Over the summer, we were visited by two of the three Campbell brothers, Francis (Fred) (OD 1964) and Laurence (OD 1966) who took an actual walk down Dragon Lane after their tour of the grounds, as they headed towards the University Parks. They were visiting on the 100th birthday anniversary of their late mother Hester, reliving memories of their time at the school. They wandered the fields and the playgrounds, and visited the Old Hall (now Library), Lynam Hall, the swimming pool and the Rink.
Francis and his brothers Laurence and Nick (OD 1970), the three sons of Denis, an Oxford don and his wife Hester, all attended the Dragon and lived almost directly opposite the school in Bardwell Court, their daily commute taking about 20 seconds each way, before moving to Summertown in 1962.
From the early 1950s, the Campbells were close friends with the Sargents, another Oxford don family living in Iffley, with Dick (OD 1938), his wife Ann and children Sally, Simon (OD 1966) and Vicky, who spent a year in the Baby School with Nick. After Denis died in 1978, Hester and Dick married, forming an extended family with a rich Oxford and Dragon School heritage.
This term, following their walk down memory lane, we invited them to give their answers to our questions.
My time at the Dragon School in three words
Francis (Fred): Exciting, rewarding, competitive.
Laurence: Fun, friendships, experiences.
Nick: Happy, informal, sporty.
When I was a young Dragon, I wanted to be
Francis (Fred): A Journalist.
Laurence: Mountain rescue.
Nick: A vet.
The superpower I wish I had
Francis (Fred): To be able to play all musical instruments perfectly.
Laurence: The ability to preview the outcome of alternative options to let me choose the best one to take.
Nick: To give aggressive drivers a flat tyre.
Eggy or marble runs?
Francis (Fred): Lurky and Bad Eggs! I do remember playing marbles, not in a sandpit but along two sides of the playground. “Roll up, roll up, tich pyramid out” comes to mind.
Nick: Marbles, with the fanatics rushing to get the best “pitch”, crowds of pupils watching some ace player demolishing a pyramid from a huge distance, and the bell summoning us back to lessons. Conkers was also a pseudo religion.
My inspiration growing up
Francis (Fred): Nobody.
Laurence: A Dragon teacher I remember who left the Dragon to teach at a school in the North (Scotland?) I believe. He showed me that English lessons, which I hated and found boring, could be fun and exciting.
Nick: While at the Dragon, the entire Arsenal football team.
At the top of my bucket list
Francis (Fred): To learn the Irish language.
Laurence: To discover what I want to do next.
Nick: A train journey across India.
My most memorable moment at the Dragon
Francis (Fred): Playing Lady Jane in ‘Patience’
Laurence: That’s difficult to call, but the one I remember most vividly is us all standing in groups on the playing fields in the dark evening, letting off our own fireworks for Guy Fawkes night. Then watching the school’s own fireworks down by the river, before standing around a huge bonfire.
Nick: Participating in the shooting team, under the supervision of “Major”, in the cold, dark hushed environment of “The Range”. Long periods of intense concentration while we all tried to get the perfect shot! It was so utterly different from lessons and other sports.
My biggest achievement
Francis (Fred): Getting three As at A level.
Laurence: My biggest achievement was, in my mid-thirties, gaining a BA degree with the Open University in Electronics Engineering with Maths after 6 years of evening study while holding a full-time job.
Nick: Work-wise, managing the communications for the annual global sales meeting launching our newest range of MRI scanners.
The advice I would give to my younger self
Francis (Fred): Don’t worry — it will probably be all right.
Laurence: Although you find most subjects boring and pointless to learn, the education system will only let you pursue the subject(s) you love after you have passed exams in these core subjects. But when you have passed these exams, you need never think of Latin verb conjugations or Battle dates ever again and the world will be your oyster.
Nick: Don’t always assume other pupils are cooler than you. It doesn’t matter anyway.
In one sentence, what does it mean to be a Dragon?
Francis (Fred): Being confident in the knowledge that you’ve had the best possible start in life.
Laurence: Like the school motto ‘Arduus ad Solem’, strive for the best, keep your feet on the ground, never stop believing in yourself and never give up.
Nick: To have been incredibly fortunate.
Since my Dragon days …
Francis (Fred): I spent 36 years in the Civil Service and emigrated to Ireland in 2020
Laurence: After leaving the Dragon, I attended St Edwards School in Oxford. After O-Levels, I left and worked for a leading local electronics company. Achieving an OU BA degree enabled me to become an Embedded Software Developer in Data Communications, still in Oxfordshire. In 1991, I relocated to Guernsey to work for a leading US medical corporation, to develop and manufacture robotic blood sampling machines in Guernsey and Washington DC for the worldwide market. Twenty years before retiring, I switched over to the world of Finance and led a team developing bespoke financial accounting software. Now retired, my wife and I are enjoying not working and also spending time with our two children and two grandchildren.
Nick: I read Engineering at Durham and worked in high-tech sales and marketing in the medical, scientific and industrial sectors, emigrating to the Netherlands, then Belgium. I retired a year ago. I am married to Sylvia, with two sons.
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.