The OD Issue 3 - page 25

2014 · ISSUE 3
at the early age of 31. He had a marvellous
rapport with the boys as he encouraged
their interests and passions. After stepping
down in 1975 Parni was Assistant to the
Headmasters until his retirement in 1989. He
also acted as a most effective Director for one
Dragon Appeal.
Parni was as busy and enthusiastic out of
the classroom as in it. A Fellow of the Royal
Geographical Society, he met many explorers
who encouraged him as an expedition leader.
He would often lead the Easter and Summer
school trips to Paris, and later educational
cruises for all IAPS schools. Parni started
the Dragon Explorers Club, which involved
a group of boys being given a map and a
compass to find their way to a spot about six
miles hence for tea.
Another of his great loves was the Oxford
and Bermondsey Club and he helped
organise camps for Dragons and Bermondsey
boys during the holidays. Believing that as
many Dragons as possible should be engaged
in extra-curricular activity he started a film
club on Saturday evenings and supported
the cine club run by Jim Britton which gave
enormous pleasure to so many pupils.
Parni’s greatest love outside the classroom
was of course rowing and the river. In 1965
he introduced sculling and in the centenary
year of 1977 a new boathouse was opened
and sculling and rowing really took off.
Today the annual Parnwell Cup is awarded to
the best Dragon sculler of the year.
After he retired Parni went through
a difficult period of adjustment, greatly
missing his pupils and the camaraderie of
the Common Room. With the support of his
many friends, his numerous interests and his
Christian faith he found a way forward. He
died peacefully on 18
October, just before
his 83rd birthday, with his friends Suzie
Chavasse and Bishop Bone reading Psalms
by his side.
We are very fortunate if we come to
know more than a very few men or women
who touch as many lives as Parni did. Parni
was much loved by us all. He was a rare
and remarkable man. He loved people. He
motivated children. He was generous. He was
a true friend. But above all he was fun.
Excerpt from the address at David
Parnwell’s Memorial Service at St Edward’s
School on 11
January 2013, given by Sir
David Lewis (OD 1961 and Govenor).
Douglas Gordon Duff (Dougie)
(Dragon Staff Member 1979 – 2007)
Dougie arrived in 1979 at the Dragon School
to teach Science and Maths although he also
was expected, like many staff at that time, to
teach Latin too. The early years at the Dragon
saw him become a real character in the
Dragon staff room.
Paddy’s campaigning, every building which
has received funding from the lottery panel
has been made fully accessible.
In 1996 Paddy was awarded an OBE for
Services to the Arts and was appointed the
first honorary life member of the Directors
Guild of Great Britain. Paddy died July 2012
after surviving ten years with cancer. He
leaves his wife Caroline, his daughter Abigail
and three grandchildren.
David Parnwell
(Dragon Staff Member 1954-1989)
David Parnwell was born in Bexley, Kent,
the only child of Eric and Florence Parnwell.
Working for Oxford University Press in
the 1920s his father was sent to several
Commonwealth countries to open OUP
branches taking his wife with him as his
secretary. In 1936 Parni accompanied his
parents on their third overseas tour and later
said: “it is little wonder that I should have
become a geography teacher and expedition
leader believing strongly in travel and the
importance of a global world since I formed
these values sitting on an elephant in Ceylon,
riding a rickshaw in Singapore, cruising
down the Nile in a felucca with a pretty
nun, or playing with my dinky toys on deck
crossing the Pacific Ocean”.
After St Edward’s School, Parni served
his National Service as a 2nd Lieutenant in
the Royal Artillery (1948-50). On his return
he was advised to read geography at Trinity
College Oxford with a view to teaching.
During this time Parni was introduced to the
Dragon School, then a most idiosyncratic
prep school with a faithful staff many of
whom like Parni gave their whole working
lives to the school.
Parni became a “stooge” at the Dragon
in 1951. As all who have been stooges know,
there is no job spec and the only real duty
was to act as the Headmaster’s batman every
evening and pour the drinks. In Joc Lynam’s
time this involved filling every glass to the
top with gin and then trying to top it up with
tonic but the tonic was rather frowned upon.
In hindsight it is a miracle that the Dragon
staff of those days, particularly the many
bachelors, survived to such great ages.
Parni joined the Staff proper in 1954.
During his 35 years Parni taught Latin for 25
years and science for 10 years. He later taught
English as well which he much enjoyed. But
it was as Head of Geography for 25 years that
he made his name. For many years he set the
Common Entrance geography paper taken
by all prep schools. In later years Parni wrote
a number of geography books and a book
about schools rowing.
Many who had the privilege of being in
School House will remember him best as its
Housemaster for 15 years (1960-75) starting
When I arrived at the Dragon, Dougie
was 12 years into his Dragon career, so it is
difficult to comment on his early years. He
was however a brilliant teacher of Maths
and Science, not only to the able but also
sympathetically to those who found the
subject more difficult. Many ODs owe him
a great deal. Messages of condolence on
the OD Facebook site and in emails to the
school, following his death, reinforced the
esteem he was held in by many of his former
He was well known for getting
crossword completed by Bunbreak
and was also well renowned for the setting
of crossword clues that many of his friends
tried to work out often spending hours of
On the games field he had played hockey
to a high standard in his younger days and he
coached many Dragon teams, both boys and
girls. It will be as an Athletics coach that he
will be remembered by many. He was heavily
involved in both Dragon Athletics and in the
Mercia Area Athletics.
His contributions to the Staff Pantomimes
were always appreciated by the writers, the
actors and the audience. Often small cameo
comic roles were remembered for many years
and his sense of humour was clearly seen in
his contributions.
Dougie enjoyed his travelling. He was a
huge support to me from 1996 to 2007 on the
annual trip to the Cevennes in France. I will
always be grateful for the way he was able to
spot the child who needed some TLC due
to homesickness or just feeling low and also
for his work with the Dragon who needed a
word to bring him back in line.
Since 2009 life for Dougie was more
difficult and he fell into hard times. However
with some help and advice from former
colleagues from the Dragon he became more
settled and started to enjoy meeting friends
in Oxford. More recently he was delighted
to make contact again with his son Dominic
and his family.
This lovable, eccentric, scholarly man will
be missed by many and it will be very strange
to wander into Oxford and not suddenly
be greeted with a smile and a ‘Hi, Pabs’.
After three years of our lunches and other
meetings I will certainly have a hole in the
Dougie Duff was born in September 1947
and passed away September 2013. He is
survived by his son, Dominic.
Excerpt from the eulogy given by Paul Baker.
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