Harrow County Staff

Mr. W. G. E. Duke

"Mr. W. G. E. Duke retired last July."  This simple statement in 'News and Notes' will bring to many Gaytonians, past and present, the feeling that the School can never be quite the same again, for Mr. Duke had been with us since 1925 - almost all his life as a teacher.  He came as a young man.  On leaving, although so much older in years, he was still young in spirit and outlook and had never lost the confidence and friendship of boys, so essential a quality of the good schoolmaster.

When Mr. Duke joined the staff there was already a thriving Mathematics Department under the late Mr. H. W. Brister.  That the Department went on from strength to strength is in no small measure due to Mr. Duke's able teaching and interest in the work.   He succeeded to the Headship of the Department in 1954, a post he held until his appointment as Deputy Headmaster in 1959, after which, as well as shouldering heavy general responsibilities in the School, he remained a tower of strength to its mathematics.  Many young men beginning their careers as mathematics teachers have reason to thank him for his help and inspiration.

It is, of course, one thing to be a good teacher and another to be a good leader, but as Deputy Headmaster Mr. Duke's flair for organisation coupled with a sympathetic understanding of others meant that he was always able to get the best work from those under his authority.  He treated senior boys as responsible individuals and was rarely disappointed in them.

A man like Mr. Duke could not be one of a community such as ours without taking a very active part in its corporate life.  It would be difficult to state here all his interests, but Gaytonians over the last forty years will remember his work for the Railways and Airways Club, the School Air Training Corps Squadron and the Sixth Form Society, and how much he achieved for these by his enthusiasm and perseverance.

R. S. King

... What is not perhaps generally known is that Mr. Duke was himself a Cadet 50 years ago: he joined the London University O. T. C. when he entered what was then teh East London College, and is now Queen Mary's College, in 1914.  Having enlisted two years later in the 9th London Regiment (Queen Victoria Rifles), he was commissioned in the South Staffordshire Regiment and was transferred to the Royal Air Force on its inception in April, 1918.  Before his pilot's training could be completed, however, the War ended and he returned to university for another two years.  After a period as Senior Mathematics Master at Llandovery College, he joined the Kingston-upon-Thames Grammar School, where he was appointed Commanding Officer of the School's Cadet Corps, with the rank of Captain... in 1925 he came to Harrow County.

From Gaytonian 1964

Mr W G E Duke - Obituary

(Bill Duke died in June 1983.  This obituary, by Tony Rhoades, who knew him better than most, was contributed in the 1984 Old Gaytonian.)

Bill Duke joined the staff of Harrow County School on 1st September 1925, just eight months after Alec Amos. He retired in July 1964 after 39 years' outstanding service.

He was the eternally cheerful and enthusiastic Maths master and many will recall as though it was yesterday that "x to the summat times x to the summat else equals x to the ADD the powers."

As with all Harrow County School masters of his generation, Bill was devoted to the widest interests of the School and took a keen part in many and varied extracurricular activities. He ran the Railways and Airways Club, organised the first School theatre trips and was C.O. of the Air Training Corps, which preceded thc CCF, from 1941 until 1947.

He became Head of thc Mathematics Department before a distinguished spell as Deputy Headmaster from 1959 until his retirement. He was also Welldon House Master.

During his retirement, Bill joined a distinguished quartet of ex-HCS colleagues, comprising himself, Reg King, his closest friend, Alec Amos and Charles Crinson, all devoted "Randall Williams men", of whom, sadly, only Charles is still with us. He regularly attended various Old Gaytonian functions during the earlier years of his retirement but, unfortunately, failing health restricted his involvement during the later years.

He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

Geoff Lawrance (1931-36) writes:  "Bill Duke taught me maths.  I can remember his trigonometrical mnemonics to this day: Poor Boy, Tan him; Cosy Boarding House and Public House Sign.  Also his habit of using SPLOSH and BLOB as a shorthand device for referring to complex mathematical functions."


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