Former Midhurst councillor helped lead turnaround of school

Former county councillor Mike O'Kelly has died aged 91
Former county councillor Mike O'Kelly has died aged 91

Former Midhurst county councillor Mike O’Kelly who has died aged 91 was a distinguished naval captain and a great supporter of Midhurst Rother College (formerly Midhurst Grammar School).

Mike spent 30 years in the Royal Navy, seeing action in the Korean War and culminating as captain of the shore base, HMS Vernon, in Portsmouth.

On leaving the Navy he worked for the brewers Whitbread in their London office before retirement.

When Mary Lochner stepped down as county councillor for Midhurst, Mike was approached and asked to stand and he was duly elected in 1989.

He was particularly interested in education and did many years’ work on various committees.

He increased his majority in 1993 but decided to retire after two terms.

He was greatly esteemed for his integrity and capacity for hard work, and his ability to make friends across the political spectrum. He was delighted by the election of his daughter-in-law Kate as county councillor for Midhurst 20 years later.

He became a governor of Midhurst Grammar School and served as deputy chair for several years. In 2006 the school was taken into special measures and the head and chair of governors both resigned.

Mike, now in his 80th year, took on the chairmanship and over the next 18 months worked full time to lead the turnaround. When this was successfully done he stepped down from the chair but remained closely connected to the school, attending concerts and prize-giving ceremonies until earlier this year.

Mike was also closely involved with Littlegreen School as a governor for many years.

Mike was a keen cricketer and had a long association with Harting Cricket Club but for many he will be remembered as the voice of Harting Festivities for whom he did the commentary for over 20 years.