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The President’s Letter 2015

Dear Old Dovorian,

This has been a significant year with the appointment of Gareth Doodes as Headmaster and his Deputy Simon Kibler. They bring a vibrancy, strong leadership and team work having previously been together at Milton Abbey School.

The symbolism is also good. Gareth and his wife Jess recently had a daughter – Persephone – congratulations. Those of you who paid attention to the classics will know that Persephone brought new growth every spring. The meaning of the pomegranate is more obscure but also signifies abundance and renewal. In the 1950s A.D.C. Peterson was the Headmaster who founded the International Class and introduced the philosophy of critical thinking. He and his wife had three children: – William Ovid, Henry Aeneas and a daughter Cassandra – the tradition continues, perhaps it is something in the water.

When I visited Dover, on two occasions, last summer for the AGM and Prize Day, morale was high coupled with the energy of innovation and motivation. The Headmaster’s Report, which he gave on Prize Day, may be found on the Dover College website and is well worth reading. The performance of the choir in chapel was outstanding. Funds from the Old Dovorian Trust have been used on timely refurbishments to Leamington and School House. More recently the former Tuck Shop has been converted, by the school, to a reception area and the Headmaster’s Office.

On a wider spectrum 2015 has marked the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War although locally some of the scars from ‘hell fire corner’ are still to be seen. A positive development is the St James’s £60 million shopping centre which is under construction close to the sea front. A development which will be beneficial in raising the profile of the town.

One of my aims as President of the Old Dovorian Club has been to refresh people’s knowledge concerning the associated history of the school. You will be familiar with Martin, soldier, monk, bishop and later saint. Perhaps not so well know is that he was born a pagan in Hungary in 316 AD. He joined the Roman legions and was a catechumen (a person undergoing religious instruction prior to baptism). Part of the school coat of arms depicts an illustration of St Martin cutting his military cloak in two, to give half to a beggar. Have you ever wondered why he divided the cloak, rather than giving away the entire garment? The answer is an example of responsible sharing; maintaining the self in order to be in a position to help others. Paraphrased to modern terms ‘Put your oxygen mask on first and continue to observe the No Smoking Sign.’

On other occasions I have mentioned the Latin cappella for a cloak which led through the words for the guardian of the cloak and the building where it was kept, to the derivation of chaplain and chapel. St Martin died in Gaul on 7th November 397AD. St Martin’s day on the 11th November, records the date on which he was buried. In one of his last prayers he included the words ‘I refuse no labour’ and hence the school motto ‘Non Rescuso Laborem’.
Another of my other aims as President has been to encourage increased involvement by Old Dovorians in club events. An organisation or club is only as strong as its members. Richard Robinson and his committee set a fine example and without his and their efforts, the club wold only be a shadow of itself. Tony Bunting a previous President maintains an active interest in the club and I am grateful to him for his continuing support and advice. Mike Lightbourne is a member and Vice President worthy of mention. His welcome visits require a 4,000 mile trip each way. In addition Mike regales us with a stream of fascinating electronic information both about the club and matters general. A recent circular confirmed that Einstein had an untidy desk. Whether that was because or in spite of, it is a consolation to us lesser mortals living in a state of entropy. Well done Mike.

The club, like the cloak, has another side. Old Dovorians can make their individual contributions and in return the club can provide its members with fellowship, a sense of belonging and the reward of contributing to an ongoing heritage.

Meanwhile it is good to see the Cranleigh Supper going from strength to strength thanks to Nigel Nicholson and Tony Robin. News of other groups such as the City, Dover, West Country, Midlands, Hong Kong and those near or far is always good to hear.

This letter provides an opportunity to remind members of the annual cocktail party which will be held on Friday 15th January 2016 at the RAF Club, 128 Piccadilly, London. Looking further ahead there is the AGM at the end of June next year. An excellent opportunity to re visit the school and take a direct interest in the activities of the Old Dovorian Club. Details are available on the Old Dovorian website.

You will have heard that Jean Tuckwell has died aged 102. It is appropriate to reflect on the life of Jean who played an important role in the formative years of so many Dovorians. Jean and her husband Nigel’s connections with Dover is nearly half the life span of the school. A connection which goes back to the days of George Renwick, Headmaster and former British Olympic athlete (The Renwicks had overseen the wartime evacuation to Blundells and Poltimore). Jean and Nigel were not only a mainstay of the school and Leamington and Duckworth House but loyal supporters of the Old Dovorian club. We are the richer for having known them. The Old Dovorian Club was well represented at Jean’s funeral which was held at St Mary’s Church in Dover. Jean’s 102 years is a great achievement but while her passing is sad it would not be regarded as a tragedy.

