A Walk Down Dragon Lane …

Nov 29, 2021

This term, we took a (virtual) stroll down Dragon Lane with John Tolson (OD 1962). His uncle, David, was the first of his family to attend the School, with his father quickly following, notably as the youngest entrant of the Dragon, joining at just five years old. John’s daughter Emma is now Houseparent of Cherwell, alongside her husband Tim, and their eldest has just started at the Pre-Prep …


In 1927 my grandmother on my dad’s side returned to England, ahead of her husband, George, an army professional stationed in Madras. She travelled back with her three children, Richard, John and the youngest David, my father. They settled in Bardwell Road and Marjorie installed the two eldest boys at the Dragon. David was too young. She worked on Hum to take the five-year-old David, which he did and David became the youngest entrant to the Dragon … probably forever until they came up with Lynams, now known as the Pre-Prep. So, the three boys enjoyed a successful time at the Dragon; Richard absorbed Gilbert & Sullivan, and flourished on Latin. John was a sportsman through and through, a sharp, witty boy with an inner quietness. David, like Richard, enjoyed the theatrical element of the Dragon. We were not an academic family in the strictest sense. Well—rounded.

My mum arrived at the Dragon as an assistant matron from war service in the Wrens and Bletchley Park. She went to No 3 Charlbury Road in the Autumn of 1947. A relationship had started between Joan Easton and David Tolson and in 1948 marriage was going to happen. Mum departed, but not before she inadvertently set fire to her bedroom by throwing a cigarette into the wastepaper bin! They married in 1948, I was born in 1949 and joined the Dragon Baby School in 1956 with Mrs Barrett and Ma Blaikie.

I survived the ‘Big School’, acutely aware, as time went on, that I was interested in something far removed from academia. I just didn’t know that yet. My brother, Robert, spent a short while in the ‘Baby School’, but his deafness was a handicap, which the Dragon was then unsuited to help with, and so he left. Sarah, my youngest sibling, enjoyed her time at the Dragon enormously, but had to leave, as all girls did in those days, aged 11. She went on to a well-known Oxford girls’ school to complete what she considered her service. Although none of my children went on to attend the Dragon, Emma, my eldest daughter, and her husband, Tim Knapp, now work at the Dragon as teachers and Houseparents of Cherwell. Tim is the Director of Saturday’s enrichment curriculum, QUEST. Their eldest child, Margaux, has just started at the Pre-Prep.

John Tolson (OD 1962) 


My time at the Dragon School in three words

Learning without knowing.


When I was a young Dragon, I wanted to be

I don’t think I wanted to grow up. I actually loved the Dragon.


The superpower I wish I had

To appreciate that time moves on, you and everything changes and it’s not all bad over the horizon.


Eggy or marble runs?

How about Tig? Definitely not eggy. Marbles was okay if you didn’t get too heated about it.


My inspiration growing up

At the Dragon Denny Whiff (Dennison Smith) and Inky (Keith Ingram). elsewhere, my father.


At the top of my bucket list

To live long enough to see my grandchildren learn what happiness really is.


My most memorable moment at the Dragon

I was notified I’d passed Common Entrance for Oakham School. Immediately, I realised my childhood has ended and with it, so many happy memories kaleidoscoped together.


My biggest achievement

Going to sea. It opened up a Pandora’s box of many chapters of excitement, dangers, and the all-important matter of learning about yourself. Don’t take yourself too seriously.


The advice I would give to my younger self

Have the courage to do what you want to do. Not what others expect of you. But work and play straight.


In one sentence, what does it mean to be a Dragon?

The Dragon certainly makes you feel inclusive. I don’t wear rose-tinted glasses about it, because I don’t need to. It’s just there like a puff from the genie. Sorry, that’s four sentences.


Since my Dragon days …

Merchant navy officer, who later experienced Antarctica with British Antarctic Survey. Changed course and went into documentary filmmaking in the Arctic, Antarctic, Europe, and Canada. Worked in the black art of oil loss control in Europe, the US, Canada, and the Middle East. It’s a snake; it’s dangerous, deceitful, and very slippery but fun. All hands-on stuff, people-orientated jobs, which were enormous fun, for the most part, learning about ever-changing life.


Would you like to take a ‘walk down Dragon Lane’? Please get in touch with the Development team; we’d love to hear from you.

(Re)Discover the Dragon

Diary Dates

From regular reunions to Dragon Drinks, Remembrance Sunday to the Dragon Sale, there are lots of opportunities to come back to Bardwell Road.


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