DOBA History


1. Introduction

The roots of the Dilworth Old Boys’ Association (DOBA) go right back to the earliest days of the School. Although the Dilworth Ulster Institute, as it was initially called, was founded in 1894, it opened its doors for the first time in 1906. It was a primary school only and the boys’ ages ranged from just 4 to about 9 or 10. For that reason, the idea of having a past pupil’s organisation did not arise for some years. The proposal to form an old boys’ association was a direct result of the First World War, in which a large proportion of the very small number of alumni served and two were killed in action (Eric Ancell and William Dunwoody).

2. The First Meeting

Even so, the establishment of an Old Boys’ Association owed much to boys who were still at the School in 1919, and probably even more to Headmaster Noel Gibson, than to those who had already graduated. A small but enthusiastic group of senior students, conscious that their own school days were coming to an end, and anxious to retain the friendships they had forged as well as their links with Dilworth, arranged a gathering to which selected former pupils were invited. The School had only been in existence for thirteen years, and there were fewer than a hundred graduates. Yet by then the School already had established traditions and a special character of its own. It was therefore timely for this little band of enthusiasts to contemplate the establishment of a past pupils’ organisation.

The meeting was, in effect, a first informal Old Boys’ reunion and was the foundation of what has become a large, influential and vigorous organisation. Some twenty Old Boys and senior pupils attended that first informal meeting, held in a classroom in June 1919, and from it emerged the Dilworth Old Boys’ Association. As a consequence of this informal gathering, the first official meeting of the DOBA took place on 25 September 1919. Those in attendance drew up a carefully worded constitution whose aims and objects were ‘to foster fellowship among all Old Boys, to encourage Old Boys to retain their interest in the School, to support and encourage the School in its work and to assist school leavers in establishing themselves in the community and in their careers’. Apart from some minor tweaking from time to time, that initial constitution has remained largely unchanged for almost a century. Since 1950, the Association has been an Incorporated Society.

Committee meetings were originally held at the School until, in 1921, they were given permission to use the Board Room at the Fort Street Offices of the Dilworth Trust Board. The constitution called for the annual election of officers: a President, Secretary-Treasurer and Councillors. William Ross (No 6), one of the “originals” enrolled at the School in 1906, was elected first President and held office until 1923 when he was replaced by Joyce Hyland (47) who was the  first secretary and the editor of the pioneering issues of The Dilworthian in 1927. As the sixth boy to be enrolled at the School, our Foundation President William Ross was one of the group of eleven small boys who started on that historic opening day, 12 March 1906, joined by seven others before the year ended. Although there is no record of his time at the School and he did not distinguish himself in any particular way there, it is known that he attended Auckland Grammar School while still boarding at Dilworth and that he joined the Civil Service on leaving school, attended Auckland University College and represented the New Zealand Universities in rugby. He died in 1940 at the age of just 42. Mervyn Leather (80) was the first treasurer of the Association. By the close of the year, the young Association had a membership of fifty, more than half of those eligible to join.  

3. The Constitution

In addition to the “working” officers of the Association, the constitution requires the annual election of a Patron (normally, but not invariably a prominent Old Boy) and Vice Patron (usually the Headmaster/Principal), Vice-Presidents (now called Honorary Officers) who are granted this honour in recognition of services to the School and the Association, an Honorary Auditor and an Honorary Solicitor. The first Patron of the Association was Archdeacon MacMurray and Noel Gibson was the first Vice-Patron. In the entire history of the Association there have only been six Patrons: MacMurray, Gibson, Bert Callwell, D.F. (Bill) Cotter, Jim Poole, and the present incumbent Murray Wilton, and only a handful of Vice-Patrons. This is due mainly to the fact that MacMurray and Gibson between them occupied the position for almost 60 years.

Early Honorary Vice Presidents included Archbishop Averill, the Reverend G.C. Cruickshank (Vicar of St Marks) and Messrs D. Silk (unknown) and L. Armitage (early teacher). In 1990 this award was changed in the constitution to “Honorary Officer” to avoid confusion with the elected Vice-President of the Association. The list of Honorary Officers in the present day is extensive and includes long-serving staff members, ex-staff members, wives of Old Boys and teachers who have made valued contributions to the School and the Association.

Life membership is bestowed on those who have rendered long and meritorious service to the Association and the School. The honour has been very sparingly awarded and, until 2011 when life membership was bestowed on retired Royal School Dungannon Headmaster Paul Hewitt, only to Old Boys. In the first seventy years only seven life memberships were awarded. To date the number of Life Members is still only 20, meaning that the award is accorded sparingly by the Council at its AGM, and only to those of considerable merit.

4. The First Old Boy Killed in WW1

Dilworth pupils were given the news by a sombre Headmaster that one of the “Originals”, Lieutenant Eric Ancell, had lost his life on 19 October 1916 at Armentières in France. The boys were so moved by this tragic loss that they raised money to purchase Post Office War Loan Certificates, handing them over to the Headmaster with the request that he should eventually use the funds to establish a fitting memorial to their former fellow pupil, a solid silver trophy, to be known as the Ancell Memorial Cup and to be competed for by Old Boys at each year’s Annual Reunion in a “220 yards flat race”. The trophy is the School’s oldest and has been the object of keen annual competition at the Old Boys’ Reunion.

Eric Ancell’s name is inscribed on the Old Boys’ War Memorial Roll of Honour in the chapel, along with the two others killed in the First World War and those who died in the Second World War. His sacrifice is also recorded at Auckland Grammar School who claim him among their lengthy list of war casualties. He is buried in the Cimetière Cité Bonjean at Armentières.

5. The Roll of Honour

A thankful Trust Board, rejoicing in the end of Word War 1 hostilities, decided to erect a fitting memorial. The Dilworth memorial board, fashioned in kauri timber, was installed at the north-west end of the old dining room and was unveiled by the Archbishop Averill at Prizegiving in December 1921. The tablet contained the names of two Old Boys and a master killed in action, as well as the names of fourteen others who served in the war. The Roll of Honour held pride of place in the dining room for the next forty years and every ANZAC Day it was draped with a Union Jack and honoured. Sadly, and inexplicably, the old First World War memorial tablet is itself missing in action. In 1964, just prior to the demolition of the old dining room, the board was removed and put into supposedly safe storage during the reconstruction. However, at some point soon after it mysteriously disappeared and to this day it has never been found.

6. The First Old Boy House Tutors

The system of appointing young resident House Tutors to assist with hostel supervisory duties and sports coaching has a venerable past of its own. It dates from 1919 when Reg Nicolas (35), who had completed his Dilworth education the year before, was invited to remain at the Institute in the capacity of ‘student Assistant”. He was not going on to tertiary education and in fact had a full-time job, both of these factors being quite different from the usual terms of reference applying to the appointment of today’s House Tutors. He remained in the position for eight years and was replaced in 1927 by an even older Old Boy. Ted Thwaites (7), the second appointee, was one of the original pupils and was already a qualified barrister and solicitor. It is clear that these men did the job for the love of it and that they looked upon the work as an opportunity to give something back to the School.   From 1919 to the present day Old Boys have held many of these positions which, in due course, came to be awarded to deserving cases who were going on to tertiary education. The free board and lodging offered in exchange for residential supervision and coaching duties was a valuable aid to them in financing their university studies. In the 1960s, as the roll increased with the addition of new buildings, so too did the number of positions offered and eventually several of them were offered to non-Dilworth men.

7. The Gibson Visits to Young Old Boys

During this period, Headmaster Noel Gibson embarked on a programme of visiting young Old Boys who had left the Institute and were in employment throughout the country. Initially his brief from the Board was to check on those boys who had been placed on farms but who were still under the care and  influence of the Trust. The farm placement scheme was initiated to take the place of the Dilworth Ulster Institute School of Agriculture after its closure in 1919. In 1920 there were seven boys in this category, and Gibson visited them all at least twice a year to ensure that the working conditions, accommodation and wages were up to the standard expected. Gibson also reported his findings to the Board, including comments on the boys” behaviour and work record, which suggests that the “farm boys” continued to be answerable to the Institute even though they had effectively left it.

The visits were made by Gibson during his own holiday periods in May and August. He eventually extended the visiting programme to include other young Old Boys trying to establish themselves in careers in both town and country. These tours of inspection became particularly important during the Depression years when employment was not only difficult to obtain but also to retain. Occasionally Gibson would take one of his children with him on his rounds and his son Ken, in particular, remembers accompanying him. He would not leave a meeting until he was totally satisfied that everything was as it should be, and if it was not he would take appropriate steps to ensure fair treatment for both parties.

It is no surprise that Old Boys of that period regarded Gibson with awe and respect. He was more than just their Headmaster. He was the head of their extended family and in many respects he became their surrogate father. Boys who left Dilworth Ulster Institute in the 1920s tended to maintain contact with their former Headmaster. For some, it was a requirement of their supervised employment that they should send Gibson a bulletin from time to time. Others, however, wrote letters or called in to see him simply because they held the Headmaster in the highest regard. The Gibson Correspondence files in the School Archives abound with letters and memos from one to the other.

