We were saddened to hear the news that former Bedford School Chaplain, Rev. Michael Lapage, passed away on 20 July. He will be well remembered by many OBs not only for his sermons but also his passion for rowing, literature and music.
Michael Lapage joined Bedford School at the beginning of the Summer term in 1973 with a wide and varied career behind him. However, it was his rowing prowess made him a famous across the world. He learned to row at Monkton Combe School and was in the school eight from 1940-42. His ambition to make the Cambridge Blue boat was put on hold while he served his country in the Second World War as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm.
Upon his return, he read Geography at Selwyn College, Cambridge and went on to row at seven in the 1948 Boat Race. Cambridge won the race by five lengths, becoming the first Boat Race crew to finish in under 18 minutes – a record that held until 1974. The Cambridge crew went on to form the main part of the 1948 GB rowing team, that won silver at the 1948 Olympics in Henley. Michael Lapage also went on to win bronze at the 1950 Empire Games in New Zealand. He also successfully turned his hand to coaching, taking Winchester College to success in 1949, both at the Schools’ Head and in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Henley.
In 1950 he retired from rowing and dedicated himself to missionary and parish work, all the while preserving his enduring love of the outdoors, poetry, books and music. He became a missionary in Kenya, where he met his wife, Margaret, and had two daughters and a son.
Upon returning to the UK, he took up the role of chaplain at Bedford School.
The 1976 Ousel stated “[his} experience was soon put to good use at Bedford, in his work as Chaplain, in the classroom and on the river. Of course, he came primarily to be Chaplain, and whether preaching or conducting services it was obvious that there had been much thought and careful preparation in order to make sermon and service intelligible to both 4th and 6th Former alike. As well as this he regularly met with small groups of boys in the Boarding Houses, during the lunch hour, and on Sunday nights, when the relevance of the Christian faith was discussed and studied on a more informal level.
People are remembered not so much for what they did, but for what they are. In all Michael’s work in school, his warm personality and genuine interest and concern for others was always evident, reflecting his deep commitment to Christ.”
On leaving Bedford he went on working as a chaplain in Lyon and Grenoble for three years before moving to the Hereford diocese. He retired 29 years ago and lived in Tavistock.
The funeral will take place on 9 August at midday in St Andrew’s Church, Whitchurch, near Tavistock.