Regrettably the same cannot be said for Maria Hood who was Chairman of the Friends of Dover College and who has died at the young age of 53. Her husband pre-deceased her and they leave an 11 year old daughter, Gabriella who is a pupil at the school.

This sombre tone has echoes of Mathew Arnold’s Dover Beach with the words ‘and bring the eternal note of sadness in’. There is however more to the poem than melancholy. Yes ’the light gleams and is gone’ but ‘the cliffs of England stand’. Arnold saw a keen delight in what we have; somehow when we read the words we feel less alone. There is a strength and continuity in the rhythm of the waves as they ‘Begin and cease and then again begin’. Paradoxically an important message may be in the final line ‘Where ignorant armies clash by night.’ The night carries the dawn and with it the light of a new day. Light to identify where we are and where we are going. Light to see how we can divide our cloaks; half to support ourselves and half in the service of others. Let us hope that part of that service continues to have a Dovorian theme and is inspired by the examples Jean and Maria.
Non Rescuso Laborem.

With best regards
Yours sincerely
R. De B. Hovell

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Clive Court November 30, 2015, 5:36 pm

    Hello R de B, Thank you for the newsletter. Do I recall you from the days I spent in School House (1952-55)? These days I live in Toronto and, yes, I am on Facebook. Always pleased to hear from an OD buddy. Here’s wishing you a great Christmas and mist excellent New Year.

  • patrick king November 30, 2015, 6:02 pm

    An excellent letter, full of knowledge.
    ” an enjoyable read …as they say.

    well done

  • Thomas Denne November 30, 2015, 7:46 pm

    Dear Mr President,
    Thank you for a beautifully written and wonderfully informative Newsletter.
    Sincerely, Thomas D (S. ’52-’56)

  • Richard Stickland November 30, 2015, 9:24 pm

    It is always good to hear of my old school, and that it is flourishing. I remember “George” (as he was known by the boys) Renwick, the headmaster, who was head when I joined School House in 1943 at Poltimore. He was still head when I left in 1947. I wonder how many ODs know that Winston Churchill was installed as Lord Warden of the Cinq Ports on the Dover College Close in (around) 1949? The ceremony was broadcast on the BBC Home Service.

  • John Hemming November 30, 2015, 10:01 pm

    Thank you for your excellent and erudite newsletter Mr. President. Very sorry to hear about the passing away of Jean Tuckwell – she was a great person and my condolences go to all her family. Wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year from the Gold Coast, Australia.
    John Hemming L. 55 – 60

  • Frances Tanner December 3, 2015, 10:29 am

    Dear Mr President

    What a fascinating letter – thank you. As an OD from Belmont House (1980 -1982) it was particularly interesting to see the mention of Poltimore as I am the Programme Director for Poltimore House Trust, bringing this lovely building back into re-use after such a chequered history in the late 20th Century. If there are any ODs who would like to come and visit do let me know.
    Frances Tanner

  • Peter V. Christensen December 4, 2015, 7:33 pm

    An excellent letter from R de B. which made me recall out time together at School House in the 1950s with George Renwick as Head Master, followed by ADC Petersen – memories of eating Squirrel cooked on the boiler in the Boot Room, School Prefects’ cane beatings in the Gatehouse, Saturday evenings beatings up by senior boys for having your hands in your pockets or for breaking other House rules, exploring the Citadel and finding our way into the armouries, punch ups with Teddy Boys down town, playing the Juke Box at the Greasy Spoon, cross country runs in all weathers, Sargent Major Hackett on CCF parades, 303 rifles and camps at Cranwell and other camps, being a Prefect and getting 1stXV Colours, confirmations by the Archbishop of Canterbury, listening to the Archers in the junior common room, playing tennis on the Close, amd squash and fives, going by coach to away Rugby matches, matron, Hoff -(House Master), punch up with Andrew Gill in the Bike shed,our own bedrooms with no central heating, MacNamara getting a standing ovation for his song at initiation so getting no books thrown at him and not having to go round the room holding his ankles to be smacked with hockey sticks, or anything else, good discipline and friendship and many good memories.

  • ROGER LAKE KAGAN December 6, 2015, 4:54 pm

    R de B, As always the comment is 100%.plus.Many Happy episodes with Maj Nigel and Mrs Jean Tuckwell. His support in the CCF “Drums” and hers in the makeup department for “Troilus & Cressida”, after all these years are remembered as more than just kindness.
    The wider OD family embraces “Non Recuso Laborem” and even those younger leavers I meet at the Cocktail party have a joie de vivre which stems from as R de B says “something in the water perhaps?”

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