8. The Second DOBA President

Joyce HylandAt the 1924 annual general meeting of  the fledgling Dilworth Old Boys’ Association (DOBA), the Foundation President William Ross stepped down and was replaced by J.W. Hyland (47). Much more is known about Hyland than his predecessor who left New Zealand to work overseas. Hyland was at the School from 1910 to 1918 and was joint gymnasium champion in 1914 and 1915. While still resident at Dilworth, he completed his secondary education at Auckland Grammar School and went on to a distinguished career as a public accountant (BCom) and a life of service to the Auckland community. Eventually he was to be the longest-serving Old Boys’ President, serving two terms from 1924 to 1925 and again from 1933 to 1946. He is credited with holding the DOBA together almost single-handed during WW2. He was the first Old Boy honoured as a Life Member.

9. The First DOBA Reunion

An extraordinary 67 Old Boys had attended the first Annual Reunion held in June 1926. As only a few more than 200 had passed through the Institute to that point the attendance figures were very encouraging. The statistics, as well as the positive commentaries of that earliest Dilworth generation regarding their old school, indicate a significant degree of warmth towards the place which nurtured them.

10. The Opening of Dilworth Building in 1927

The new landmark commercial venture of the Dilworth Trust Board was opened in 1927 to considerable fanfare. The Trustees even used the occasion to publish their first book, the little green tome entitled “School List, Dilworth Ulster Institute, Auckland N.Z.” It contained a short history of the Founders, their School and the Trust, and included a list of every boy Trustee and master associated with the School in its first 21 years. Under the heading “What Place More Fit To Bear His Name?”, the Old Boys’ Association extolled the qualities of the new Dilworth Building in words which bear the unmistakable oratorical stamp of their President, Joyce Hyland, who described the building as both useful and artistic. But the most significant thing about the new building, opened on the 21st anniversary of the opening of the School, was that the Trustees agreed to grant to the Old Boys the use of a fifth floor room in the new Dilworth Building as a clubrooms. The news was greeted with great enthusiasm by the Association who hoped the rooms would ‘become the centre of Old Boys’ social life where town members could meet, and country chaps make a rendezvous in town’. For the next 35 years that is exactly what they became.

11. Old Boys Establish The Dilworthian

No 1 DilworthianThe first 21 years of the School’s existence suffer from the lack of any regularly published material in the form of a school magazine, and it was only the initiative of a group of Old Boys which saw a publication entitled The Dilworthian launched in 1927. It was intended to be a journal promoting the activities of the Old Boys’ Association, rather than the School, when it was launched in August 1927 as a Dilworth coming-of-age celebration. The first edition was a scant eight pages and was printed by Phoenix Press, the company founded and managed by Old Boy Norman Johnston (92) who continued to print the magazine right  through until the 1980s.

The editorial on page 1 spelt out the aims and objects of the journal, which were to promote the Old Boys’ Association and enable those who lived out of the city to maintain contact. The intention was ‘to include matter both serious and humorous’. However, the tone would ‘not be as serious as an undertaker’s face at a funeral, nor yet so funny as to be either vulgar or frivolous’.

The first full report of an Old Boys’ Reunion appears in the initial issue of The Dilworthian in August 1927. It was billed as the Eighth Annual Reunion and featured a rugby match between a School side bolstered by staff and the Old Boys’ third grade team. The report indicates that the Old Boys won the match ‘but not all the honour’, a description which could probably be applied to the sometimes very uneven contests of most years. There was also a seven-a-side game between scratch teams of Old Boys. About 50 Old Boys attended the Reunion Dinner at the School. Following the Annual General Meeting, which was held in the old double classrooms, the rest of the evening was spent in what was described as ‘merrymaking’, President (almost for life) Joyce Hyland led the singing while the mistakes of his accompanist, Trevor Ross (116), were generally drowned out by the lusty vocal efforts of the assembly. Finally, the President read out a cable of congratulations from the Headmaster in England.

By 1929 it was clear that the tiny Old Boys’ Association did not have the resources to sustain a regular magazine, either in content or in costs, and in 1930 the Trustees agreed to take financial control of the Old Boys’ magazine and make it a school record. The Headmaster was asked by the Board to act as Editor of The Dilworthian, his brief being to ensure the magazine remained an organ of school information as well as providing items of interest to past pupils. In his opening editorial in the December 1930 issue (there was no publication in 1929) Noel Gibson set out the aims of the newly constituted school magazine and optimistically spoke of the move to the new school site at Wiri:   We  are  all  looking  forward  eagerly  to  the  great moment  in  the  history  of  Dilworth, when we shall leave these temporary premises and move to a permanent habitation at Wiri ... and now we are to publish our own School Magazine. What can we make of it?

12. The Dilworth Old Boys’ Football Club

A club  to promote Old Boys interests in rugby football was another initiative, which owed its origins to the enthusiasm and drive of young members of the fledgling Old Boys’ Association. The club was established in March 1927, with generous assistance from the Trustees who offered a pound-for-pound subsidy to help with the cost of equipment. The uniform consisted of grey jerseys with a green Dilworth monogram inscribed “D.O.B.A.”, black shorts and black stockings with a broad green band. All members of the club were under the age of twenty-one and had to be under ten stone (65Kg), an extraordinarily light weight in today’s terms when few, if any, members of the current 1st XV school team (open weight) would weigh in at less than this and some would be approaching 100 Kg. Initially the club struggled with just fifteen players and one reserve. They lost their first game 21 to 3, a rather severe beating in terms of the points system of those days. The foundation team captain was Ron Taylor (184), who was also a pioneer and stalwart of the cricket club.

Because of the difficulty with numbers, the club lasted only a few years. Eventually its members were absorbed by other clubs, notably by the College Rifles Club in Remuera which had always assisted the young and struggling Dilworth club, allowing the use of its grounds and shed in Khyber Pass for practices and occasionally lending players to make up team numbers. Under the new arrangements, it was still possible for the Dilworth players to remain as a unit, play in the Dilworth uniform, use their own coach and practise together, but they had lost some of their Dilworth identity as they now had to play under the Rifles banner. One of the advantages of playing under Rifles colours was that matches were usually located at central city locations, and notably on familiar territory at what used to be known as “Dilworth Park” (later known as Hobson Park and now the Junior Campus of the School). In time the incentive for playing with old school friends and team mates had lost some of its attraction and the numbers of ex-Dilworth men playing for Rifles gradually diminished. But the connection was never entirely extinguished and some Old Boys are still associated with the club today. In fact, there were some years in which the senior team was dominated by Dilworth players.

13. A Premature Death

Arthur George Mervyn Leather (80) was the first academic achiever at the Institute. He won a Senior National Scholarship in his final year (while attending Auckland Grammar School and living at Dilworth) and went on to become one of the first Dilworth university graduates when he qualified as a barrister and solicitor in 1924. He was the first secretary and treasurer of the Old Boys’ Association at the time of its formation in 1919. But Leather died prematurely of typhoid fever in 1928, mourned by all who knew him. His close friend Joyce Hyland wrote an obituary for an early issue of The Dilworthian. In it he spoke of a short life lived to the full, of a young man who had achieved greatly in the academic, business and legal arenas, of a fine athlete. Mervyn Leather (“Puss” to his friends) was ambitious, energetic and quietly determined, a clean-cut, dependable and friendly young man who appealed enormously to all who came in contact with him. He was a man of integrity and refinement, setting his goals high and reaching for perfection in all things, one who clearly reflected James Dilworth’s requirement to be a “good and useful citizen”

14. School Sports Days

The athletics sports were held annually, usually on the Saturday nearest to 12 March, being the anniversary of the opening of the School. It was one of just two occasions in the year when there was a general invitation to parents to come to the School (the other being Prizegiving), and it was also an opportunity for Old Boys to be there in order to watch the sports as well as participate in two events of their own. The Annual Sports Day started after dinner (meaning the midday meal) with no concession made in the menu to the exertions which were to follow soon after the meal. Boys were decked out in all-white uniform of shorts and singlet, the only distinguishing feature being the coloured rosettes worn to indicate their sports house after their introduction in 1934.

The events featured the traditional races for that period in age groups. In 1931 a form relay was introduced as there were now three levels of secondary classes. Novelty races for juniors featured a sack race and a Manx race. There were two events for Old Boys, the Ancell Memorial 220 yards handicap and the 100 yards mufti race, also a handicap event. These two events have been contested every year up to the present day, with the addition of a 100 yards event, with no handicaps, for serious athletes competing for the Taylor Cup.

15. The First Sports Blazer

School senior cricketers at Dilworth enjoyed superior uniforms, thanks to an error on the part of the Old Boys’ Association. The manufacture of an Old Boys’ blazer in 1932 was expected to be a hit with members. It was made of a lightweight material, light grey with narrow red and green vertical stripes and a pocket badge. The cost was advertised as 37/6d ($3-75), but it seems that not a lot were sold as eventually the stocks were acquired by the School and used as 1st and 2nd XI cricket blazers for many years.

16. Gibson Appointed a Full Voting Member of the DOBA

At the 1932 Annual General Meeting a motion was passed enabling the Headmaster to be elected as a voting member of the executive committee for a period of four years. The constitution specifically requires committee members to be bona fide Old Boys as well as paid-up members of the Association, so there is some justifiable doubt as to the validity of the motion. There was heated debate on the subject, as a Dilworthian write-up of the meeting indicates:

After thrashing out the matter for some time, during which nearly everyone present spoke at least  once and some wandered from the subject continually, the motion was put to the meeting and carried.   The motion was promoted by Geoff Todd (36), no doubt with a view to ensuring that, with the Headmaster’s presence on the council, things would happen more efficiently. This is the only time in the history of the Association that a Headmaster has been granted this honour, apart from when Murray Wilton became Headmaster in 1979. Because he was an Old Boy there was no controversy in his election as a full voting Council member.

