Friday, 27 February 2009

Hello Henry

We had a visit yesterday from old boy Henry Heke (Ryder). Henry was at FDMC for much of the 1980's with his last year being 1988.

Henry is living in the Hawkes Bay, has four kids and is working for Te Puni Kokiri specialising in business development and support. He tells us he has come over to the dark side, coaching the Flaxmere College 1st XV after all his years of playing soccer, basketball and league.

Henry was able to catch up with a number of "old" staff members and he tells us he is looking forward to catching up with a lot of his old class mates at the Jubilee.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

What's In A Name?

One downside to working in one school for a long period of time is that students and years do tend to blur slightly. Thank you to all of you who were astute enough to notice, and point out, our error in naming Thomas Hills as Tim in yesterday's post.

On the subject of Hills our congratulations to David Hills (Tom's younger brother) in earning a Scholarship pass in Classical Studies. Other Scholarships went to Andrew Crowe in Chemistry and Ethan Bolstad in Physical Education.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Doctors On the Move

An interesting article in yesterday's Dominion on the possible impact of the new government policy on student loans for doctors. Old Boy Tim Hills features in the article, both in word and image.

It did start some staff room conversation as to how much it would take to get some one to move to Gisborne, surfers and fisherman excluded.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Get Registered

After a steady start the number of registrations for the Jubilee have slowed down sharply. In talking to old boys there are a great many people intending to be there we just need you folk to take that next step - and if you don't? Well Peter Costello knows where you live!

Monday, 23 February 2009

A Point In Time

This photo was taken of the 1964-68 students and teachers at the 25th Jubilee in 1984. Makes you wonder how they will look 25 years on?

Friday, 20 February 2009

Gifts And Talents

The latest UPFRONT newsletter from the De La Salle brothers had us back checking their website. Lots of interesting articles on there and we noted a reflection from past Principal Br Bill Firman on gifts and talents which is worth a read.

The newsletter itself has an article on Br Peter Ryan which has not yet been uploaded to the web site, but what really took our eye was the statement
"On the home front, Brother Peter Ryan, who was Principal at St Francis Douglas Memorial College in New Plymouth for six years...".
An elevation in status Rome has not yet told us about - but may be one day!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

A Revised History

For many years this photo has existed in the archives under the title "Br Julian turns the first sod in 1957". More recent investigation suggests that this is actually Br Julian (our first Principal) turning the first sod for the swimming pool circa 1968. A hole that turned into a very imposing 50m pool.

Which leads us neatly to the fact that Monday is the day of our annual swimming sports. Should you be in the area you would be more than welcome to pop in and see how things are done now - pretty much as they were only with more students and slightly less stress.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Holiday Catch Ups

One of the good things about the school holidays for teachers is that they provide a chance to travel. When you are out and about it is amazing how many old boys you catch up with.

Pictured outside St Paul's in London is Mr Richard Marris with old boy Brent Thomson. Brent is currently working as an accountant in London but is looking to move back to NZ in the future.

On the same theme our 1st XI cricketers were surprised and delighted by the number of old boys who found time to come and watch them play during their tournament in Queensland. It is always good to feel that level of college spirit.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Recent Contacts

We are always pleased to hear from old boys and we have had lots of people drop us a line in recent weeks. Some of these have included
  • Mark Dennehy - I'm an old boy from 76-80. My name is Mark Dennehy and I remember FDMC fondly. I regularly remember back to the staff and boys I spent those years with and wonder where they are and what they are doing. I am saddened and surprised to find out David Eaglestone and Greg Davidson, who I knew well died in 1982 and Also Tim Harris in 2007. I would love to get regular new letters and keep some contact with the school. I also would like to find out where 2 brothers are now, Br Declan who taught me in 1980 (4 Blue) and Br Matthew who taught me maths and Religion in 1976.
  • Ross Thorby - I live in Bulls now and have met a couple of old boys that are keen also on the Jubilee, plus the Frecklington Boys still around here, hope to catch up with everyone in May.
  • Danny Greer - I attended FDMC during 1982 and 1983. I was wondering how I can find out more information about the school. I want to share things with my children about my childhood. I lived on Lemon Street when I attended the school.
  • Mick Gower - I left New Plymouth in 1995 to settle in Hamilton. My wife Denise and I now own and operate a Paperplus Store in the CBD. We also own with our son Simon, a Mediterranean foodstore called Vetro.
  • John Dempsey - I was a first day pupil as well as a first day border and I am interested in attending the Jubilee

Monday, 16 February 2009

Welcome To The Working Week

The Statue of Our Lady not only welcomes visitors to the school but with the help of a little sunshine she welcomes us all to another working week.

One where, we feel sure, you are going to get around to downloading and filling out your Jubilee registration.

Friday, 13 February 2009

May They Rest In Peace

We note with sadness the passing of two old boys in the last few weeks
  • Brendan (BJ) Meehan (28)
  • Roger Half (38)
Both were only relatively young guys and our thoughts are with their families and friends.

