After a long illness Fred Pinn died aged 86 years on 12 July, 2003. Overnight messages given to Bishop Raju, Kolkata and Arijeet Roy, Behala allowed prayers to be offered on Sunday, the day following, at places and by people he always remembered with great affection. Family and friends gathered a week later at Golders Green to bid him farewell during a deeply moving and beautifully simple service, following the Quaker rite which had been his wish.
Frederick Michael John Pinn first arrived in London from a troubled Germany in 1935. He served with the British forces in the Middle East, joining the London County Council after the war as a supply teacher. Then, through further studies at London University, he qualified with distinction as a professional teacher. Many rightly regarded him as the leading pioneer in specialist education methods, which relied on learning success from patient teaching, and practical, rewarding and sure growth as good citizens and parents. In this the individual was to achieve his potential whatever the worldly rating of his achievement. Fred's methodology was to greatly benefit the late starter and the pupil who needed lime to grasp the subject.
For the Oxford Mission and those who have supported and followed its progress there is no doubt that the Pinn School at Behala will be their lasting memory of a truly great teacher. It was back in 1965-71 that Fred was invited to assist Theodore Mathieson in founding and running a School on the compound at Behala, with the remit also to train his Indian successors. The idea to launch this project stemmed from an observation that identified under-achievement of many boys whose performance at the local High School was not meeting expectations.
Fred quickly got to grips with the challenge, and soon the Pinn School was on its way to becoming, as Theodore Mathieson wrote, "A remarkable School which is a place of pilgrimage for many forward-looking educationalists and a source of inspiration for many teachers from the City and from the outlying villages of Bengal. Before Mr. Pinn came we had no idea that all the boys could draw - 10% of them brilliantly. Boys develop talents in poetry, music and painting, while being involved in a school journey that is like an adventure, as they learn about their country's history, geography and natural environment. They gel almost individual attention and work at their own speed. Pupils have gone to Higher Education and posts in industry, after the most humble of beginnings and against the general tide of an educational system that places heavy accent on early success in formal examinations".
During the period following his Behala years, 1966-71, Fred returned to the Pinn School on refresher visits, and his continuing concern for it is shown in the many letters he exchanged with old friends and colleagues still working in Behala, one of whom was Subhas Biswas.
Behala was where I first met Fred. The Oxford Mission and Behala were significant parts, along with Darjeeling, of his near lifelong encounter with India, of which he once wrote, "I shall forever be linked to India and continue taking a deep interest in the country and its culture India is an inseparable and integral part of me, but if I had to point at anything in particular it would be the Oxford Mission for giving me the opportunity of gaining so much, as to be able to give a little in return. God bless India!"