Celebrating Dick Mowbray’s 36 years at Berkhamsted School
It is not an exaggeration to say that hundreds of pupils at Berkhamsted have been influenced by Mr Dick Mowbray in the 36 years he has worked for Berkhamsted School.
Berkhamsted’s longest serving teacher of the modern era, he celebrated a rare feat of completing his 100th school term in 2016.
A young Dick Mowbray arrived at Berkhamsted in 1982 to be Head of the Classics Department which he ran expertly for 18 years. A Cambridge graduate, his innate intelligence and passion for the subject enabled pupils to attain outstanding results.
A measure of the respect in which he was held was reflected in the number of students who were inspired to study Classics at university as a consequence of his teaching. Cementing pupils’ engagement with Classics, his regular school trips to Greece were often cited as a highlight of their school careers.
Mr Mowbray was not only an exceptional teacher but also a devoted Housemaster for 30 years. He ran Swifts from 1986-1996; School House from 1996-2011 and finally Churchill from 2012-2017. He cared deeply about every individual’s welfare and the development of all the students in his care but he also had a real sense of fun.
It was most fitting that Mr Mowbray’s final swansong was the recent rugby Tour to South Africa to mark the end of his retirement. He had previously led and planned 9 tours. It is estimated that the Berkhamsted legend has committed well over 40,000 hours to school rugby, equating to 4.5 years of his life.
FT Stellenberg HS 5 @RugbyBerko 38 @FifteenRugbyXV pic.twitter.com/KU7sLlubxD
— BerkhamstedRugby (@RugbyBerko) August 7, 2018
South Africa rugby tour 2018, his final contribution as a member of staff
He ran the Colts XV with Fred Charnock from 1982-1990 and then was deservedly appointed as Master i/c Rugby in 1990, a role he fulfilled with tremendous energy, commitment and dignity for the next 25 years. It is quite extraordinary that he undertook this with all of his other commitments.
He had some great 1st XV teams and so many Old Berkhamstedians owe their rugby proficiency to him. A sports devotee, he must have taken well over 1000 school fixtures as coach or referee in rugby, cricket, hockey and football. He was Honorary Secretary of Hertfordshire 18-Group Schools and Clubs for 10 years and was deservedly awarded the ERFSU Services to Schools Award in 2016.
Talent show take over
He was a Captain in the CCF for 25 years and helped to run 50 Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. These expeditions were conducted with the utmost efficiency and a great deal of fun and many great stories have been told. He was also dedicated to the welfare of the staff common room and devoted a great deal of time to various staff committees.
He participated with gusto in the Talent shows and the all famous staff pantomimes where he often diverted to his own script, prolonging the performance by at least 10 minutes. Dick was famous for his speeches as they were never short but they did entertain and every speech had a significant message. From tours spanning three decades, pupils will remember the impact of his speeches to this day.
His connection with Old Berkhamstedians is so very strong and this is always apparent when the reunion dinners are held. The affection shown towards him has been marvellous to witness. His heartfelt eulogy at the funeral of an Old Berkhamstedian was both poignant and uplifting.
The school owes him a massive debt of gratitude for his altruistic approach to students and colleagues. With RKM, it does not matter whether he is coaching a future England captain (Will Carling OBE) or a novice scrum-half at U14 level. He has been the ultimate school master and his philosophy on how rugby should be played equates with the way he feels that life should be lived: to the full and right to the final whistle.
Dick’s plan for retirement is to idle away the years, soaking up the evening sun in a very small boat off the Mani Peninsular, with Virgil, Homer and the Greek New Testament for company. In a line from Tennyson’s Ulysses that Dick would echo-
“Come my friends, tis not too late to seek a newer world.”
He will be sorely and genuinely missed by all his friends, pupils and colleagues. We salute him and wish him every happiness in his well-deserved retirement. Berkhamsted School thanks Richard Kingsley Mowbray for the last 36 years and says goodbye to one of its own Greek heros.
By Graham Burchnall friend and colleague since 1986