I began teaching in 1970. Do the sums and you will soon realise that I should be put out to pasture soon, if not sent to a taxidermist. I was educated in the UK and much to my parents chagrin I failed the 11+, as it was known in those days. My father didn’t recognise my existence for at least a month. I was a certainty for the local Grammar School, but on the day of the exam I was so nervous, I just mucked it up.
So I went to Norton Secondary Modern School – not good for the family image as Father was a senior executive in an international company and all his colleagues’ kids went to the Grammar School. For me it was the best thing that ever happened. The headmaster was Taffie John’s, a Welshman who was a rugby fanatic. He was my mentor and inspired me with his love of the game. His passion became mine and I was lucky enough to play County rugby for Hertfordshire for several seasons. I had dreams of playing for England and was encouraged to enter the under 18 trials. Needless to say I never made the England team thanks to a Midlands scrum-half who made me look totally inadequate, as I was unable to lay a finger on him during trials. As an open-side flanker (then a wing-forward) he just outwitted me at every turn.
I often hear teachers say he/she is old enough to know what to do. Or, if he/she is going to university they need to stand on their own two feet and make a serious effort; it is up to them at this stage of their education. Or, if homework is not done then it is their problem. Well I can tell you without reservation that at 17 I was in no way mature enough to handle such responsibilities seriously. Had it not been for those fantastic teachers who saw I had promise and pushed me at every turn to give of my best I would never have had a tertiary education.
I studied at London University in the UK and taught for three years at a Roman Catholic school in Watford run by Dominican nuns. All wore their habits each day, which was disconcerting for me. But I, as all staff did, got used to it. When it came to Friday drinks they were certainly able to socialise along with the best of us.
Having read an advertisement in The Times, I had an interview and landed a job teaching at Pakenham High School, Victoria, Australia. For the next 22 years I taught in State schools. My first private school position was at Haileybury College, where I taught Mathematics and coached cricket and swimming for 13 years.
I later secured a position as Mathematics teacher, senior boarding master and rugby coach at Melbourne Grammar. I was in my element. I had a fantastic time working with young men who shared my passion for the game. One of my proudest moments was when my under 16 team won the premiership two years in succession.
Melbourne Grammar also had an association with PNG, for many years before I arrived. Many of the boarding students went on trips with Rev Roger Williams who is the Chaplain at Mentone Grammar. The students were so excited and changed in themselves after the trips and I was mystified as to how this could happen. As the Year 12 boarding master I spent a great deal of time talking to those who had been to PNG. Eventually a colleague and I submitted a proposal to run a trip, which was more focussed on providing assistance, both medically and educationally, to villages and schools in the Milne Bay area of PNG.
After two trips, one with my colleague Michael Shaw in 2004, and one by myself in 2003 to check out various possibilities, we ran our first trip with students from MGS and MGGS in 2005. We took nine boys and nine girls, and it was a life-changing experience for all involved.
PNG is a passion of mine. With a little persuasion, backed up by my previous experience, David Shepherd agreed to Clarendon running such a trip. We take two local doctors, Nick Kimpton and Michael Whitehead, who are as passionate as I am, to provide medical assistance to villages in remote areas of PNG.
Our next trip will be our fourth and, yes, I am proud to say we have made, and will continue to make, a difference.
So for me, eight schools later and 40 years in this game, this has to be some sort of record. While I continue to work here I will continue to seek the help of those in the community of Ballarat and beyond, who have made me feel so grateful and humble due to their unconditional support for this wonderful project.
PNG Project Coordinator