Andrew Szepesy   -    Johnstons 52-59
Andrew was at Woolverstone from 1952 to 1959. He sadly died two years ago from oesophageal cancer. I knew him at school mostly through being in a large mixed dorm in Halls’ house when quarantined during a flu epidemic in early 59. He was in his final year; I was in 2nd form. No lessons, not even any symptoms and great fun. He and Udi Eichler were extremely erudite and entertaining. When the Whoba website started in c1995, I scanned editions of "Janus". Andrew’s original contributions of stories and poems stood out in their quality. Andrew went on to University College, Oxford. He was friends with Stephen Hawking there and also knew Richard Ingram (who shortly after became the first editor of 'Private Eye'). After working with BBC for a while he was attracted to the Scandinavian film industry and also worked in Hollywood and other parts of the world.

Andrew had been brought up by his grandmother from three years of age after his father had disappeared and his mother had died. His grandmother spoke only Hungarian.

Andrew passed 11+ in 1952 while in the LCC area and became one of the first cohort of grammar school boys. He was among the very first wave to get to Oxbridge (and to start trouncing all East Anglian schools at sport!).

I made contact with him in 2016 via his son who had seen the Whoba site. Andrew was living on his farm in what he always referred to as Transylvania. This was in Hungary but only half a mile from the border with Romania.

We started to correspond by email, where he had many wonderful tales to tell about Woolverstone eg. Smitherman literally shooting his foot in the Valley while they were putting myxomatosis-infected rabbits out of their misery. I met Andrew in Chichester in 2018 when he stayed with a childhood friend to sort out some pension details. He was in failing health and it was not long after this that he was diagnosed with cancer. We regularly communicated via Skype until his death.

In the 1980s he wrote a novel based on his imprisonment in Hungary in the 1960s. It was published only in Swedish under a title that translates as “Regulations regarding the swallowing of bedsprings etc”. It sold well and, apparently is still available. (It was published under his surname’s former spelling “Szepesy” which was how he was known - and how it was pronounced at Woolverstone. To explain this is a story in itself).

His reworked English version is titled “Epitaphs for Underdogs”. It was only published as an Amazon download but with no publicity that is where it sat. He asked me if I had ideas or contacts regarding getting books published. I downloaded the book, was very impressed and did a quick review - even though he had sent me a Word copy to proofread as he was aware of a few typos in the Amazon publication.

I told him that I knew Ian McEwan and would recommend the book to him (knowing that it was the sort of subject that he would find interesting). Ian downloaded the book and was also impressed - so were editors at Random House. The hardback is just about to be published and the paperback is due in April. Let’s hope it does well for his widow and family!

Eric Coates - February 2021