A reminder that Br Declan does a great job of maintaining our Roll of Remembrance which you can visit by clicking on that title in the sidebar.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

A Note From Martin Chamberlain

As the first permanently appointed lay principal of this fine college, it is my pleasure to pen something for the old boy's blog.

Having worked at both St Peter’s College (Gore) and St Kevin’s College (Oamaru), I have thirty years of involvement as an educator in the Catholic system. Similarly to this school, they have boarding hostels and they are the only Catholic boarding schools available to secondary school aged boys (and girls) in their provinces. It is a pleasure for me, my wife Claire and my daughters Bridget and Olivia to come to live in your beautiful province and join this wonderful school community.

Ever since my appointment, upon meeting with people, there have been many occasions when a the mention of Francis Douglas Memorial College has caused eyes to light up as people immediately bring fond memories or positive things they have heard to mind. Such genuine emotions are tribute to those who have gone before. The De La Salle Brothers, our former students, parents and supporters have all built the robust community we have today.

I see my new role as being one of service, where people’s fondness for the school and what it has achieved over the years need to be carefully preserved so that students yet to come receive the same precious nurturing that present and former students and parents attest to.

I look forward to serving this school community.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Wedding Season

Congratulations to old boy Reece Williams on his marriage last weekend to the lovely Kelly. The happy event took place in Kumeu and we believe fellow old boy Ryan O'Byrne distinguished himself as the Best Man.

It is certainly wedding season and we would be delighted to acknowledge other weddings so don't be shy about sending us the details with accompanying photos.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Our Latest Staff Member

It is always a pleasure to welcome on old boy of the college onto the staff. James Rowland has joined us in the position of Sports Coordinator, taking over from the legend that was John George. Not the easiest person to follow but at least James has a full appreciation of the task in front of him. James graduated from Otago University last year with a degree in Physical Education and we are looking forward to the youthful enthusiasm he will surely bring to organising our sporting programme.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Our Stories

We wrote a post last year about Jonathan Koea, an old boy of FDMC who is now a highly respected surgeon working in Auckland. At the time we asked Jonathan if he could contribute some reflections on his time at the College, something which he has kindly found the time to do. This is something we would like to encourage more old boys to do as we believe it is important we start recording and telling our FDMC stories.

Jonathan's Reflection.

I was a pupil at Francis Douglas Memorial College between 1977 and 1981. In my memory my time there was undistinguished and, I think, unremarkable for those there with me. However I see it as a crucial time in my life and one in which I saw and made decisions that set me on my current path. Over a year ago Martin Dravitzki, Mr Dravitzki in the 1970s, emailed me to ask for a contribution to the FDMC web site. A year of procrastination has followed. The difficulty in being asked to fulfill such a task lies in the expectations. The implication is that, either, one has reached an advanced age and has something of use to say based on extensive life experience, or one is defined as being successful which is, at best, a vague notion. With advancing age – I will be 45 in 14 days well past the halfway point in my three score and ten- the ground covered contracts, the lessons learned quietly become common sense, and little seems to have changed from December 1981 when I rode my bike out of the College gates for the final time. However a quick look at the FDMC website dispels this notion. Evidently the school is only known for its two alumni who became All Blacks, John Mitchell and Conrad Smith. No bad thing. I am often asked where I went to school. Francis Douglas College usually draws blank looks but the school where John Mitchell began to play rugby draws a knowing gleam. We are what we are and, even after 21 years of world cup under performance, we still measure our progress against the All Blacks.

When I look at my life I have been lucky. I was lucky to attend FDMC. My parents had become concerned with other secondary schools in New Plymouth in the mid 1970s through my mothers job as a teacher and felt that FDMC offered more structure, direction and discipline than others that were available. I remember my interview with Brother Osmond in 1976. It probably should have been stressful but I had no idea what was going on – I got out of intermediate school for a half day. There was no preparation on my part and no sense of occasion. I still do not know why I was accepted but my career is full of distinguished individuals granting me time and privilege that I probably don’t deserve.

I was conscious of attending a school out of the ordinary in 1977. It was small, the years were compressed, and the senior students interested in the juniors. What was remarkable was that I was christened in the Anglican Church and was, and remain a poor church goer. However I enjoyed Catholicism. One of my first memories is a mass in the gymnasium led by Cardinal Delargy. It was my first experience of religion on a grand scale and with grand tradition. I have kept a strong respect for Catholicism with its structure and organization. The religions struggles in the last 25 years not withstanding it remains the only Christian faith with a clear and unbroken lineage back to Christ.

The tenets of Christian faith played a strong role in education. Several times a week we were exposed to Christian Living. I remember little detail of this and certainly don’t remember it as indoctrination. Mostly it seemed to be debate. The question of faith was outlined as a conundrum. A man falls down a cliff but catches hold of a tree growing from the cliff face. He calls on God to save him. God answers and asks him if he has faith. The man answers the affirmative. Well says God – let go of the tree and I will save you. Food for thought for a conservative who was always keen on keeping his options open. Even harder to understand was the notion that a tyrant could enter heaven after sincerely giving a deathbed confession. We debated that one for a whole period. However with advancing years I now believe that most tyrants face their maker believing that they have done the right things for the right reasons and the remainder the right things for the wrong reasons. Most, I suspect, die unrepentant.
The importance of this was that we were required to think outside the 3Rs. It encouraged me to become comfortable or, at least, not excruciating uncomfortable in debating moral dilemmas and in the grey territories where there are no right answers and only a few wrong ones. This proved good training for a career in medicine and cancer surgery.

