Posted on FB on 25th August 2023

Hi - I would like to introduce myself, my name is Ginny Frankham. I personally did not have any connection with Woolverstone Hall but my brother Vin Gower did! He was a pupil there in the mid sixties. Unfortunately, we lost Vin in April & miss him so much. The reason I asked, & was kindly accepted, to join this group was to learn a bit more about life at Woolverstone during the time my brother was there. Vin was extremely shy as a child & at the time was the only boy among five sisters. He was not doing well at school & it was thought at the time that was because he didn't have enough male influence (Dad being in the army he was away much of the time) so the army chaplain suggested sending Vin to Woolverstone. I know Vin found it hard at times but he welcomed the camaraderie & security he found at the school & I believe it was this that helped him build the resilience that would help him harbour the storms of his later life!

He didn't have an easy life. After school he worked in several jobs such as on the trawlers in Hull, trucking etc. Eventually he decided to settle down, got married & had 3 children but life dealt him a bitter blow when he applied to join the fire brigade. During training he had a bad accident that resulted in him being in a wheelchair which he was told at the time would be for life!

This put a big strain on his marriage & eventually a split in his relationship. He was in despair as to what to do with his life. At the time I was working with horses & suggested he try his hand at saddlery (he had always been good with his hands). Reluctantly, he agreed to give it a go. He enrolled in a saddlery class at Cordwainers College and took to it like a duck to water. He excelled in this profession, obtained a Master Saddler's degree & went on to obtain a Professor's Diploma (he was apparently only the second person in the country to obtain this). He was then employed by a United Nations Committee to go to India to to set up & start a school of saddlery which he did! In between all this he was determined that he would walk again despite doctors' doubts, & through hard work, many disappointments, pain, pigheadedness & sheer resilience he achieved his goal! On his return from India he went back to the Cordwainers Collage as a lecturer, a far cry from the painfully shy little boy he was before Woolverstone.

I would like to make a heartfelt thankyou to Chris Snuggs, Jon Kemp, Louis Parperis & others for their kind words & support on Vin's passing. I am sincerely sorry it took me so long to get back to you all but his sudden loss hit hard; he was my rock, bless him. My sincere best wishes to you all.

Eric Coates - Corners 57-64: “Vin was a little after my time but we did have a few conversations - from the opposite ends of the political spectrum. What an amazing chap he was - all the better for not having opted for a 9-5 office career. But, in a way, Vin was luckier than many of the boys at Woolverstone in having had such a female household. Woolverstone was wonderful but no preparation, in my time at least, for handling female company post school. I didn’t have the courage to even speak to a girl until at least a month or two after I left. I went to one Sixth Form dance but could do no more than watch! I believe things changed somewhat after 1964 and the “swinging sixties” judging by the tales (or boasts!) I have heard. Didn’t take too long to get over it, and apart from my wife, I have two daughters and a granddaughter.

Ginny Frankham: “Thank u for ur comment Eric; it is much appreciated. I know Vin could be very dogmatic regarding his political views & he enjoyed the (sometimes a bit heated) debates on this. However despite the fact he may not have agreed to others’ views he fully respected that they have every right to b allowed to have & voice their opinions’! I think it was this stubbornness that, although very trying at times, that helped him to achieve as much as he did.Good on u for getting over ur shyness regarding females. I had a similar problem in my teens regarding males; was always the wallflower as I didn't have the courage to speak to boys. Best wishes to u & ur family.

Eric Coates: “Indeed - he was always very polite!”

Sara Baghai: “Hello Ginny. I didn’t know your brother though his name rings a bell. Thank you for sharing his story. What an amazing career he ended up having. How wonderful. And kudos to him for finally managing to walk again. Such a fantastic achievement.

I’m so sorry you lost Vin. I’m quite sure your grief is still pretty raw. I lost my brother five years ago and it’s still painful at times. Hearing stories about him is very comforting so I hope there are people here who can share anecdotes about your brother.”

Ginny Frankham: “Thank u Sarah for your kind comments; it’s always so uplifting when other people, especially those u never met, connect with u. Sorry to hear about the loss of ur brother, I don’t think time makes it any easier to accept but u learn how to live with the loss! As u say it is such a comfort hearing stories of those passed. The stores help keep them alive. Best wishes & thank u.”

Chris Hopkirk - Halls 72-79: “Thanks for your post Ginny, I only knew Vin through Facebook, but I admired his ability to write and back up his opinions well. I also loved his good humoured sparring with other old boys over many topics. I am sure you miss him a lot. It does sound that he lived a good life and showed others how to deal with adversity with such resilience.”

Ginny Frankham: “Thank u Chris - good to know that those that didn’t personally know him still had respect for him. Best wishes.”

Harvey Angel - Hansons 64-71: “Ginny, I was in the same house as Vinny, He was a few years younger than me and one of the quiet kids so I didn't really have much to do with him. However, I had similar political views to him and so enjoyed his lively online debates with Eric, where he always gave as good as he got. Sadly missed.”

Ginny Frankham: “Thank u Harvey. All comments on here have given me a clearer insight into part of my brother’s life. Although he was good at holding conservations online he was quite an inward & very private person who did not like talking about himself or his experiences on a more personal level ! Best wishes.”

Ian Suter - Halls 53-60: “Chris - What a great story! Well done for your part in this, mate.”

Toby Blundun - Hansons 68-75: “I remember him well. He was two years above me in Hansons and was a nice guy and friendly face to us new boys in a strange new environment. We knew him as Vince. I don’t know why but there was a kind of catch phrase connected to him-people would say ‘first on the list Vince!’ A kind of in joke…I thought that he joined the school later than his natural year group and left earlier than you said.”

Ginny Frankham: “Thank u Toby - so heartwarming to hear others’ memories of him.”

Ginny Frankham: “Chris, thank u once again - u cannot fathom how grateful I, my Mum & my siblings r to u for helping to keep memories of Vin alive, for us to know he will never be forgotten. Our mum asked me to tell u quote "that u have made her so happy & helped ease the pain of losing him. God bless u." unquote! Very best wishes to u Chris & thank u.”

Chris Snuggs - Berners/Halls 58-65: “Very kind, and best regards to Mum and family - but we “Not Always Happy Few” are a Band of Brothers on the Good Ship WHS. I play around with photos and websites. If you would like me to make up a website dedicated to Vin along with photos and any documents then you just need to scan and mail them to me - or post if you can't scan them!”

Im Memoriam - Vin Gower: Hansons 66-73