Mr Oates, the headmaster

DIED aged 62 in 1972

LIVED Cornwall

CAREER Headmaster


Thomas, or Clifford as he was usually known, was the headmaster at Tintagel Primary School. According to his daughter Sheila, he enjoyed 62 years of good health. But it's likely that his high-fat diet and smoking contributed to high cholesterol levels, which resulted in his unexpected death in 1972 just one year after his retirement.

Sheila describes her father as being “terribly healthy” throughout his life until “he dropped dead” on Christmas Day at the age of 62. Shortly before he died, Clifford went to the doctor with high blood pressure and was given some tablets. But a few days before that, he'd told Sheila that he was feeling as well as he ever had.

Clifford’s health was otherwise good. He had a non-cancerous growth removed a few years prior to his death and his only other complaint was deafness, which Sheila says “runs in the family”.

Clifford's retirement dinner


Clifford’s daughter Sheila, 68, who was also a pupil at Tintagel, remembers her father playing cricket for the village team and always making his daily journeys to and from school on foot. She says his diet wasn’t very healthy (“lots of Cornish pasties and cream!”). His smoking was restricted to one or two cigarettes a day, and he stopped altogether when the price went up in the Budget. He drank only occasionally, at Christmas and formal dinners.

Sheila and her father Clifford

Doctor's notes

"Thirty years ago treatment of heart attacks was much less effective. Clot-busting drugs and cholesterol-lowering drugs were not available and after-treatment of heart attacks with aspirin and beta-blockers had not been invented. In the 30 years since Clifford died, the death rate from heart attacks has reduced by about half, and the average age at death has also increased."

Sheila's health tip

It is because of Clifford’s death that Sheila believes she has managed to avoid the same fate. “Dad was unlucky and the artery just blocked up. I was lucky: I had mild angina and it was caught in time. I also have a pacemaker. I have a low-fat diet and I’m still fit and healthy.”

  • The Class of 1948 content, including this article, was written in 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of the NHS and is not being updated.

Page last reviewed: 04/04/2014

Next review due: 04/04/2016


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Piano1949 said on 24 July 2009

Mr Oates was from my father's generation, a generation born in the early 20th century. They had various hardships thrust upon them, not least World War Two. Yet ironically this was their "finest hour" not only militarily but also health wise due to rationing.

As they slipped into middle and old age in the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s they were totally unaware of the fact that the good life they were at last were enjoying was in fact bringing about their early demise.

That family Austin or Morris that they had dreamed of for so long was denying them of the exercise of walking and cycling. The packaged convenience foods that appeared on supermarket shelves was laden with salt, sugar, chemicals and fat. Although smoking had been recognised as a killer very early on it was still the "social thing to do" even in the 1970s.

God bless them though. They were so much better people than us.

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