17. Armistice Day 1933

On 11 November 1933 at 11.00 am the School for the first time took an active part in the Armistice Day commemoration at the Cenotaph, which included the replacement of flags draping the memorial. A thirty-five strong group represented Dilworth, and two were chosen to receive one of the previous year’s flags draping the Cenotaph. The flags were removed during the singing of the hymn “Abide With Me” and new flags hung in their place. Dilworth was chosen to receive the only Union Jack among the flags and henceforth this flag adorned the War Memorial Tablet in the School dining room. At a special service in the dining room on Sunday 19 November the flag was dedicated in honour of the Old Boys who served in the Great War. A large gathering of Old Boys, parents and Trustees were in attendance and Archdeacon MacMurray delivered a sermon on the importance of the ideals of service and sacrifice, referring to the Founder James Dilworth as one who had served his fellow citizens in this way.

18. The Establishment of Sports Houses and the Cockhouse

At the end of 1934 the Old Boys’  Association demonstrated its wholehearted approval of the newly established sports house system by providing an honours board and putting on a special supper for the victors. The winners were designated the “Cockhouse”, a terminology which sometimes causes embarrassed difficulty for modern visitors to the School unfamiliar with the expression “cock of the walk” or, even less likely, with the rarer “cock of the School” in British schoolboy parlance. It is to the School’s credit that they have persisted with the title in spite of linguistic change and the literary ignorance of the world at large.

The honours board was a handsome oak panel with the title “Cock House”, and the name of the winning house was inscribed annually in gold leaf from 1934 until the new honours boards were established in the Senior Campus dining room in the 1980s. At the inaugural Cockhouse celebration on 18 December 1934 Old Boys’ Association President Joyce Hyland presented the Headmaster with the new honours board, voicing his regrets that such a system had not been inaugurated in his time at school and commenting on the advantages it would bring. At the conclusion of the brief ceremony, the jubilant competition winners enjoyed the fruits of their success in the form of a special supper provided by the Old Boys. The inclusion on the menu of rarely seen or tasted items, such as jelly and ice-cream, cakes and soft drinks, added spice to their enjoyment of the moment of triumph.

Boys who were about to leave school, whether members of the winning house or not, were invited to the supper in 1934 and have continued to attend the victory celebration every year since. From that very first Cockhouse gathering, the Old Boys profited from the opportunity to encourage the leaving class to join their Association and to continue supporting the School through their membership. The Old Boys’ encouragement of the house competition has continued through to the present day, even though the format has changed and the numbers attending have increased exponentially. The sports and residential houses have their particular colour reflected in uniforms and badges. During the 1980s the coat of arms of each of the respective towns or counties were located and are now used by the houses which bear them.

19. The Old Boys’ Cricket Club

An Old Boys’ cricket club was formed during 1933 and a team entered in the second grade of the Auckland City and Suburban Association competition. Unlike the numbers problems which beset the rugby club, there was no difficulty at all in making up a cricket team which was a good cross-section of older and younger players. The cricket club was a resounding success and survived right through the war years and into the 1970s when, for a variety of reasons, it was disbanded. In some years the club had so many supporters that it was able to field two teams in the competition, the better side playing in the senior grade. Headmaster Noel Gibson was a member and played as regularly as he could.

The club proudly announced its second placing in the 1934-1935 second grade cricket competition. Captain Ron Taylor (184) was the outstanding batsman with an average of 31 for the season and a highest score of 114 not out. He was also second best in the bowling averages with 43 wickets at 8.2. Others who featured in the statistics were rising star Frank Hitchcock (271, best bowler), Bob (203) and George 123) Byrne, and Jim Poole (352, third best batting average). There was so much interest in the Club that a second team was established to enter the following year’s competition while the senior team shared first place in the Senior B competition with Harbour Board.

20. A Thriving Young Association

The clubrooms in Dilworth Building were available to Old Boys every lunch hour. Many of those working in the city took advantage of the opportunity to spend their lunch break with old school mates. It was one of the ways in which bonds were cemented between former Dilworthians. They continued to maintain contact with each other, as well as with the School, by attending their annual reunions in large numbers. Club nights were held every Tuesday when the main activities were ping-pong, Five Hundred, “Bobs”, listening to visiting lecturers (like Frank Molesworth’s “Behind the Scenes in a Newspaper Office”), and generally chewing the fat and reliving school experiences.

At the June 1938 Reunion, President Joyce Hyland reported a 100% increase in financial membership to 57 members. Joyce Hyland was in the sixth year of his second term as President. Now in its fifth year, the Old Boys’ cricket club was thriving, and the senior team again won the City & Suburban Senior B competition.

21. Old Boys at War Again  

Despite the brave business-as-usual front depicted in the Dilworthians of the WW2 years, all was far from normal. The Dilworthian reader will find in the Old Boys’ section news of dozens of Old Boys who had enlisted and, in some cases, were already overseas. R.N. Stewart (302), H.T.A. Winnall (306) and J.C.O. Moffat (425) were in England as part of the ship’s company of HMS Achilles, and T.J.M. Nash (329) was also there serving with the RAF. Two of those four were never to return, while Winnall remained in England after the war. Some thirty other Old Boys were recorded as having joined up in one of the three services, while the Headmaster’s own son N.M.F. Gibson (326A), along with M.B. Trower (282), had already been commissioned as army officers.

At reunions for the next six years there were always a few Old Boys in uniform when they were on leave or still in the country awaiting an overseas posting. There was a great deal of pride in the number of Old Boys answering the call, a very significant percentage of those who were eligible. The executive council passed a resolution to maintain the membership of those serving overseas by making their current subscription cover the whole time until their return to New Zealand. They also initiated a special fund, in association with the School, to provide comforts for those serving overseas as well as for those in the Home Guard. The Old Boys’ Council was still led by J.W. Hyland (47), continuing his long tenure throughout the war.

The cricket club was flourishing and provided a social heart to the Association, in April hosting a dance at the Akarana Yacht Club followed by the annual Prizegiving. The club held its annual meeting in the clubrooms in Dilworth Building where it was reported that the senior team had finished third in the Senior A City and Suburban competition, its first year at that level. Trevor Gibson (366) had been the batting anchor, contributing two centuries during the season. Such was the popularity of the game that, in spite of the threat of war, a second team was also playing.

By the end of 1940 the war was beginning to have a serious effect on Old Boys’ activities. The 1941 Annual Reunion was attended by just forty members, well below the normal numbers normally achieved. By 1942, even the executive council was struggling for members and they reluctantly decided to abandon all Association functions, including the Annual Reunion, until further notice. There was no longer a rugby team and now they had serious difficulties in maintaining one cricket team. Joyce Hyland was still in the chair, although even he had to abandon the position temporarily. Following Archdeacon MacMurray’s death, Noel Gibson was elected Patron of the Association and the Vice-Patron’s position was filled by Professor Segar, a member of the Trust Board. Bishop Simkin was never invited to hold senior office, although he was, as before, an honorary Vice-President.

Statistics indicate that almost 250 Old Boys served in the war in some capacity, an incredible 80% of those eligible. At that time fewer than 500 had gone through the School, and of those, only about 300 were of the requisite age to undertake active service. More than half of those who participated held commissioned or non-commissioned rank, an indication that the Dilworth system trained more leaders than followers. A significant number of Old Boys won decorations ranging from the Military Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross to service medals. But the most compelling statistics of all are those which record the number of Old Boys who made the final sacrifice, 26 young lives, 10% of those who were on active service and well above the national average of 7.75%.

Poems published in the October 1945 Dilworthian reflected the continued preoccupation with war and peace. Titles included “The Invasion of France”, “Victory”, “England”, “The Siege of Kut-El-Amara (1916)” and “Peace”. It would have been everyone’s earnest hope and expectation that, with the ending of the War, the casualty lists would now come to an end, but regrettably this was not to be the case. On 1 May 1945, just days before peace was announced, another in the seemingly endless chain of aircraft accidents claimed the life of Thomas Nash, the last Dilworth Old Boy to die in the war. The earlier death of Arthur Emery in 1944 was not confirmed and reported until this time, and likewise George Spensley’s presumed drowning in a torpedoed ship in 1942.

22. Remembering the Fallen  

The School has always honoured its dead and the annual Anzac service ensures that the courage and loyalty of all Old Boys who served in the war, especially those who laid down their lives, are never forgotten. Especially in recent years, the School administration has gone to considerable lengths to keep before the minds of boys of all ages the horror of war. In some years that has been achieved with ‘son et lumière” displays, in others with films and videos, and from time to time with first-hand accounts from people who were personally involved in the conflict. Boys always participate in the presentation as readers, prayer leaders and choristers. Sometimes they prepare, organise and run the entire service. By tradition, the names of all the fallen in two World Wars are read out solemnly by the Headmaster. Among the hymns is “I Vow to Thee My Country” (the tune now hijacked for the Rugby World Cup “The World in Union”), which has been sung every year since 1945.

