In 1977, we celebrated a century of the Dragon. Gay Sturt, Dragon Archivist, looks back to the School’s celebrations and shares photos of the events that took place in recognition of such an important date in the Dragon’s history.
A Dragon Century | 1877 – 1977
Gay Sturt, Dragon Archivist
Summer Term 1977 was to be set up in three parts. The first included the inevitable academic work with promises of less at the end of the term. The second brought exams for all and a real lift in the form of the Scholarships results. In total, they had gained an impressive 16 Awards. Much to the delight of everyone, the scholars achieved a unique set of results, so unique that they hit the newspapers: Kabir Nath (OD 1977) was the first at Winchester College, and Michael Birch (OD 1977) the first at Eton College, from the Dragon. Michael also won the Moberly Essay on the American War of Independence. As the days flew past, the preparation of the celebratory Centenary events become more urgent. The whole School photograph was a classic one – with one child who appeared twice in the picture.
The Centenary Debate was held in the Old Hall, draped with bunting, with the speaker for the House of Commons, an OD, making it a very formal event. The Centenary shop was kept by several members of Bursary staff. At the start of the Centenary Week, a private supper was hosted by the headmasters for all the staff who did so much of the work in bringing the celebration together. Two, in particular, had each served the School for over 40 years, Florrie Molan (cook for School House) and Ted Norton (Head of the Maintenance team) both received Centenary items. The Dragon wine was opened and was enjoyed late into the night.
The week’s packed timetable became critical, with often two large events in a day. Staff sleep became scarce as everyone had a role in the celebrations, whether moving chairs, checking for tickets on the entrances, or locating that momentarily missing child who had a lead role in a performance. All School House boys were relocated so that they did not lose their sleep during the entertainment.
The first of four ‘Son et Lumiere’ performances on Monday 4 July were quickly followed by four performances of ‘Macbeth’ on the fields (header image). The audience was seated in a bowl shape with the Cricket score box in their midst for the sound effects masterminded by Ted & Desmond Devitt. Wednesday provided a brief respite as the Dragon hosted a prep school’s athletics competition on the University athletics track.
By Friday, the staff must have taken a sigh of relief. A huge tent was positioned on the far corner of the fields, ready for the Ball and the adults made merry. Saturday brought the gym competition and the Red Devils on their parachutes. At lunchtime, John Betjeman (OD 1920) opened the new location of the Art department, remodelled from the old Day Boys Lunch Hall. His podium was positioned amid Dragon Lane and the children packed the upper story classrooms, hanging out of the windows. From then on it was a procession of short events. Following the Sunday Service, the cricketers played the Rugby Meteors and the final performance of ‘Macbeth’ was enjoyed. Over the week, endless meals were catered for by the School House team, plenty of the specially imported wines were consumed, and many old friendships renewed. Fireworks and bonfires marked the final evening of celebrations, on 14 July.
Staff must have collapsed into sleep after such a monumental week of celebration. 2027 will see the Dragon celebrate 150 years, and we look forward to the extraordinary events this historical moment will undoubtedly bring to the School and community.