Alasdair Aston was once a resident of Aysgarth Road and was appointed to the English department at Alleyn’s School in succession to Michael Croft. He became the head of the department on the retirement of Edward Upward in 1962. He later was appointed Inspector of English with the Inner London Education Authority and in 1986 was appointed the authority’s Chief Inspector of English. He retired in 1990.
His twin passions were a love of poetry and an intense interest in natural history. It was while at Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1953 that he displayed his gift for the former, by winning the Chancellor’s medal for his poetry and he recited his poem, Gloriana Redivva, which made reference to the accession of the present monarch and the 350th anniversary of the death of first Queen Elizabeth, in the Senate House, after which he was carried down to the river for the ‘bumps’.
He went on to win eight further Cambridge poetry awards between 1974-1994 for the Seatonian Prize awarded for “the best English poem on a sacred subject”.
While living in Dulwich he was a leading light in the Dulwich Poetry Group which met at the Crown & Greyhound and he served as its chairman from 1969-1975. He was also chairman of the Poetry Society’s education committee from 1970-1979.
He was a lover of natural history from boyhood and became a member of the Suffolk Naturalists’ Society at the age of 11 remaining a member for 69 years. His particular enthusiasm was moth collecting and he was constantly in their nocturnal pursuit during his time in Dulwich, a hobby handicapped by his lifelong inability to drive a car. He was fascinated by all aspects of the natural world and was an entertaining companion on plant gathering expeditions in the more acceptable conditions of daylight. In his retirement he made his home in Selborne in Hampshire, most appropriately in a house next to the one once lived in by Gilbert White.
Alasdair Aston died on July 17th aged 80.
Cuckoo-flowers, the tender meadow-sweet fragrance
Whirled about me as butterfly, orange and white,
While I was wayward and windward scenting my duty
To be turning this way or that and Oh, yearning for flight!
Waterfalls took up my leisure and kissing of swallows,
Movement of minnows, or stickleback fighting to death,
Skimming of pike in the shallows, dragonfly glitter
Led me a dance from the river, led me astray
Where ridiculous magpies strutted insanely unwary
Of the frolics of foxes in between woods
And the air was full of the furry bees all bearing
Silence away in their millions so that I stood
Mesmerised still by their murmuring all afternoon.
© Estate of A E Aston