The Anzac service is always a very moving ceremony and it is doubtful if any boy is untouched by what he hears and sees. There is no attempt to glorify war. But there is a conscious effort to recognise and acknowledge the sacrifice of our Old Boys in the cause of peace. In the early years the Anzac service was held in the old double classrooms of the original wooden classroom block or in the old gymnasium. Curiously, that ancient gymnasium bestowed a special dignity on the service, for was this not the very place in which so many of the School’s servicemen had played with the carefree exuberance of youth? Even more telling was the fact that the worshippers could observe, scrawled in chalk in the most inaccessible areas of the building, the names of their predecessors, many of whom were the very individuals they had come to honour. The Anzac service is now one of the most important events in the School calendar and older Old Boys can be justifiably content that this is so, even if few of them now attend.

23. Post-War Re-Birth of the Association

After a hiatus of four years, the Old Boys’ Association resumed normal activities and the first reunion since 1941 was held at the School on 14 July 1945. Attendance was predicted to be still affected by the large number of Old Boys still overseas, but it was felt that a function must be held in order to provide an opportunity to farewell the Gibsons. In the end just over 80 Old Boys were present at a special dinner in honour of their former Headmaster. Trustee Professor Segar, Vice-Patron of the Association, represented the Trust Board; the Gibsons were present and D.A. Gray, Acting Headmaster, was in attendance. There were also significant numbers of Old Boys from Gibson’s earliest years at the School and many messages were read out from those unable to be present. President Joyce Hyland (47) presented the Gibsons with a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and also announced the inauguration of a cup bearing the Headmaster’s name to be presented to the Head Prefect each year. Known as the Gibson Cup, it was inscribed with the names of all previous Head Prefects from 1906 and was presented for the first time at the 1945 Prizegiving to Head Prefect J.N. Weadon.

24. Old Boys and the Dilworth Trust Board

While the question of representation on the Dilworth Trust Board had often been a topic of informal conversation at various gatherings of Old Boys, the notion had never been publicly articulated or conveyed to Trustees in any formal way. However, when Joyce Hyland finally stepped down as President of the Old Boys’ Association at the 1946 Annual General Meeting, where his enormous contribution was acknowledged by his fellows, the question was raised publicly for the first time. Hyland had been in the chair since 1933, holding the reins over the war years when so many members were serving overseas.

Hyland rejected further nomination, even when it was offered, but in his final report and remarks to the meeting he did broach the subject of possible Old Boy representation on the Trust Board. He reasoned that Old Boys had served with distinction in two world wars, an inordinate proportion making the final sacrifice, and that many were in senior positions in all the professions currently represented on the Board. There were lawyers, accountants, business entrepreneurs and senior civil servants, even two Old Boys about to be ordained as Anglican clergymen. All of them would be suitable candidates for election to the Board in their own right and irrespective of their status as Old Boys.

DTB LetterThe meeting was convinced, as usual, by Hyland’s persuasive oratory and voted to empower the incoming executive to make a formal approach to the Board. A letter requesting the Trustees to give consideration to appointing an Old Boy to the Board was duly composed and signed by the secretary of the Association, D.F. Cotter (454). It was sent to the Board in October 1946. The reply was courteous but dismissive and signed, not by the Chairman, Bishop Simkin, but by the Board Secretary, Jack Prebble. It stated that the Trustees had no power to add to their present numbers and that, as there were no vacancies at the moment, the matter could not be discussed until such a vacancy occurred. In the letter there was an undertaking to consider Old Boys the next time a vacancy occurred but, even though a new Trustee was appointed just three years later in 1949 and another in 1956, it was another fifteen long years before the dream was realised.

25. Old Boys’ Insignia

The Old Boys’ Association were granted permission by the Trustees to use a simplified version of the School badge, the shield without the motto, as a lapel badge and for letterhead. Previously the Old Boys’ lapel badge was a kiwi with the letters DOBA beneath.

26. The Old Boys’ Directory

In 1946 English master Gilbert Pearce initiated his invaluable Old Boys’ Directory published in sections at the end of each issue of The Dilworthian. The first group covered the period from 1906 to 1914. He had already published details on all Old Boys serving overseas during the war and this was a precious source of information for future researchers. The Directory aimed to give a brief pen portrait of every boy who had attended the School and was likewise a vital resource for those who complied the first “stud book” in 1966, and its successor in 1976. All of these publications provided the corpus for a new data base commissioned by the Dilworth Trust Board in 2001.

We are indebted to Pearce for setting down in writing precious facts about Old Boys of the School through the Old Boys’ section of The Dilworthian as well as the first School List which he compiled and recorded in successive numbers of the School magazine between 1952 and 1960. Although it was never published outside the School magazine, it did form the framework for the School List published in 1966 and again in 1976.

Pearce’s research indicated some revealing information on the careers followed by Dilworth products. By the end of the first half-century, for example, he noted that 18% were engaged in professional careers, while 21% had gone into what he described as “production and industry”. The numbers in agriculture and horticulture had dropped to a mere 16%, compared with the 30% or more who took that route in the School’s early years. Some 13% were in administration and management positions, 11% in clerical and sales, 11% in the armed services or police and 10% in building and construction. These figures indicate by their range and coverage the Founder’s aim to produce “good and useful citizens”.

27. Coping With Quarantine

With the School quarantined during the 1948-1949 polio epidemic, the Old Boys’ Council were unable to hold their meetings at the School and accepted the generous offer of Basil Wakelin to hold them in his home. They were also obliged to hold their reunion away from the School for the first time. It was a scaled down version of normal events, but later in the year they also held a special dinner at the "Star Hotel" where one of the “originals”, E.L. Thwaites (7), was present together with a handful from the first three years.

28. The Beginning of Country Reunions  

In September 1948 the considerable number of Old Boys residing in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty area decided to hold a Waikato reunion. It was the forerunner of the “Country Reunions” which were held annually from that time. Although organised locally by Hamilton Old Boys and held at the Commercial Hotel there, the overall direction of the event was in the hands of the Auckland executive who looked upon the event as an opportunity to keep country Old Boys in touch.

The dinner attracted twenty-eight Old Boys from out of town, many of whom had not attended a reunion for a number of years. The evening was enhanced by the presence of Headmaster Basil Wakelin, meeting many of the guests for the first time, and Wakelin’s predecessor Noel Gibson travelled across from Tauranga for the event.

29. Old Boys’ Clubrooms  

After Dilworth Building reverted to the Trust Board at the end of the war, the clubrooms were not returned to the Old Boys’ Association. There is no record of why this happened. However, Old Boys’ records indicate that there was concern expressed at post-war reunions about the lack of a clubrooms and the executive assured its members that they were working on the problem. At the July reunion Reg Nicolas (35) spoke of the desirability of the Association owning its own premises. It was an ambitious plan including facilities which would be available to country members as well as Aucklanders. The executive enthusiastically endorsed the idea and called on members to contact them with their thoughts on how it might operate, where it should be located and how the necessary funds could be raised. Needless to say, the Nicolas plan never saw the light of day.

N.M.F. Gibson was elected President of the Old Boys’ Association for 1950-1951 while his father N.M.P. Gibson was Patron, a unique and never to be repeated occurrence.

30. Old Boys’ Memorial Rose Garden

War Memorial Rose GardenSeven years after the end of the war, the Board approved a request from the Old Boys' Association to establish a temporary war memorial at the School in the form of a rose garden. It was a rather modest proposal because the Old Boys wished to establish a more fitting permanent memorial once the new school was built. The garden was duly set out on the north side of the Headmaster’s study, planted by rose expert Fred Stead with suitable bush and standard roses. A small marble plaque was installed to indicate the purpose of the garden. In spite of the temporary nature of the memorial rose garden, it is still there. When the new administration block was built in 1964 the garden was relocated but still remained close to the Headmaster’s study. Finally, when the front of the administration block was extended in 1996 the garden had to go and it was moved to its present position beside the chapel.

31. The Chapel War Memorial Organ

In June 1956 D.F. (Bill) Cotter (454) succeeded D.S. Beattie (482) as President of the Old Boys' Association. Two months later he wrote to the Trustees outlining a proposal for an Old Boys’ war memorial. The Council wished to provide an organ and a memorial tablet for the School chapel and were prepared to undertake the considerable fund-raising effort which would be required. There was a great deal of enthusiasm among Old Boys generally to mark the loss of their fellow pupils in this way. It was more than ten years since the war had ended and thus far there was no recognition of any kind in the School  other than the old First World War memorial, still hanging in the dining room, and the small commemorative plaque on the rose garden. As it would take two years for an organ to be custom-made for the chapel, they were prepared to launch an appeal as soon as approval had been obtained from the Trustees so that the organ could be built, paid for and installed in time for the consecration ceremony in 1958.

Infected by the enthusiasm of the Old Boys the Trustees readily agreed to the proposal. The resolution approving this action asked for the gratitude of the Trustees to be expressed to the Council. They appointed Bishop Simkin and Archdeacon Prebble to confer with the Council, the architects and the organ builders, Messrs George Croft & Son, on all matters relating to the organ and its installation. By the December meeting of the Board, Simkin was able to report to the Trustees on a design he had prepared for the war memorial plaque which he considered should be carved in stone by a craftsman in England. The design was approved and authority was given for the architects to do a scale plan with details of the plaque’s location in the chapel. The inscription was to read:


The original brief called for a two-manual organ, omitting the usual choir manual. However, expert consultants recommended that a third manual would only add about £500 to £800 to the overall cost but would add enormously to the flexibility and effectiveness of the organ, making it suitable for playing all organ music. A three-manual organ would be a significant cultural asset, not only to the School, but also to the city of Auckland when the instrument was used for public recitals. The organ builders, Croft & Son, provided a cost estimate for the organ of £4,575, including approximately £500 for installation. The Trustees decided to ask the Old Boys to consider providing the full three-manual organ, with the Board covering the total installation costs. It is owing to this good advice that the School chapel now boasts one of the finest three-manual pipe organs in the city.

