INTERVIEW WITH MR. EDDIE DOREY

ARTICLES

Interview conducted and compiled by Leon Kok School House 1964.

In the run-up to their 40-Years-On reunion a few years ago, Leon Kok - the convenor, compiled a series of interviews, what follows is an interview with Mr. Eddie Dorey.The interview took place in 2004.

I had the opportunity in late July of meeting with Eddie Dorey in his comfortable home in the Lynnwood area where he stays with his longstanding wife, Eline. He was the wonderful person that he always was, with considerable spirit, generosity and humour.

Eddie and Eline adopted a son in 1977, who is 26 today, married, and farms in the Lydenburg district. They're grandparents already.

Eddie spent two years in Japan, in 1967 and 1968, developing his martial arts skills, which he says was one of the toughest experiences in his life. 'I knew that if I gave up, and I was often tempted to do so, that I'll never be the same again. The martial arts teaches you enormous self-discipline, and if you don't play by the game, you get hammered'.

Retired, he teaches self defence today, using a knife.

Eline trained as a teacher at Normal College and spent almost her entire working life as a teacher at Meisies Hoer, which Eddie says has 'the same background, ethos and traditions as Boys High'. Eline is also retired, but says, 'I'm so busy that I don't know how I ever had time to teach'.

Eddie and I spoke for about an hour.

Eddie Dorey was one of the School's greatest folk heroes. Immensely spoken about by the boys. He taught many of them for three, four years; played an important part in their sporting lives; warmed their backsides on countless occasions. And yet, it can be asked, did any of them get to know the 'real' Eddie Dorey? Who is he?
My Dad was a police officer and I was born in the small Free State town of Ficksburg. However, as a family, we travelled from one town to the next during the course of my first 11 years. Then we came to the Transvaal, followed by my father being transferred to Natal. It was felt that Natal's school's syllabus was far too different to the Transvaal's, so it was decided to place me in boarding school in Lydenburg for a year. Then I was sent to the Potch Volks' Hoerskool where I eventually matriculated in 1953. I attended our 50th reunion last year. It was indeed in Potch that I got to know the first of the four Milner Schools - Potch Boys High - but I never imagined that one day I'd end up teaching at one of them.

Had you set your mind on teaching at the outset?
As you know, Potch had a large military base, and initially the idea of a military career appealed to me. My sister, however, went to the former Normal College (in Sunnyside, Pretoria), and suggested that I do the same. I accepted her advice and never looked back. I don't regret the decision at all.

How did you end up at Boys High?
There was a guy by the name of Simon Gouws, later Dr Simon Gouws, who taught in the School's Afrikaans Department and told me that there was a post going. He suggested that I apply for it. I met with Mr Abernethy and he said, 'Here's a job for you!' That was in 1959 and I was aged about 24.

Your first impressions?
Almost a culture shock. I was absolutely amazed at the wonderful gentlemen that I met, including about six former headmasters. Those that made an immediate impression included Mr Willy Brooks, Mr Bob Fair, Mr Noel Pollock, Mr Sammy Howell, Mr Sammy Wolfe, Mr Joe Starker and Dr Theo Gevers. I thought, 'You know, I'd like to teach here for the rest of my life and end up like them'. Of course, life doesn't necessarily work that way. I was extremely happy until 1974 until Mr Abernethy retired.

Mr Abernethy, clearly, carried an immense reputation as headmaster, educationist and gentleman. Was it valid? Did you share that view?
Absolutely. He was about as close to God as you can get. He always used to say, 'I'm not as much concerned about boys achieving A's and B's as I am about producing decent citizens'. That made a lasting impression on me. He was always very good to me, took immense interest in what I did, and I liked his company. He was a good listener. I often visited him after he retired.

Any interesting stories?
One Friday a rather impertinent kid went to his teacher at the end of the last period and said, 'Sir, you have given me extremely low marks - can we please discuss it'. The teacher said, 'No, wait until Monday'. The kid replied, 'No, I want to settle the matter now'. The teacher 'klapped' him and told him to push off. This was witnessed by Dr Gevers who went immediately to Mr Abernethy and related what had happened. A few minutes later the parents confronted Mr Abernethy about the matter. Mr Abernethy said, 'I'm glad you contacted me, I was on the verge of contacting you. Your kid is impossible, and the only real issue we face is whether we keep him in the school or remove him. Now, what do you want to speak to me about'. Shortly after the teacher rocked up and gave Mr Abernethy his version. Mr Abernethy replied, 'Were I in your position, I would probably have been tempted to do the same. But what you did was wrong, and don't you ever do it again. Just as important, never place me in such an invidious position again'. The matter was closed. That showed the terrific skills Mr Abernethy had in dealing with people.

