St John's College

The school flag flies at half-mast today in memory of Peter Herbert Lapping (Nash 1958/Sixth Form 1959).

Peter was a School Prefect in Nash House during his time at St John’s College. He was captain of the 2nd XV rugby (occasionally playing for the firsts) and played 1st XI Cricket. He was also the recipient of the prestigious Golden Eagle Award in 2009 for his caring, compassionate and principled leadership in the field of Education and his selfless service beyond the call of duty to champion education.

Peter was born in India on 8 August 1941, where his father was a medical officer during the Second World War.

His family relocated to South Africa after the war, and he was educated at St John’s College. He was awarded a first-class BA Honours in History from the University of Natal and went on to read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Lincoln College in Oxford.

Upon his graduation, he taught for a year at Reed’s School in Cobham before being appointed Head of History at Loretto School in 1967. He remained there until 1979, also serving as Housemaster from 1972 to 1979, before being appointed Headmaster of Shiplake College in Oxfordshire. In 1988 he was appointed Headmaster of Sherborne School until his retirement in 2000.

Stuart West, Executive Headmaster at St John’s College, had the privilege of meeting Peter during his visit to Old Johannians in London last year. “I had lunch with Peter and Diana (Wizzy) at their beautiful cottage near the village of Minchampton, where they were both in good health and spirits. It was wonderful to hear Peter’s story of how he came to South Africa and St John’s as he fondly recalled the kindness of then Headmaster, the Revd Sydney Herbert Clarke, who welcomed him and his family to the College.”

He also offered keen insight into his time of Headship at Sherborne School, how he built their Foundation and the close partnership he forged between the school and the Old Shirburinan Society to promote the sustainability of that great institution. Peter and Dianna were also regular and generous donors to the St John’s College Foundation in the United Kingdom, supporting our scholarship programmes.

“Peter was a giant in educational leadership, was an ardent cricket fan and a passionate golfer. We had much to talk about," said Stuart.

In recent years, he met up with Peter Hamilton, Warwick Peacock and James Ridley, his fellow Nash House classmates of 1958. The Old Johannians made a pilgrimage to “a few miles above Tintern Abbey”, where Wordsworth wrote his famous poem. The poem had been part of their English Literature syllabus in matric and had made a deep impression on them.

“The St John’s College and Old Johannian communities are deeply saddened at Peter’s passing, and we send our condolences, love and support to Wizzy and the Lapping family,” said Stuart.

He is survived by his wife, Diana, and children, Mark and Joanna, and grandchildren.