MCS was informed that Duncan had passed away on 18 September 2011.
Duncan began his long association with MCS in 1968 having taken his degree from Jesus College and then studying for his PGCE at the University Department. I first met him in August 1972 when I joined the previously two-man Chemistry Department as the youngster of a trio that would remarkably continue unchanged for the next 24 years.
In what were the days of a rather different ‘approach’ to schoolmastering, Duncan was always prepared to ‘have a go’ and was invariably among the first to volunteer when some area of school life found itself in need of extra or stand-in manpower. He went a long way from hurriedly trying to learn the rules of a game, which he had neither seen nor played, on the coach to Cheltenham one rainy Saturday, to running MCS hockey. I remember very well the pride with which, not long before the move of hockey from a grass- to a plastic-based game, he surveyed, from the new pavilion at Sandford, the five matches taking place in front of us on a day when the School put out 11 hockey teams against Wellington. After years of negotiating with the groundsmen of numerous colleges for the use of their hockey pitches on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the sight of all the School’s home matches taking place at a single venue was a hugely gratifying culmination to much hard work and organisation.
As well as his involvement with hockey Duncan spent many enthusiastic years coaching and whistle-blowing for rugby teams from the U14s right up to the heady heights of the 2nd XV. Some cricket umpiring and occasional forays into tennis meant that he had pretty much a clean sweep of school sports (… though I suspect he never rowed!). All this was often at a time when he would also be very busy taking a highly successful Rifle Club for practice and matches, and his interest in this sport was duly recognised when he was chosen to take a British Schools Team to Canada.
Duncan’s involvement with the Rifle Club was a natural extension of his enduring passion for the CCF. He had been a part of the OTC while at university and immediately joined the CCF at MCS (in fact, he had been on camp with MCS even before starting his teaching career). He ran the RN section for many years and took over contingent command on the retirement of Bob Holmes. He guided them through some lean years to the well-supported and stable situation that existed at the end of the 1990s. This commitment to the CCF and the University OTC brought the hugely deserved award of the TD and the MBE.
In the classroom Duncan always put the boys first, and it made little difference if it was the academic cut-and-thrust of the old seventh-term lessons that survived through the 1970s, or lunchtime extra lessons with ‘strugglers’. He would always work patiently to extract the best the individual could offer. It was his interest in cultivating an individual’s positive areas that proved such a strength during his years as a tutor and then a Housemaster in Callender, as well as in his time as Joint Head of Careers.
After his retirement in 2001 his interest in Careers continued as he worked for some time with the Morrisby Organisation and would occasionally be seen in School assisting with the administration of the Careers Aptitude Tests.
After being diagnosed as diabetic some years ago he unfortunately suffered from a number of health problems before his mercifully short, final illness.
Chris Byrne (MCS 1972-2006)