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Brooke Dowse’s Memorial Service and Personal Tribute

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Brooke Dowse Memorial Service at Sedbergh

Monday 19th March 2018

1.30pm Service in School Chapel

2.30pm Post Service lunch and refreshments in Lupton House

If you are intending on coming to the service please can you RSVP to Ben Collins: bpc@sedberghschool.org just so we have an idea on catering numbers.

Accommodation

The OS Club have reserved a number of bedrooms at the Dalesman Country Inn in Sedbergh on Monday 19th March so if you are in need of accommodation please contact Ben Collins at bpc@sedberghschool.org.

Personal Tribute

Brooke Dowse arrived at Sedbergh in September 1963 appointed to teach Latin and Greek and to assist in the coaching of Rugby Football at 1st XV level. He had graduated the year before from Trinity College, Dublin with a degree in classics and a formidable reputation on the rugby field where he represented the University.

He took up residence as House Tutor in Winder House where his friendly personality and natural charm quickly made him respected and admired. James Mawby was the Housemaster, himself an immensely wise and experienced schoolmaster. Brooke always acknowledged the huge amount he learnt from James Mawby in those early years. In 1967 James Mawby retired and John Towers succeeded him. It was not an easy time in independent schools during those years. There was considerable antipathy towards authority and a general student resentment of discipline and tradition. A dissatisfaction with restrictions such as school uniform, compulsory games and chapel existed. This malaise was by no means unique to Sedbergh but was endemic in the mood of the Public School population throughout the 1960s.

It was into this atmosphere that I found myself when I was appointed to the staff in 1969. Brooke had vacated his rooms at the boy’s end of Winder House and moved into a flat in the private wing of the House and I succeeded him as House Tutor. As a new, young master with vivid impressions of my own schooldays at Sedbergh, which I had enjoyed so much, it was a shock to find that a very different atmosphere now pervaded. From the first day that I met him, Brooke struck me as being a most delightful and charming person. His reassuring advice to me and kindly support were quite fundamental in helping me establish myself. Brooke had an incredible gift for finding the humorous side of any problem or difficulty. Nothing seemed so bad after a conversation with Brooke about it. His positive confidence to deal with all eventualities was a great inspiration. He taught me the art of being a thoroughly committed and energetic schoolmaster but still maintaining an ability to relax and enjoy a social life. Brooke loved a party and he was a regular golfer and player of bridge. In those days the masters could put out a respectable rugby XV and Brooke was the star player. He also did an excellent job of running the Bradford Club on behalf of the School for several years.

Once Peter Meadows had replaced John Towers as Housemaster a period of stability was established. Peter along with Gerry Blackwell, Alan Barter and Kerry Wedd were his great friends. All had been recently appointed as young masters who were livening up a common room which had become somewhat conventional and sedate. I was able to witness the impact they were making and I was fortunate that Brooke introduced and welcomed me into this society. The philosophy of work hard and play hard was the mantra.

Brooke had now taken over the coaching of the 1st XV from Alan Barter and he continued in this capacity for the next ten years. He devoted himself entirely to the task of producing teams of the highest calibre. Initially, the resources were somewhat thin and there were some disappointing seasons but very soon Brooke’s skill and knowledge began to produce results. A number of his players such as Phil Harper, Adam Hall, Simon Brown and Paul Sidi reached the England under 18 XV. Brooke succeeded in establishing a remarkable culture of prodigious training and practice and yet always a belief that the game was to be enjoyed and that a spirit of fun must be evident. His players were aware of their responsibilities in representing their school and were trusted to enjoy the hospitality that he arranged for them. A tradition of 1st XV dinners and a post-match beer was greatly appreciated. All those who represented the 1st XV speak with genuine admiration and respect. Brooke was greatly liked by everyone.

