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2016 · ISSUE 5

23

DRAGON LEGEND

"Desmond was ahead of his

time in the way he gained

the pupils’ trust through his

character and wit rather

than his position and status.

Most schools now have this

approach to teaching, but in

the 70s it was a unique facet

of Dragon life. Thank you Des

and enjoy your retirement.”

Robert Iles (OD 1980)

“We forgave Des all his

quirks, including the jokes,

the XR3i, the YES tapes and

the parties in his flat. We

forgave him because he

understood us. He knew

what made us tick. He knew

when to leave us alone

and when to intervene. He

could handle the sporty, the

naughty, the toffs, the timid,

the bluffers, the swots, the

odd-balls, the stars and the

also-rans. We were all part

of his tribe and we knew he

would fight our corner.”

James de Jonge (OD 1984)

Desmond

Devitt –

Dragon Legend

In a previous Old Dragon e-newsletter, we

announced Desmond Devitt’s retirement as

Registrar and received many warm messages

which we have passed on to him.

Desmond Devitt came to the Dragon in 1976

partly as a result of placing his own advertisement

looking for a teaching job, and partly after

meeting Guv on a cricket tour with the Strollers.

He arrived to teach History, take Games and look

after a D Block form.

In 1977, he managed the ‘sound’ for the

School production of

Macbeth

, held on the fields

during the School’s centenary year. As a result, he

has run ‘sound’ ever since and has taught plenty

of boys, mainly boarders from Gunga, how to

operate a sound board and “create a performance”

from so very many plays. He has also attended

almost every Sunday service, play, concert or

other event which has required recording.

From 1980 he was promoted to run “1st

game cricket”, which he did, with Pully, until

1994, while simultaneously running the History

Department for the same period.

In 1984 he took over Gunga Din boarding

house from Bev MacInnes, running it with a

succession of excellent matrons for 17 years, until

2001. During this time he was directly responsible

for around 350 A and B boarding pupils.

In 1995, Desmond took on the role of

Registrar, admitting some 2,000 pupils or

more to the Dragon during his period in office,

though these were but a small proportion of the

total number of applications he had to manage

in the process.

Desmond helped run the legendary Dragon

Ski Trip to Davos for many years and, for 15

years, also worked with travel agents Smaug and

Beverley Wilcox to organise the Dragon New

York exchange. Each year he has also managed to

organise a New York Reunion of ODs, which is

always well attended.

He devised the Dragon Diary, which is still

used by every pupil, and compiled and published

The Diversity of Dragons, an intensively

researched history of the earliest Dragon pupils

who fought in WWI, which resulted in ‘The

Skipper’s Blog’.

His loyalty to his Old Dragons and gift for

relationships has kept Desmond in close contact

with many ODs, a number of whom are now

parents of the newer generations, and particular

personal friends of his.

2015

Olivia Maiden

decided to

conclude her years at the Dragon

with an extraordinary challenge

– to become one of the youngest

climbers to attempt Kilimanjaro.

After climbing Ben Nevis with

her father, Dan, she wanted to

do something in memory of her

sister, Florence, who died aged 15

months having contracted Leigh’s

Disease, a rare mitochondrial

condition. Olivia chose to raise

money for Helen & Douglas

House, the children’s hospice

which helped Florence through

the last weeks of her life and

provided support to Olivia and

her brother, George, while 50% of

the money she raised also went to

Ace Africa, a child-focused charity

based in Kenya.

Kilimanjaro is two-thirds the

height of Everest, but the climb

takes just one week rather than

two to three months. Before

embarking on her challenge,

Olivia said: “I’m not a natural

at sport, but I like climbing

mountains and I’m just a bit

determined,” a good thing as her

training involved going to the gym

and climbing the Black Mountains,

Ben Nevis, Snowdonia and the

Brecon Beacons. Kilimanjaro

is also the highest freestanding

mountain in the world and 25% of

climbers fail to reach the top due

to altitude sickness.

In her attempt, Olivia trekked

50 miles in six days, camping for

5 nights on the mountain where

temperatures ranged from +25C

at the bottom to -25C at the top.

But her real problem proved

to be the lack of oxygen: by the

second day, normal activities like

drinking from a water bottle or

tying shoe-laces left her gasping

for breath and, by the start of the

final summit night, which started

at about 5,000m (16,000 ft), her

lack of energy sadly meant she

couldn’t reach the summit. She

is however determined to finish

what she has started sometime

soon. Nevertheless, it was an

enormous achievement and Olivia

has already shown determination

indeed, raising £8500 for her two

nominated charities.

Skipper’s War

Desmond Devitt’s Skipper’sWar Blog

continues to be updated regularly and

details moving stories about Old Dragons

who fought or died inWW1. The blog

can be found here:

https://skipperswar

.

wordpress.com/skipper-lynam/