What about outstanding teachers?
There were lots of them.

No, please short-list them.
Mr Brooks. I heard that on one occasion there was a sick kid in the Solomon House sick bay who required medicine every two hours throughout the night. Mr Brooks took it upon himself to be there throughout and provide the necessary. That was the kind of man that he was.

Mr Hofmeyr. I sat in on a Firsts and Seconds post-mortem one day, and heard Mr Hofmeyr say: 'I saw someone put his hand in the loose scrum and rake the ball out. That's illegal'. He then remarked, 'Can you imagine if a try had been scored on the strength of that!' I said to myself, 'He must be mad - guys do it all the time, and if you can get away with it, why not!' But as I walked away, I thought, 'I have never witnessed integrity like that in my life'. That was Mr Hofmeyr.

Terence Ashton. A marvellous English teacher, I'm told.

Heinie Dittberner. My head of department. A wonderful guy.

Professor Walter Battiss. What a character. His classes were always chaotic, but he added such value.

What do you recall of the Common Room?
Normally, quite open. Everyone talked about everything. One memory is Mr Alan Volbrecht being continuously on the telephone. He never let up. In those days telephone calls in the Common Room were free. Then there were more senior masters who insisted on having their own teapot. They claimed that the 'brew' was stronger than in other teapots and they didn't want the younger guys to touch it. When I left the School, the utensils were replaced, so I took that 'stronger brew' pot with me. I had it for about 15 years, and then passed it on to Mr Tony Wilkes for keeping in the School Museum.

Do I understand this story correctly?
You tell me!

What boys still stick out in your mind?
'Baby' Geere, who was very big as a schoolboy, even at age 15, is one. I recall that he was in Form IIIC, along Keith Dixon among others who was pretty tough and an outstanding rugby player. Tos du Toit took them for PT (physical training). I was also a PT teacher on occasions and was helping out. They guys wanted me to wrestle, to take on Geere, and refused to let up. At College I had been taught that you should never engage in something that you can't handle, because if you lose, you might as well pack your bags and go. This worried me, but eventually I had no option other than to agree. Luck had it that I broke Geere's rib within 30 seconds of the match, and that resolved the matter partially. Until Doc Menge climbed into me because Geere was a prominent swimmer in the School swimming team, and accused me of being irresponsible. Geere had to withdraw from the team.

Another swimmer, Tiny Barnetson, also comes to mind. He was in a class of his own, and although he eventually became a Springbok I think, and won a scholarship to an American university, he never realized his full potential. If he put into training what Hughey Cable did, he would have broken several world records. Cable was extraordinary too, but based on pure commitment, and unfortunately never really made it in the 'big time'. Another person like Cable was Tom Brown.

Keith Kinsella was also extraordinary. He was a brilliant student, a brilliant sportsman, and always had a special presence. He had considerable dignity and always lifted the overall atmosphere, whether in the classroom or on the playing field. He had a special genius and ran like an antelope. He had the 'Midas touch', not in terms of gold, but in terms of relationships and humanity.

The Hector family was also special, particularly Rupert. He was the captain of the Cricket First Team, an excellent rugby player, a good tennis player, and the athletic Victor Laudorem. I believe that he was once watching a trampoline event, and the expert invited any volunteers to try their luck. Hector volunteered, and outshone the expert completely. The expert had to say, 'Look, I think you had better go, because you have stolen my limelight!'

I thought John Ivy was a great athlete and I also remember that the locks in the First Rugby Side in 1959 or 1960 were outstanding. They were hardly ever beaten in a line out.

Were there any boys, who, in your view, should have made the Springbok rugby side, but disappeared into oblivion post-school?
Yes, names like Le Roux, Sharmi and Busiker (can't remember their first names), and Simon Binder.

Your choice of top Head Prefects?
In your time, probably John Duff.

