Skip To Main Content

‘One could even say that he is Tonbridge’: David Kemp (1928-2021)

The Tonbridge School community will be extremely sad to hear of the death of David Kemp at the age of 92.

As Acting Headmaster, Second Master and Park House Housemaster, David gave a great many years of dedicated service to Tonbridge, where he enjoyed an extraordinary career.

A Tonbridge pupil (PS 1942-47), David made the most of the sporting opportunities at the School. He was in the Cricket XI in 1946-47 alongside Colin Cowdrey, played for the Rugby XV in the 1946 season and captained the Squash team in 1947, having played for the 1st IV for three seasons. 

He was appointed Head of School in his final year, and went up to Brasenose College, Oxford as a Smythe Exhibitioner. David took his BA in 1952 in Jurisprudence and was admitted a solicitor in 1956.

By September 1956, however, David was back at Tonbridge as an Assistant Master in the Classics Department, and soon found time to run hockey (including playing for Kent himself), golf, rackets and cricket. 

Serving as Housemaster of Park House between 1969 and 1984, David completed the full 15-year tenure, seeing the three sons of Colin Cowdrey pass safely through his hands. He also accepted the newly created post of Second Master in 1971: that the School went from strength to strength in this time is testament to David’s kind wisdom, reassuring calmness and determined focus on the welfare of the boys. 

He was always supportive of other Housemasters and had a natural empathy for boys’ individual strengths and potential for development.

When Christopher Everett announced his departure as Headmaster towards the end of 1989, the decision was made to appoint David as Acting Headmaster to allow time to find a successor. As Barry Orchard OT (a warmly remembered master and historian of the school) wrote: “[Christopher Everett’s] place was taken by David Kemp, the loved and respected Second Master, who had done so much for Tonbridge for so long.” 

During David’s two terms as Headmaster the School continued to flourish thanks to his values of kindness, decency and mutual support. As Barry Orchard suggested, “One could even say of David Kemp that he is Tonbridge”. 

On his retirement in 1990 David took an active role in the Skinners’ Company, serving as Master from 1997-1998 and as a governor of the School. He was President of Kent County Cricket Club between 1992-1993 and also became President of the Old Tonbridgian Society. He was a regular and much loved presence at School and OT events, and at sports fixtures. 

James Priory, Headmaster, said: “David will be greatly missed but his was a life well lived, and one that has greatly contributed to the happiness and success of the School which he much loved. On behalf of the whole School community, I have sent my condolences to Marion, William, Peter and their families. Thank you for holding the Kemp family in your thoughts and prayers at this very sad time.”

David Stephen Kemp, MA (1928 - 2021)
(PS 42-47) 
Acting Headmaster (89-90)
Second Master (71-89)  
PH Housemaster (69-84)