Thursday 14 May 2020

David Dew

When I was at school, David Dew was a member of English Department, and he was also a stalwart member of the school's choirs and of the CCF. His particular musical passion was the music of the Victorian era, and he tried - valiantly - to introduce me to some of the more obscure composers of the era. While I failed to appreciate them to the extent he did, I would acknowledge that he did make me more aware of the merit of Arthur Sullivan's work.

When sorting out my sheet music the other week, I came across some things which he had written and had passed copies to me. I remembered reading in the school news that he had died prematurely some years ago, and a quick Google revealed the details and provided a little more of his life in an obituary from his Oxford college.
Tony Lemon, Fellow in Geography, remembers David Dew (Mansfield, 1972-78) in the 2006 Autumn/Winter edition of 'Mansfield', the college's magazine.

David Dew, who died of cancer in March 2003, spent seven years at Mansfield College, Oxford, reading three degrees — first degrees in Law and English and a postgraduate degree in English — before going on to train as a teacher. He entered into all his academic work, and everything he did outside it, with gusto. 

David was a college institution: a fount of wisdom and a witty commentator who contributed to almost every aspect of college life. He was an intellectual whose appreciation of the classics once expressed itself in a Greek ballad that managed to include in its dramatis personae a significant proportion of both JCR and SCR members, carefully re-named but clearly recognisable! His passion for Victorian music was allowed to unleash itself upon a chapel congregation when one of his organ compositions was performed. With these distinctive interests he combined qualities one might less easily have guessed (reflecting determination as much as natural talent), rowing several times in successive College First Eights, some of which won blades.

David's whole teaching career was at Oundle School in Northamptonshire. His career choice was perfectly suited to his personality and talents. He was the quintessential public school master, devoted to the school and those in his care and taking a very active part in many aspects of school life, as he had at Mansfield. He was especially active in the school CCF (a school CCF prize now bears his name) and both the school's and the town's musical activities, taking part in four choirs including the local Gilbert and Sullivan Society: fittingly, Oundle marked the sad death of one of their most loyal and respected teachers with a performance of Verdi's Requiem.

Many generations of Mansfield students will remember David with affection and — if sensitive enough to his intellectual qualities or the barbs of his humour — some awe. 
I looked at his compositions for the first time in 25 years, and while his settings of the canticles may be cliche-riddled, I rather enjoyed them. The copies I had were old photocopies and difficult to read. I therefore took the trouble to typeset and edit them, correcting some errors and tweaking moments of awkward underlay, and as I have been unable to find any details of his family, I present them here for posterity, and for anyone who might enjoy wallowing in unashamed Victoriana. If anyone does have contact details for his family, please let me know.