Generations of Memories
ESF alumni: Varty Family
The tradition of receiving a high-quality ESF education in Hong Kong often extends across generations, and that’s certainly true of the Varty family. Paul and Corinne Varty (nee Remedios) decided to send their children, Lindsay and Rowan, to King George V School (KGV), their alma mater. But the Varty family’s ties to KGV extend even further. Paul’s brothers, Graham and Mark attended KGV in 1970s, and three of Corinne’s brothers, Denis, Michael and Philip are also KGV alumni. Denis even served as Head Boy in 1977 and 1978, and Rowan served as Head Boy in 2003-2004. Corinne’s uncle Julio Sequeira also attended KGV in the 1950s. Paul’s mother Barbara Varty, and Corinne’s father Philip Remedios, represent another link to the school, as they served on the committee in charge of constructing KGV’s swimming pool.
Lindsay attended KGV along with her brother Rowan, 31, and says her parents knew how much she would enjoy the school. Lindsay remembers taking part in a wide range of sports and extracurricular activities while pursuing her academic studies. “I had an activity going on every day of the week,” she says.
Now a professional rugby player and part-time writer, Lindsay built lasting friendships at the school, and will be a bridesmaid at several of her KGV friends’ weddings. From a career standpoint, she believes KGV set her up perfectly for success. “My teachers taught me in a clear and concise way,” she says. “They made the subject interesting, and allowed me to think for myself. They were very good at allowing us to develop our own thoughts on top of what we were given,” she says.
Paul, who attended KGV in the late 1960s and early 1970s, agrees with his daughter about the wide range of options ESF schools offer, both in and outside of the classroom. A chartered surveyor, Paul advises KGV students to make good use of the wide range of activities the school offers, including science clubs, performing arts groups, and a variety of sports teams. Paul was House Captain of Upsdell House in 1971-72. In recent years, Paul has given back to his alma mater by chairing the KGV School Council, overseeing a number of major initiatives. He has also served on the ESF Board of Governors since 2011. “It’s the variety of what we did at school that has stayed with me the most,” he says. “Most schools do not come close, and many universities do not have such good facilities.” Paul advises new students to make the most of everything the school has to offer.
Corinne, a barrister, thoroughly enjoyed her two years at KGV, and says she looked forward to all her classes. “Every day was intellectually stimulating, and fun in a different way,” she remembers. “I was no athlete, but with the house system at KGV, I learned the value of healthy competition. I became an avid spectator, particularly of rugby.”
The friendships Corinne formed at school remain strong many years later. “I never cease to be amazed at how strong the bonds we formed at KGV are,” she says. “We inevitably talk about our schooldays with great fondness.” Corinne’s teachers had a profound influence on her, she adds. “KGV teachers educate the whole person, and encourage intellectual curiosity and learning through self-discovery,” she says. “I was taught to listen, and to argue in a logical and balanced way.”
Corinne says that the caring and supportive environment at KGV helped her gain confidence and a true sense of self-worth. So sending her children to KGV was an easy decision, she says.
Fans of Hong Kong rugby will be familiar with its star player Rowan Varty. But they may not know that Rowan began honing his athletic skills as a student at KGV, under Charlie Riding, the head of KGV’s physical education department. Rowan cites Riding as a huge inspiration on his path toward rugby stardom, and the two keep in touch regularly. “I still bump into him all the time, and I sent him a video message when he celebrated a significant birthday recently. He’s a keen and accomplished sportsman himself and many students respected that (and still do).” says Rowan. Rowan followed in his father’s footsteps by captaining Upsdell House in 2003-2004. In recognition of Rowan’s achievements for rugby in Hong Kong, KGV awarded him the Principal’s Outstanding Alumni Award in 2014.
Rowan, who is a practising solicitor, first attended Beacon Hill School, and fondly recalls several teachers there, including Mrs Wojohowski, Mrs Clarke, and Mr Manley. At KGV, he says that “Mr Paul Letters taught me how to debate, present ideas, and gain confidence and structure in my writing; tools which are very useful as a solicitor!” He also remembers Mrs Tsui, who had something of a fearsome reputation. “When I foundout that I was in her class, I was a bit concerned, as there were rumours going around that she was pretty tough,” Rowan says. “As it turned out, she was brilliant, very friendly, and I learnt a great deal from her. But you didn’t turn up late for her classes.”
“What made KGV special for me was that it allowed me to get top level education, but also to have the autonomy to develop myself outside of academics. For me, that development was through sport. Every minute that we weren’t in the classroom, my friends and I were on the pitch playing some sort of sport. I would not have had that opportunity at another school in Hong Kong,” says Rowan.