In January 1977 Brooke was appointed Housemaster of Lupton House due to the sudden resignation of David Alban. Brooke was given two weeks’ notice to prepare himself this major task of taking over a House at a time of crisis. There could have been no better person. Within days he had established himself in the role and dedicated himself to the business of running the House. Although a bachelor he had grasped the requirements and was able to devote his time to his charges. The House settled down very quickly. Brooke had a natural authority which commanded respect. He had a wonderful sense of humour and the boys realised that he was a firm disciplinarian but always scrupulously fair. With the help of a team House tutors such as Malcolm Priestley, Nigel Horsfall and Howard Moore he presided over a wonderfully successful regime. Brooke had a particular gift with Sixth Formers. He worked tirelessly for his boys and always defended and supported Luptonians to the end. He was revered by the boys who in many cases became lifelong friends after leaving school. Brooke had no time at all for the lazy and indolent. He could be firm and forthright when dealing with the occasional wilful and recalcitrant individual. He was slow to anger but once roused was a fearsome prospect. I was always aware that Brooke had enormous time for the honest rogue and was quick to forgive. He endeared himself to the boys because of this. As a Housemaster, Brooke was a most generous and welcoming host. His dinner parties for colleagues, boys and parents were events to be remembered. He loved entertaining.

Brooke was hugely popular with parents. They all appreciated the care he took of their sons and valued the knowledge he had of them. He was, of course, a highly successful teacher of classics and had great pride in the achievement of his pupils as they gradually mastered the complexities of learning Latin. Brooke had an excellent reputation for preparing his boys for university and had frequent Oxbridge successes. His belief that each boy should strive to achieve the best he could with the talents with which he had been given was the lynch pin of his educational philosophy.

Brooke was fortunate that two of his closest friends Gerry Blackwell and Peter Meadows, were also Housemasters and the three of them were able to compare notes and relax over a pint of beer in a local hostelry at regular intervals. There was intense but friendly rivalry between them whenever their respected Houses were engaged in sporting or other contests. A point not missed by the boys.

Despite all the stresses and strains of life in a boarding house, particularly as a bachelor, Brooke’s indomitable spirit and insistence that the boys should have fun as well as carry out their responsibilities marked his tenure in Lupton House. It was no surprise that he was often asked by old boys to attend 21st parties, weddings and on at least one occasion act as best man.

Brooke’s reputation as a rugby coach led to his appointment as a Yorkshire Schools rugby selector and later an England Schools selector. He managed the Yorkshire Schools Tour to Zimbabwe with Will Carling as captain in 1982. Throughout his career Brooke continued to show enormous interest in the School’s rugby programme. Even after retirement to Donegal, he would be a regular visitor to Sedbergh on important match days.

Brooke retired from Lupton in 1991 but remained teaching for another 9 years. He became the wise elder statesman of the Common Room and was a strong advocate for the Sedbergh ethos. Unsurprisingly he was vociferous in his condemnation of the Governor’s plan to convert Winder House into a sixth form house.  These years were enhanced by the appointment of Brooke’s brother Dr Peter Dowse as the School Medical Officer. The presence of Peter and his wife Catherine gave Brooke immense pleasure and even more excuses for splendid dinner parties. He was the most loyal and popular member of staff and I count myself extremely lucky to have worked alongside him for so many years. Brooke was the life and soul of any party, always laughing and incredibly cheerful despite in his later years suffering from debilitating medical problems. My wife and I and Nigel Horsfall once visited him in his beloved Donegal where he entertained us marvellously. His retirement there was a peaceful twilight to his life where he liked nothing better than to walk his faithful dog on the beach and play patience in his conservatory. Everyone liked Brooke. He was the life and soul of any party and had the constitution of an ox; he was noted for his ability to always appear for chapel whatever sort of party he had been at the night before. Brooke had numerous friends. Old boys, parents, rugby players and colleagues. There will be many tributes to Brooke. He was loved by so many. I shall remember him as one of natures gentlemen, charming, full of humour and always pleased to see. I could not have had a more staunchly loyal and enduring friend. He was one of Sedbergh’s giants.

John Morris
(SH 57-62)
Former Second Master and Housemaster of Hart House