32. New Old Boys’ Clubrooms

The Old Boys’ Association had not lost sight of their ambition to have a new clubrooms, and negotiations with the Trust Board eventually bore fruit when, in February 1957, the Trustees offered them the tenancy of a house at 75 Great South Road, near the Market Road corner. It was the former school residence of the Head Gardener/Caretaker, Fred Stead. The reason the house had become vacant was that the Board had moved Stead to a house in Mount St John Avenue, which was closer to the School, enabling him to carry out his caretaking and security duties more efficiently.

The conditions of the tenancy included an agreement for interior renovations to be carried out by the Old Boys and a requirement that the Executive Council exercise reasonable control over the activities in the house, including the proviso that they would not apply for a charter to sell alcohol. There was a further clause in the agreement allowing the board to terminate the tenancy immediately if it was considered that the club was not being conducted in a suitable manner. In a letter to the Trustees, President D.F. Cotter gratefully accepted the offer on behalf of the Association, assuring them that there would be strict control over the club’s activities and that senior Old Boys would ensure there was a high standard of behaviour. If the Old Boys had not taken up the offer immediately, the property was to be leased to the widow of a former St Mark’s Church verger.   However, things did not run altogether smoothly, as an application to the local One Tree Hill Borough Council for planning permission was initially declined on the grounds that the area was zoned residential, even though the house was next door to the commercial operations at the Market Road corner. Eventually permission was granted and working bees were organised to renovate and redecorate the old caretaker’s home, including the removal of several interior walls to create a larger space for the planned activities. In a few short months the house was transformed by an army of Old Boy carpenters and general labourers. The main room occupied most of the floor plan and eventually housed a full-sized billiards table, table tennis and various tables and chairs for card games and general relaxation. Leading off the main area were a kitchen, cloak rooms and storage areas.

The facility opened later that year and was an immediate success. Every Friday evening was a club night attracting large numbers of Old Boys of all age groups to take part in billiards, snooker and table tennis tournaments and “500” schools. The clubrooms became the headquarters for the Old Boys’ cricket club, which enjoyed a revival in the late 1950s and into the 1960s when there were two teams playing regular competition games in the City and Suburban league. It was also the venue for the Executive Council regular monthly meetings. The popularity of the clubrooms owed much to the enthusiasm of the Council organisers. But it is also true that in those days there was not much in the way of entertainment elsewhere in the city. Six o’clock closing was still enforced in the nation’s pubs, television had not made its appearance, cinemas were few and far between and all-night “clubbing” was a distant dream of the young. True to their word, and in typical Bill Cotter style, the clubrooms operation was carefully monitored and there were never any unseemly episodes on the premises or any reports of late night disturbances of neighbours or the nearby school premises.

In another first, the 1958 Old Boys’ Association AGM was held in the newly completed clubrooms at 75 Great South Road, followed by the Annual Reunion Dinner held again at Sorrento. The President complained that only 96 Old Boys had attended the dinner when 140 were expected. Today, any number approaching 100, including partners, at an annual reunion would be considered a very acceptable attendance level. At the end of the year, the Cockhouse Supper was as usual hosted by the Old Boys, but this year for the first time held off campus at the new clubrooms. Finally, in a year of active involvement with the School, the Old Boys hosted an evening for leavers at the new clubrooms, the first of many such events in the years to come.

33. Tertiary Scholarship

Head Prefect in 1952 and National Scholarship winner T.D. MacFarland (756) added to his academic accomplishments when the German Academic Exchange Service of Bonn awarded him a Travelling Scholarship tenable at the University of Munich. The Dilworth Trustees showed their pleasure in this outstanding achievement by voting him the sum of £150 to further his studies abroad, a significant amount in those days, and only the second recorded occasion in the first seven decades when they had invoked a clause of the Founder’s Will giving them authority to support the academic studies of boys of exceptional promise.

This begs the question: were the first half century Trustees totally oblivious to the potential of so many generations of Dilworth scholars who did not receive such assistance? Or did Dilworth boys, perhaps unaware of the relevant clause in the Founder’s Will, simply not seek further assistance once they had left the School? The most logical answer, however, is that the Trustees were not advised by the School of suitable candidates for tertiary support and made no attempt to ask for such advice. There was probably no communication on this matter when so many other weighty issues were exercising the minds of Trustees and successive Headmasters. It was not until the 1980s that a formal and very generous system for tertiary support was put in place.

34. First Old Boy Trustee

In 1960 a significant and dramatic change in Board thinking took place. When Bishop Simkin retired R.P. Towle took the exceptional step of inviting an Old Boy to fill the vacancy. It seemed that the psychological warfare waged by the Old Boys for two decades had finally borne fruit. The choice fell on one Donald Frederick (Bill) Cotter, the 454th boy enrolled at Dilworth, who was there from 1932 to 1938. He was in every way an ideal candidate. His distinguished school record and his success in professional, community and family life would have fitted him for selection as a Trustee even without his Dilworth  connection. The brief mention of the appointment in the minutes of the Board’s meeting on 22 August 1960 is an understatement of the significance of the action they were taking and the influence the man would have on the Board and the School during the thirty-six years of his Trusteeship. Later in the year, the Headmaster added his voice to the chorus of approval when he singled Cotter out for special mention in his Prizegiving address.

Just one year later Old Boys were able to celebrate for the second time in as many years that another of their number was to become a Dilworth Trustee. The remaining Trustees chose D.S. Beattie (482) as the successor to W.H. Walters, clearly showing the influence of D.F. Cotter. But it was also an indication of the Trustees’ confidence in this outstanding achiever who had already made a name for himself in Auckland legal circles. Five years later he became the first Old Boy to chair the Trust. Upon his resignation to take up an appointment to the Supreme Court Bench in Wellington in 1967 he resigned and was replaced by a third Old Boy R.F. Taylor (184). Ron Taylor was a long-time stalwart of the DOBA, including terms as secretary and president, and had been the mainstay of the Old Boys’ cricket club. He had enjoyed a distinguished career in educational administration and, at the time of his appointment, was Chairman of the Auckland Education Board.

Bill Cotter was elected by his fellow Trustees to become their next chairman and thus began his extraordinary 25-year hold on the reins of the Dilworth Trust Board, a period which surpassed the tenure of Archdeacon MacMurray who held the chair for twenty-one years. No other Chairman has come close to this record. It was a period which would see giant strides made in the stability and strength of the Trust and would encompass the completion of the new building programme at the Epsom campus and the establishment of the Junior Campus at Market Road.

35. First Old Boys to Become Permanent Dilworth Teachers

When French and Latin master R.A. Doms resigned in 1960 his replacement in 1961 was M.T. Wilton (No. 717, 1944- 1954) who thus became the first Old Boy appointed to a permanent position on the teaching staff. It had taken 54 years for this to happen. Many of those who had taught Wilton were still on staff at the School and were enthusiastic about the return of one of their flock, particularly as the age levels of the teaching staff were skewed towards retirement age and new and younger blood was a rare commodity. As a trained teacher with three years’ experience, a recently completed Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Latin from Auckland University College (followed soon after by an M.A. with honours in French), and with a wide range of sporting and cultural skills, he was a welcome addition to an ageing staff and a valued member of the resident team.

There was widespread approval in 1966 when it  was announced that the new Sports Master and Housemaster of Erin House was to be D.T. Bradburn (727, 1944 - 1951), the second Old Boy to take a permanent teaching position in the School and the first full-time specialist P.E. teacher. Bradburn was a natural for the job. He had been Conolly’s first Head Prefect in 1951, and the two had established an instant and lasting rapport based on mutual respect. The older brother of New Zealand cricketer Wynne Bradburn (786), Denis Bradburn started at Dilworth in Standard 3 and immediately found himself in the primary rugby team which won all its matches, including three against King’s School and one against the Dilworth intermediate team. Bradburn moved through the School during a golden era for Dilworth sport and he shone in that exalted company.

36. The “Stud Book”

In the process of planning for special commemorations in 1966 to mark the diamond jubilee of the School’s opening, a decision was taken several years in advance to produce an up-to-date School List. The only previous list had been compiled in 1927 and it was simply a list of the names of those who had entered the School in those first 21 years, preceded by some brief historical notes about the School and the Trust. The intention this time was to have a short thumbnail sketch of each entrant, including school entry number, years at school, House, notable school attainments and brief career notes. The Association Secretary at that time, M.T. Wilton, worked on the project with the Dilworth Trust Board accountant J.M. Crocker (419) to produce the list, and their main task was to glean the information from the 1,200-odd Old Boys who had passed through the School up to that time, using in addition the valuable resource compiled earlier by teacher G.L. Pearce. The book was scheduled to go on sale at the 60th anniversary reunion celebrations in March 1966.