The Christian theme that ran through the school had other implications. We never had career days but there was much talk of vocations. This was partly directed at encouraging interest in the religious orders but instilled in me early a feeling that a career is a life’s work rather than a mechanism to develop an income stream. Frankly put we spend at least 40 hours a week, 46 weeks of the year, 45 years of working life working. We should enjoy our work, find it fulfilling and something more than a mechanism to earn sufficient income to do what we really want to in our down time. I am often asked why I chose medicine. The answer is simple in that I woke up one day and decided I was going to be a doctor. There was no epiphany or fireworks - it just was. My parents, who were very conservative, were concerned since I had no plan B, it was an extremely competitive process and my marks were not the best. However I never had any doubts – unusual since I am mildly pessimistic by nature- and I gradually developed a clear plan for how to achieve entry to medical school. I was greatly aided in this by two teachers who absorbed this information without judgment and set about helping me to attain the required standard to make the grade. Doc Riddle taught physics and chemistry and Mrs Macdonald taught biology. Both must have seen something I did not see myself and pushed me with extra tuition and exam practice. Another example of people going out on a limb for me.

So, other than a great education Francis Douglas gave me the ability to think about moral and ethical dilemmas – not to get the right answer merely to recognize the issues and start grappling with them- and the desire to pursue a vacation rather than a career. The schools other great lesson was due to my own shyness. I began there in the third form in 1977 and it was not until fifth form that I started going tramping with the school tramping club and played 2nd fifteen rugby in the sixth and seventh form. Prior to this I had played almost no part in school activities. My only excuse was that I was painfully shy but even now I regret the lost opportunity of those two years. As it was I had a ball in my final three years at school and learned gradually to put myself out there. Failure is rarely ever as bad as one thinks it will be and less frequent than others say it will be. My lost time at school has pushed me in the years since into breaking new ground, taking opportunities as they come and not hanging back. Success is the capacity to withstand failure and while failure is not as common an occurrence as some would have us believe, the wholehearted pursuit of any goal involves the risk of non-attainment.

I have delayed writing this contribution for the FDMC website because I worried about having anything relevant to say and the concern that my school career had little to teach. But it taught me about good ethics, the importance of a vocation and just getting on and doing what you want too in spite of what anyone may think. I did get into medical school albeit with the lowest bursary mark in my year. But I did graduate top of my class winning prizes in medicine and surgery. I was able to do that by finally learning how to work in an organized and concerted fashion. It is also a reflection on a number of talented individuals who saw something in me that was worth investing in. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Prof Paul Hill, who helped me struggle through physiology, Dr Mary Bullivant who agreed to supervise a mediocre Masters student, Jim Shaw who taught me the rudiments of general surgery and clinical research, Murray Brennan who showed me the wider world of surgery and Leslie Blumgart who taught me to be a liver surgeon – an area where I have been happily practicing for the last 10 years.

So what have I learned since I left FDMC 27 years ago. Spend your life doing what pleases you. If it makes you truly happy it will probably make others happy too. Some failure is inevitable but the best lessons are learned from failure not success. Sometimes the only way to move forward is to put yourself out there and see what happens.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

1999 Revisited

As part of the Jubilee celebrations on Saturday 30th May the current 1st XV is looking to play an old boys selection based on the guys from the 1999 team and other players from that era. The 1st XV will be aided by several invited friends from our past or our future. Ross Williams and Richard Doherty will be putting the old boys team together. We are letting you know now so that you can put your training schedule in place in case you get the phone call. The rest of us "old fellas" will just look forward to the spectacle.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Magazine '08

The 2008 college magazine has arrived from the publishers and will be distributed this week. Pictured left is the cover and behind that is 160 pages of pictures, information and memories.

Congratulations to Mrs Jane Connolly for her coordination of the magazine and thanks for the many hours of work which her and her helpers have put into its production.

Monday, 2 February 2009

First Day Back Or First Day Gone

Today sees the start of the 2009 school year for all students. The new boarders have had their first night, the little fellas are scared and excited about their new school and the seniors are trying to shake of the holidays, loose some of the hair.

The college roll will be around the 750 mark, still room for a few more catholic boys! As always there are some who will not be returning. Pictured is Stephen Kibby, son of the famous Wayne (Mr) Kibby. Wayne has taken a years leave to try his hand teaching English in South Korea while Stephen has been "head hunted" by Auckland Grammar, a move which will allow him to concentrate on playing soccer for the NZ under 17 side without travelling a few hundred kms each weekend.

We wish all students, be they with us or striking out on a new adventure, a very successful 2009.