DHSB Alumni Newsletter
10th December 2022
I usually start by saying I hope you are all well. However, I guess the majority of us, wherever we are in the world are feeling very deflated now. Hopefully my Newsletter will be a little distraction from the football and I do hope you are all well. It's been a while since my last Newsletter so grab a cuppa and make yourself comfortable!
I've had some lovely correspondence from our alumni. Barrington Cross was the middle of 3 brothers who attended DHSB, two becoming School Captains. He recently sent me a fantastic booklet called ‘A Cornish Exile’ which was based on his elder brother Tony’s letters home when he was one of our evacuees in Penzance. These letters were discovered in their mum’s attic when she passed away in 2001. What a veritable treasure trove! Sadly Tony has passed away but Barrie knew of the existence of the intended piece and was able to tweak and proofread it. I was so delighted to receive it! It's a wonderful first hand revealing insight into the life of our students in those war time years. If you would like to read it too, here is the link:
Barrie would welcome any feedback so if you would like to email me I will pass it on. Thank you so much Barrie for sharing it with us! Barrie has also sent me his DHSB memories which he has titled ‘Vignettes.’ I can’t be spoiling you too much so I’ll save that for my next Newsletter!
I've also heard from Mike Dixon who attended DHSB from 1968 – 1975 and is an award winning Musical Director, Musical Supervisor, Conductor, Arranger and Composer. His very successful career spans over 40 years and he has worked with, amongst others, Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Elton John, Sir Tom Jones, Brian May, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and even Brucie! Mike has recently brought out his autobiography (‘Turn Around and Take a Bow’). I immediately bought it and downloaded it, skipping to the DHSB bits! DHSB’s own Trefor Farrow had a big part to play in Mike’s career. Other teachers and pupils are mentioned too, as well as Plymouth in general. I'm yet to meet Mike but I know I have been in the audience of some of the west end musicals he has been involved with so I think we have almost certainly been in the same (albeit very large!) room at times. Mike has very kindly offered to come into DHSB in the spring to talk to students and I look forward to meeting him then. He’s also shared an audible clip with me which is the prologue to his book where he is talking about his DHSB days. Have a listen!
Steve Carrick (DHSB 1968 - 75) contacted me and told me that he represented Great Britain in the 65 and over team at the Federation of International Maxiballers Association (FIMBA) Tournament in Malaga, Spain. Approximately 250 teams represent over 40 countries in age groups from 35+ to 80+. Steve captained a very successful school basketball team under the guidance of ‘the magnificent Martin Moon.’ He says that despite not being the usual height he represented the school in basketball throughout his time at DHSB playing for the U19 team when he was still under 16.
Back in the summer I was delighted to host a reunion event for the classes of 1996/7. They had their own bespoke event. It was a great afternoon with lots of reminiscing and laughter. Present and past staff came which was the icing on the cake for them! I heard shouts of ‘Nobby Clarke’ as we entered C Block, heard how Burrows was their 6th Form Common Room and my favourite story was how Catherine (Keast) and Julian Burrows met on the stairwell in E Block. Many years, and 3 children later they were back in that very same spot! Paul Pappleworth found himself sitting on the chair outside the Headteacher’s room, again! 😀
The afternoon flew by as they reminisced and caught up with each other. Our DHSB beer ‘Colonnade’ and ‘Alonzo’ certainly went down well with the tasty buffet. (Contact me if you are interested in buying these bottles, produced by local brewery Summerskills). Thank you Matt Fleming and Dan Thomas for approaching me to do this. If you would like your own year/class reunion event just get in touch.
On a much smaller scale, I was happy to host a visit from Roger Burrows in September. Roger emigrated to Canada many years ago and worked as a translator for Parliament and as the Coaching Development Manager of Athletics Canada. Sounds very exciting! Roger and Tom Orchard, who is a former School Captain and long standing DHSB governor, spent an afternoon with me, again reminiscing as we toured the school. Roger was delighted to spot a team photo with him in it displayed on a wall. Tom and Roger had not seen each other for 55 years! Let me know if you would like to visit too.
We opened our school to the wider community this year when we participated in Plymouth History Festival. It was a beautiful day and local historian Richard Fisher led about 30 people in a walk around our grounds. It was much appreciated so we will be offering it again. Local residents particularly were delighted to see inside our walls which they pass regularly. It was lovely to meet two ‘old boys’ who came along, Stan Willis (1956 - 63) and Paul Rose (1969 - 76).
I mentioned in my previous newsletter about how the drummer from international band Bastille, Chris ‘Woody’ Wood, is one of our alumni. Woody kindly paid us a visit in the summer, one Friday morning, direct from playing Glastonbury the night before! He gave a talk to 6th formers giving a fantastic insight into the music industry for those thinking of following that career path. He was also interviewed by two Year 8 students (‘second form’ in old money 😀) for their English project. From the Alumni Association I presented Woody with one of our framed Sarah Smalldon prints which we commissioned for our 125th anniversary last year - available to purchase on the alumni website:
Keeping with the musical theme it was good to see glimpses of DHSB represented at the recent exhibition 'Because The Night Belongs To Us’ at The Box. There was a piece about acclaimed jazz musician John Surman who attended DHSB in the 1950s. He has recorded with Ronnie Scott and many more esteemed musicians. In the mid-1970s he founded one of the first all saxophone jazz groups, S.O.S.