The diamond jubilee was significant for the issue of the newly compiled school list with a brief history of the Trust and the School. Entitled Dilworth School, The First 60 Years, 1906-1966, it was edited by John Berry, an Auckland Star journalist, who wrote the brief history with considerable assistance from Gilbert Pearce and Old Boys from the first years. Perhaps more importantly, the School list that followed Berry’s account was the first time since the miniscule Board publication in 1927 that an attempt had been made to compile a summary of the 1,277 boys who had entered the School in its first sixty years. Because of its green cover, the publication became known initially as The Green Book, and eventually, and more colourfully, The Stud Book. A further revision and update was carried out in 1976 for the 70th jubilee.

37. Old Boy Politicians

The 1966 parliamentary elections saw no fewer than three ex-Dilworth candidates, all flying very different political flags, enjoying varying success: H.R. Lapwood (299) was re-elected for National in Rotorua, M.E.R. Bassett (820) was unsuccessful at his first attempt for Labour in the North Shore electorate and G.N. Whitcombe (471), as President of the Hastings branch of the Social Credit League, failed to win the Hastings seat for his party. In due course Lapwood was joined in Parliament by Bassett and M.K. Moore (1003), both under the Labour banner. At one time there were three of the 80 parliamentary seats occupied by Dilworth Old Boys and all three eventually won cabinet appointment with Mike Moore going on to become Prime Minister.

38. Old Boys’ Cricket Club Revival

It was appropriate that, in the Jubilee Year, the Old Boys’ cricket club had not only been revived but boasted 20 members and was working towards fielding a second team. The team enjoyed the services, and the agreeable company, of several players who were not Old Boys, among them Laurie McGregor, Alan Murray and School House tutor Alan Bethell. The team finished second in the second grade competition in the 1965-66 season and were promoted to Senior B for the following season with a second team playing in the third grade. The senior team consisted of serious players who were able to commit themselves to playing in two-day games, while the second team played one-day matches and allowed some room for fun and enjoyment. 

39. New Clubrooms  

In 1971 a new sports pavilion was built. It included sports changing rooms and, significantly for the DOBA, a main meeting room, kitchenette, toilet and a storeroom in the basement. These were specifically designed with the Old Boys in mind. The main room had sectional glass doors which could be opened overhead on warm days to enable more people to be accommodated in the space outside. It would be used chiefly as a pavilion for sporting events at the School, but was also designed to be a suitable clubrooms for the Old Boys’ Association. Bill Cotter, chairman of the Dilworth Trust Board, unashamedly advanced the cause of the DOBA in this matter.

The new pavilion and Old Boys’ clubrooms facility was opened at an official ceremony in December 1971. It took the form of a champagne cocktail party attended by representatives of the Old Boys’ Association, Trustees and staff. To judge from the discussions on the use of the new sports pavilion as an Old Boys’ Clubrooms, it would be easy to gain the impression that it was designated for that purpose alone and only coincidentally as a school facility. Indeed, the School only intended using it as a venue for after-match functions for first teams and from time to time as a P.E. lecture room if required. To emphasise the point, a list of rules was drawn up for the use of the Clubrooms and Pavilion by the School. Although the rules clearly indicated that ownership of the building rested with the Trust Board (which was of course the case with the old premises in Great South Road) and responsibility for its use was delegated to the Headmaster, it was also stated that he would always consult with the Old Boys in setting down the conditions for its use.

40. Foundation of the Old Boys’ Benevolent Trust  

At the instigation of Number One Old Boy Bert Callwell, the Old Boys established a fund to assist Old Boys or their families in cases where there was hardship, ill health, death or incapacity. At a special general meeting following the annual general meeting at the 1971 reunion, discussions took place on the form and purposes of the proposed Trust and the Council were given authority to proceed with its establishment. The original officers of the Trust were R.A. Hewitt (ex officio as DOBA President, Chairman), Headmaster R.P.G. Parr (ex officio, Secretary) R.F. Taylor (appointed by the Trust Board), J.W. Poole (appointed by the Old Boys’ Association). H.G. Mossman was appointed Honorary Auditor and D.S. Firth Honorary Solicitor. The first task of the Trustees was to canvass Old Boys for donations to establish an investment fund which would generate cash for the purposes of the Trust, but by 1976 the Trust received a significant injection of funds from a surplus left over from the seventieth jubilee celebrations.

41. Old Boys’ Gifts to the School

In 1972 the Old Boys’ Association asked the Dilworth Trust Board if they could in future provide badges for boys who won full blues. Previously blues winners simply had the fleeting glory of the announcement that they had been awarded a full blue, but nothing to recognise their achievement. During the year the Old Boys presented the School with a new Kawai grand piano as a token of appreciation to the Board for providing the new clubrooms. The magnificent instrument, purchased through donations from Old Boys, was handed over at a special ceremony in July. In receiving the gift, D.F. Cotter, Chairman of the Board and the architect of the previous significant gift to the School of the chapel organ, made some reflective comments, referring to the need for Old Boys to be ever mindful of the benefits they had received at the School.

42. First Old Boy Patron of the DOBA

One of President John Simpson’s first official duties in 1974 was the pleasant task of informing Robert Eyre Callwell, Dilworth’s Number One Old Boy, that he had been elected Patron of the Old Boys’ Association in place of the late Noel Gibson. Although he moved to California after leaving Dilworth in 1913, Callwell never forgot his old school and had returned on several occasions for visits, including the 50th and 60th reunions in 1956 and 1966 respectively. He was the instigator for the establishment of the Old Boys” Benevolent Trust in 1971. A section of Bert Callwell’s acceptance letter was published in The Dilworthian:

Gentlemen, what an honour you do me. Thankyou. I hope that Mrs Callwell and I will be able to be in Auckland for the 70th anniversary of Dilworth in 1976. Had the pleasure of meeting Noel Gibson several times and he was with us over here for several days in 1939. We remember him well. There was a man.

43. Fourth Old Boy to Join the Dilworth Trust Board

When Jack Prebble retired as a member of the Dilworth Trust Board in 1975, chairman D.F. Cotter did not hesitate to invite a fourth Old Boy to join the Board, this time a very young solicitor who had left Dilworth just fifteen years earlier. Derek Sinclair Firth (850, 1950-1959) was Deputy Head Prefect and a Queen’s Scout who made his mark in the musical and cultural life of the School and adopted the unique position of manager and twelfth man of the 1st XI cricket team. He attended Auckland University, graduated LLB and was admitted to the bar, joining the firm of Simpson Grierson Butler White where in due course he became a senior partner. He was appointed Honorary Solicitor to the Dilworth Old Boys’ Association in 1972 and and still holds the position 40 years later, his exceptional services recognised when he was made a Life Member of the Old Boys’ Association. He is a former member and deputy chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Arts Council, past President of the Auckland Operatic Society and past President of the Auckland Medico-Legal Society. At the time of his election as a  Dilworth Trustee, Firth was organist at St Paul’s Church, Milford.

With Cotter and Taylor still on the Board, Firth’s appointment meant that there were now three Old Boy Trustees, half of the total complement. This has remained the case until the present day.

44. The 70th Anniversary Reunion

In keeping with the tradition that significant anniversary events were organized by the DOBA, an approach was made to the Trust Board for permission to organise a major reunion event at the School in 1976 to mark the School’s seventieth year. The Trustees were keen to support the reunion, even to the point of offering to provide all the food requirements for various events over the reunion weekend. The Old Boys established an organising committee, which included the Headmaster but nobody else from either the School or the Trust Board, and planning began in earnest. At the 1975 reunion E.J. Lee assumed the presidency from J.D.F. Simpson and was in the chair for the seventieth reunion celebrations the following year.

The opportunity was taken in the anniversary year, with the warm support of the Trust Board, to produce a revised version of the “Stud Book”. Former teacher and Deputy Headmaster, A.W. Steele, was asked to write a chapter describing the decade since 1966 to go with a new edition of the School List and John Berry’s potted history. The list of 1,758 boys who had entered the School from 1906 to 1976 was edited and updated as far as was possible. Sadly, this was to be the last time the list was revised. In the four decades since 1976 more boys have entered Dilworth than were there for the first seventy and much of the information that might have been gleaned from Old Boys has been overlooked. It must be said, however, that Old Boys have been less than forthcoming when asked to provide updated details on their post-Dilworth careers.

45. Establishment of the Dilworth Old Boys’ Foundation Trust

Following the seventieth jubilee reunion in 1976, the Old Boys found themselves holding a significant funds surplus and, on the recommendation of their Patron R.E. Callwell (Number 1), decided to apply the funds to a new venture to be called the Dilworth Old Boys’ Foundation Trust to mark the seventieth anniversary of the School. It was intended that the Trust would offer amenities to the School not normally provided by the Board and would also give grants to boys to enable them to take part in various activities, such as Spirit of Adventure voyages, Scout Jamborees, Model United Nations conferences, holiday courses and so on. There was to be a fund-raising drive to build the investment base to a figure which would in due course be large enough to generate several thousand dollars annually for gifts to the School.

The constitution allowed for any three Old Boys to be nominated and appointed by the Old Boys’ Council, although in practice they were normally sitting members of the Council. The original Trustees representing Old Boys’ Association were the President F.M. Hogarth (492), immediate Past President E.J. Lee (803) and Vice-Chairman P.M. de Lautour (791). The fourth Trustee was an ex officio position held by the Headmaster R.P.G. Parr. The original Trust deed, composed by the Association Honorary Solicitor D.S. Firth (850), set out the rules for incorporation of the Trust and established the constitution.

