka Humphrey) Smailes (KES 39-46) has sent this brief Christmas message recorded in 1962 from Philip Baylis, which includes a few notes of 'Tempus Est'.

Tributes from ex-pupils

From Michael Stanfield, British Columbia, Canada.
Posted 27 February 2003.

Starting in about 1942, I spent four happy years of weekly piano lessons in the front room of the semi-detached house on Watson Road. I was shown into this small neat room usually by Mrs Baylis, left to cool my heels for a while before the"Master" entered.

He was always positioned a little behind me, difficult to see and always inscrutable behind his thick glasses. One never knew quite what to make of him, but his love for Mozart always shone through.

He was always kind but firm, with his deep sonorous tones, addressing me as "boy". He commanded my respect in a big way.

After he passed away, his son, my friend Tim, gave me his heavily annotated copy of a piano concerto by Mozart which he once performed. I will always treasure this music.

Thanks to the "Master" and his tireless devotion to teaching, I have been able to play the piano for my own enjoyment, and for that of others, almost daily for the past 50 years.

I am also privileged to play the organ over the years for various churches, including the wonderful Casavant pipe organ in St. Paul's Anglican here in Nanaimo, reaching a highlight last year in being invited to play the organ accompaniment for two performances of the Schubert's Mass in C.

We sometimes hold "Music Afternoons" at our home, and I have occasionally been invited to play harpsichord or virginal with an Early Music Group in Nanaimo called "Heart's Ease "

See what you did Mr Baylis!

A little story to close:- Mr Baylis also taught us music at Junior school. I was about 9 or 10 and got into big trouble for peashooting rice all over the classroom one day before school music lesson. Mr Baylis gave me the gym-slipper for that. Three times!

I can feel it to this day!

From Derek Wells.
Posted 13th March 2003.

Between 1942 and 1947 Mr Baylis tried in vain to induce in me the skills of rhythm and correct pitch.

I was, I believe, the only pupil to leave the school choir through the inability to hold the correct key. Mr Baylis indicated my flaw in the most delicate way.

Nevertheless, I remember his sterling work with the choir and orchestra, including the recording made by the choir in a local recording studio and the beautiful Bach Passions in Ranmoor Church.

Most of all I remember his energy and burning enthusiasm for his chosen art form. A colourful personality well remembered.

From Ron Spencer.
Posted 13th March 2003.

In my first year we were all auditioned by Mr. Baylis for his production of " Iolanthe".

I was rightly rejected but my friend who had a club foot in a surgical boot but a good alto voice was chosen for the chorus of fairies to the great delight of both of us. Equal Opportunities sixty years ahead of its time!

The following year we had the new School Song thrust upon us - " Tempus est ut conquinamus quicquid Edwardensium etc. "

The words were by Mr Watling, the senior Latin Master. Most unexpectedly for a master, Mr Baylis sort of apologised to us in 3A because it was such a deathly piece of verse, he had been unable put the sort of music to it that he thought a school song deserved.

Like all good composers he felt that the music should have come first and set the tone.

From Jack Widdowson.
Posted 13th March 2003.

I was one of his choir boys until he discovered who was singing out of tune. A great teacher of music.

From Gordon Kilner.
Posted 17th March 2003.

Philip Baylis was my form master when I was in JIA in the junior school at King Edward VII in 1936 /37. Of course I had him for Music later on .

He was very keen on Gilbert and Sullivan and I remember a production of Iolanthe in 1940 or 1941 very well.

In the Junior School he used to take us to Glossop Road Baths during last period on Friday morning and lunchtime.

From John Hazel.
Posted 13th March 2003.

I remember Mr Baylis very well. An extremely talented music teacher and a very attractive personality. I always felt we were very lucky to be taught by him, and he laid the foundations of my life-long love of Classical Music.

I hope Apollo will be kind to him and put him in an eternal concert-hall with comfortable seats and all the music which could possibly delight him.

From Mike Roedel.
Posted 13th March 2003.

I was at King Edward VII school from 1942 to 1952 and do remember Mr. Baylis but did not have too much direct contact with him, as I was not an avid music student, even though I was in the choir for a time. I do remember, however, a vigorous, enthusiastic teacher who insisted on getting the best out of his pupils!

I may be wrong, but I believe he composed the School Song (with words in Latin), the tune of which I remember, but not the words. This was, of course performed on every formal school gathering such as Speech Day at which the Head Boy would also give a speech in Latin which the visiting VIPs would pretend to understand and laugh at the appropriate places! (I expect they were given a crib!)

From Derek Platts.
Posted 13th March 2003.

I was at King Edward VII school from 1942 to 1949 and I remember Mr Baylis well. In those days we had a short service every morning at assembly and Mr Baylis used to play the piano (a Bechstein Grand if I remember correctly) to accompany the hymns.

Education then was a lot different to what it is now, and I regret to say that music did not figure very largely in the syllabus. I think we only had one lesson a week in the music room which was on the top floor of the school. I remember it had double doors to reduce the noise. We also used it for meetings once a week of our "house" which was called Arundel.

I also recall that music lessons finished all together after the first 3 years unless you were particularly talented in that direction - which I wasn't!

From Eric Billington.
Posted 18th March 2003.

I was at King Edward VII School, Sheffield from 1938 to 1946. My first encounter with Pa Baylis, as we called him, was during my first year in the Junior School when he commanded all the new boys to sing a scale. I duly performed in my turn and was immediately classified a non-singer and have remained so to this day. No chance to join the choir!

I don't think that music was rated very highly at K.E.S. as the subject was no longer available after the first or second year in the Senior School. The whole ethos was to obtain as many Oxbridge places as possible. All efforts were devoted to the bright pupils and the remainder was virtually ignored.

As someone has already said, Pa Baylis composed the music for the school song, which was ruined by the Latin words. During the war we were all required to learn the National Anthems of France and the United States but I can't remember when they were performed.

I remember with some amusement the way that Pa Baylis would puff his cheeks in and out when conducting the singing. There is little doubt that the man was music to his fingertips and I greatly regret that he was not given much opportunity to instill a love of it into me.

From Peter Robinson.
Posted 20th March 2003.

Mr. Baylis was my J1A form master at King Edward's Junior School from Sept 1943 until July 1944, my first year at the school.

He taught me English and French, and at the end of the year, thanks to his efforts, I ended up top of the form. He seemed a very nice chap, and we were not scared of him, as we were of some masters!

I moved up to the senior school in September 1944, and Mr. Baylis continued to help me as a singer in the choir, although Music was not a subject on our curriculum.

I have copies of the school magazine describing the Christmas concerts in 1945 and 1946, where I featured in comic operettas by A.P. Herbert, produced by Mr. Baylis, as well as Gluck's 'Orpheus', Act 2.

From Dante Campailla.
Posted 5th August 2003.

I remember Philip Baylis so graphically as such an inspired music teacher when I was at KES from 1935 until I left in 1944.

I particularly recall Philip conducting the whole school divided into four sections singing canons such as "Great Tom is Cast".