You had a penchant for caning boys - in fact, entire classes, and in your case it never seemed to be an issue. What was different?
You must never hit a boy when you're cross, or as an act of vengeance. You need to be in full control of yourself, and do it only if you believe it is in his best interests. You also need to be in good spirits. I must, say, however, that there were occasions in which I regretted that I had done what I did, and would then compensate by providing them with sweets. But you know, it's all about the person concerned. Professor Walter Battiss' classes were chaotic, but he achieved what he wanted to. Mr Bob Fair was also different. It's a question of horses for courses, except that if you're going to replace one system with another entirely (which is what they have done), ensure that the replacement is a reasonable alternative and works effectively.

Joe Starker always referred to his 'catalyst' (rubber pipe), you referred to your stick as the 'magic wand'. Explain the rationale?
Simply to convert the equivalent of the 'ugly duckling' to a 'beautiful swan'. I remember on one occasion telling the class that if their parents wanted quality products, all that they needed to do was write to me and request that I use the 'magic wand' to produce the goods. I received a letter from one parent saying that he or she were extremely concerned about the product that they possessed, and would be delighted if I'd make their son disappear forever. This letter was pinned up on my classroom door for many years.

I recall in Form IV that one kid threatened to get his father to intervene, and you invited him to bring his father the next day. You claimed that you'd sort him and his father out. The father did not turn up, and nothing further developed. Do you recall that?
No, I have forgotten.

What other forms of punishment did you consider?
On a lighter note, a boy one-day turned up and I suspected that he hadn't done his homework, which included spelling. I invited him to write 'interessant' and 'onmiddelik' on the board. He acceded, but got both wrong. I then invited a second boy to do the same, and he got it right. I then recalled that at College I had been taught that it sometimes pays to do something very different to make something stick. So I picked up the first boy and cleaned his side of the board with the bum of his pants. Of course, the rest of the boys thought this was hilarious. However, I warned them that this was light stuff, and that I was also capable of throwing them into the desk, or sticking them out the window and holding one leg with a single hand. Naturally, I never ever followed through, but it became legion and had good effect.

Your funniest recollections?
Once, when a boy by the name of Foot hurt his foot. Mr Fair asked him: 'How's your foot, Foot? He replied: 'Fair, fair!'

On another occasion when Dr Schiff was teaching his class Archimedes Principle, he asked: 'Why is the water rising?' Retorted one boy: 'Mr Archimedes probably pissed in it?

What was the School's strongest point?
The ethos, the tradition, and boys generally excellent behaviour. It is wonderful when you go into the School and the first boy that see's you, comes up to you and asks: 'Sir, can I assist you!' Also when a boy addresses any superior, he gets off his butt. This is becoming less and less common today.

Let me put it to you that I have seen as good at Kearsney College.
Yes, but look at the Headmaster, Elwyn van den Aardweg, who is a product of PBHS.

The School's weakest point?
Nothing that I can think off.

Come on, I can't believe that. I accept that although I was among the School's greatest under-performers, most of the curriculum teaching that I was exposed to was fair to poor.
That's probably true. When I started teaching at the School, I had a similar view. It had a lot to do with Mr Abernethy's view of not going overboard about academic achievement and producing a well-rounded and decent citizen. One teacher said, 'I don't worry too much about seriously marking exam papers at the end of the year - I rely mainly on the year's aggregate. I only concentrate on the borderline cases'. The story was also told about Mr Piet Moerdyk. An inspector arrived at the School and asked, 'Where's your syllabus?' He replied, ' I don't have a syllabus'. The inspector said to him, 'You must have one'. He replied: 'Sit down and I'll write it out for you'. When the inspector raised the matter with Mr Abernethy, he replied: 'Look, the guy knows what he is doing, leave it'.

I'd like to debate that one. Too often teachers failed to remember that they were playing with Children's futures!
One has to be cautious on that point, but it's not untrue.

I recall that you had some intense political debates at School House with the likes of Vic Rodseth and Vivian Henry. Were those rational? Were you not too rigid in your views on Afrikanderdom and apartheid, and were they not too patronising and disrespectful towards you, in spite of claiming to be liberal?
I'm surprised that you remember those. There is no doubt about it that I was rigid in my views, and not least that I had been completely indoctrinated. Naturally, my views have changed quite dramatically over the years, like those of so many others. I don't hold anything against them - I now understand where they were coming from. When the Republic was being celebrated in about 1960, various organisations approached Mr Abernethy about using the School grounds, and he in turn consulted me on the subject. I recommended that he should not make the grounds available, and he didn't.


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