46. First Old Boy Headmaster

When Peter Parr resigned as Headmaster in May 1979 his place was taken by an Old Boy. Murray Wilton (717) had been the first Old Boy to join the permanent staff as a teacher in 1961 and was now the first to manage the School. He arrived in August 1979 from Canada where he had been living and working for the previous 11 years.

47. A Dilworth Old Boy Governor General

The School received a confidence boost and could bask in reflected glory when the announcement was made in 1980 that the next Governor-General would be Mr Justice David Beattie, judge of the Supreme Court, Old Boy of Dilworth school and former Chairman of the Dilworth Trust Board. The Board Chairman, D.F. Cotter, indicated that the Board would mark the event in the School’s seventy-fifth year by making a substantial donation to the Dilworth Old Boys’ Foundation. Cotter also invited the Governor-General to make an official visit to the School during the 75th Jubilee weekend in 1981 and received a positive response. The Board decided to mark the event by commissioning a portrait of the Governor-General to be painted by fellow Old Boy and contemporary Garth P. Tapper (569). In due course the Trustees also marked Sir David Beattie’s tenure as New Zealand’s Governor-General by establishing the David Beattie Awards for tertiary study and the construction of a new performing arts building to be named the David Beattie Centre.

48. Tertiary Scholarships  

In 1989 Headmaster Murray Wilton again drew the attention of Trustees to the clause in the Founder’s Will giving them power to provide financial support for boys of promise proceeding to tertiary studies. The exact wording in the Will was:

"AND if the Trustees think that any pupil having attained the age of Fifteen years shall by his knowledge industry and natural talents be likely  to  distinguish himself they may make arrangements for his maintenance and the prosecution of his studies in any University in New Zealand or in the City of Dublin in Ireland or in any College situate in or near the City of Belfast in Ireland and in the meantime be allowed to remain resident of the said Institute."

The provision had never been implemented except in an ad hoc manner for a small handful of scholars in the School’s eighty-year history, while in the past three years small grants to assist with text book purchases had been offered to a few. In 1989 there were twenty-eight Old Boys enrolled in full university courses in 1988, with another eight studying with various tertiary education providers, and they were about to be joined by a further fifteen boys who had left Dilworth in 1988. Fifteen Old Boys had recently graduated, some of them at very advanced levels, two of them in specialist medicine and a third attending Oxford University.   It was becoming increasingly difficult for  Dilworth graduates to support their tertiary studies without assistance: new “user-pays” provisions had led to a massive increase in tuition fees; a new graduate levy was being applied; opportunities for part-time work in an environment of high unemployment were limited. The Headmaster asked the Trustees to consider providing tertiary scholarships, or even interest-free loans, to deserving cases. The final Board decision was to assist boys in the first year out of school with grants for books, fees and living expenses for those boarding away from home. Formally indentured apprentices were also included as the Trustees did not want the grants to be exclusively for academic study.

49. Establishment of New Old Boy Trusts  

Three trusts were set up by Old Boys in 1987 to assist present boys in achieving various goals. Dale Rawlings (1409) instituted the “Dale Rawlings Flying Scholarship” to provide an opportunity for Dilworth boys to learn to fly, as he had done himself while at school. R.T. Carson (723) established the Carson Trust in the same year to support boys going into careers in the building industry. N.M.F. Gibson (326A) set up the Gibson Trust, originally to fund an exchange programme between Christ’s Hospital and Dilworth.  

50. The Foundation Centenary

Once again owing its impetus to the Old Boys, a decision was made in 1992 to mark the Foundation of the Dilworth Trust Board and the School in 1994, the 100th year since their establishment. The Trust Board enthusiastically endorsed the Old Boys’ proposals and announced that they would mark this significant event by building a new Junior School on a separate campus at Hobson Park in Market Road. Matters were organised so that the new Junior School would be opened during the centennial year. The Old Boys’ Association indicated that they wished to be associated with the new school in some significant and visible way by making a substantial donation from the Foundation Trust towards new books for the library. They gave an amount in excess of $20,000 and were permitted to have the Junior School library called the Dilworth Old Boys’ Foundation Trust Library. At the same time the Old Boys planned a major fundraising drive to provide another tangible token of gratitude at the time of the Foundation Centenary in 1994. The initial idea was to raise sufficient funds to meet the cost of a new swimming pool, but the Trustees did not want bricks and mortar contributions and asked the Old Boys’ council to look at other options. Following a series of “brain-storming” sessions, the council approved of a proposal from the Headmaster to create a small replica of the Donaghmore Cross, to be installed near the chapel. The grand design put forward by Old Boys’ President Ben Barker (1161) was more ambitious. He considered that the centenary was important enough to warrant the sculpting of a full-sized replica and was prepared to devote the vast amount of time and energy required to raise the necessary funds.   A Centennial Committee of the Old Boys’ Association was established, with E.S. West (1025) and W. Barker (1079) as joint chairmen and Ben Barker and the Headmaster as the other members. Following a study of the requirements, West was delegated to present a proposal to the Trust Board in December 1992. If the project was to be successful and completed in time for the celebrations in March 1994, time was of the essence. Stan West, who had joined the Old Boys’ Council in 1991, took over the practical direction as project manager. An enthusiastic Old Boys” Council decided to make the Dilworth Cross a major part of the fundraising initiative in order to provide a significant and meaningful gift to the School which would at the same time honour the legacy of the Founder and recognise the Christian ethic which is at the basis of a Dilworth education. The Council did not, however, lose sight of another goal for the Foundation Centennial year, the establishment of a Centennial Scholarship fund to assist young Old Boys with their tertiary studies.

At the Old Boys Association Annual General Meeting on Saturday 11 March a motion to grant reciprocal honorary membership rights to Old Boys from the Royal School Dungannon was passed unanimously. In the evening a formal ball was held at the Aotea Centre where Sir David Beattie and the RSD Headmaster Mr Paul Hewitt entertained the guests with scintillating after-dinner speeches. Sunday 12 March, the date on which the School opened in 1906, was chosen for another massed outdoor service to dedicate the Centennial Cross, with a special guest solo appearance from Darryl Lovegrove (1787). A stirring sermon was preached by the Reverend Desmond McCreery (RSD Old Boy), who traced the history of the four Royal Schools in Northern Ireland and spoke of the place of Celtic crosses in Irish society. He noted that Irish High Crosses were often markers, denoting the boundaries between medieval districts, that they were also a teaching tool and a constant reminder of the Christian faith. Following the service the large crowd moved outdoors, braving wind and rain to witness the dedication of the cross by Old Boy the Reverend Francis Foulkes (541). The weekend of festivities concluded with Old Boys’ sporting events.

On 23 December 1994, the one hundredth anniversary of the Founder’s death, a pilgrimage was made to his gravestone in St Mark’s churchyard and a wreath laid there in dutiful and thankful remembrance of James and Isabella Dilworth. Although it was the day before Christmas Eve and in the summer holidays, there was a good gathering of boys, staff, Trustees and Old Boys. The second half of the Foundation Centenary celebrations took place in early March 1995. A contingent from the Royal School Dungannon, now in its 380th year, was in New Zealand for the events: Chairman of the Board Mrs Kathleen Hobson, Headmaster Mr Paul Hewitt, board member and RSD Old Boys Association representative the Reverend Desmond McCreery and their respective spouses. At Founder’s Assembly on Friday 10 March, Mr Hewitt was the guest speaker and, following his address, he handed over the RSD gift to Dilworth, a carved wooden coat of arms of the Royal School which was hung in the assembly hall. It is now matched by a similar Dilworth emblem, each hanging on opposite sides of the stage proscenium, symbolising the historic link between the two schools. The RSD Old Boys’ Association presented a handsome Tyrone crystal trophy depicting “the Old Grey Mother” original school buildings well known to James Dilworth.

51. Distinction for an Eminent Old Boy

In 1994 Professor Guy Dodson (765) earned one of the most distinguished awards won by any Old Boy when he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, Britain’s most prestigious organisation for scientists. It is believed that fewer than twenty other New Zealanders, among them Lord Rutherford, have been honoured in this way. Dodson’s award was for his outstanding research on the structure and function of proteins. His pioneering work included the study of two molecules which are fundamental to an understanding of how the AIDS virus infects the human body. In addition to a personal Chair in chemistry at York University, where he was also Head of the Laboratory of Structural Biology, he was Head of the Protein Structure Division of the National Institute for Medical Research. In constant demand as a speaker on the world lecture circuit, Dodson was frequently in New Zealand and invariably made contact with the School and Old Boys of his vintage. Guy’s twin brother, Maurice (764) is also a distinguished scholar, his field being mathematics. They were outstanding achievers at Dilworth and are towering figures in the international academic world.

52. Trust Board Changes

When R.F. Taylor retired from the Board in 1985 his position was taken by another distinguished Old Boy, J.H.W. Potter (763), at that time the CEO of Nestlé New Zealand. Then in 1993 a third Old Boy was added to the Trustee ranks when P.P. Tapper (685) replaced L.R. Willis. Tapper brought to the Board table a lifetime of business experience on the world stage in the petroleum industry. In 1995, on the retirement of D.N. Chalmers, the Trustees invited Sir Wilson Whineray to join them. This iconic former All Black captain had enjoyed a successful career in business, culminating in appointment as Chairman and CEO of Carter Holt Harvey. Thus, with the addition of these three outstanding men, the Board could boast a very powerful team who would take the Trust through into the 21st century.

