Philip Gilbert joined the grounds staff at the Quaker school near Banbury on 24 August 1963 at the age of 14. He retired on February 24 2014, the date of his 65th birthday.
“I’ve loved working at the school,” said Philip. “When I started there were six of us looking after the grounds, but over the years we’ve got more and more machinery, so now we’re down to a team of three. I never thought that this would be my only place of work and I’m sad to leave but I need more time to take care of my mother who is 87.”
Over his years at the school Philip has witnessed numerous changes. Back in the 1960s the population of the school was around 260 … today the Sibford boasts nearly 400 pupils between the ages of 3 to 18. The school Philip joined was based at two locations, its current 50-acre site and the Manor, which was located across the road in the village of Sibford Ferris. In 1989 Sibford opened its Junior School and in 2000 the Manor was sold paving the way for the opening of a new Art and Music block in 2001 and the swimming pool in 2002.
Head at the school at the time Philip started working was Jonas Fielding, who joined Sibford in April 1962. Subsequent heads during Philip’s time were Kenneth Greaves, Jim Graham, John Dunston, Sue Freestone and current head Michael Goodwin, who arrived at Sibford in 2004.
Philip is very much a local lad. He has lived most of his life in Sibford Gower and is a regularly seen cycling around the country lanes. To mark his retirement colleagues clubbed together to buy Philip a new bike. Sibford’s resident potter, Richard Phethean, also created a special ceramic tankard etched with the following words: ‘It’s time to down tools, fill thy cup with the ale, for thy loyal service ye be the toast of Sibford Friends.’
Not that Philip will actually be downing tools just yet. “I love my gardening,” he said. “So I won’t be stopping doing that. I’ve got a small garden at home with roses and vegetables which I’ll be tending to and I also hope to be doing bits and bobs in some of my neighbour’s gardens.”