Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News > Alumnae News! > Robert Bathurst is HCK Alum!

Robert Bathurst is HCK Alum!

HCK the first of many schools for Robert Bathurst
Robert Bathurst - HCK Alum!
Robert Bathurst - HCK Alum!

Actor Robert Bathurst, 53, played David in ITV1’s Cold Feet and more recently Sir Anthony Straller in BBC1’s Downton Abbey.

Born in the Gold Coast of West Africa (now Ghana), he is married to artist Victoria Threlfall. They have four daughters: Matilda, Clemency, Oriel and Honor.

Memories of school have their own brand of truth, a very personal take on things that may or may not have happened. 

I was 13 when this photograph was taken.

My first memory of school is crying into the musty shoulder of Mother Mary Edmund at the Holy Child Convent Killiney, near Dublin; I was four and I suppose a sense of abandonment had got to me.

School photo: This picture of Robert Bathurst, 13, was taken by a teacher who used to waking students up by bellowing the Muezzin call to prayer

School photo: This picture of Robert Bathurst, 13, was taken by a teacher who used to waking students up by bellowing the Muezzin call to prayer

About a year later I ran away (for a day); I now realise that it coincided with my mother’s illness – she had post-natal depression after my sister was born. 

Running away from school probably had its reasons but my spirit of rebellion went only so far: before making the break for freedom I changed dutifully into my outdoor shoes.

I’m not a thief, by habit, but I did nick some sweet cigarettes from a boy’s drawer, and was caught by the victim a few minutes later eating them in the playground. 


A kangaroo court was set up by the sainted Mother Mary Edmund, who heard the case from both sides and declared my accuser a liar. A very good early performance.

St Conleth’s, a day school in Ballsbridge, Dublin, had the glamour of being run by an international rugby referee. 

I was there aged six to seven and it conjures up memories, including a wrestle with the mysteries of long division; a boy with a horse face who constantly combed his hair into a greasy quiff; bravely holding hands in playground games with two boys who had deformed fingers; learning the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Hail Holy Queen in Gaelic and the Catechism (in English); at lunch forming your hands tent-style to protect your chips as the dinner server sloshed vinegar down the line of plates; compulsory boxing and holding my own against the class thug; being told I was big enough to join my brother at boarding school.

Drama King: The actor starred in Cold Feet and Downton Abbey and will be performing in the West End from March

Drama King: The actor starred in Cold Feet and Downton Abbey and will be performing in the West End from March

My parents were strong Catholics so it is a mystery why they sent me to Headfort, a mostly Protestant prep school near Kells, County Meath, run by a man with a cruel mouth and an Edwardian education ethic. 

I was there aged seven to nine and my memories are from a child at the bottom of the heap, in constant fear of a thrashing and having letters home censored for any adverse comment about the school. 

You had to be very resilient to survive in a place like that.

When I was nine my father’s job took us to England and my parents had to find a good Catholic school.

My father had been miserable in the 1930s at the Jesuit-run Beaumont College in Berkshire so, unaccountably, he had plans to send us there. 

Luckily, it shut just in time and we were sent to Worth Abbey in Sussex, run by the incomparably more benign Benedictines.

That’s a relative judgement – there was a sprinkling of hang ’em and flog ’em monks of the old style but compared to my previous place it was a holiday camp. 

I spent nine years there and didn’t run away once.

The place attracted and nurtured some unselfconscious eccentrics, many of whom would not find a place in the modern education system. 

This photo of me, a prep school captain of tennis waiting at the gates for the opposition to turn up, was taken by a teacher of French, Greek and Russian called Andrew Bertie. 

When he was on early morning duty Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie (pronounced Barty) would parade through the school waking us up by bellowing the Muezzin call to prayer, opening doors of dormitories, dodging pillows and met with cries of ‘Shut up Bertie!’

I had no idea how to get into the acting profession, and it wasn’t on the careers master’s list (which started and ended with advice about insurance)

One special quality of education in the 1960s and 1970s was the presence on the staff of war-damaged Wing Commanders and the like who, one liked to think romantically, displayed gruff detachment as a result of one mission too many behind enemy lines rather than the result of a deep melancholia about where their life had ended up. 

We had a former Dambuster, a lugubrious music teacher who kept control with a murderous look which might have been depression but was probably real.

A science teacher, a Dr something, got taken away by the police for pretending he was a GP and setting up a practice somewhere in Sussex. 

He was probably a very good illicit GP but he was also so good at getting boys through O-level re-takes that the monks tried, without success, to get him back.

Life at school was a perpetual jink, all my time spent ducking and weaving, lurching from one essay crisis to another, trying to avoid situations I’d rather not be in. 

It would have been lovely to have been cool, above it all. 

The only time I felt in any way in control was when doing plays and shows. 

I was asked back to school recently to open a newly built sixth form study block. 

I thought I might do a version of the words used when launching a ship and say ‘God bless her – and all who fail in her’, but didn’t want to be the first Old Boy to get expelled.

Have your say

This website is powered by