In September 1996 D.F. Cotter ended his lengthy association with the Dilworth Trust Board, having earlier announced that he would retire at the end of his current term. He had been a Trustee since 1960 and Chairman of the Board since 1969. If his seven years as a pupil and scores as an Old Boys’ Association representative are added, Cotter’s Dilworth connection would be well in excess of half a century. The list of Trustees and Chairmen over the 100-year history of the Trust reads like a “Who’s Who” of outstanding Auckland business and professional leaders and the name of Bill Cotter stands proudly among them as arguably the most influential and successful Board member of the entire century. Only MacMurray could be said to have wielded more authority and influence, and he had the benefit of being the confidant of James Dilworth and an original Trustee. In Cotter’s place as chairman the Trustees elected D.S. Firth as the third Old Boy to occupy this key position.

53. More DOBA Initiatives at the School

In 1993 President B. Barker continued his innovative approach by starting the collection of a dinner silver service for use on special occasions. His intention was to collect a full dinner setting, in the “bead” style, to be permanently displayed in a cabinet in the dining room in the manner of a regimental collection. In the same year, as another Foundation Centennial project, the Old Boys’ Association picked up a suggestion from one of the class of 1993, Mariota Smutz, to design a “class ring”, in silver or gold, which could be ordered and presented at the leavers” dinner.

When King’s College celebrated its centenary in 1996, the Dilworth Old Boys’ Association presented the college with a Tyrone crystal bowl, engraved with the Dilworth coat of arms and the Centennial Cross and set on a plinth of a polished stone remnant from the cross, and to be used as a trophy for sport between the two schools in place of the former “Foulkes King’s Festival”. Another Barker initiative introduced in 1996 was an amendment to the constitution to allow Old Boys of the Royal School Dungannon to become honorary members of the Dilworth Old Boys’ Association. The RSD Old Boys’ Association reciprocated with a clause added to their constitution admitting Dilworth Old Boys as honorary members of their organisation.

54. A New Principal

When Murray Wilton retired in 1997 after 18 years at the helm the Trustees selected as their new Headmaster a Scotsman, D.J. McLean, M.A., deputy principal of Mt Roskill Grammar School. One of his first moves was to persuade the Board to allow him to use the title “Principal”, and so in 1997 the title “Headmaster” was consigned to the pages of history. Donald MacLean was conscious of the need to form a close connection with the Old Boys’ Association, especially as he had replaced an Old Boy for whom the link was natural. He has done so with great success and is a popular figure at Old Boys’ events where his commanding presence, ease with words and ready wit make him an eagerly awaited after-dinner speaker.

55. Dilworth Branding

Early in 1997 the question of the “physical image” of the School was raised by Trustees who  wished to project a particular view of Dilworth through communications, documentation, signage and uniforms. There was a perception that the School’s public  image and “branding” were blurred by a plethora of different names, uniforms, ties, letterheads and even different interpretations of the coat of  arms. At various times the Old Boys’ Association had, without authority it must be said, tampered with the coat of arms and produced variations which did not meet with the approval of the Trustees. One particular version of the badge was  a simple Dungannon castle with the abbreviation DOBA beneath it. The Trustees now for the first time established a set of rules for the use of the School Crest. One of the first signs of the new image was the dropping of the word "school” from all letterheads, signs, badges and other insignia. From the end of 1997 the total enterprise, including the Trust Board, went  under the simple heading “Dilworth”,  with sub-titles “Trust Board”, “Senior Campus”, “Junior Campus” and “Old Boys’ Association”. The same policy was applied to signs erected at all entrances to the two campuses and even to the badges embroidered on  uniforms and ties. The  new image was professionally designed and featured a new stylised version of the word “Dilworth” and a copy of the full coat of arms.

It was certainly a modern approach and in keeping with commercial notions on how an enterprise should project its image and intellectual property to the public. Many among the Old Boys regretted the loss of familiar icons and names, just as those of much earlier generations had lamented the demise of the old  name “Dilworth Ulster Institute” in 1927, along with the first badge and its attendant motto. But nothing in this modern world remains static for long and the perception that “new” and “different” must be better pervades every aspect of a constantly changing society. In the case of the Dilworth transformations it can fairly be stated that it was a necessary cleaning-up exercise which has streamlined the formerly somewhat cumbersome terminology and branding.

56. Changes in the Old Boys Association Management

At the annual general meeting in 1998 President Ben Barker resigned after holding the chair for eleven years. He was replaced by his brother Bill Barker (1079) a long-serving council member and co-chairman of the Centennial Trust. Bill Barker had a varied career in banking, computing and with Universal Business Directories before embarking on a career in building and finally taking  on various management positions. He retained the presidency for just one year from 1998 to 1999. Both Barker brothers were awarded life membership for their long and meritorious service to the Association. Jonathan Wain (1201) replaced Bill Barker in 1999 and remained in the chair until 2001 when he moved to Australia.

57. Another Centenary Celebration  

The one  hundredth anniversary of the opening of the School, perhaps the most important event since its foundation in 1894, was to take place in 2006, on the weekend closest to opening day, 12 March 1906. Unlike previous major reunion events, which were driven largely by the Old Boys’ Association, these celebrations were to be managed by the School and the Trust Board. A centenary Committee was established in 2000, chaired by Trustee Derek Firth with David Hunter as the other Trustee member, and Trust General Manager Martin Thomson and Principal Donald MacLean as key members. Representatives of the staff and the Old Boys’ Association made up the rest of the committee which met regularly in the initial years and every month in the year leading up to the events. Principal Donald MacLean reported in 2005 that there were thirteen sub-committees working on various aspects of planning the events.

58. The Organ Gift  

The Old Boys’ Association independently planned for special gifts they wished to give to the School to mark the centenary. The first was to be a complete rebuilding of the organ. Fundraising for this began immediately and continued through the reunion and later to generate the required $400,000. The fundraising effort was headed by John Simpson (852), an Old Boy who has given long and distinguished service to the Association over a very  lengthy period and was still prepared, now in his sixties, to devote his time, talents and experience to this worthy cause. He was aided by a strong team of Old Boys from a wide range of age groups.

The organ, originally gifted by Old Boys in 1956 to mark the golden jubilee of the School and in honour of Old Boys and staff who gave their lives in two world wars, had been the subject of almost interminable repairs and corrections to original faults since its installation in 1958. Almost half a century later the time had come for a major refit and the updating of old technology and worn-out parts. At the same time a new set of pipes was to be installed at the west end of the chapel, behind the baptistery, to provide a vastly expanded range of sound as well as a pleasing visual effect. The organ gift was to be  handed over during  the annual ANZAC service in 2006.

59. Te Waharoa

A second gift was the Waharoa Gateway. Known by its full title as Te waharoa te taumata o Dilworth (= The gateway to the Knowledge of Dilworth) the project was originally proposed by Ron Haira (734) in 1996 during informal discussions with the then Headmaster Murray Wilton who supported Haira’s subsequent approach to the Board. Over the next seven years the project was often discussed at School and Board level, but it was not until October 2002 that Trust Chairman John Potter informed Haira that the Board  had agreed in principle to the construction of a Maori gateway and that a suitable position  had been found. The Board requirement was that the gateway would need to blend in  harmoniously with buildings, would be seen as an entry to a particular area and must  not  be so dominant that it would appear to visitors to be the main  entrance to  the School. The significant efforts of present principal Donald MacLean in persuading the Trustees to agree to the project are acknowledged.

60. Old Boy Initiatives in the New Millennium

A number of changes were implemented  at the end of the second millennium. In 2000 the  new  uniform was introduced, the Old Boys’ computer database was launched and work was begun on a website for the School and the Old Boys’ Association. The school website,, was launched during 2002 and provided basic information about the School taken from the prospectus. The Old Boys’ Association site was and also gave a brief summary of the Association, promoted current activities (such as the centenary reunion), published the newsletter and  had a section for members to communicate with each other. A new and updated website, initiated by Mark Easton (1547) and a joint venture with the School, the Trust Board and the DOBA, has just been completed and launched in December 2012.

During 2004 and 2005 a decision was made to wind up the Foundation Trust and merge its assets with those of the Centennial Trust. For some time it had been argued that both trusts served basically the same purpose, although it must be said that the original intent of the Centennial Trust was to assist young Old Boys with their tertiary studies, while that of the Foundation Trust was to provide amenities to the School and assist present boys with various activities. In March 2005 the High Court approved the amalgamation of the two trusts into one entity to be known as the Centennial Foundation Trust combining the aims and objects of both former trusts. The original Trustees of the new trust in 2005 were DOBA President Paul Mathieson (2512), Principal Donald MacLean, John Simpson (852), Neil Boyd-Bell (826) and Stan West (1025). The Benevolent Trust was not affected by these changes and continues to operate for the sole purpose of assisting Old Boys and their families affected by illness, accident, death or other difficulties.

As the DOBA heads further into the second decade of the new millennium, its council of management, led now by Adam Hiron (2465) is a mixture of old and new, as the registration numbers indicate. The members range from J.T. Davy (577) who was at the school in the 1940s through to Old Boys just graduated with registration numbers in the 3,000s. The council particularly benefits from having on board several Old Boys from the 1960s who add a depth of knowledge and experience to the administration of the DOBA: They include Peter Tate (1078), Stuart Mitchell (1030) and David Mossman (1144). The Dilworth Old Boys’ Foundation Centennial Trust is chaired by John Simpson and the Benevolent Trust by Murray Wilton.