Those of you of a certain generation will be familiar with The Betterdays – ‘Plymouth’s answer to the Rolling Stones’, so it was said at the time (1960s). They were mentioned in the exhibition too. Bob Pitcher, who played the piano and harmonica, attended DHSB. Dr Cresswell wrote in his final report ‘too late to repent!’ They performed at the school and during one performance Dr Cresswell switched off the electrics and turned on all the lights as to his horror some boys were kissing some of the girls! The band even had publicity photos taken in the school gym! Sadly Bob passed away in 2021. However, you may be interested to know that The Betterdays released an anthology of their songs this year called ‘Hush Your Mouth.’
Moving right up to the current time, it was fantastic to watch Kai Benjamin reach the semi-finals of The Voice last month. Kai only left DHSB in 2021. You may have seen him in our school productions. Well done Kai!
DHSB has recently appointed a Director of Performing and Creative Arts so I am sure there will be many more success stories coming from us – watch this space!
Another change this year is that for the first time (I believe) Speech Day was held in the school grounds in a marquee. It was a great success and plans are already afoot for next year! I expect many of you attended your Speech Days in the Guildhall. In fact, whilst walking into the Guildhall in the summer I overheard, ‘the last time I came in here was for my school’s Speech Day.’ Well I couldn't let that opportunity pass! 'Excuse me, I couldn’t help overhearing, but did you go to Devonport High School for Boys?’ Of course he did! Lovely to have a chat with you Rob Peain. Rob attended DHSB from 1965 - 71.
I met Paul Henderson at the same event. He could remember word for word the review he received whilst performing in the school play The Crimson Coconut ‘By far the most outstanding performance of the evening was that of Paul Henderson (aged 13) who played the irascible Mr Jabstick and showed a maturity beyond his tender years.’ Wow, no wonder it is etched in his memory!
Paul also talked of teachers and their nicknames; Mr Maw who taught French, EMOD (dome spelt backwards – apparently his head was bald and shaped like a dome), the chemistry teacher ‘Blobbin’ – derived from ‘a blob in here, a blob in there …..’ Bunny Warren and Mr ‘Whipper’ Way! You must know lots more! It doesn’t seem to happen now so I'm wondering when this tradition died out?
Elsewhere our illustrious colonnade is having some, well quite a lot, of tlc. We are in the midst of a five month project to replace 45 beams along the colonnade to preserve it for future generations of DHSB students. Someone advised me a that technically it is an arcade, not a colonnade. I think you will agree though that ‘arcade’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it and I don’t think we could change it now even if we wanted to 😄
Another change is the Burrows building which has most recently been used as a drama studio. It is now the main art room. This made way for us to improve our science facilities. We have managed to create two new fantastic state of the art science laboratories, including an additional prep room, from the two former art rooms.
In other DHSB news: the U13 team won the national table tennis title at the Butterfly School Team Championships in Wolverhampton, our Year 9 and Year 10 football teams won the Devon Cup finals and the U15 team were crowned South West Champions, (they have been undefeated for two seasons). At the annual Ten Tors event, our 35 mile team were the first back, out of 261 teams, and the two 45 mile teams finished 3rd and 5th out of 110 teams. The event coordinator, Colonel McDade, was so impressed that he wanted to know what training our teams undertake.
Mr Kevin Mitchell, our proctor, was surprised to be presented with the Naval Base Commander’s Commendation by Commodore Coulson earlier this year. This was in recognition of his work with students from Armed Services families. He has been holding regular breakfast clubs twice a term (along with DHSB’s Family Support Advisor) for these students. They are an opportunity for Mr Mitchell to talk to the students, welcome any newcomers, and ask if anyone currently has a parent away. The Commodore said that knowing there is someone looking out for the students’ welfare is a huge help and that the commendation is just a small way to say a very big thank you on behalf of Service children and parents at DHSB. Around 100 students have a close family member serving, or recently served in the Armed Forces, and these breakfasts provide great support for them.
Some of you may have been on our popular PTFA annual Alton Towers trip when you were here. The PTFA excelled themselves this year! Thirteen coaches left Plymouth at 5.00am transporting 575 very excited students! What a feat that was and what a great fundraiser for the school. We even brought back 575 students too!
You may wonder how your school days here at DHSB differ from today’s students - well wonder no more! Follow this link to read a fantastic magazine piece created by Year 7 students. for Year 6 students, soon to be starting at DHSB. It was done as part of an English project; over 30 magazines were produced across the year group.
This magazine produced by Arley, James, Oscar and David in 7W took the lead. A big well done to them, it’s a great read:
Please take a look at the Alumni & Archives website if you haven't already. You can do a spot of Christmas shopping in our DHSB shop - be quick though, our last day is Friday 16th December, you could even adorn your tree with a lovely DHSB Christmas decoration:
Those of you who are members of our Alumni Association you will be receiving your annual magazine soon. Please see the above website if you would like to join it - just £10.00 per year.
All that remains is to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy 2023. Keep sending me your memories and photos please - email@example.com
Alumni Engagement & Archives
(Aerial photo credit: Stephen Johnson, all others are mine, unless specified)
Mike Dixon with his mum, whilst at DHSB
Photos courtesy of Mike's personal collection
Mike Dixon (top left) - 1975 Prefects
Mike Dixon and our late Queen Elizabeth
Incidentally I was spoilt for choice - I saw four photos of him with the Queen on different occasions and many of him with Brian May from Queen, as well as other members!
Steve Carrick Basketball Senior 1974 -5
Steve Carrick FIMBA Tournament - Malaga, Spain
Steve is number 6
Photos courtesy of Steve
Steve Carrick FIMBA Tournament - Malaga, Spain
Our collection of whole school photographs
Our collection goes all the way back to 1921! They can be purchased from our Shop on the website:
Paul Rose (1969 - 76) and Stan Willis (1956 - 63)
Woody - drummer with Bastille